Google’s renamed keyboard, Gboard, has passed the 500 million install watermark and now resides amongst some of the most popular downloads on the Google Play Store such as Google Photos, Dropbox and Microsoft Skype. Gboard was originally the Google Keyboard, but when Google updated the application to version 6.0 in December 2016 they renamed the app. This change also brought the app name in line with the Gboard keyboard for Apple iOS. Gboard includes a number of features over and above the outgoing Google Keyboard such as the ability to use multiple languages on the one keyboard, a feature that Microsoft’s SwiftKey has had for some time, plus the ability to synchronize the custom dictionary across all devices using the keyboard. Gboard also includes Glide Typing, renamed from Gesture Typing but which otherwise appears to be the same underlying system that the Google Keyboard gained some time ago, plus users can now enable an automatic number row along the top of the keyboard, enable a one-handed mode.
As part of the upgrade to Gboard, the new keyboard application gained the ability to embed GIFs for those applications and operating systems supporting the technology, such as Google Hangouts. However, another key benefit of Gboard is the Google “G” icon that appears on the keyboard, which provides context-aware Google search support. Depending on what the user is typing, the G button can access a traditional Google search or more specific help, such as looking up addresses and similar. This integrated Google Search option makes it very easy to look up information you are typing about, such as a restaurant or sports team, for example. It’s easy to see how the Google Assistant may be enabled via this icon in a subsequent update to the application Google have even included theming support and the initial release of Gboard includes a small number of different color schemes, which may well expand with subsequent updates to the application.
Gboard’s quick rise in popularity is encouraging, especially given that there are a lot of good quality keyboards available in the Google Play Store that offer that much more than just a typing experience. And as with other active Google products, Gboard is under constant development and improvement.