You may have never thought to change the keyboard on your Android device. Why would you? The one that came with your phone is almost certainly usable and inoffensive. But it may not be the best keyboard for you.
There’s a whole world of keyboards out there, and your default Google/Samsung/HTC keyboard is nowhere near the most useful, most productive, or the prettiest. The keyboard you choose will depend on what you’re using it for: Are you looking for a keyboard with more keys and options? A simpler more elegant keyboard with fewer keys? All the keys aligned in a straight line at the bottom of your screen? The options are almost limitless.
Here’s how to switch up your input methods to use a different keyboard.
Set up input methods
Chances are, your Android device came with a couple of keyboard options pre-installed. For example, if you’re wielding a Samsung device, you’ve probably got Samsung’s keyboard installed, as well as Swype—the original speedy "drag your finger across the screen to spell words" keyboard. So you don’t need to download any additional keyboards to mix it up.
To enable additional keyboards, go to Settings then Personal and finally Language and Input. Under Keyboards and input methods, you’ll see all of the keyboards currently installed on your device. The exact name of the menus varies by manufacturer: On the latest HTC phones, for example, you head to Settings, then Language & keyboard. To enable a keyboard, simply check its box and Voila! – you can now use that keyboard whenever you’re typing in a text box. To set the default keyboard, tap Default and choose your desired input method.
Some keyboards have additional settings, which you can access by tapping the gear icon to the right of a keyboard’s name. Settings vary by keyboard, but some keyboards allow you to input your own words, change the language, change the theme, and toggle Autocorrect on and off.
Switch while you type
Once you have a keyboard enabled, you can use it whenever you’re typing in a text box. Your default keyboard will always come up first, but you can quickly switch between keyboards by opening your notification bar menu.
When you start typing in a text box, you should see a little keyboard icon appear in the upper corner of your notification bar. This icon means that you can now access input methods directly from the notification screen. Swipe down to open your notification menu, and tap Choose input method. A menu will pop up with all of the keyboards you’ve enabled; simply tap one to switch. If you don’t see the keyboard you want (but you know you downloaded it), tap Set up input methods to go directly to the Settings menu.
Find a new, sexy keyboard
Disenchanted with your device’s pre-installed keyboards? Head on over to Google Play. Popular choices include SwiftKey, which recently dropped from $4 to $0; the Google Keyboard, which you may not have if you don’t have a Nexus device; and Swype. However, if you look through the Play store you’ll also find several colorful keyboards, as well as unique keyboards such as KeyZag Keyboard, a keyboard with a zig-zag layout; MessagEase Keyboard, a keyboard with just 9 keys; and Minuum Keyboard, a keyboard that takes up as little screen space as possible.