Thursday, September 18, 2014

iOS 8 Keyboards

Fleksy (App Store)

What I like about this keyboard is that it lets you swipe left to delete an entire word, swipe right to type a space, and swipe up or down to choose among word predictions. You can add or remove words from its dictionary. You can also adjust the size of the keyboard and even omit the spacebar. Languages and personalization require “Allow Full Access.”

SwiftKey (App Store)

Word predictions and the Flow feature for swiping require “Allow Full Access.” I did not enable that, so it didn’t seem to offer much. They want you to use their cloud service and send them data to get more accurate results.

Swype (App Store)

It’s amazing how accurate this is when you swipe your finger around without lifting it. There are also some interesting gestures for punctuation and capitalization, and you can control its dictionary. This keyboard does not even ask for “Allow Full Access.”

TextExpander touch (App Store)

It’s great to be able to expand abbreviations. Unfortunately, as I said, this means that you have to forego the other keyboards that are better at typing. You do have to enable “Allow Full Access.”

I think the Allow Full Access setting is confusing. It seems to be asking whether I want the keyboard to be able to persist data. That sounds useful and harmless. What I really want is to prevent the keyboard (via the app) from sending my data over the network. There doesn’t seem to be a way to do that except by not allowing full access.

See also: Federico Viticci, Scott Hanselman, Allyson Kazmucha.

Update (2014-09-19): Tim Burks:

It would be nice to be able to offer extended features without scaring consumers and looking shady.

Gabe Weatherhead:

My interpretation of the documentation is that a keyboard extension can enable network access if it is for the purpose of improving the application. What improvements warrant this, is up to the app developer.


But the only gate keeper is the app approval process. While that has kept iOS comfortably safe for me, the additional benefit of a new keyboard does not warrant this added risk.

Update (2014-09-21): By default, Swype backspaces over a whole word; to delete just one character, you can type a space and then backspace twice. I have not found a good way of typing words with apostrophes in them, since the apostrophe is not on the main keyboard.

Update (2014-10-10): Josh Centers:

Apple needs to give developers access to the keyboard selection popover so users can switch between keyboards quickly, and it should specify a location, name, and icon for the key that switches keyboards. Under the current rules, switching keyboards could technically be done via a gesture, leaving users to guess even more than they already have to.

Second, there are many more keyboard resources Apple could open up to developers, like iOS 8’s auto-correction and text-prediction mechanisms. As it stands, developers have to recreate every keyboard feature from scratch, which makes keyboards look and work significantly differently from the standard iOS 8 keyboard and thus hurts the user experience unnecessarily. Ideally, an app could use the standard keyboard as a jumping-off point, and change only the desired functionality, rather than start from scratch.

Third, I’d like to see better privacy controls for keyboards. Perhaps I’m just paranoid because I’m not accustomed to the possibility of my keystrokes being recorded, but right now, you have the choice between letting developers do anything and having a partially functional keyboard. I’d like to see more granular privacy settings for keyboard container apps.

10 Comments RSS · Twitter

I think the way you have to enable the keyboards is roundabout and could be reduced to an API call (or at least some sort of UIProposeKeyboardActivationViewController). I also think that for such a major change, it's not a bad idea to have to navigate to the place where you'd disable them, at least once.

[…] 1Password lets me use third-party keyboards to type usernames and passwords, though not the master […]

First thing first is of the 2 3rd party kb I test (SwiftKey and Keymoji), holding the "globe" key does not list the input method like the native ones. I guess it is either a bug of the app, or it is a feature of iOS8...

As for "full access", it warns that the developer can get whatever you type (keyboard sniffer by design), I find that most apps and iOS switch auto to native keyboard when asking for password, but I am not aware 1Password Pro does not (is the password typed onto a webpage or something?). Dang, must be extra careful on this.

SwiftKey also suffers from a bug that when working with native Twitter app that forbids me from going back from num mode to alphabetic mode.

Will give Swype a shot later.

@Griffin So far, Swype is working the best for me.

@Micheal, Swype in, Swiftkey out. Reasons:

1. Former has better swipe results;
2. Former can still swipe on iPad, but the latter cannot. The key spacing on iPad for the former needs work though: too much spacing;
3. Former has more themes; and
4. Former can establish your own dictionary without turning on full access.

[…] convenient. I was pleasantly surprised by how well swipe-typing worked—much better than with other iOS keyboards I had tried. However, there are two major flaws: it doesn’t support 3D Touch cursor movement, […]

[…] Previously: SwiftKey Keyboard Leaked User Information to Strangers, iOS 8 Keyboards. […]

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