My Swype experiment ended in failure

swype beta - for some reason we don't have an alt tag hereBack in November, I wrote about how I was going to try to get used to swipe typing on Android, specifically Swype. Swipe typing has the potential to be a very fast and easy way to type, but it does take a bit of getting used to, and that bit is what I’ve been working on for the last two months. In the end though, I had to go back.

The issue I’m having with Swype, whether it’s my device or Swype’s fault, is that it’s only smooth if you actually swipe type. If you hunt and peck, it lags like you wouldn’t believe, often having a second or two of essentially freezing before suddenly catching up to everything you’ve typed. The reason why I would need to hunt and peck at all comes down to using the keyboard when I deal with Tasker. That often requires typing in “code” that most certainly isn’t in Swype’s dictionary, and it just brings that whole process down to a ridiculous stand still.

Another issue I’m having is that Swype is very politically correct. It seems to pretend not to know any words that can even remotely be seen as profanity, even if you’re not using it in those contexts. You cannot simply pretend that words don’t exist because you don’t think people should use them, as that just makes your final product a pain to use. It especially becomes a problem in Norwegian, where it seems to have a ridiculously outdated notion of what’s profanity, resulting in random words missing from the dictionary.

The third major issue I found was with compound words in Norwegian. Norwegian works very differently from English in that two words often mean something completely different if combined into a single word compared to being two separate words. For instance, the difference between “mellomstore bøker” and “mellom store bøker” is “medium sized books” compared to “between large books”. A single space changes so much. It’s a fairly common grammatical mistake in Norway to not understand when to combined words, and it’s a very awkward mistake to make, comparable to now knowing the difference between they’re/there/their in English. It frankly makes you look stupid. Swype supports Norwegian, but it’s incapable of compounding words, and will only understand what you’re trying to say if the compound word is common enough to be in a dictionary. You then often have to write each word individually, and because Swype “helps” you by inserting a space between words, it’s creating grammatical mistakes where there otherwise aren’t any. Imagine having a keyboard that replaces “their” with “they’re” automatically, creating mistakes that weren’t there. It doesn’t exactly make for the most intelligent messages.

The biggest issue is the first one, and there is a potential fix. Via Tasker and some plugins, I can make it switch between keyboards depending on the app, thus having access to a better hunt and peck keyboard for things like Tasker, while still being able to use Swype for creating messages- without having to switch manually. I’m not sure if it’s worth the hassle, as I don’t really type that much on my phone anymore, but I might end up doing it this way.

I haven’t tried Google’s new swipe keyboard, so I’m curious if it has the same problems. The compound word issue in particular is interesting, because it shows that just loading another language’s dictionary into a keyboard does not necessarily make it suitable to use for that language. Either way, it’s back to Perfect Keyboard for me, for now.

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Andreas Ødegård

Andreas Ødegård is more interested in aftermarket (and user created) software and hardware than chasing the latest gadgets. His day job as a teacher keeps him interested in education tech and takes up most of his time.

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