Microsoft's new Word Flow keyboard is the best smartphone text entry system

Microsoft's new Word Flow keyboard is the best smartphone text entry system

Summary: Windows Phone 8.1 is available as a Developer Preview and the new and improved Word Flow keyboard with shape writing is stunning. Microsoft researchers took an amazing keyboard and made it even better.

Microsoft's new Word Flow keyboard is the best smartphone text entry system

Back in 2010, I wrote about the predictive text keyboard on Windows Phone and over time have come to find it is the best native smartphone keyboard around, even beating out the iPhone. Microsoft researchers improve upon this excellent keyboard in Windows Phone 8.1, called the Word Flow keyboard, with the ability to use shape writing (sliding your finger from letter to letter.

One great aspect about the new shape writing functionality is that it is there for your use, but you can always still use the Word Flow keyboard just like you always have on Windows Phone. I personally find swiping my finger across letters to be faster than just tapping away and this keyboard was officially certified by the Guinness Book of World Records as the fastest smartphone keyboard in the world.

Thanks to the advanced intelligence in the keyboard and its ability to learn and improve the more you use it, I have been able to enter complete sentences by tapping on very few letters. My wife is using it on a Lumia 925 and discovered that entering some words, for example smile, dog, angry, results in an emoji image appearing above the keyboard that you can choose to have entered in your text box.

On Android devices I usually install Swype or SwiftKey to get the swiping experience keyboard, although manufacturers are now partnering with these companies to include these type of keyboards as the native keyboard on the phone. I still find that Microsoft's extensive word prediction and suggestions back end is better. They did not just take Swype and license it, but took it to the next level themselves.

Microsoft's Word Flow keyboard actually changes the active area of letters as the prediction engine works. This happens without you seeing it, but as your usage increases and prediction improves the target area where you have to tap gets larger and increases your ability to enter text even faster.

You can check out the video of the Word Flow keyboard from Daniel Rubino at WPCentral below.

Microsoft also has context-specific Word Flow keyboards so when you are in the web browser a .com key appears (tap and hold to see other extensions), when entering a phone number a 12-key layout appears, and when entering text directly there are tons of available emoticons. You can easily change languages too.

Further reading

Topics: Mobility, Microsoft, Nokia, Windows Phone

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  • hmmn

    I still don't see the difference between this and Swype or other swipe style keyboards on Android
    • You are right.

      Concept-wise, pretty much the same; performance wise, amazingly good. You should try it out when 8.1 phones are in stores. =)
    • Not quite the same

      That was my first thought as well, this is Swype, which has been on Android for years. But after trying it, Word Flow is just so much better. It feels much smoother and words seem to be suggested much better. Like someone else already commented: give it a try, I'm sure you'll love it :)
      • Swype is OK, but...

        Alot of people here are commenting on their Swype experience and Matthew Miller mentions Swift Key second. I have used Swype and have used Swift Key. It sounds like this new keyboard functionality for Windows Phone is more comparable to Swiftkey than it is to Swype.

        For me, Swiftkey has been perfect. I can honestly say that using Swiftkey, my typing is not only fast but about 95% accurate. It's as if the Swiftkey App knows what I want to say. So if WordFlow is like Swiftkey, than good for that app.
        • Even better than Swiftkey

          I think, WordFlow is even better than Swiftkey, which I've been using on my Android Device. I live in Germany and the accuracy is unmatched by any other keyboard.
          • Same

            that is what I wanted to say, the German Word Flow is much more accurate than Swiftkey or Swype, in my experience. In fact I gave up on them very quickly as they were next to useless (20% accuracy in German), whereas the Word Flow has proven to be very accurate so far.
  • Like I've said before

    That was the best addition to the 8.1 update. Good someone else noticed also :)
    • Swiftkey was the one feature I truely missed from Android

      However, in the long run I think the unified apps across phone, tablet, PC and console (soon) will be the key feature that really benefits the platform the most.

      Still, I'm very happy to have a swype style keyboard again and the Windows phone version is really good.
  • iOS keyboard is probably the worst

    It's not that hard to be better than the iOS keyboard. I hate having to use it when I'm using my iPad mini or iPod Touch. I much prefer Swype.
    • Yep, bad keyboard in iOS

      I'm mostly using Siri dictation, so I can't say I spend a lot of time in the keyboard, but when I do it is really painful. Windows Phone and Android are way ahead in this matter.

      Hopefully swipe style keyboards on both Windows and Android will put the pressure on Apple to make it better.
    • shudder

      When it came out in 2007, it wasn't bad...

      I had to set up a wifi password the other week and I'd been using Android, Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 devices mainly for a few weeks. I kept stabbing at the shift button to try and get lower case, but the keyboard wouldn't show lower case. It feels very antique, compared to other platforms.

      That said, the iOS users I speak to seem to not notice this remant of skeuomorphism on their devices; but for someone who keeps switching between devices, it takes a few seconds to get used to it again.
  • Windows 8.1?

    Will it come to Windows 8.1 tablets? "Swype" type text input is one of the things I miss most when using my Dell Venue in tablet mode.
    • Same

      I sold my Dell Venue Pro on ebay after using it for a few days. The virtual keyboard had a nice feel to it, BUT after using Swype on my Android devices it was a no go for the Dell. A huge problem was the amount of space the keyboard took up on the screen, covering up most of the text in a document....Swype is sizable in addition to it's other useful properties. In 5 years (it takes a while for people to change their ways) no one will need a keyboard for tablets, and good riddance...No more paying for one, or carrying the added weight.

      It was either buy a keyboard (which Dell was supposedly producing, but never did), or dump it.
  • Yawn

    Another 'me to' product from M$, if they did anything original I think the shock would knock me out of my chair.

    way to go M$...


    • " 'me to' "

      "Swype was first commercially available on the Samsung Omnia II running Windows Mobile."

      When having trouble entertaining 'two' thoughts at one time remember to go 'to' the dictionary where you can find the meaning of 'too' also.
    • Yawn

      Another "look at me troll" post from Franky. If he said anything original I think the shock would knock me out of my chair.


      • I notice you didn't disagree

        That would be pointless
  • Here's the deal

    I have used swipe, etc since Samsung Galaxy I days and loved it. I have to admit that Word Flow is so much better. Very surprised but it is true. Until you use it it is hard to explain.
  • Not much foom for trolls

    I was surprised to hear that trolling can generate a fairly good income.
  • Word Flow...

    Is creepy accurate, it even gets the words right even when I miss-swipe them. Not sure how, but it does.