With the recent trend of decoupling the native Google apps away from the Android OS and into the Play Store, Google has given access to a bevy of apps to regular users, that were previously exclusive to the Nexus line or required a particular device. Now, most apps are found and updated through the Play Store, and if your device can run it, then you can install it, for the most part. This has brought us great apps like Google Keyboard and Google Camera, and now you can add another one to the family, with the introduction of Google Handwriting Input.
Another entry from Google into the keyboard and input app space, this new app does just what it says in the name: it allows you to use your handwriting to input text on your Android device. This is, of course, a feature that could already be found on some alternative keyboards and apps, and it’s a very important feature for some users. This new app takes the form of a brand new keyboard app for Android, and it can be installed free of charge by heading over to this Play Store link if you’d like to check it out.
The way the app works is very similar to any other keyboard app you might have tried, but it’s focused on handwritten input only, using handwriting recognition to transcribe what you write in the screen into typed text. For some people, this is a much more natural way of inputting text, in comparison to using a regular on-screen keyboard – but as with everything in life, your mileage may vary. While for some this may be nothing more than another gimmick, to others it can really make a difference. Even on a phone, if your device support a stylus, for example, this can become second nature, and much faster than regular typing.
One thing worth pointing out is that this keyboard actually does work rather well. While there were a couple of apps like this already, it’s clear that Google has used its technology to make the precision, suggestions and accuracy on this keyboard really top notch. Honestly, it works much better than I expected, and if I used a device with a stylus in my day-to-day, I would probably drop my current keyboard to give this one a spin. For tablet users, for example, using this keyboard with a big screen could be a complete game changer, and if you’re on the market for a new keyboard for your tablet, definitely give this one a try – especially if you also use it with a stylus.
The installation process is very similar to a regular install of the regular Google Keyboard: once you install and open the app for the first time, it will tell you everything you need to do in order to enable it and get it to work just the way you want it:
The keyboard itself is, as you can see, just a regular keyboard. It has no keys, instead offering you a large blank area where you can write and the keyboard will translate your handwriting into text. The keyboard also supports suggestions, and some basic gestures like swiping to delete the last letter. It would be nice to have a more comprehensive list of features, but for a first entry, it’s really not too bad, and the core concept works well enough that it gets a pass.
A sort of strange feature that this keyboard also supports is handwritten emojis. That’s right, the keyboard will actually allow you to draw an emoji in the input area and it will guess which one you meant. A cool feature, although a bit on the eccentric side, for sure:
Handwriting recognition keyboards are nothing new, and this app is no exception. What makes it different and worthy of note is the fact that it manages to be probably the most accurate and responsive keyboard of its kind that I have ever tried yet, and the fact that it has Google backing, meaning it will get constantly updated, become a part of the Android app ecosystem, and take advantage of the polish and shine that Google is known to add to its internal apps.