In its endless attempts to make searching easier for everyone, Google has introduced yet another way to search via its mobile site at google.com: handwriting recognition. If you go to Google's search page from your phone or tablet's mobile browser and enable the feature via settings, you can now scribble your searches on the screen, even after receiving results. It's pretty fancy!

Of course, this does raise the question of whether this input method is any faster. In the video above, in an attempt to show how this might be used, we see a man who has had nearly all of his fingers broken scribble the words "ski lessons" on the screen. Ignoring that typing text might be easier with one functioning finger than handwriting it, it's impressive that the software can still read it. And before you shout "it's a demo video, of course it works!", I've personally tried out the handwriting search and I have worse handwriting than a man with ten broken fingers. Trust me, it's pretty dang good recognition.

handwriting recognition

If you'll ever use it, of course. Still, it's really neat that it exists. If handwriting is your thing and you can't stand software keyboards, head to google.com and click on Settings (or the gear icon in the top right corner on some devices) to enable it and then get writing.

Source: Google Blog

Eric Ravenscraft
Eric is a snarky technophile with a taste for the unusual. When he's not obsessing about Android, you can usually find him obsessing about movies, psychology, or the perfect energy drink. Eric weaves his own special blend of snark, satire, and comedy into all his articles.

  • br_hermon

    This could be handy for the car, better than texting and driving, (yes I know its still a distraction though) My only complaint is when I tried to press the delete key repeatedly it thought I was double tapping to zoom in. Then when I tried to pinch to zoom out, it thought i was writing. That needs to be revised but other than that... cool :)

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

      Yeah, I ended up clicking on all kids of things trying to backspace and toggle the bottom bar. It's more counterproductive to use this feature IMO.

  • http://profiles.google.com/kehnin Kehnin Dyer

    It's pretty slow on my kindle fire with JB. but it has pretty good recognition.
    for now i'll stick with software keyboard

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tiffany-Sears/826921257 Tiffany Sears

    Just another cool feature. I love the MyScript Calculator. Nice to see Google implementing the tech as well

  • Ronald

    I feel like typing or dictation would be faster.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

      Dictation is almost always faster, if it's accurate, so it depends on what you're searching for. However, typing for me would be always faster. I'll literally never use this scribbling nonsense, let alone end up on Google.com for some reason.

      • ChrisLH


        I agree with you as far as this particular application is concerned. While handwriting isn't very fast or efficient compared to speaking or typing, short gestures can be faster. Obviously gestures won't work efficiently for word entry like this, but they can be programmed to perform a variety of actions on mobile devices.

        Regardless, its a pretty cool feature, even if mostly useless. I would imagine that the performance would be much better if it was built directly into the Chrome Browser instead of being a web-based feature. It was a little slow and choppy when I tested it out. The Google Gesture Search app is quite a bit smoother to use.

  • Freak4Dell

    I hate software keyboards, but my handwriting is also so bad that sometimes even I can't read it. I'm still screwed, I guess.

    However, it could be really useful on a tablet in the car, or to look up math stuff. It's extremely annoying to find all the symbols used in math, even on a normal desktop keyboard, so this would be much easier as long as the recognition is good. Hopefully this technology starts finding its way to other apps, or maybe they could just add it as a feature of the stock keyboard so that it could work in all apps.

  • http://phrasemongers.wordpress.com/ Aaron Andersen

    OK, it works. But I have to "write" much slower than I type. And other than for people with disabilities, this defeats the purpose of handwriting recognition.

    Also, it's humid here in Chicago right now, which makes sliding my finger across the screen even slower. I'll stick with tapping on a keyboard.

  • ninjaface

    Patent this, for the love of all that is holy patent this, now.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

      See, scribbling with your finger on a mobile screen for me is always going to be worse than typing. If you have a stylus, that's another matter though.

  • Borut

    Is this also possible out of USA?

    • IceBeam


    • Thx84

      Yes it works for me in French in Switzerland

  • http://twitter.com/ro1224 Robert Oliveira

    [UPDATED] Scratch that. I had to scroll down to the bottom of the page. For whatever reason it wasn't showing in the default system browser or I didn't scroll far enough down.

    Is this limited by the OS? I have CM9 RC2 installed on my Sprint Galaxy Nexus and I find no "Settings" link on my Google Search page. I've tried looking via the default CM browser as well as the mobile version of Chrome. :(

  • Jon Garrett

    Google !!! I hope y'all patented this shit Before you made it public !!!

  • John O’Connor

    I can certainly see the benefits for those with disabilities. And perhaps Google is trying to bring us back to an earlier time when people actually wrote instead of just typing a majority of the time. Outside of K-12 school, handwriting for most Americans has become so atrocious its almost a lost artform. I only use my chicken scratch on the occasional check I need to write for work purposes, otherwise I prefer digital myself

  • Leo Chan

    I write chinese occasionally and until now google doesn't have an offical writing IME. This looks like a great addition.

  • John

    Apple is dead, but they'll find new ways to sue Android because of jealousy.
    If you can't beat them, sue them.

  • ChumbleSpuzz

    Could be a good way to enter special characters, UTF-16, etc. It doesn't seem to handle math equations very well, as each character is translated as entered without context. So, if you have sloppy handwriting 5 becomes s and + becomes t, and so on. Was hoping this could be used to enter equations like derivatives, summations, limits, etc for the Google scientific calculator. For now I'll continue to use Wolfram Alpha.

  • Vex

    I do not have the option of enabling this feature - it doesn't show up in the settings menu.

    Tried through Google.ca and Google.com - it's just not there?

    Even though I doubt this would be a feature I would use, I still wanted to give it a try :)