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What is Gboard? Everything you need to know
If you’re bored with the default keyboard on your iPhone, then there are many third-party options available out there. But the one that stands head and shoulders above all the rest is Gboard (also known as Google Keyboard). It comes pre-installed on many Android phones, and it’s a well-made free keyboard, providing all kinds of useful Google services that you will need when messaging someone. What is Gboard, how do you set it up, and how do you customize it? Here’s what you need to know.
Gboard, also known as Google Keyboard, is Google's keyboard for smartphones and tablets. Free to use, it doesn't require a Google account, and you can have instant access to Google services such as search, translate, YouTube, Maps, and more. This means you don't have to copy and paste details from another app.
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What is Gboard?
Gboard is Google’s free-to-use keyboard, installed on all Android phones and also available for iOS devices. It plugs into other Google services and Google-owned services, so you don’t have to leave your conversation to search for something.
Being a Google product, Gboard is very well-made, very stable, and very smooth to use. It has everything you could want and need to message someone. So much so, that you won’t want to use anything else once you start using it.
How to set up, customize, and use Gboard on iOS or Android
When you install the app (Android | iOS), there are some settings you need to review and decide upon. Some of the settings are standard for all keyboards (such as auto-complete and voice dictation), but there are some other GBoard features worth looking at in more detail.
Setting up language and keyboard layout
If you are in the habit of communicating in different languages, GBoard supports up to 550 languages in total — but only a maximum of three on your device. This language support comes in the form of text prediction (more on that in the next section) and the layout of your keyboard.
You also get different dialects, such as different forms of English (US, UK, India, Australia, and so on), German (Germany, Switzerland), Chinese (mainland, Hong Kong, Taiwan), French (Belgium, Canada, France, Switzerland), Spanish (Spain, Mexico), and many more. Google seems to have all bases covered.
Tap up to three that you want to use, and GBoard downloads a small language pack to your phone with all of the vocabulary.
Many countries use the QWERTY style keyboard, but others use ones like QWERTZ and AZERTY. You also have support for DVORAK and COLEMAK. Just choose the one that matches your keyboard.
In the last section, I mentioned predictive text, and this is where multilingual support is great. I send a lot of messages to both English-speaking people and to Germans. If I had to constantly switch languages on WhatsApp (or whatever messaging platform I used), then it would drive me nuts.
GBoard, on the other hand, automatically detects what language you are writing in, and, if you have downloaded the appropriate language packs, the predictive text feature will seamlessly move between languages. I also don’t have to worry about typos in my not-so-perfect German as GBoard’s predictive text flashes the words up for me.
Enable haptic feedback on key press
I can’t say this is a huge wow factor for me, but when you’re pressing the keys, you get that familiar little buzz feeling in your fingers. Some people like it, others are on the fence. I’m on the fence. Nothing more can really be said about this one.
Changing the size of the keyboard (one-handed mode)
If you’re in the habit of typing with one hand, you can make your life easier by having the keyboard move to the left or right of the screen. Just tap the Settings cog at the bottom and select One-handed mode from the menu.
The text will now jump to the right side of the screen. To move it to the left side of the screen, tap the left-pointing arrow. To exit one-handed mode completely, tap the four arrows pointing outwards.
Changing the Gboard theme
When you think about customizing something on your screen, the first thing you likely think of is the theme. Gmail is big on themes — you only have to look at Gmail to see that. GBoard is no different.
A Gboard theme can be as simple as a light or dark mode, a single block color, or something more like a landscape. You can also upload your own image to make a really customized keyboard theme.
Show number row
By default, you have to tap the number key at the bottom-left of the keyboard to get to the numbers. But instead, you can choose to have the numbers on the top row of the main keyboard. This saves some extra tapping.
To get to the numbers, you just have to long-press the key. Tapping Q, for example, will give you Q (obviously). So, to get you the number 1, just long-press the Q button, and a 1 will appear instead of Q. It sounds like a long and tedious process, but it only takes a second.
