iOS 8 added support for third-party keyboards. Now iPhone and iPad users can finally swap out their keyboards and use some of the same keyboards available on Android devices. Swipe-to-type is now an option for iPhone users, too.
Apple also added a “QuickType” keyboard that offers next-word predictions above the keyboard. In the future, if there’s a cool new keyboard feature — like word predictions or swipe-to-type — you can install a third-party keyboard to get it immediately.
Get Third-Party Keyboards
First, you’ll need to install one or more third-party keyboards on your device. They’re just apps, and are available in the App Store like other apps.
Here are some of the keyboards Apple is featuring in the App Store for the iOS 8 launch:
- SwiftKey (free): A free keyboard that attempts to provide better predictions. It aims to learn your typing habits by building a profile of the words you use. It can sync this profile across all your devices, but you can disable this feature. SwiftKey also includes swipe-to-type features and is completely free. This is a great keyboard to start out with if you want to play with another keyboard.
- Swype ($0.99): This is the original keyboard that invented swipe-to-type. It reportedly still has an edge when it comes to swiping.
- Fleksy ($0.99): Fleksy is a minimal keyboard that relies on swipe gestures and other non-obvious actions to speed up typing. It also has quite a few themes available for it.
- MyScript Stack (free): Did you ever use a Palm OS device? This keyboard works similarly — you scribble a character with your finger and the keyboard converts your scribble into a letter.
- KuaiBoard ($1.99): This keyboard is basically just a clipboard that helps aid repetitive text entry.
These keyboards demonstrate what’s now possible on iOS. There are now even GIF keyboard — like Riffsy — for quickly inserting animated GIFs into other apps.
Enable Third-Party Keyboards
To enable a new keyboard after installing it, you’ll need to head into Settings after installing it. Navigate to Settings > General > Keyboards > Keyboards. Tap Add a New Keyboard and select the keyboard you just installed.
You can enable multiple third-party keyboards here so you can easily switch between them later.
Give a Keyboard Internet Access
To give a keyboard full Internet access — for example, allowing SwiftKey to synchronize your typing profile across all your devices — tap the name of the keyboard you added on the Keyboards screen and enable “Allow Full Access.”
Apple notes that this could be a security issue, as the keyboard could potentially transmit private data you type — such as your password or credit card information. Keyboards don’t have Internet access by default for this reason, and you don’t have to enable Internet access to use any keyboard. Some keyboard features — like SwiftKey’s syncing — may only be available with Internet access.
Switch to a Third-Party Keyboard
Once you’ve enabled a keyboard on the Settings screen, it will be available to use. Bring up the keyboard in any app and tap the globe icon in the bottom-left corner of the keyboard to cycle between available keyboards.
You can also long-press the globe icon to see a list of available keyboards — the same list you configured on the Keyboard Settings screen. Tap the name of a keyboard to switch to it.
Use the keyboard normally and, when you want to switch back, tap the globe icon again. Apple requires that all third-party keyboards include a button that switches to the next keyboard, but it will look a bit different on each keyboard.
Configure a Keyboard
Each keyboard will also install its own app icon on your home screen. You can open the app to view settings and configure the keyboard. The apps will often contain information about using the keyboard, too. To uninstall a keyboard, remove the app like you normally would — long-press the app icon on your home screen and tap the X that appears.
That’s basically it — this process will be the same no matter what third-party keyboards you install in the future. The ability to enable multiple third-party keyboards and cycle between them with a single tap is convenient — it allows you to install more specialized keyboards and quickly switch between them without opening any menus.