How to use Google's Gboard keyboard on iOS or Android devices

Gboard offers several advantages over the default keyboard on Android and iOS devices. Learn how to download, set up, and use Gboard.



Image: ZDNet

The built-in keyboards for iOS and Android provide all the basic features for typing text, but if you want access to more advanced options, you should try Google's Gboard keyboard. Available for iPhones, iPads, and Android devices, Gboard lets you add text by voice, by handwriting, or by sliding your finger from one letter to another. Gboard also allows you to find and add emojis, GIFs, and results from Google searches. And Gboard can translate text into a different language as you type—at least on Android.

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The setup for Gboard differs between Android and iOS. The basic keyboard functions work similarly on both platforms, but the Android version is more robust and offers more features. On some Android devices, such as a Pixel phone, Gboard is already installed and set as the default; on other Android devices, you have to download and install Gboard yourself. Download Gboard for Android from Google Play and for your iPhone or iPad from the App Store.

Assuming Gboard isn't already set as the default, open the app. Tap Enable in Settings on Android or Get Started on iOS. On Android, turn on the switch for Gboard. On iOS, tap the Keyboards option for Gboard in Settings and turn it on. By default, the Android version accesses certain data you type, such as search terms, in order to provide results or offer personalized suggestions. On iOS, you specifically need to enable full access to allow your search results to be sent to Google. On iOS, tap the link for About Third-Party Keyboards & Privacy to learn about Gboard's data collection. Privacy is always a concern, but if you want to use Gboard to its fullest, you'll need to allow full access.

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On Android, tap the button to select Input Method and select Gboard. On iOS, exit Settings and open the Gboard app. You may be asked permission for Gboard to access your contacts—you can use the keyboard without this access, but if you want to see suggestions for names of contacts, allow this access. On Android and iOS, you're then taken to the Gboard Settings screen where you can tweak various options. You can review and fine-tune these options, but I suggest trying Gboard at this point—you can always return to the Settings screen another time to adjust specific items.

Open an app in which you type text, such as email or messaging. On Android, Gboard is automatically in charge. On iOS, hold down the globe icon and switch to Gboard. As you type, Gboard offers suggestions to complete your current word, but there are other ways to enter text. Through glide typing, swipe your finger from one key to the next to spell out a word. As you glide your finger, a blue line connects from one character to the next. To enter text by voice on Android, tap the microphone icon. On iOS, hold down the spacebar to activate a different screen. Speak your text and characters (Figure A).

Figure A


Next, you can search for different types of content and insert the results into your text. Tap the Google icon. Type the word or term for which you want to search. Google displays cards for resulting webpages. Tap a specific result to add its link to your text (Figure B).

Figure B


Tap the GIF icon to find animated GIFs for your search term. On iOS, tap the Image icon to look for images related to your search term. You can also search for specific items. For example, if you search the word restaurants, Google displays the names of local restaurants. Tap the ABC icon to return to the keyboard. Tap the Google icon again. On iOS, you can search for content in YouTube, Maps, and your contacts. On Android, tap the first icon to search for stickers and the second icon to search for animated GIFs. Tap a GIF to insert it (Figure C).

Figure C


The Android version of Gboard can also act as a translator. Tap the Google icon and select the third icon for Google Translate. Set the source and target languages. Type your text, and the translated words appear as you type (Figure D).

Figure D


You can easily move your cursor and select text in the Android version. Tap the Google icon and select the fifth icon. To move your cursor, tap one of the arrow keys. To select text, tap the Select button and then tap one of the arrow keys. After you've selected text, tap Cut or Copy and then tap Paste to move it to a different spot (Figure E).

Figure E


If you wish to tweak any of the settings, tap the Gboard icon. You can now adjust certain preferences, the keyboard's visual theme, the text correction, glide typing, voice typing, the dictionary, and the search options.

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About Lance Whitney

Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books—one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.

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