Alternative typing solutions for Android tablets

Phil Cohen suggests some keyboard options for typing on an Android tablet.

Whether you already have the perfect tablet or you're looking to buy a new one, you may be wondering what you should do about typing. Since tablets are on the small side, though not quite as small as a cell phone, they can be difficult to type on. However, the tech industry has gone to considerable lengths to help alleviate this problem.

Laser keyboard

Did you know that you can now get a laser keyboard? This device may at first look like a simple box, but once you've connected it to your computer, the fun starts. You can project a full-size keyboard onto a flat surface (Figure A), and since it connects through Bluetooth, it doesn't matter what type of tablet you have. Small and portable, this keyboard is a great option for anyone looking for something both fun and functional. Figure A

Laser keyboard image via Flickr by Br3nda.

Wireless keyboard

Nearly any wireless keyboard can be used with virtually any tablet PC, such as Lenovo's ThinkPad Tablet 2. This is a great option for users on the go. Since you can get wireless keyboards that are specifically designed for travel, you don't have to worry about bulk. Whether you want a mini (Figure B) or full-size keyboard, finding a keyboard that fits your needs is simple. Figure B

Wireless keyboard image via Flickr by TAKA@P.P.R.S.

USB keyboard

Another option, if you prefer your devices to be wired in, is a USB keyboard. These keyboards are very similar to the wireless ones, with the obvious difference that they have a cord (Figure C). As with wireless keyboards, there are many options for USB keyboards. In fact, you can find a variety of USB keyboards, from ergonomic options to those with a smaller profile. Figure C

USB keyboard image via Flickr by Berto Garcia.

On-screen keyboard

Carrying around an extra piece of equipment may not be exactly what you had in mind. You should check out the variety of onscreen keyboards that are available (Figure D). These can be found in the app store on your tablet. There are both free and paid options, and they all have different features. Figure D

Screenshot of the Thumb Keyboard app with a theme and custom wallpaper.

Here are some on-screen keyboard options for Android tablets:

  • Thumb Keyboard: This app normally costs $2.29 (USD), but at the time of this writing, it's on sale for $1.29 (USD). The Thumb Keyboard is considered one of the best on-screen keyboards. It's separated into different parts; half of the QWERTY keyboard is on the right, half is on the left, and in the center, there's a number pad and special characters. This keyboard was created specifically to ensure that each letter can be quickly and easily reached by the thumbs, increasing typing speed and efficiency.
  • SwiftKey 3: With the SwiftKey 3, you can try the free app for 30 days, with full access to all of the features. However, if you'd like to continue using the app after that, you'll have to purchase the premium product for $3.99 (USD). SwiftKey 3 is great for anyone looking for a new keyboard app.
  • GO Keyboard: This free keyboard app gives you a lot of options. There's slide input available, as well as the traditional keytouch. Other features include predictive text and autocorrect. You can even customize how the keyboard looks with different skins.

Being able to quickly and easily type on your tablet is important. There are many options, no matter your input method of choice. When you find the right keyboard, your entire tablet experience will change. Which keyboard do you prefer on your tablet? Share you opinion in the discussion thread below.

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