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How to use Android's Keyboard and provide Input

In the How to Provide Input chapter we learned the basics of how to use the on-screen keyboard. In this chapter we'll look into more advanced aspects. Android is very flexible so there are many ways you can tailor the keyboard for your needs.

Let's us examine the various options you have, from simple to more complex changes. You can jump straight to one of the topics below. As usual, these are examples, since some manufacturers may have made their own modifications to the wording and layout of the keyboard settings.

  1. Shortcut to Keyboard Settings from the Keyboard.
  2. Change Basic Keyboard Settings.
    • Sound on/off on keypress.
    • Vibrate (haptic) feedback on/off on keypress.
    • Pop-up on/off on keypress.
    • Autocorrection on/off.
  3. Add to or change the input language.
  4. Add another keyboard.
  5. Change input method (you can even use voice!).

1 Shortcut to Keyboard Settings from the Keyboard

In the Settings - Phones and the Settings - Tablets chapters we showed how to get into Settings for various Android devices. So you can get into the keyboard settings the conventional way on an Android 2.3 phone, through the main settings:

Menu -> Settings -> Language & Keyboard -> Android Keyboard

Using an Android 4 device:

Settings -> Language & Input -> Android Keyboard

It's very useful to be able to jump into the keyboard settings right from the keyboard, it enables you to change the settings (e.g. input language) while you're in the middle of an SMS or email. The settings key is normally just beside the space-bar as shown in the examples below. The symbol for settings is normally one of these:

Android 2.3 Samsung TouchWiz Android 4

In some devices the Keyboard Settings will always be present at the keyboard. In others it's an option that you have to enable. So you start by getting into the keyboard setting from the Settings menu as described above, then ensure you have selected to always show it in the keyboard itself as illustrated by these two examples:

Android 2.3 Android 4

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2 Change Basic Keyboard Settings

There are many behaviours you can change with the Android keyboard. Here we have two examples, each one is actually more than one screen long, so you'd have to scroll on a real device to see them all, but they've been made into one long list here for a better overview:

Android 2.3 Android 4

Each of these is self-explanatory; the ones you want to check out carefully are the settings related to auto correction - if you use an English language setting but want to write in a different language it can be rather frustrating if your device starts to change what you've written. But the best way to ensure this is done correctly is to set the input language to the one you actually want. This is described in the following section.

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3 Add to or change the input language

When you did the Setup of your Android device you selected one system language, which sets the language for the device`'s menus and messages. That will also become your default input language. However, in Android you don't have to use just one language for your keyboard. You can select multiple languages, then easily switch between them even in the middle of a sentence. Here's how to do it:

Android 2.3

In Android 2.3, tap the Settings key, then scroll down the keyboard settings until you see Input languages as in the middle screen below, then select the additional language(s), in our example in the right screen it is Svenska (Swedish):

Tap Settings Tap Input Languages Select one or more

After you've done that, when you're you composing an email or an SMS, just swipe the space bar to the right or left. As you can see the current language is displayed on the space bar. In the right screen we've chosen Swedish and hence the keyboard will automatically display the special Swedish characters. To go back to English just swipe the space bar again.

Swipe Space bar Left/Right Notice Swedish characters

Android 4

In Android 4, tap the Settings key, then tap Add Languages, then add one or more languages from the list. Then when you're you composing an email or an SMS just long-press the space bar, then select that language you want to use, you can change that in the middle of the email or SMS.

Tap Input Languages Add Languages Long-press Spacebar

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4 Add another keyboard

Some of the best characteristics of Android are its openness and modular design. For example you're not restricted to having just one keyboard that the manufacturer has chosen. If you search for "keyboard" in the Play Store. you'll find more than a 1000 results! Some of them work as regular keyboards, where you tap one letter at a time. It has also become very popular to use keyboards that rely on swiping across the keypad, these methods will interpret that as a letter and for many users it is the fastest way to provide input. Here are some popular examples:

GO Keyboard
SlideIT Soft Keyboard
SwiftKey X Keyboard
Swype (not in the Play Store yet)

So you install these as a any regular app from the Play Store. Once they have been installed you may have to go through a series of settings to tailor them to your needs. In the next section we'll look at how to activate them.

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5 Change input method

Let's look at three examples that demonstrate how you can change the Input Method

Android 2.3 Example

In this example we have installed TouchPAL Keyboard as an addition, in the same way you install anything from the Play Store. From a home-screen you can get to Settings and select Language & Keyboard. There you should enable this additional keyboard and tailor its settings to your needs.

Menu button -> Settings -> Language & Keyboard

In the middle screen we're composing an SMS. Tap the Keyboard Settings key, then you'll get a pop-up with Input Options, tap the Select input method and you'll get to the right screen, where you can change to the TouchPAL Keyboard.

Enable & Tailor Input options Select Input Method

Android 2.3 TouchWiz Example

In this example we use a Samsung Galaxy S2. have Swype and DioPen Chinese as additions. In the middle screen the settings for these are marked with blue. You tap the red-marked Select input method then the right-screen pop.up will appear, which enables you to set the default:

Menu button -> Settings -> Language & Keyboard -> Select input method

Tap Language & keyboard Defaults, Settings Select Input Method

You can also enable Voice as an input method

Menu button -> Settings -> Voice input & output -> Voice settings

Tap Voice input & output Voice Settings

So now we're done with the Settings. Let's look at how we can use three methods when sending an SMS. The left screen below shows how the keyboard will look if we have chosen Swype as the input method. On the middle screen you'll have the regular Samsung keypad method. Notice the microphone to the left of the space bar. Tap that key then the right screen will appear which will enable you to use Voice input:

Swype keyboard Tap the microphone Voice input

Android 4 Example

You can change the language in mid-stream from the keyboard as we showed above, but in order to change the input method (and hence the keyboard!) one way is to do that starting from the system settings. We'll explore another way at the end of this section:

Settings -> Language & Input

When you scroll down a bit you'll see the left screen below. In this example we have installed the SlideIT keyboard. To the right of it and the others (Android keyboard and Google voice typing) you can see the settings symbol so you can adjust the settings for each input method:

You then tap the Default in the left screen and then in the right screen you choose one. As you can see you don't even have to use a keyboard as the default, it can be voice too!

Enable methods, Tap Default Set Default

In Android 4 you can also change the input method from the Notification Bar. In this example we're typing an SMS. Notice in the top-left corner of the Notification Bar you have the Keyboard icon:

Pull down the Notification Bar as usual, that is, like a curtain. Then you'll get the screen in the middle below, where you tap Select input method, which will take you to the right screen, where you can select the input method you want.

Pull-down Notifications Tap Select input method Select input method

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