Tech Tip: Surfing With a New Keyboard

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Q. What’s the point of using a keyboard that’s different from the one that came with the smartphone?

A. While the virtual keyboard that came with your phone may be fine for typing and may include a few shortcuts to emoji characters, keyboard programs from other developers often include additional features. These can include support for “swipe typing” — in which you glide your finger from key to key on the screen to form words, instead of pecking at each key. Better predictive tools for suggesting words, buttons to insert images and animated GIFs, and other timesaving tools are typical features of many third-party keyboards.

Several developers make their own keyboards for use with Android and iOS devices, so check your app store to see what is available. Google has its own keyboard app, called Gboard, for both Android and iOS. Gboard offers real-time translation into other languages as you type, emoji search, voice typing and a shortcut to Google Search among its tools; Google includes a privacy warning about its data collection, however.

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Gboard, Google’s alternative keyboard app for Android and iOS, offers real-time language translation among its many features. Credit The New York Times

Microsoft makes an alternative keyboard of its own for iOS, too. The company’s Word Flow keyboard is designed for fast typing by tapping or gliding (including a layout that can be used easily with one hand). Customizable backgrounds are included in addition to other features.

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