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Hefty Google Keyboard update brings one-handed mode, cursor control, other new tricks

Derek Walter | May 4, 2016
The new version is packed with features like quick access to emojis, a dedicated number pad, and smarter word predictions.

Google Keyboard just rolled out of the factory with a major overhaul. Version 5.0 brings a lot of smart features and design enhancements that could make it quicker to bang out a text message or drop in some numbers to a spreadsheet.

The impact on you: In our last look at the best Android keyboards we crowned SwiftKey the champ, but Google Keyboard was a very close second. Google is ramping up the competition with deeper ties to its predictive powers, which is critically important now that Microsoft acquired SwiftKey.

Better typing tools

One of the most useful changes is a fine cursor control: just tap and hold on the space bar and you can slide the cursor to where you want it to go. Suggestions are also smarter, as you can touch and drag away one that you don’t like to the trash. This can cut down on those typos that got saved into Google’s memory.

keyboard suggestions
A new one-handed mode and more control over suggestions are welcome additions.

Another helpful additions is the new one-handed mode, which you launch by tapping and holding the Enter button. This also lets you jump over to select an emoji or use a tab-like button that will cycle through menu options.

You’ll also find a dedicated nine-key layout, which is life-changing for typing in a string of numbers to a spreadsheet or online form.

google keyboard nine key
Type out numbers much faster with the new nine-key layout.

Google Keyboard is also stepping up its predictive game, by enabling an option to share “snippets of what and how you type in Google apps to improve Google keyboard.” 

This is much like the way SwiftKey and other apps learn your behavior, but this can be disabled from the settings if you’d prefer.

Design tweaks

The update isn’t only about usability. You can now add in outlines for the keys if the full Material look is a little too much. There are also five different height sizes that you can select from in the settings. This is where you’ll also find other advanced functions to change the look and performance of the keyboard.

google keyboard
Some design tweaks and more data-sharing options are part of the new Google Keyboard.

The Material Light and Material Dark themes are still there for the choosing, but the old-school Holo options are gone. But you can add an outline for the individual keys, which does help some in providing a target for your fingers.

Google Keyboard 5.0 is rolling out now in the Play Store. It’s also up on APK Mirror if you don’t want to wait.


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