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How to Type Faster with the Swype Keyboard for Android

The Swype keyboard for Android replaces pecking at letters with gliding your fingers over them. Swype automatically interprets your gesture and figures out the word you meant to type.

Swype is possible thanks to Android’s flexibility — third-party developers can replace your system’s keyboard, offering new text-entry experiences. iPhone users are out of luck.

Switching to Swype

Many Android devices come with the Swype keyboard, but it isn’t enabled by default. To find out if you already have Swype installed, long-press any text entry area with your finger. You’ll see a menu.

Tap “Input method” in the menu.

Switch to Swype by tapping it if it appears in the menu.

If you don’t have Swype installed, you can download the beta from Swype’s website. It’s a non-Market application, so you’ll have to enable the “Unknown Sources” option on your Android to install it.

Basic Usage

If you wanted to type “how to geek” on a normal touch-screen keyboard, you’d tap each character in succession, lifting your finger from the screen after each tap. You may have to go back and edit what you’ve typed if your finger missed a letter.

On Swype, you swipe over words. Touch your finger to the H, move it to the O, move it to the W and lift your finger. Swype will automatically detect the appropriate word and place it in the text box.

I actually overshot the O here and went to the P instead. Swype is smart enough to correct for this error and know that I probably meant to type “how,” not “hpw.”

What if I meant to type “hope” instead? No problem. Swype displays other possible words above your keyboard; tap a word to use it instead.

This works even if you’re typing several words at once. You can tap the incorrect word in the text entry field to select it and view the suggested alternatives.

To type additional words, lift your finger from the screen between each word. Swype automatically inserts spaces for you.

Double Letters

Swype tries to detect when a word, such as “geek,” requires two of the same letters in a row. There’s also a way to tell Swype that you want more than one letter: make a little loop over the letter or scribble over it while swiping.

Capitalization

Swype automatically capitalizes words that appear at the beginning of a sentence, but you can also use a special gesture to capitalize letters. If you’d like to type “How”, with a capital H, start at the H, swipe above and off the keyboard, swipe back down onto the keyboard and swipe over the other letters normally.

 

Adding Words to Swype’s Dictionary

Swype’s magic depends on its internal dictionary of words. If it doesn’t know a word or acronym you want to type, it won’t let you swipe it. Luckily, you can add words yourself. Let’s say we want to add “HTG” to the word list. Swype can also be used as a normal, hunt-and-peck keyboard, so we’ll tap it in normally.

At the bottom of the screen, Swype suggests NTH as the closest match in its dictionary. We can tap the “HTG” option down there to select it.

Tap the “Add to Dictionary” option to add your new word to Swype’s dictionary.

Punctuation and Single-Letter Words

To add punctuation, swipe from the punctuation mark to the space bar. For example, to add a comma after typing a word, press your finger down on the comma, move it to the space bar and lift it. This automatically inserts the punctuation mark, followed by a space, so you can continue swiping. You can also swipe to the space bar to type a single-letter word, like “a” or “I,” followed by a space. Swype automatically capitalizes the word “I.”

Bouncing

Let’s say you want to type the word “pot.” The direct route is a straight line from P to T. But that could be a number of words: pot, put or pit.

Your swipe doesn’t have to take the direct route. Avoid the U and I and Swype will know exactly which word you meant.

Configuring Swype

You can press and hold the Swype key at the bottom-left corner of the keyboard to access Swype’s settings. You can also find its settings under Language and keyboard in your system settings menu.

From Swype’s settings screen, you can adjust Swype’s language and preferences, manage your personal dictionary and view Swype’s tips and help.


Swype seems like a rather odd idea at first — screenshots of it in action, with scribbles all over the keyboard, can look a bit haphazard. But if you give Swype a try, you’ll be surprised how fast everything clicks into place.

Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Google+.

  • Published 02/24/12

Comments (21)

  1. michael

    swype rocks…

  2. CCarpo

    You forgot the important gesture from the “Swype Key” to “Sym” which shows you a great navigation option for longer texts.

  3. Ana

    I use swype all the time and I never had to press “add to dictionary option”. In mine, it gets added automatically after I “manually” typed it once. I’m using version 2.22.64.17160

  4. Jim

    For those running newerish version (v3 & up), you can swype from the swype key to a (to select all) — swype key to c (to copy) — swype key to x (to cut) & v to paste. this definitely saves time.

    the only feature i want out of any other keyboard into swype is the swype fast from far right to left to delete previous word. yes, you can press the swype button & it highlights last word typed, but it’s easier to do it from a quick swype for me. i like that feature in swiftkey

  5. Dano

    Any hope of this being available to iPhone users?

