Google’s official Android keyboard used to be the basic option, something you’d replace with a more capable app as soon as possible. Maybe you haven’t been paying attention, but that’s no longer the case. The Google Keyboard has stealthily become a fantastic input method with a series of impressive updates. However, many of the coolest things are hidden in the settings or just not obvious. Here are the five coolest features of Google Keyboard you probably don’t know about.
Phones are much larger than they used to be, and typing one-handed on a monstrous phablet can be a frustrating experience. The Google Keyboard can help you avoid all that hand-stretching with one-handed mode. You can activate this feature by long-pressing on the comma or enter key. Slide up to the icon that looks like a hand holding a phone, and the keyboard will shift over to the left (comma shortcut) or right (enter shortcut).
This puts the keys closer to your thumb on one side, allowing you to enter text more comfortably. There’s an arrow on the side of the shrunken keyboard that can be used to switch the side it’s on, along with a button that expands to two-handed mode again.
Gesture typing has been a thing for a long time—virtually everyone is aware of this feature. What you may not be familiar with are the advanced gestures Google has built into the keyboard. The next time you’re fumbling with the cursor, remember that you can just swipe across the space bar to make it easier. Drag left and right, and the cursor will move along with your finger. It’s much more precise than grabbing that little handle and dragging it around.
The other gesture is especially useful if you’re a proponent of gesture typing. You can slide left from the delete key to slowly select one word at a time with your cursor. When you release, all the words you highlighted will be deleted.
Keyboard height adjustment
Android devices come in all shapes and sizes, and the standard keyboard might not scale equally well on all of them. For instance, maybe the default keyboard size is unnecessarily large on your big phablet. Well, you can fix this with a quick trip into the Google Keyboard settings.
Find “Preferences” in the keyboard settings and scroll down to Keyboard Height. This option pulls up a slider with several predefined points including short, mid-short, normal, mid-tall, and tall. Simply choose the height you want and press OK.
Key borders and themes
The Google Keyboard got a substantial redesign a while back to match the material design aesthetic of Android 5.0 and higher. Not everyone was thrilled with the default look, but more recent updates have expanded your options.
The Google Keyboard’s theme is mostly white and there are no key borders. If that is not to your liking, open the “Preferences” menu in the keyboard settings and check the top of the list. On the new Android Keyboard (version 5.1 or newer), you’ll have a set of colored keyboard themes to choose from. On earlier versions, you can switch between the default “Material Light” or a “Material Dark” theme. More importantly, there’s a toggle right below for key borders. That gives it a much more traditional keyboard vibe and can be nicer to type on.
Number pad layout
Entering numbers with a touchscreen keyboard isn’t the best experience. You can long-press on the top row or open the special characters interface to peck at the dedicated number row there. The Google Keyboard actually has a full number pad layout too, and unlike some keyboards, it’s available in any app.
To get the number pad, tap the special character key in the lower left corner of the keyboard. Then, tap the key just to the left of the spacebar with the numbers 1-4 in a little square. You’ll get a cool little number pad along with common mathematical operators. This is really handy if you need to input more than a few numbers.
The Google Keyboard is already great, but we’re expecting some more big updates that coincide with the Android 7.0 (Nougat) release. Any new features should be available on all devices via a simple app update.