19
Jan
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After weeks of frantic coding, SwiftKey, my favorite smart aftermarket Android keyboard, just released a private beta to all registered VIP forum members. While the beta itself (v1.98.1.172) is private and we can't provide you with a download link, what we can do is list all of the improvements and tease you with some screenshots.

Update: While we can't promise anything, our friendly contact at SwiftKey who I just spoke to indicated that technically if you did apply for the VIP program (i.e. their forum membership) right now, there is a chance you could get approved. Just remember who hooked you up when your fingers are in heaven.

While my main complaint - missing arrow keys on the main layout - is still on their TODO list, a lot of the other problems, such as not accepting suggestions if pressing punctuation keys instead of space as well as poor correction for mistypes that differ in word length, have been fixed. Additionally, initial skinning support has been added, so SwiftKey now features 2 skins - dark and light, both of which are pretty sexy.

By the way, did you know SwiftKey is currently on sale for 50% off ($1.99)? If you haven't yet, go pick it up immediately before the sale runs out.

Feel free to ogle at these screenshots I took and then check out the full changelog below.

Screenshots

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What's New In This Beta?

Release notes

Introduction
This beta of SwiftKey is radically different to what you've used in the past. We've enhanced and redesigned many of the core features. Not all of our new features are ready just yet, but this first installment should be enough to keep you satisfied for now!
This is an early beta. Not everything will work as designed. In particular, the installation wizard is not yet completely integrated with the new features, and elements of the language module selection and SMS scan are not working. We will endeavor to update this beta in due course.
Another thing: this beta will not inherit your current learned language data, and stores its data in a new place on your SD card. When we get to further beta iterations, we will have a framework to inherit previous learned data, but for now we’re keeping this app isolated from your learned data, for a number of reasons.
Please offer us detailed feedback in the relevant part of our feedback forum. We will then strive to smooth over the cracks and make further updates in due course.

Next generation Fluency Prediction Engine
We've redesigned and improved SwiftKey's core prediction engine, Fluency, to make it appreciate how you type from first keypress to prediction selection. The result is greater robustness, prediction accuracy and writing efficiency.

New language module download service
In the past, some SwiftKey users have run into trouble downloading a language module. To fix this, we've totally redesigned the way SwiftKey downloads language data from our servers, to provide a cleaner, more robust way of managing language modules. NOTE: this is currently in a very early stage, and there are problems with certain aspects, particularly learning from SMS.

Better typo and spelling correction
While SwiftKey is already excellent at next-word predictions, sometimes it isn't as good at correcting common typos or spelling mistakes. We've redesigned the way the app deals with these errors, to offer powerful spelling and mistyping correction, in context with what you're typing. Among other things, it can now work out what you mean, even when you miss a key, or get two letters the wrong way around.

New prediction modes
We now have prediction mode settings that allow you to customize the correction and completion behavior of SwiftKey to your personal taste.
With Classic mode, SwiftKey will behave in a similar way to what you’re currently used to, blending automatic correction of typos with in-line word completion and next-word predictions.
With Rapidfire mode, you can type superfast with errors and SwiftKey will work out what you mean to type. We’ve adjusted the correction algorithm in this mode to focus on typos and to not contemplate longer words as you type. So, so long as you roughly get the character length and position of your letters right, SwiftKey should work out what you’re typing at lightning pace.
With Manual mode, you can switch off our automatic correction and completion features entirely, giving you a pure keyboard mode for the careful typist, with three real predictions that always display. We certainly know a bunch of people who’d find this useful from time-to-time.
And, if that’s not enough… we’ve created a Custom mode that lets you fine-tune SwiftKey’s prediction and correction/completion features to behave exactly as you’d like them to.

Take primary prediction on punctuation, not just space
Many have asked for it, so now we have it. With our current beta, you can proceed with a word once it’s in the primary selection area by pressing space or some punctuation keys - period, comma, exclamation point and question mark.

