Thoughts on Google Zhuyin

Yet again I’ve tried the Google Zhuyin keyboard and within the space of a few hours stopped using it. I really want this keyboard to be good, and I’m happy that Google has released this, but it’s just not good enough yet to leave TouchPal for. There’s a lot of potential, though, so here’s my thoughts on the current state of the keyboard and a look at some of the more interesting features.

Google’s doing some interesting things with their Zhuyin keyboard. They include four input methods with the app – Zhuyin, English, Cangjie and hand-writing, but as the name suggests, Zhuyin is the main input for this keyboard and everything seems to be focused around this.

Gesture-based Zhuyin Input

Firstly, the Zhuyin keyboard now supports gesture input. This is a very interesting feature. As far as I know Google’s Keyboard is the only one to offer gesture based Zhuyin input, and its the reason I decided to install the keyboard again. After using it for a while, though, I couldn’t see the usefulness of it. Typing a Chinese character in Zhuyin requires a maximum or four keystrokes, so it’s not as much a bother to enter Zhuyin as it is long English words. Multi-character input seems a better use for gestures, for instance, you can swipe your finger over ㄓㄜㄌㄧ and have 這裡 appear in the suggestion bar. But whether or not that is faster than just tapping the first ‘letters’ of each character ㄓ and ㄌ, another way to get 這裡 into the suggestion bar, is debatable.

Zhuyin gesture input

Zhuyin and English on the same Keyboard

A second thing you’ll notice about the Zhuyin keyboard is that it includes small English letters on the keys under the Zhuyin. You can enter both English and Zhuyin on the same keyboard, and just like Zhuyin, English also supports gesture input.

I was really excited when I read this in the app’s description on Google Play, but the implementation isn’t as smooth as I would have hoped, and in some cases it’s unusable. When it works it’s great, but there are times when the prediction chooses the wrong word and the candidates list is a mix of Chinese and English, non of which seems to be right.

Also, if you enter a whole sentence of English at once (leaving it in the candidate bar without hitting return and committing the sentence) then the prediction list is always for the first word you typed. So if you want to view predictions for the last word, you have to go through a list of predictions for every word you typed in the sentence until you get to the last one. In the following image I’ve entered ‘Google keyboard test’, and even though ‘test’ is the last word, the predictions list is still for the first word, ‘Google’.

Google Zhuyin English Input

I can see where Google is going with this keyboard. It’s got huge potential and being able to input both English and Zhuyin on the same keyboard is a great feature, but it’s not ready yet. For the time being, Google, how about just enabling gesture input for the standalone English keyboard? Thanks 🙂

If you use Zhuyin then what keyboard do you use? Let us know below.