Block offensive words
If you’re the kind of person who’s offended by naughty words or managing a device for children, then this setting blocks them from appearing on your screen as predictive text. Although, what one person finds offensive may be perfectly reasonable to someone else. So, most likely, the block list won’t be perfect for some, and too much for others. But I’m sure the usual suspects, such as the F word, will be there.
So thank God for that — we’re now protected from the Devil’s language!
If you grant Gboard access to your Google contacts, then you can search for someone and send their contact details to the person you’re talking to. This is one great example of GBoard’s purpose to not have to leave your conversation to go looking for details elsewhere.
Once you have the contact card on your screen, you can choose to share it with your conversation buddy or phone the contact.
Enable or disable location access
You may want to only enable this one when you need it, and keep it switched off at all other times. When it’s on, you can send your current location on a Google map to your contact. It can either be a static map or a real-time map that changes when you move. Ideal for when you’re lost in the wilderness at night, and you hear a twig snapping behind you. Now you can call for rescue before Big Foot decides it’s dinnertime.
As the screen says, the map is accurate to 10 meters, but that is highly dependent on your location and how clear the GPS signal is. If you’re in a covered area, like a forest, location accuracy will start to get a bit fuzzier. Try and get out into the open to increase location signal accuracy.
This is a feature that I detest, so I have very rarely used it. But many people swear by it, saying it makes their conversations go much faster. It’s obviously not a feature exclusive to GBoard — many other Android keyboards have glide typing too. But since many people are huge fans of it, it’s worth emphasizing that you can also get glide typing in GBoard, in case you were wondering.
As the term implies, glide typing is when you ‘glide’ your fingers across the screen to each key, instead of individually tapping the keys. Maybe I am too old-fashioned to use this, but glide typing always increased my rate of typos.
Accessing numbers and symbols
As well as being able to access numbers on the top row, you can also access numbers — and symbols — by tapping the number key at the bottom-left of the screen.
Here, you get all the numbers and the most commonly used symbols. For other symbols, you can tap the #+= key, which takes you to a third screen. To get back to the main screen, just tap the ABC key at the bottom-left.
It’s also worth pointing out that long-pressing the currency key will bring up a mini-menu with other currencies.
Emojis, GIFs, and stickers
If you tap the emoji key at the bottom, next to the space bar, you can search for emojis, stickers, and GIFs.
Once you find the one you want, tap it, and it will be automatically inserted into the message.
Tapping the G symbol above the 1 key opens up various Google services that you can use in your conversations. Google search will give you results from regular search and image search.
Again, tapping a result will put the search card into the message, which you can then send to the person you’re messaging.
Google Translate is, by far, my favorite GBoard feature of all. I can now talk in several languages and make it look like my language skills are first-class. My conversations with my German relatives have never been so good.
When you have typed your message into the Translate box, tap the Translate button, and the translated message will appear in the chat box, ready to be sent.
You can also search for YouTube videos. You can tap the PLAY button to watch it first to make sure it’s what you’re looking for. Then tap SHARE to send it to someone.
Discussing trip details with someone can always be a bit of a hassle as you’ve got to explain where to go, and how to get there. But with Google Maps in Gboard, you just have to type in a location, and you can send a Google map to someone, so they can see at a glance which way they have to go.
Using the spacebar as a trackpad
Finally, we would be remiss if we didn’t mention how you can use the spacebar as a trackpad. What does this mean? It means that if you have typed something, you can use the spacebar to quickly put the cursor in a particular place in the sentence — including in the middle of a word.
To do this, hold down your finger on the space bar and the keyboard will suddenly go blank. Now, continue to hold your finger on the spacebar and move your finger left or right, up or down, depending on where you want to put the cursor.
If you have an Android phone, with root access and Magisk installed, you can install more GBoard themes. Type GBoard themes into Magisk, and there are apparently over 100 new ones available.
Yes, you can. But, depending on your device, you may have to install another keyboard first before you can uninstall GBoard.