  6. Rick

    I can’t type very well, but with Swype, it makes it very easy. I would hate to text without it.

  7. JimG

    At one time, I had the ability to remove words from the Swype dictionary, but this seems to have disappeared recently. Any ideas on how to restore this feature? It is a bit irritating that my Swype keyboard wants to automatically insert “lsat” when I try for the word, “last.” Almost without fail, I have to delete the word and manually type each letter to get it right, which takes away from the appeal of Swype.

    (Running Swype version 2.71.76.23317 on Android 2.3.4, HTC T-Mobile G2, for anyone who has technical expertise he/she can offer.)

    Aside from that, I prefer Swype over the other input methods.

    Thanks!

  8. CarolW

    Great tip about not taking the direct route when you swipe. I find that it can be really annoying when the wrong word appears, and more often than not, it’s because I ran my finger over another letter enroute to another.

    I’m finding more and more that touch screen keyboards are bit ineffective. I’m on a Galaxy S and am actually thinking of switching back to a tactile keyboard. I’ve got pretty small hands and holding the phone while swiping with the same hand/thumb is cumbersome–it’s an uncomfortable fit that literally causes you mis-swipe.

    Despite that, I have to admit that, for a touch screen, swiping is a more efficient method.

  9. Michael

    Swype is a godsend for me as I have big fingers. The thought of using a touch screen phone used to scare the hell out of me. I still have misspelling but it’s not nearly as often. As I have been practicing I can almost go as fast with Swype as I can with a physical keyboard. I suspect that over time it will only get better.

  10. Leslie Anne

    Can I put in a word for the SlideIT keyboard? Maybe it’s because I started with SlideIT that I prefer it but I don’t think there is any feature that it doesn’t have. I never worry about double letters because it gets them right 99 times out of 100. Punctuation doesn’t need a slide to the space bar because it automatically puts a space after each mark. Probably Swype can do that too.

    Give SlideIT a try and compare it to Swype, which did come with my phon. It’s in the Marketplace.

  11. dima

    How do I turn off tips, mine doesn’t have “Show Tips” check box. It’s annoying because everytime I type a hidden word it pops up.

  12. GeoManiac

    HTC (Desire S) has a similar (possibly a derivation or licensed version of swipe) called Trace in the keyboard setup.

  13. Mrwavibor

    Swype is great! I have been using it for
    a month now, doesn’t even bother to check if it’s correct spelled, because it’s done always! ;)

  14. Apollo

    I cannot say enough good things about swype! It has actually made it easy and fun to type on my mobile.

  15. Dark Reality

    Swype is a “non-market app” because it’s not good enough to be on the Market, and if you’ve seen the crap that’s on the Market… that’s saying something. There are two reasons for a free app to want to steer clear of the Android Market. One, they want to avoid bad reviews. Two, they want to avoid a low rating. Go ahead and take your pick.

    Swipe-to-type is a neat gimmick, but other keyboard apps can do it, too, and they’re good enough to be available in the Market. Somebody mentioned SlideIT; FlexT9 can do it as well and has a few other neat text entry options. Personally, I don’t like the gimmick. I can type as fast as the next guy, but thinking about that path from letter to letter… no thanks. I have a big (4.3″) screen, so I use Thumb Keyboard to sort of divide and conquer. I type pretty fast with it.

  16. Noah

    Swype is actually available on jailbroken iPhones via the Cydia appstore. Enjoy!

  17. Padrino

    SwiftkeyX all the way

  18. Steve

    Boooooo!!!!!! It won’t work with my screen resolution 9.7″ screen LePan TC970. Guess it’s made for cell phones, which makes sense. Doesn’t mean much for 10 finger typists, only thumb stabbers and single finger amputees.

  19. Chris Hoffman

    @Steve

    Ouch, sorry to hear it. Maybe you can find a similar app in Google Play? (formerly known as the Android Market).

    Android’s lack of tablet-optimized apps is a real problem.

  20. Duncan

    The list of words it knows is huge and sometimes too big. One of the suggestions it gave me yesterday was interregnum, from Hari Seldon’s history in Foundation. Not helpful having that right at the top of the list of guesses.

    I find the up-to-capitalize gesture only works if I float there for a while.

    It writes you’re in place of your whether or not I aim for the apostrophe key.

    An attempt to write “it” usually spells p”out”. In usually becomes on, vegetarian sometimes becomes

  21. Duncan

    (continuing, because getting back to the last lube of (line of) a message in a Amdahl (Amdahl, small) text box is impossible)

    vegetarian becomes Croatian, of becomes odd, scribbles are missed mmaking the tip show frequently, finger-down events are missed making the trace start late.

    Still, it’s faster than pecking and mire (more) accurate than voice transcription.

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