How I Android: Keymonk Keyboard

February 11, 2014
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Often on our YouTube channel we get questions about the little flashes of apps or aspects of our Android builds that you want to know more about. Most recently, many comments asked what keyboard I was using on my Nexus 5. Well, as a way of answering that question, we’re bringing back an old segment just for you. This is How I Android, with the Keymonk Keyboard.

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When you first go to the Keymonk Keyboard listing on the Google Play Store, one thing that you will probably first notice is the date listed underneath the pictures. Your eyes do not deceive you – the last time that this keyboard was updated was basically two Christmases ago. Back in 2012 when I used to rock an HTC Incredible, this keyboard made a bit of a splash with its unique approach of two finger swiping and I was an early adopter. Despite being almost 14 months without updates, I have kept up the habit of putting Keymonk on all of my daily drivers. Why? Not only is it the keyboard I’m so used to now, the developer kept the design so simple on this keyboard that it fits perfectly no matter what phone I put it in.

General Features

The Keymonk Keyboard takes on the same kind of setup that many keyboards have – you install the app and then activate and select it within the Language and Input settings. After that, you are given a few quick looks at the different functions. This is a gesture heavy keyboard, in that swiping is basically its main forte. For example, you can swipe from the period key on the keyboard in order to quickly add the most used punctuation marks.

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Another swipe you can take advantage of is coming from the symbols toggle and finding whatever symbol you want to insert into your text. When you release your finger, the keyboard will revert back to the original QWERTY layout.

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The one that I love the most, however, is definitely the ability to erase whole words by swiping from the delete key to the left. This is very useful especially when you just completely botch an entire word and it almost becomes like a reflex when you get used to it. Whenever I use any other keyboards I tend to try deleting whole words in this fashion and when it doesn’t work I get a little bummed out. It’s just one of those features that I got so used to.

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In the settings, you are able to tweak the input a little bit but things are kept pretty simple. Even changing the color scheme of the keyboard only allows you four different colors. As always, I go for the dark theme and it happens to be the default.

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And that about does it for the extras in Keymonk – really, it’s a keyboard that fulfills my general requirement of simplistic elegance. Not only is it quite unassuming, there aren’t too many extra bells and whistles because it focuses on working as well as it should.

No updates?

That’s probably what I love most about Keymonk – the fact that it was made so well from the get-go already that it didn’t need to really evolve. I type faster on it than any other keyboard, hands down, and there are no real holes in the design aside from one small gripe – when you are typing in certain apps (mostly Google Voice for me) the right bar of the predictive text line can be completely white, for no apparent reason. It does not take away from the experience one bit and is really just a small cosmetic issue.

keymonk keyboard screenshot (2)

Typing

I’m going to put this out there right now – when you get the hang of swiping with two fingers, it’s hard to go back to touch typing. Sure, you can touch type by tapping all of the different letters for your word or you can even swipe with one hand when you need to keep one hand free, but when you are able to speedily combo together swipes and touches in order to quickly create a sentence very rapidly, it’s an absolute breeze that I have yet to experience with any other app.

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Essentially what you will be doing is starting your word with the appropriate letter and tracing a path using your thumbs in unison. For the most part you will probably be spelling out your word in their respective sides of the QWERTY layout, so your left thumb will take care of the left side and the right thumb will take care of the right side. As you start to get into the fluid mindset of automatically finding your respective letters for your words, it really starts to open up. Auto spacing allows you to almost never have to press the spacebar and the quick gestures for symbols also add to your overall speed. If you mess up a word, the predictive text line right above the keys give you the next best matches, with very consistent results.

Comparing to other keyboards

There’s really only one other keyboard that I use with the same frequency as Keymonk – the official Google Android Keyboard. It has really come a long way and for one finger swiping it is as reliable as it has ever been. Having the word appear above your thumb as you trace your path is a nice aesthetic touch, and when I first use a phone with the Google Keyboard as the default, it’s usually a good time. But like I said before, two finger swiping just feels like a breeze and is hard not to prefer.

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Swiftkey, on the other hand, is probably the most popular quick typing keyboard in the ecosystem right now. I will admit that I don’t use it on the daily, but in the short time that I’ve played with it, the predictive text does work really well once it learns your general speech patterns. It takes on the typical touch typing and one finger swiping approaches, but when the predictive text is getting your entire phrase right, I would argue that it is just as fast as Keymonk, but not faster.

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And finally, a few of you talked about Fleksy after seeing the video edition of this How I Android. Yes, it does take on a lot of the swiping gestures that I pine over, like the swipe left to delete whole words, but it is squarely a touch typing keyboard. And I just can’t do tap typing anymore.

Conclusion

Keymonk, aside from just being my keyboard of choice, is an example of an app that basically got it right the first time. I hope that it never gets buried under the evolving Android ecosystem, but until that happens I am happy to use it on any phone past or present because it just works that well. With only one design hole after nearly 14 months without updates, Keymonk is one of my favorite examples of how app development can be kept simple – simply because it will help it stand the test of time. For this new edition of How I Android, I’m happy to show you the keyboard that has become a first install on pretty much any daily driver I use.

What do you think about Keymonk Keyboard? What keyboard do you use? Let us know!

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