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Installing and Using Third-Party Keyboards

Adding third-party keyboards in iOS 8 is a little cumbersome. What you buy and download from the App Store is really more like an installer and a shell for preference settings than an actual app. Once you’ve purchased a keyboard and downloaded it to your iOS device, you need to open Settings > General > Keyboard, find the new keyboard, and enable it before you can begin to use it. I’ll go over the installation steps using the SwiftKey keyboard as an example.

SwiftKey has been a very popular alternative keyboard for Android devices for some time. Its primary claim to fame is a predictive typing service that many people prefer to Apple’s QuickType predictive typing. SwiftKey pays attention to your typing and “learns” how you type. SwiftKey also offers optional cloud-based syncing, allowing you to sync your SwiftKey data across multiple devices, so that all your SwiftKey keyboards behave the same way.

To get started, download the free SwiftKey keyboard to the iOS device on which you plan to install it (keep in mind that the SwiftKey keyboard requires iOS 8 or better). Then follow these steps:

  1. Tap Settings > General > Keyboard > Keyboards.
  2. Tap Add New Keyboard, and select SwiftKey.
  3. Tap SwiftKey — SwiftKey.
  4. Tap Allow Full Access to slide the switch to the right.

You may need to toggle the Full Access setting; it wasn’t available when I initially installed the keyboard. You’ll see a warning from iOS about the potential dangers of allowing full access. (See “Why Does SwiftKey Need Full Access?” for SwiftKey’s explanation of why you should give their keyboard full access.)

SwiftKey has helpful videos and FAQs about using their keyboard. Some users prefer the SwiftKey style of learning how you type, rather than the way Apple’s keyboard learns. Another popular feature is the way you can slide from one key to another to enter text one-handedly, especially on an iPhone.

Switching Between Keyboards

After you install a third-party keyboard, the Smiley key changes to the Globe key shown in Figure 11.

Figure 11

Figure 11 The Globe key appears once you’ve installed a third-party keyboard.

Tap and hold on the Globe key to see a menu with the options for your installed keyboards (see Figure 12).

Figure 12

Figure 12 The pop-up menu lists your installed keyboards.

Setting Your Preferred Keyboard

You may prefer one of your keyboards (standard or custom) over the others. Here’s how to set a preferred keyboard in iOS 8:

  1. Tap Settings > General > Keyboard > Keyboards.
  2. Tap the Edit link in the upper-right corner.
  3. Drag your preferred keyboard to the top of the list.
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