Experimental email address entry
Another big one for many… we’ve altered how @ is treated by SwiftKey (like any other letter) and we’ve tweaked Fluency to remember email addresses in full. This means entering email addresses should be much easier… but it may look a bit weird to have a very long one occupy the whole prediction button (the text will become very small). We’re currently thinking about ways to make this display better.

Language detection
Previous SwiftKey allowed you to type in two languages at once. We’ve now enhanced our multilingual support framework to make it work even more effectively. In new SwiftKey, a user’s text is constantly scanned to estimate which of multiple enabled language modules is being used, with predictions adjusted accordingly.

Skinning mechanism
After great demand, we have created a skinning framework for SwiftKey. We’re kicking this off with two skins, a dark one and the light skin from the previous release. Over the coming weeks, expect more skins, as well as a skinning API to enable third parties to create skins for SwiftKey.

Accented characters now populated dynamically
Another one for our multi-lingual folks; the characters viewable on long-press are modeled dynamically to the languages that are currently enabled. For example, if you speak French and English and have both enabled, the relevant accented characters will display on long-press regardless of your key layout (QWERTY, AZERTY, etc.).
We’re working on an override for this to enable all alternative keys across the keyboard layouts, for those who may need access to rare characters without having languages enabled.

Remove any word from predictions, not just learned words
Also known as ‘deep term removal’, what this means is you can long-press and remove any predicted word or punctuation symbol from the prediction bar, even if it exists in the core language module. So if a word or symbol keeps popping up that you never use, throw it away! It then won’t reappear until you manually enter it.
This is particularly fun if you like writing random sentences with SwiftKey, as you can remove various words and symbols that may terminate sentences or create infinite loops, and write some really weird prose!
+++++
I’m sure I’ve missed something, but this should be enough for starters. There are some features which will come soon, such as arrow keys and social network personalization tools, but you’ll have to wait a little bit for those ;-)
Oh, and below’s a list of currently ‘known’ issues with the beta. Enjoy!
Cheers,
Joe

Known issues:
* not every requested feature is here yet: we have a list and we’re working through it, promise ;-)
* there’s a problem with capitalization – sometimes words will be predicted as lower case when they should be capitalized
* there are currently problems with the SMS learning function – it may be safest not to use it
* prediction area can be a bit buggy, with things not scaling properly
* progress bar for "Learn from SMS" sometimes appears for "Refresh configuration" instead. (It is in fact learning, not refreshing.)
* when a language pack download completes, sometimes it is not moved to the "Downloaded languages" list and remains under "Available languages". (It will be correct next time the list is loaded or if you press "Refresh configuration".)
* after selecting different languages, the predictions are not updated immediately
* "Manage Language Packs" appears as a separate task (e.g. if it was used recently, it appears after a long-press on Home)
* "Manage Language Packs" status bar notification icon is wrong
* "Manage Language Packs" status bar notification crashes if chosen
* reports of occasional crashes, sometimes after the activity has been completed, e.g. a few minutes after learning SMS

Download

Unfortunately, only SwiftKey forum members can download the new private beta, so if you are one of them, proceed to this post. Otherwise, grab the current version from the Market by scanning or clicking this QR code:

QR code for https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.touchtype.swiftkey

Source: SwiftKey email

Artem Russakovskii
Artem is a die-hard Android fan, passionate tech blogger, obsessive-compulsive editor, bug hunting programmer, and the founder of Android Police.
Most of the time, you will find Artem either hacking away at code or thinking of the next 15 blog posts.

  • david

    I want Russian support!

  • RichieB

    Does this beta version also include the wide keyboard for the Galaxy Tab?

  • Devin

    I signed up for the VIP group, got in, and downloaded the new beta. It's excellent already! I'll really have to consider this. It definitely gives Swype a run for the money!

  • SlidVendetta

    I laughed when I read this...

    "1. Your use of this early beta is confidential and not intended for public review. Things will change fast in the coming weeks and we'll let you know when this status changes."

    It's because of a public review I found this sweet keyboard,

  • OFI

    With the whole VIP thing couldn't they have tied it with your Gmail address to give preference to those who've paid for the Full Version already?

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