Google Input Tools: An Overview

DevToolsGuy / Tuesday, May 27, 2014

An overview of Google Input Tools

Latest figures from around the web suggest that over two billion people now use the Internet, with nearly two thirds of these using it every single day. Usage spans the globe, with nearly fifty percent of users in Asia alone. In fact the majority of web users are now non-English speakers. This poses a number of interesting challenges and opportunities for language and how it is used online. Specifically how do users of non-English languages (which utilize non standard alphabets and scripts) communicate in their native tongue?

Google Input Tools are a set of applications and services that make it easy to use over ninety languages on the web - when writing email, on Android phones, and even in desktop apps. Consisting of onscreen keyboards and custom dictionaries, Google Input Tools allows the full expression of language to be communicated quickly and easily online. Once installed the various tools allow text to be entered in different languages, specifically those languages that don’t use the standard Western alphabet script. On traditional PCs the tools allow text to be entered using virtual onscreen keyboards. On Android devices, phones and tablets, the out of the box (digital) keyboards can be replaced altogether. Devices that support handwriting recognition can take advantage of this form of input.

Google Input Tools consist of the following components:

App for Android devices
Google Keyboard offers a number of advanced input features - like gesture typing, voice typing, and advanced layouts. The app also supports dictionaries for 26 languages and personalised suggestions, corrections and completions. The Android App Store also includes a number of alternative keyboards, made available by the Google Input Tools team, to support native composition in languages such as Hindu and Japanese. More information here

A Google Chrome extension
This extension allows users of the Chrome browser to switch language with the click of a mouse. Included is support for over 90 languages, 30 different scripts, and handwriting input for 40 languages. This is a very flexible option for those doing a lot of work on the web. More information here

Features in a range of Google Services
Google has baked its Input Tools into a number of its own core services. In Gmail, for example, users can turn on additional software keyboards in the settings section. Google Drive, and thus Google Docs, include similar options. Support even extends to sites like YouTube, with options for both video searches and content managers. More information here

A desktop app for Windows computers
As a desktop application this version of Input Tools doesn’t rely on an Internet connection for the bulk of its operation. Features include dictionary based word completion, single click web search for highlighted words (which does need an online access), and the ability to store personalised settings (such as specific word corrections). This version of Input Tools supports 22 different languages. More information here