Using Third-Party Keyboards In iOS 8

You can use third-party keyboards as alternatives to the regular iOS 8 keyboard when typing in almost any app. You install keyboards from the App Store and then need to enable them in Settings. Some keyboards offer alternative ways to type, while others bring novel features like handwriting recognition and text expansion.

Video Transcript
Hi this is Gary with MacMost.com. On today's episode let's look at installing third party keyboards in iOS 8.

The way you get third party keyboards is you install them in the App Store just like you would any app. There is a special section right now for iOS 8 apps. If you go into there you will see Add New Keyboards. I'll click on See All and I can get to a quick list of some apps with third party keyboards.

Now in the future you may need to search for keyboards or Apple may add an extra section for this. We'll have to see. Right now here are some of the first apps to offer third party keyboards. You install them just like you would any other app and they will actually appear on your home screen just like a regular app.

So I stuck some of these apps into a folder so they would be out of the way. The apps themselves aren't usually that useful although some of them contain tutorials on how to use a specific keyboard.

Just having the apps on your iOS device isn't enough for them to show up. You actually have to activate them. So go into your Settings app, under General, Keyboard, tap Keyboards again and you can see the list of all the keyboards you are currently using. You can add a new keyboard and then you will see more third party keyboards that you haven't yet activated.

You can select one and it will then appear there. Now that usually is not enough. You have to also select it and then select Allow Full Access. Sometimes keyboards access the internet for more content or will do things like perhaps get names out of your contacts to make it easier to type those names. Things like that. So depending on the keyboard you may or may not need that or you may need it for advanced functionality.

Once you have all these in here you are ready to use them. You can use these apps anywhere you would use a regular keyboard.

Here I am in Pages but you could be in Mail, you could be in Notes, you could be in Messages. To get to another keyboard you will notice the little globe like button at the bottom left. Tap that and it will take you to the next keyboard. On the Apple keyboard, the standard one that I'm looking at, you can actually tap and hold and you will get a pop-up with all the keyboards that you've got.

I've got the Emoji keyboard which is also built into iOS and we had that in iOS 7 as well. But you can select another keyboard like say let's select SwiftKey. Then you can see it has brought up this other keyboard here.

SwiftKey has been around for a while on Android and it's big feature is predictive text. So you can see words appearing at the top there. I can actually even stop in the middle of typing a word here, hit the spacebar, and it will complete it. It's got a little bit better of a predictive engine at this point maybe than iOS 8 has by itself. You may want to give it a try if you really like predictive text.

Now on the iPhone you can use SwiftKey to actually swipe between letters to predict words. You can't do that on the iPad for some reason. But you can do it using TouchPal another keyboard here. So for instance I can just sort of tap where the letter T is and then direct my finger around to type the rest of the word. So you can see how you can do less finger movement really with this, or at least less taps. So it might be interesting as another way to type. You can see there is still predictive text there at the top.

The MyScript keyboard actually allows you to draw letters instead of actually typing them on keys. When it makes a mistake you can backspace by just doing a backwards dash there and space forward by a forward dash. So it is kind of an interesting concept. You also get predictive text at the top. There is a lot you can do and some people really like this.

Now TextExpander is an app that has been around forever on the Mac. It allows you to have text shortcuts to do various things. This is what the keyboard looks like when you are typing text but the real key to using it is to using the app first to set things up.

So let's look at the TextExpander app here. Basically you can create these groups of snip its. I've created one here which basically just uses tmess for an abbreviations for This is a test. You can do much longer ones. Some of these are pretty long, things like that. You have short abbreviations. You can even use some extra special characters like for instance substituting dates and things like that in there.

Let's take a look at just using the one I created there. So when I type tmess with the text expander keyboard I should get that sentence there. So we will switch over to Pages and there you go. I didn't even have to do anything afterwards. After activated it automatically recognizes it as an abbreviation. I can make this really a short thing like a signature at the end of an email. Have a series of them. Or make it something very long that can be inserted like say a form letter that I respond to people via email with.

So with these first third party keyboards you can really see the potential here. I'm sure soon we will get a lot of different innovation, lots of competition between the different keyboards and improvements. So keep watching the app store and see what comes up, and trying out a few things.

Hope you found this useful. Until next time this is Gary with Macmost.com.

Comments: 171 Responses to “Using Third-Party Keyboards In iOS 8”

    Charles Young
    10/9/14 @ 8:27 am

    Do these puppies all disable my iOS Keyboard Shortcuts, or can I import ’em or otherwise use ’em without having to switch back to the regular iOS keyboard?

    Thanks and best wishes,
    Charles

    Shaaron
    10/9/14 @ 11:32 am

    What are your thoughts on privacy and allowing full access to third party keyboards?

      10/9/14 @ 12:48 pm

      You mean that third-party app makers could put malicious code into the keyboards to track what you type? That’s technically possible, but they have to be part of the Apple dev program to have an app in the store, and that means Apple knows a lot about them. They’d be found out. Seems like too much effort as there are easier ways to steal information.

        Shaaron
        10/9/14 @ 8:55 pm

        Yes, concerned about tracking key strokes. Thanks Gary!

    John Delcoure
    10/21/14 @ 4:19 pm

    I just purchased a physical keyboard for my iPad Air. Can I use one of the apps with predictive text with it?

      10/21/14 @ 4:32 pm

      Predictive text works with the on-screen keyboard. The whole idea is that these buttons appear above the keyboard and change all the time, something a physical keyboard can’t do.

Comments Closed.