Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Swype Beta sweeps out account requirement

Swype, don't type

If your Android phone manufacturer or carrier didn't install Swype on your phone, there are many good reasons to install it yourself. After climbing over a very low learning curve Swype is the fastest way to enter text on a phone, and it beats standard keyboards on tablets too.

There are similar keyboard apps, but Swype is free.

Swype works offline, its handwriting input doesn't require internet either, so the only reason to allow Swype to go online is for voice input.

Don't register, just download

A major annoyance of Swype used to be that if it didn't come preinstalled, you had to sign up for the beta test program. Making yet another account somewhere just to install a keyboard? Ugh! Fortunately Swype has seen the light, so now you can download and install Swype Beta without signing up to anything.

Swype still won't let you download its keyboard directly, though. Instead it hands out a Swype installer, which downloads the keyboard to your phone and gets it installed. If your phone came with Swype preloaded, the Swype installer will add an extra copy to your phone. This new extra copy usually has more features than the Swype app (if any) that came with your phone out of the box.

You can firewall the installer offline after it has done its job. You can even uninstall the installer, the keyboard stays where it is and keeps working. Of course you can force the Swype keyboard itself offline with a firewall (after downloading language packs, of course). Keeping Swype offline kills the voice text entry part of the app, but it also ensures that the passwords and credit card numbers you Swype into your Android apps won't leave your phone through Swype. You may also want to use apps like PDroid or LBE Privacy Guard to make sure Swype Beta doesn't grab your location info.

Can't read you, don't speak your language

The app is called Swype Beta for a reason. Typing and swyping works really well, but the handwriting feature is erratic, especially for languages with accented letters, tildes, and other symbols that the english language does without. Inserting foreign words into an english text is a sure way to confuse the handwriting mode of Swype. Even when I stick to plain english, Swype often chokes on my handwritten letters that Google Gesture Search has no problems with.

Swype can only use one language at a time. It would be nice if a future version of Swype would cater for bilingual Swypers by letting them activate multiple languages simultaneously. In the current modus operandi Swype runs into trouble when you mix languages, and the autocorrect option turns your multilingual writing into a complete mess. Exempli gratia, a ménage à trois between english, french, and español is very fehlerhaft in Swype. Swype, if you want world domination you should fix your language issues today rather than mañana, capiche?

Another annoyance (one that keeps me using the old preinstalled copy that came with my phone): the current version of Swype Beta rings a very loud beep when it doesn't recognize a word, and there's no way to switch this noise off short of putting your entire phone in silent mode.

Anyway, even with these shortcomings Swype is one of the best touchscreen keyboards out there, so give it a shot.

Swype Beta

Another good keyboard (too bad it doesn't Swype):

MultiLing Keyboard

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