App Review: TouchPal Keyboard for Android

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TouchPal One of the advantages of the Android platform is the availability of third-party keyboards. I recently had the opportunity to try out TouchPal, a new keyboard that was just released today.

I like it. It has many of the advantages of both SwiftKey and Swype, all in one package.Screen Shot 2013-09-16 at 1.29.52 PM

Like most third-party keyboards, it’s easy to install and make your default keyboard. If you’ve used a swipe-based keyboard before, you’ll pick up TouchPal quickly. The swipe recognition is excellent. I’ve found it to be comparable to Swype and better than Swiftkey.

There are two versions, one for phone and one for tablets. I’ve tested both, but since I only have Android tablets, I prefer the tablet versions, and Ill talk about why later in this review.

TouchPal keyboard

The keys are large and easy to press, either with fingers or a stylus (which is what I use most often). Numbers and characters are easy to enter, either with a long press of certain letter keys or by pulling up a dedicated number/character pad.

There is one feature of the number/character pad I’m not crazy about in the phone version. Some of the characters (like the #) share a key with another character and still require a long press. There is a second character pad, but it has a different set of characters. You can access a lot of different characters, but only a selection have dedicated keys. This is different from the other keyboards I’ve used. Note that the tablet version has dedicated keys for all special characters.

The tablet version also has a split-screen option, which is nice for landscape typing.

How about predictive text? TouchPal’s is excellent, almost as good as Swiftkey. When typing, I often find the app predicts my next two or three words. The developers say that app will learn from you over time, so I expect to find that improving over time.

TouchPal has an interesting predictive text feature I’ve never seen before. Note the suggested words embedded in the keyboard below? Grab one with your finger, slide it to the space bar, and it’s entered. By embedding them in the keys, TouchPal can offer more suggestions than other keyboards.

Wave screen

As I was finishing this review this morning, I stumbled across what immediately became my favorite feature. Note the little pencil icon on the first screen shot? Tap that, and you get a navigation screen. I’ve always found navigation and selecting text to be awkward, especially compared to iOS. This feature fixes all that. With arrow keys, Home and End, navigating and text selection become almost as easy as on a physical keyboard.

TouchPal navigation screen

So my overall impression? It’s an excellent third-party keyboard, with many of the best features of Swype and Swiftkey in one package. The navigation screen, in my opinion, pushes it past both of those apps.

And the best part? TouchPal is free, at least for now. I’d suggest you grab it while you can.

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