Prefer jotting notes in your own handwriting to tapping away on an on-screen keyboard? Google’s got a new text input method that might be up your alley: Google Handwriting Input is a new app for Android which lets you scrawl handwritten notes.

The free app recognizes print and cursive text written in 82 different languages.

google handwriting input

Once you’ve installed the app on a phone or tablet running Android 4.0 or later, just fire it up and follow the instructions for setting handwriting input as your default keyboard. You can always bring up a normal keyboard by tapping the globe icon to switch keyboards.

You can write with your finger, but I suspect you’ll have the best results using a stylus. It can be tough to fit a lot of text on the screen when scribbling notes with a fingertip, but a stylus gives you finer control of your pen strokes.

You can also use emojis by pressing and holding the enter key… and then choose an option from the suggestion bar or draw your own.

google handwriting emoji

I’ve got horrible handwriting, but Google’s handwriting recognition had no problem recognizing common words I tried. Less common words, like “liliputing” can be a bit more hit-and-miss, since the app relies on handwriting recognition (and since I had a hard time fitting all those letters on a single line).

There’s also a little cloud icon in the toolbar at the bottom of the keyboard. Tap this to enable or disable online recognition, allowing Google to anonymously collect your data to further improve handwriting support.

handwriting tablet

There was a time before on-screen keyboards became all the rage, when the Apple Newton, Palm Pilot, and early Windows CE/Pocket PC devices all used handwriting recognition for text input. But those systems all shipped with some sort of stylus.

These days most smartphones and tablets are stylus free… but the pen is making a comeback thanks to the popularity of the Samsung Galaxy Note series of devices and similar products. So maybe it’s not surprising that Google is offering a handwriting recognition app. What is a bit surprising is just how well it seems to work, even without a stylus.

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4 replies on “Google Handwriting Input keyboard for Android recognizes chicken scratch in 82 languages”

  1. If you could compare Google’s accuracy with Microsoft’s (Win8.1), that would be great.

    I agree with arrdee that fat capacitive styli are the pits but I don’t know about going back to resistive. What I’d love is an AnyPen screen like the Lenovo Tablet 2.

  2. Was it intentional to link to the German-language version of Play? Switching the “de” param to “en” in the url got me where I expected to be.

    1. I like to keep you on your toes… and nope. That was an accident. 🙂

      Thanks for letting me know, so I could switch the link!

  3. Maybe time to ditch the Apple-inspired capacitive digitizer mania and go back to reliable higher resolution resistive digitizers and standard styli like we had back when Windows Mobile roamed the Earth. By now I’m sure the technology could be improved and made more ruggedized over what we had back then. Just not a fan of the Fat Crayola effect of a capacitive stylus.

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