Wednesday, April 24, 2024
Apps

What is Gboard? Tips and tricks for the best Android keyboard


If you own an Android device, there’s a good chance you’re using Gboard. We think Google’s keyboard app is the best the platform has to offer for most people as it’s packed full of goodies to make stickers, GIFs, copying, and pasting easy. But while you might have turned on a few features in the settings, we have a few favourites you might want to turn on and take for a spin.


What is Gboard?

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Before we get too ahead of ourselves, some of our readers might be wondering what Gboard is. Simply put, it’s a keyboard app that is on both Android as well as iOS. Many manufacturers like Google with its Pixel series, Motorola and Lenovo across their phones and tablets, and other brands will actually pre-load it as the stock keyboard app. The most notable exception on the Android side of things is Samsung – the company provides its own app as the default, though it is styled much like Gboard. In addition, laptops and desktop machines running ChromeOS also have the option to use a virtual keyboard that’s pretty much a fork of Gboard. I’ve written up an accessibility guide to ChromeOS talking about this for our sister site, XDA-Developers.

If you aren’t using it already, you can find it on the App Store or Play Store.

Besides integrated Google web search, one of Gboard’s core functions is suggesting words as you’re typing, whether it’s finishing a word or continuing a sentence. It’s even able to suggest words in the zeitgeist thanks to Google’s incorporation of federated learning into the app – the concept basically sources anonymized Gboard output from all of its users and then updates the app’s dictionary through regular updates as opposed to having a live server connection. I’ve also covered this concept for another sister site, Android Police.

Beyond the “smart features,” you’re able to type all the script and emoji you want with Gboard. You also have access to a repository of free stickers as well as a search engine for GIFs to stuff in all sorts of lovely art and moving pictures into your messaging threads.

Gboard actually came about for iOS first in 2016 before coming to Android later that year, supplanting the existing and, at the time, similarly-featured – but for all intents and purposes, a different app – Google Keyboard from 2013. According to Android Authority, it seems that app carried the typing experience that the Google-designed Nexus series of smartphones had at the time.

Gboard Tips and Tricks

Getting to Gboard settings

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Longtime Android users might be familiar with diving into Gboard’s settings since they have to manually turn on the number row every time they set up a new device – we think it’s a basic necessity in any input context, but Google apparently doesn’t. In any case, maybe you’ve flipped on the setting that takes the Gboard app icon off your launcher, and you’re looking for the easiest way to access Gboard’s settings.

You could navigate your system settings and search for “input methods” or, instead, select a text field to open the keyboard, then hit the four-square icon on its top-right corner, and then hit the button labeled Settings.

Remove the Gboard app icon

If you feel like Gboard is contributing to the overall clutter in your launcher situation, you can opt to make it disappear. Tap into the Preferences section and then scroll all the way down to the toggle for Show app icon.

Autospace after punctuation

As you might presume from the name of the feature, you’ll be able to type any punctuation to wrap up a sentence or clause, then immediately start typing the next word without having to reach down to press the spacebar – Gboard will take care of inserting a space for you.

If you use US English as an input method, you can try out this beta feature by selecting Text correction and then scrolling down to the Corrections section to find the Autospace after punctuation toggle.

As typists say, “fast words good make.” Or something like that.

Pasting images with Gboard

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The clipboard is a godsend for frequent copy-pasters, but it can also handle images, too.

First, you” want to visit the Text correction section of Gboard’s settings and ensure the Show suggestion strip toggle is flipped on.

Back out of that menu, then move to the Clipboard section and turn on the following options:

  • Show recently copied text and images in suggestions bar
  • Save recent screenshots in clipboard

if you’ve recently taken a screenshot or have copied an image from any source, you will see a chip in Gboard’s suggestion row that rests atop the actual keyboard containing that image. Tapping on that chip will then insert it into whatever context you’re currently in. In the case of most messaging apps, it will be uploaded as an attachment. Facebook Messenger users, be forewarned: using this shortcut automatically sends the picture as a standalone item.

A handy use for your personal dictionary

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You may have custom words or phrases that you use with your family, friends, D&D groups, or significant others. You might already know that you can log these words into Gboard’s custom dictionary so that they won’t get auto-corrected into something else.

Head to the Dictionary section of Gboard’s settings, select Personal dictionary, and then, if applicable, select an input language (All languages may be the best choice in most cases).

To start on a personal entry, hit the plus (+) icon at the top-right corner. You can enter a word in the top field, and then a shortcode for that word in the bottom one. Hit the arrow at the top-left corner to save your entry.

If you have spell check turned on, you will no longer see that squiggly red line underneath “blurgleflurg” or whatever you’ve put into the dictionary. But for full effect, you’ll want to ensure Gboard’s suggestion bar is turned on, then enter your custom entry’s shortcode. It should appear as a suggestion in the second slot of the bar. Tap it, and your word or phrase will appear.

All of that explanation seems a little milquetoast for what we’re shaping up to be a “tip” or “trick,” but the power comes in what you put in as your custom entry. For example, in my line of work, I have to log many Pocket-lint article URLs on my phone in places that aren’t web browser address bars. So, I’ve made a custom dictionary entry for pocket-lint.com with a shortcode attached to it. That way, I don’t need to flip between the letter board and the punctuation and symbols boards every time I need to enter our site name. You may have your own uses for this little hack, but hopefully, we’ve inspired something for you.

Glide typists can ducking swear, after all

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I’m an expressive gesture typist, so it’s always frustrated me whenever I realized that every time I tried to swear in my texts, I’d end up with a ton of ducking shot. Damn.

Gesture typing – or, in Gboard’s terms, glide typing – relies on some Google algorithms to interpret the most likely word you’re trying to achieve with a given glide path. One of the parameters it works with is the Block offensive words toggle state in the Text correction section of Gboard’s settings. If you allow Gboard to display outré language in the suggestions bar, the glide typing guidance will account for that and respect your wish.

Other glide typing tips you need to know

You might have these two toggles in the Glide typing menu turned on and don’t even realize it because you never use their associated features:

  • Enable gesture delete
  • Enable gesture cursor control

The former feature lets you delete whole words immediately by swiping left from the delete key. The latter lets you move your input cursor by holding down the spacebar and swiping left or right upon it.

As someone who’s had to deal with extremely picky text fields that don’t like where you’ve placed your finger, gesture cursor control would be extremely useful if I remembered to use it.



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