​Tips and tricks to master Gboard, Google's super smart Android keyboard

Google's keyboard app can save you time with all of its typing tricks if you look under the surface at all of its clever tricks.

gboard android
Derek Walter/IDG

Type smarter

Gboard is more than just a keyboard. It’s another hub for Google to offer its superior search and artificial intelligence services and have them literally one touch away on any Android device.

Packed into Gboard are a ton of innovations to help you type better. While it works just fine out of the box, you’ll get a better experience if you dive into some of its customization options to make sure everything is set up for the way you like to type.

If you want a little assistance, here are 10 tips that will help you write faster, make fewer mistakes, and find just the right GIF.

search gboard

To 'G' or not to 'G'

Sure, there are already plenty of ways to do a Google search on Android. Gboard offers yet another, but it’s one you may actually want to have with you. In the settings you can turn on the “G” button and predictive search so they’re always just one touch away when you're typing.

It may feel like overkill, but it allows you access to sports information, movie times, or other information without leaving the app. If you find yourself not using it, you can always disable the button. It’s then replaced by an arrow that expands to let you use Google Translate, change the theme, switch to one-handed typing mode, voice dictation, or access the settings.

gboard translation

Say it in any language

Google Translate lives right inside of Gboard. Touch the arrow or the Google icon, and then the translate icon to fire it up. On the left side of the screen you’ll see the language you’re typing in (Google can automatically detect this if you prefer), while on the right is what you’re translating that language into.

Translate won’t be as accurate as a fluent speaker, but it could do the job if you need to have a quick chat with somebody (perhaps an Airbnb host in a different country) and you don’t speak the language.

gboard search

Search smarter

That G button may be search overkill, but ove rtime I’ve found some situations where it’s really quite useful. For example, if you’re chatting about a restaurant order, you can do a Google search and get the menu right away.

Just as important is the related batch of searches that will start floating across the bottom of the screen. Google likes to save you steps, and being able to do more restaurant research or just sharing the contents of the card can make your event planning a lot easier.

gboard theme

Go beyond the generic themes

Gboard offers a decent number of themes to add some pizzazz to your keyboard. However, if you want to really personalize things then throw an image in the background. You can use one of the scenic backgrounds to add in some serenity while you’re texting your children about their school performance.

Additionally, you can select Custom and choose an image from your own gallery. Typing on your child’s face might be a little weird, so maybe find some vacation photos so you have happy throughts during your day.

gesture typing

Glide to type

Ever since Swype came into existence, companies have sought to emulate its method of typing by gliding your finger over the keyboard.

Gboard does an exceptional job of this, and adds in a few other innovations. My favorite is the ability to gesture delete by sliding to the left from the delete key. In the settings, you can customize the experience by enabling or disabling gesture trail, this gesture delete feature, and a cursor control tool. That one is pretty handy to, especially since Android still doesn’t let you zoom in on text like iOS does.

one hand mode gboard

Type with one hand

We’ve all been there. You’re juggling a coffee in one hand and trying to text your signifcant other with the other. Instead of putting off the message, you want to be responsive without sacrificing your warm beverage.

Enter the one-handed mode. Touch the G button and and then the one-handed symbol to slide the keyboard over to the side of the screen. Touch the arrow to move it over to the other side of the screen depending on what’s easier to type with. It’s a little trickier to hit the right keys, but it’ll reduce the chance of you losing your grip and seeing your phone go flying onto the pavement.

gboard personal dictionary

Make your own dictionary

Needing to type out your email address or the phrases you regularly use over and over is annoying. Gboard lets you create a personal dictionary that you can trigger with a customized hotkey combination. 

This can be a real time saver, so head to Dictionary > Personal dictionary in the Gboard settings to set this up. I use this for my many email addresses and some quick phrases so I can respond to a contact quickly before getting back to a session of puzzle games.

voice typing

Say it instead

Have a lot to say? Use the microphone button to dictate it instead. Turn this on in the voice section and ensure the language selection matches the one you use in day-to-day speech. The offline speech recognition option is important so you can do dictation even if you’re offline.

If you need more colorful language, then toggle the Block offensive words option. After this, prepare to speak freely.

text correction

Make corrections more accurate

For a keyboard to truly be smart, it needs to learn more about your typing patterns and recognize words even if you mistype them terribly.

The Text correction options in the Gboard settings are massive, so spend a little time here. The most useful ones are the contact names and personalized suggestions, as Google uses your account details to offer the words and names you need. Yes, enter the caveat about privacy, but you have to give a little data to get those smart services.

The only area I feel Gboard could get better in comparison to other keyboards is if you really jumble a word. Instead of adding more letters in hopes it will recognize it, you may be better off just deleting and starting over. Keep an eye on the autosuggestions to find out how to proceed.

gboard gifs

GIFs and emoji

What’s a text conversation without GIFs and emoji? Gboard will help you find just the right one to liven up your chats.

It’s especially helpful with emoji as you won’t have to spend as much time scrolling through the long lists to find the one you need. Instead, just type “burrito,” “party,” or the phrase you’re after and it’ll be there in the word suggestions waiting for you.

GIFs are also fun to include, and Google’s search does a great job at finding some clever options. Note that apps have to support GIFs from the keyboard, but support is strong among Google's own apps and growing in the industry.

moving keyboard

Move the keyboard around

Maybe you just need to set the keyboard free. If so, this tool is for you. You can detach it from the bottom of the screen and put it anywhere you want. Touch the "G" button and then tap and hold the blue directional button in the middle of the screen.

Touch the checkmark to dock it. Then touch the icon with four arrows to send the keyboard back to its original position. That open space at the bottom would be awfully useful for a trackpad, espcially on a larger screen device. You never know.

text selection gboard

Grab that text

Selecting text on Android still isn't great. It doesn't have the clever magnifcation tool like iOS, which debuted on the very first iPhone and still is a superior method to the capabilities of Android. 

At the very least, Google has decided to build a really helpful tool that lets you control the cursor with a full-blown cursor control tool. Move the cursor to where you want, then touch select. Then you can cut and copy that text, and paste it somewhere else. It'll really be handy for long conversations or when working in a file editing program like Word or Google Docs.

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