How to use the Google Handwriting Input Keyboard

Google recently released a new Android keyboard called the Google Handwriting Input keyboard that lets Android smart phone and tablet users write with their finger or a stylus instead of typing on a keyboard. It works well recognizing the user’s handwriting input quickly and accurately most of the time.

Find out how to install and use the new Google Handwriting tool here. Plus we’ve got another tip for quickly switching between the Google Handwriting Input keyboard and the regular Google Keyboard, which users of the handwriting tool should also install.

Google Handwriting Input

Enter text in Android using a finger or stylus instead of a keyboard with the Google Handwriting Input.

Install Google Handwriting Input Keyboard

Grab the new Google Handwriting Input keyboard from the Google Play Store. It’s free and works great. Once users install it, the app will walk them through the setup process. If you fail to follow their steps, then use the following steps to get the Google Handwriting Input keyboard working.

Google Handwriting Input setup wizard

The setup wizard helps the user get started using the Google Handwriting Input keyboard on Android.

  • Agree to the Terms of Service by tapping OK.
  • Enable the Google Handwriting Input keyboard by tapping the number one box at the top of the setup wizard.
  • Tap the ON/OFF switch in the input methods section of Settings which pops up after the previous step.
  • Tap OK to acknowledge the warning that the Google Handwriting Input keyboard collects information as the user uses it.
  • Tap on the second box in the setup wizard if needed to add other languages.
  • Tap on the third box in the setup wizard to select the Google Handwriting Input keyboard in the phone’s input settings, which will pop up next.
  • Choose the Google Handwriting Input Keyboard and the wizard returns to the setup wizard screen.

The setup wizard gives users a chance to test the keyboard in a text input box that shows up after performing the above steps. Give it a try to see how well it recognizes even the messiest handwriting. It surprised me how accurately it recognized my terrible handwriting and entered the right text in the box.

The wizard shows two more boxes at the bottom of the screen. The first is for configuring languages and the second lets users decide to help improve the keyboard by letting Google collect data.Tap on either box to do those things.

The phone’s keyboard input will now use the Google Handwriting Input keyboard by default. However, it’s a good idea to also install the Google Keyboard. This keyboard works along with the handwriting keyboard. In the next step we’ll show you how to switch back and forth between them quickly. This makes it easier to type in text if the handwriting keyboard fails to recognize certain words.

google keyboard

Google Keyboard uses regular input and gesture-based input to quickly enter text.

Install the free Google Keyboard from the Google Play Store. It does a great job of recognizing gesture based typing, where the user slides their finger over keys instead of tapping each letter.

How to Use the Google Handwriting Input Keyboard

What do the icons in the new Google Handwriting Input Keyboard do and how do you quickly switch between it and the Google Keyboard so you can type using a regular keyboard? First, let’s take a look at the user interface of the handwriting keyboard.

google handwriting input keyboard entry box

Here’s the Google Handwriting Input keyboard text entry box. See what the various icons mean below.

The entry area in the center accepts the user’s handwriting. Use your finger or a stylus to write words instead of typing them. Notice how it suggests words above the input area. Tap on a suggested word to enter it or just wait and the keyboard enters it automatically. The center word is the one the keyboard thinks you want to enter. Tap the left or right box to change to one of those words instead.

Also on the top row above the entry area, there’s a punctuation buttons including a period, comma and question mark.

Along the bottom, there are a series of icons representing buttons. Here’s what each one does starting on the left and going on the right of the screen.

  • Back – This button either looks like it does above, a rounded arrow, or a left pointing triangle. It’s the arrow when there’s handwriting in the window and its the triangle after it enters the text. Tap either one to go back. This is useful for undoing handwriting strokes to fix your mistakes in handwriting.
  • Online Recognition – Notice the cloud with the line through it. This shows that Online Recognition is turned off. Online Recognition sends information to Google to recognize the handwritten words and improves Google’s recognition engine. The first time you use it asks permission. To keep the warning from popping up, tap on the box next to Don’t show this again. Tap on OK and it turns Online Recognition on.
  • Globe – The button next to the cloud and before the space bar lets the user quickly switch between the handwriting keyboard and the Google Keyboard we installed before. The Google Keyboard has one too. Tap to toggle between them. Tap and hold to bring up the input settings feature on the phone.
  • Space Bar – Adds a space after the word they keyboard just recognized. Tap and hold it to choose a different keyboard installed, like Swype or the phone’s default keyboard. This gives users access to the Google voice typing keyboard which lets us enter text with our voices
  • Backspace – This works just like a regular backspace key. Tap and hold to quickly go back spaces, just as you would a normal keyboard.
  • Search/Enter Key – The last key switches between an enter key and a search button, depending on the context. In Google Now’s input box it’s a search button, but at other places it’s an enter key with a circle and a right-pointing arrow.