SwiftKey Flow review: The Android keyboard you've been waiting for

Outstanding word prediction with a top-notch interface and new slide-to-type functionality

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On SwiftKey, in contrast, most common characters -- including punctuation marks, numbers, and things like the plus symbol and asterisk -- are accessible by long-pressing regular on-screen letter keys. This makes for a much faster and more intuitive typing experience.

SwiftKey's UI is also ahead of Swype's, if you ask me. Beyond that, it features native one-touch access to Google's excellent voice input technology instead of forcing you to use its own voice input system, as Swype now does. And once it's out of beta, SwiftKey Flow will be offered as a regular Play Store app with automatic updates, which is far more convenient for most users than Swype's independent-download-and-update approach.

SwiftKey Flow: Getting nitpicky

I do have a few minor gripes with the new SwiftKey Flow setup. First, while there is a tablet-specific version of SwiftKey Flow available, the slide-to-type functionality doesn't appear to work when used on a tablet in landscape mode. I found this to be the case when testing the app on both a Nexus 7 and a Nexus 10. (The app does, however, offer a split-screen keyboard option in this orientation, which is a nice touch.) I'm not sure if the disabling of slide-to-type functionality is intentional or not -- this is still beta software, after all -- but either way, it struck me as a bit odd to have the feature randomly unavailable in that one particular scenario.

Next, because of the added slide-to-type functionality, SwiftKey's handy swipe-left-to-delete-the-last-word shortcut is no longer present. If you haven't used SwiftKey before, you probably won't notice -- but if you're a SwiftKey veteran, the shortcut's absence may be a sore point. Thankfully, there's a relatively painless workaround: You can just long-press the backspace key to delete your last word instead. It's not quite as convenient, but you get used to it (and if you go into SwiftKey's settings, you can lower the required time for a long-press, which helps).

Finally, the initial setup of SwiftKey Flow was slightly difficult for me: I got numerous errors while following the prompts to download the U.S. English language pack and had to try a solid dozen times before I could get it to work. This is almost certainly an issue related to the beta nature of the software and the fact that SwiftKey's servers are likely getting hit hard with people trying out the new release today.

SwiftKey Flow: The bottom line

All considered, SwiftKey Flow is one impressive package. It combines the best of both worlds -- gesture-based text input and regular tap-style typing -- with an outstanding UI that looks great and is a pleasure to use.SwiftKey has long been a compelling choice in the Android keyboard market, and with this latest release, the company has solidified its place at the top of the pack. Whether you like to swipe, tap, or speak to input, typing on Android doesn't get much better than this.

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This story, "SwiftKey Flow review: The Android keyboard you've been waiting for" was originally published by Computerworld.

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