Google apps have become a backbone of the iPhone and iPad. Besides Google Search and the Chrome browser, I also use Google Maps, Google Play Music, and Google Drive on my Apple. So it is not surprising that Google recently released their new Gboard keyboard in the Apple iTunes store, even before it makes its expected debut in the Android Play Store.
Whether you are an Apple user or an Android user, this is one keyboard that you won’t want to miss because the Gboard keyboard is truly unique. It allows users to search without a browser. You can search right in the app you are using without having to switch to a search engine. This is especially useful when composing an email or text message or using messaging-type apps. Just press on the big colorful G at the top of the keyboard and type in what you want to search for. The result appears right in the current window in the form of a card with the requested information. You can swipe to the left to see additional result cards. It is very well done.
Tap on the word “Share” at the bottom of the window and a link to the search results along with pertinent information will appear in your text or email ready to be sent to your recipient. You can also paste the entire contents of the card into your message.
You can search for anything that you would normally search for like weather, nearby restaurants, movies, etc. You can use the big G to find and send YouTube videos as well. If you enable the contacts search in the settings, the Gboard will even search your contacts. It’s a pretty awesome and truly useful feature.
Beside the integration with Google search services, the keyboard also provides swipe-based typing which allows users to move from letter-to-letter without lifting their finger, a method that I find very useful.
I also found the word completion suggestions, automatic corrections, and next-word predictive text of the Gboard to be just as good as the Word Flow keyboard that I recently reviewed. I also enjoyed the templates that Word Flow provided with different colored backgrounds. Unfortunately, Gboard does not provide that sort of customization.
Gboard, however, does support several gesture-based moves that other keyboards don’t have. For instance, for quick capitalization, you can swipe your finger from the Cap key to the letter you want capitalized. You can also slide you finger across the space bar in either direction to move the cursor in that direction.
Gboard also provides extensive help in using emojis. As long as it is turned on in the settings, Gboard will give you Emoji suggestions while you type. I find this quite accurate and very useful. You can also press the smiley face at the bottom of the keyboard to get to a screen where you can search for Emoji by name or by scrolling through the many options. Emoji are grouped by topic like food, transportation, etc.
GIFS are also supported in Gboard. When you are in the Emoji area you will see a place where you can switch to GIFs. You can use the search bar to search for GIFs. The selection is extensive. You can find everything from animated pictures of out space to GIFS showing an everyday living room. You can also look through the GIF groups just as you could the Emoji. The GIFs are grouped by emotions like bored, awkward, sleepy, and eye roll. There are other groups as well, like please, puppies, kittens, and goodnight. The GIFs are unique and definitely worth looking through.
The more I use this keyboard, the more I like it. The incorporation of the Google search makes it extremely useful. I have used it for everything from sending sports scores to finding a place for lunch in the middle of a conversation. The GIFs can provide a little unexpected spice to any conversation and the ability to send YouTube videos right from the keyboard is very useful.
Android fans needn’t worry. Google has said that they are working on an Android version, which I expect will be coming soon. Currently on Apple devices, third party keyboard apps cannot use the microphone. If the Android version incorporates voice search and possibly a few other unique features from the standard Google Keyboard for Android, the Android version of Gboard might be truly spectacular.
In the meantime Google has added to their list of “pretty darn good” apps for the iPhone…. Chrome, Google Maps, Google Drive, Gmail, Google Earth, Google Calendar, and now Gboard. It’s amazing to find that I can use an iPhone and still live almost entirely in the Google ecosystem.