The tablet keyboard is a personal thing. To one user, it’s just a means for typing messages and statuses, entering data while on the go. To someone else, it’s a way of making the mobile experience more efficient and enjoyable.

Out of the box, the Android keyboard is serviceable… especially on the smartphone form. But once you venture into the realm of the tablet, that stock keyboard seems a bit less than user-friendly.

Thankfully, you’ll find an abundance of third-party keyboards on the Google Play Store, ready for action. But which ones deserve your precious time and effort? Here are five that I consider to be the best keyboards available for Android. Let’s see if one will meet your needs.

Note: This article is also available as an image gallery.

1: SwiftKey Keyboard

If you check just about any list of top Android keyboards, SwiftKey (Figure A) will almost always wind up on the top. There’s a good reason for that. It’s an incredibly efficient (and free) keyboard that has been downloaded more than 250 million times.

Figure A

This take on the keyboard uses AI to automatically learn your writing style (and the emojis you favor) and the words you use frequently. SwiftKey is flexible and theme-able, and it offers one of the best split keyboards on the market. It makes the act of typing on a tablet far easier than with a standard keyboard. You will also find quick access to the SwiftKey options by tapping the small menu button in the top-left corner of the keyboard (when the keyboard is in use). If you’re looking for the best of the best, Swiftkey is what you want.

SEE: Microsoft buys SwiftKey, says iOS and Android keyboard apps will continue

2: Google Keyboard

Oddly enough, Google Keyboard (Figure B) is not the default keyboard on Android–although it should be. With this wonderful “third-party” keyboard, you get gesture typing, a learning dictionary, speech to text, predictive typing, and much more.

Figure B

One of the best Google Keyboard features is that it syncs your settings across all devices. All you have to do is set up Google Keyboard exactly how you like it, and it will sync those settings to all your Android devices that also use Google Keyboard. The only drawback to using Google Keyboard is that it doesn’t offer a split screen keyboard. For many, however, the gesture typing makes up for that loss.

3: Fleksy Keyboard

Fleksy (Figure C) is a bit of an oddity… but in a good way. Instead of the standard method of typing input, Fleksy uses gesture-based typing and allows for things like this: Swipe left (on the keyboard area) to delete; swipe up to undo corrections; and swipe down to cycle through word suggestions. Fleksy does a great job of predicting and autocorrecting text. (You might be surprised at how accurate it can be.)

Figure C

Once you get used to Fleksy’s methods (pay close attention to the welcome tutorial), you’ll find this keyboard to be one of the most efficient third-party options available. Fleksy also offers extensions that enable you to extend the feature set of the keyboard (some are free, some are paid), as well as themes to personalize your keyboard.

4: Tablet Keyboard Free

If you’re looking for a split-screen keyboard without all the bells and whistles of the other entries, Tablet Keyboard Free (Figure D) might be what you want. You can easily switch between a standard and split layout and get quick access to the keyboard settings by tapping the settings button in the center. There are no themes, no extensions, and little in the way of options.

Figure D

Tablet Keyboard is a simple, clean, and efficient replacement for the standard keyboard if you desire a split layout. Tablet Keyboard is free, but there is a Pro option (in-app purchase) that adds auto-correct/auto-caps, arrow keys, copy/cut/paste/select all keys, and custom macros.

5: A.I.type Tablet Keyboard Free

Our final interesting entry is A.I.type Tablet Keyboard Free (Figure E). This is another split screen keyboard, but it offers something similar keyboards don’t: It allows you to set the split height and width. A thinner width will bring the separate keyboards closer to the edge and a thinner height will bring them closer to the bottom. This can be a real boon to those with shorter fingers.

Figure E

This keyboard also offers a float option that allows you to move the split keyboards wherever you want them on the screen. If you like complete control over your keyboard, A.I.type might be exactly what you’re looking for.

Other choices?

These five keyboards are what I would consider the best of the best in the Google Play Store. Between them, you shouldn’t have any problems finding exactly what you want for your Android tablet. Give them a try and see if you don’t wind up typing with more accuracy or more efficiency (or both).

Do you have a favorite keyboard that didn’t make this list? Share your recommendations with fellow TechRepublic members.

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