A little over a year ago, Google unveiled Gboard, an on-screen keyboard for Android and iPhone devices.
I wasn’t an early adopter. In fact, I wondered why anyone would need an alternate keyboard when Apple’s is perfectly fine.
How wrong I was.
I’ve now been trying out Gboard for a little over a week and can definitively say it’s changed how I type, send messages, find emoji, use GIFs, and search Google.
In fact, it’s such a upgrade from the standard iPhone keyboard that I don’t know if I’ll ever go back.
Here are some of my favourite features:
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Gboard makes it easy to find GIFs and share them without leaving a conversation. You can either search through categories like 'High five,' 'Cheers,' or 'Thumbs up,' or you can type in a search term and scroll through Google's suggestions. To share the GIF, you just tap on it to copy it and then paste it in the text field.
One of the iPhone keyboard's major flaws is in how it organizes and helps you find emoji. Apple sorts emoji by category. But it can be hard to remember where to find the more obscure or abstract symbols. (I, for one, can never remember where the heart emoji live).
Gboard makes it a lot easier to quickly find emoji. If you type in a search term, it will display all the relevant emoji so you can choose the one you want to send. This particular feature has already saved me several minutes of hunting.
Probably the best part of Gboard is that it has Google search built in. That means you never have to leave a conversation when you're trying to look something up or make plans. If you find something worth sharing via the search tool, you can paste it directly into your conversation without having to leave the app.
If you use Google's other apps, Gboard will be even more useful for you. After finding a restaurant I wanted to eat at, I was able to easily get directions by tapping on a button within the search results. It seamlessly opened up Google Maps, saving me several clicks.
This feature may seem unremarkable, since Google's apps have long been able to do things like it. But many services aren't capable of automatically opening another app when you're accessing them through an app like Safari. So, while Gboard's ability to open other Google apps may seem like a minor feature, it actually can be really convenient.
Gboard offers swipe typing, a feature that allows you to type words by just sliding your finger over the keyboard from letter to letter, rather than having to tap them out one at a time. The feature allows you to more easily type with one hand than you can with the standard iPhone keyboard.
The best thing about Google's version of swipe is that you don't need to be particularly accurate. Google knows what you're trying to say most of the time, even if you don't quite hit all the letters or if there's a double letter in a word. If Google doesn't guess correctly, it will offer you a few options for what it thinks the word might be.
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