At a Glance
SlideIT Keyboard by Dasur is a replacement software keyboard that allows you to slide your finger around instead of tapping. It works in the same manner as the more famous “Swype” software. Many find this to be the fastest, easiest (and most fun) method of single-hand text entry.
The way SlideIT works is simple: Touch the first letter of the word, drag it around to the others, and then lift up your finger at the end of the word. For example, if I wanted to type “Hi you,” I would touch the H, drag to the I, lift up, then touch the Y, and then drag to the O and U. It definitely takes some getting used to, but once you do, ease of use comes quickly.
When the app isn’t 100 percent sure what word you intended to type, suggestions unobtrusively appear in a bar between the keyboard and the text entry field. If the word you wanted is first on the suggestion list, then just keep on typing, and that word will automatically be put it in. It’s also easy to go back and correct: Just click the word you want to change and the suggestions pop up in the bar again. This is a terrific detail that more keyboards really should have. Special characters, numbers, and symbols are brought up when you push the ?123 key; Cut/Copy/Paste, settings, and a little graffiti pad are available there as well. Still, accessing things like the question mark seem to take longer in this keyboard than in others (a simple long-press would be nice), and bringing up parentheses requires you to go to the second page of symbols, which is a pain if you use a lot of parenthetical clauses (like me), or a lot of emoticons. :-( Thankfully, the period and the comma are both located on the main keyboard.
SlideIT sets itself apart from other sliding keyboards with a few key, unique features. One is just the simple inclusion of Google’s speech input button (Android 2.0 and higher only). This is incredibly handy. Also, if you’re punching in, say, a tricky Web address and are worried about accidentally sliding when you’re just trying to tap, no problem: With one click you can change from Slide Mode to ABC Mode, where you can hunt and peck to your heart’s content, and then easily switch back. I haven’t seen this on any other sliding keyboard, and it’s a very nice feature. SlideIT also has a ton of language packs you can download for free, so if you’ve been dying to use a sliding keyboard in Bulgarian, then today’s your lucky day. It is also extremely easy to add words to the dictionary.
Possibly my favorite feature, though, is the Shortcuts. Essentially you slide an abbreviation, make one click to confirm, and up pops what you wanted to say. A list of these abbreviations is built in (some, like GF = girlfriend, are intuitive; others seem pretty random), but you can custom-create your own, which is a great time-saver. For example, if you punch in your e-mail address often, you can create a shortcut--say, “EM”--so that when you slide “EM,” up pops firstname.lastname@example.org.This also works with phone numbers and complete sentences.
Of the three sliding keyboards I’ve experimented with, I have found SlideIT to be the fastest, and the most feature-rich by far. That said, its accuracy could still use some work. I would say that it’s better than the others, but still not as good as it should be. You will end up going back and correcting more than you would with the stock Android keyboard, but I would bet that SlideIT would still end up being faster, especially with the shortcuts. Sliding keyboards seem somewhat pointless when you’re in landscape mode (you have to cover so much ground I think it ends up being slower), but at least with SlideIT you can flip it from Slide to ABC, which is nice. It would be nicer still if you could keep the auto-correct suggestions in ABC mode.
In short, SlideIT is a fantastic replacement keyboard that nevertheless has room to improve, particularly in accuracy (though it was at least as accurate as the other two sliding keyboards I tested) and in providing access to symbols. At roughly $8, it isn’t cheap by Android Market standards. Luckily, the demo version is about as full-featured as it gets, and you can test it out very thoroughly before you decide to take the plunge and buy it. On the whole, for one-handed text entry, SlideIT Keyboard is the current king of the hill.
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