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Wanted: Android Keyboard That Doesn't Suck 2020-12-30


A buddy of mine gave me a tablet to work on recently. He said it was crappy and slow, and that I could have it if I could just get it working well again. Since I would much rather see electronics used well beyond their "expected" lifetime I was plenty happy to screw with it. It took me much longer than I had hoped but I finally got LineageOS installed on it thanks to the work of the folks at XDA. You see, when you buy a device like this companies like Samsung install a custom made version of Android (made by Google) on it. For a while they even provide updates for it. But sooner or later they intentionally abandon it so that your Android version will become more and more out of date. You'll notice that some applications won't run on your old version of Android, and you'll just go buy another device. That is a douchebag business model.

So this tablet, which was stuck at Android v5.1.1 is now running Android v7.1.2 and is working reasonably well with its new LineageOS. The bad news is that the keyboard does not have drag-to-type. Some folks might like to call it Swipe, but as near as I can tell that is the name of a specific application and not a description of how it works. The idea is that you put your finger down on the first key of the word you want to type, then drag your finger over each key of the word. Once you get used to it you'll notice you can type pretty quickly this way it should provide more useful information to spell checkers or autocorrect (if they are smart enough to notice). Anyways, I went looking for a simple keyboard that doesn't look ridiculous, has drag-to-type, and does not advertize or beg. I would be perfectly happy to pay for a keyboard, but not more than my phone service costs me, and not without having a chance to try it first.

Microsoft SwiftKey Keyboard

Link: Upon installation I was greeted the usual stuff about having to enable and then select the keyboard in settings. Then this.

swiftkey Click for full image.

That's pretty crappy. I clicked on the "screw off" button but I don't know if it'll wind up sending shit to Microsoft anyways. Using the keyboard actually seems to be pretty good, and I figured out how to get rid of the stupid toolbar that thinks I want to search for things with Bing. Yeah, right. To be honest, this one works fine, I am just not sure I am comfortable with having a keyboard that may be tracking what I type for the developer. If I use this one with any regularity I'll have to monitor the network traffic to see what it does.

Fleksy

Link: On first run I was told that Fleksy wants access to "photos, media, and files" on my device. That seems excessive for a keyboard app. When I hit deny, it then said it wanted access to my contacts. Uhhhm, no. As it turns out, I don't think this application supports drag-to-type.

Gboard

Link: Of course if anyone is more likely to track everything you type then Microsoft, it is Google. It didn't matter much though because when I tried to install it I was told the "This app isn't compatible with your phone.".

Chrooma

Link: This one installs, but when I try to configure it I get an error message telling me I need Google Play Services.

chrooma1 Booo!

You don't actually need Google Play Services in order for the keyboard to function, however... if you don't have Google Play Services you will not be able to configure the theme. The default theme looks pretty ugly and likes to suggest emojis when you are typing (which is ridiculous). Sorry, I can't use a keyboard that looks like a drunk 14 year old designed it.

chrooma2 Booo!

Grammarly

Link: I have a really hard time believing that this keyboard is not sending information to the developers. It is their core competency after all. I'm not even going to attempt to install this one, but I am leaving it on the last so people can judge for themselves whether or not they think that is a fair trade off.

Go Keyboard AKA Fast Typing Keyboard

Link: Nope, this one won't install on my device with either name. Fail.

Go Keyboard Lite

Link: This one installs and wants access to photos, media, and files on my device. When I click on the "Keyboards do not need access to my dick pics" it hassles me a while about requiring access. The keyboard did eventually work but it has a big fat toolbar at the top that can not be removed. It also insists on begging me to upgrade to the premium version for ten bucks a month or sixty bucks a year. I don't even spend that much on my phone service, why would I pay that much to get access to some of the most ridiculous themes I have ever seen?

gokl WTF is this garbage?

ai.type Free

Link: This won't install on a device that does not have Google Play Services. Not an option.

Classic Big Keyboard

Link: This one sounds like something I'd use right? Simple, straightforward keyboard with a privacy policy about not collecting data on me. The first thing it does after the install is play an ad video telling me I am fat. Fuuuuuck you Classic Big Keyboard!

cbk You whores.

Ginger Keyboard

Link: Installs fine, and then expects you to specifically agree to their terms and privacy policy. Here's just a taste of what that policy says:

ginger No thanks!

Sorry folks, that is clearly a data collection application. I wouldn't touch that crap.

Minuum Keyboard

Link: This one is another data collection application. After install it tells you to agree to their privacy policy which clearly states that they are using the application to collect data. They are quick to point out that none of the data is personally identifiable, but (1) I don't buy that crap and (2) the point is still that using data collection to make money is ethically shitty enough that I don't won't run it. It even costs US$4 to use it past 30 days. That's right, you pay for the product and they'll still collect data on you. Pass.

Emoji Keyboard Lite

Link: This one seemed pretty good except for one small problem and one big problem. The small problem is that it can't put numbers on the top bar (or have a row of numbers). This means every time I want to type a number I have to hit the "number button" which switches the keyboard layout, or do long presses on the top row of keys which is slow. I can live with this, but it is a bit disappointing. The thing I can't live with however, is that this keyboard not only suggests emojis as I type, it also replaces words with emojis as I type. Seriously, I typed the word "keyboard" and it replaced it with this:

ekl Not an option!

Emoji Keyboard ❤️ ❤️ ❤️

Link: The name for this one is actually "❤️ Emoji keyboard - Cute Emoticons, GIF, Stickers" but it shows up as the name with three hearts in the kayboard list. This one is actually very close to the Microsoft one. Seriously. Except that it seems to be packed full of junk like ridiculous themes and a toolbar that can't be disabled because when you start typing it turns in to the suggestion bar. Otherwise it seems to function similarly to the Microsoft keyboard and even has some strangely similar features. What is worse, Microsoft recording my keystrokes, or these guys?

AnySoftKeyboard

Link: I'm not sure about this one. I like the fact that it is open source and on F-Droid, but am having trouble getting used to it. I had to fiddle with the settings quite a bit to get the keyboard looking the way I want (such as removing the mic button and getting a number row at the top). The drag-to-type feature says it is "beta" but it does seem to function for me. It sometimes doesn't work quite right but most of the time it is good, and it doesn't try to keep me from using offensive language. I'm going to try hard to get used to this one because if I can come to peace with the way it works I'll be happy with this one.

Simple Keyboard

Link: I did not actually install this one, but the top comment requests swipe-typing... and frankly if they added that I would really take a look at this one. In other words, please add drag-to-type folks.

Others

I'm sure someone will come along and wonder why their keyboard of choice isn't listed here. Well... Hacker's Keyboard and OpenBoard are missing drag-to-type while FancyKey and Facemoji Emoji Keyboard is for litle girls. Seriously, if you know of a keyboard that fits my basic criteria I'd love to hear about it. In the meantime, I don't want to run a keyboard that is made by data harvesting wankers or a teenager, so I think I'll keep trying to get used to AnySoftKeyboard for now.

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