SwiftKey Note review: Awesomely fast typing, but limited to just one app
Apple’s native iOS keyboard isn’t bad. It’s actually rather good, with solid autocorrect and its ability to learn your most commonly typed words. But Apple is a little, well, territorial with iOS, and hasn’t allowed other third-party keyboard developers to create apps that can replace it entirely.
The only way for third-party keyboards to get a slice of the iOS pie is for them to stay contained within an app, which is exactly what SwiftKey Note for iPad and iPhone sets out to do. Already one of the top predictive keyboards in the Android keyboard world, SwiftKey’s first jump into the iOS ring combines its smart keyboard with Evernote’s integrated notebook platform.
Coupling SwiftKey with Evernote is a clever way to introduce this keyboard to iOS users. Other keyboard apps, like Fleksy, require you to type within the app and then copy the text to paste it into a message, email, or other entry point—a pretty clunky workaround for something that is supposed to make typing easier. But because Evernote is such a widely used service, Note doesn’t ask you to do much else besides use the app in place of Evernote’s own when taking a new note.
When you launch SwiftKey Note, you’re first asked to link Note to your Evernote account. You can type notes within Note and save them straight to Evernote. Though you can add notes to existing Evernote notebooks through Note, you can't access the rest of your notebooks' contents—only the notes taken in Note. Note will also take a look at your commonly used phrases and words in Evernote and incorporate them into its memory bank.
(If you’re not an Evernote user, but still want to take advantage of SwiftKey’s predictive power, don’t sweat it: Note on its own functions as a note-taking app, allowing you to jot down single notes, sort them into notebooks, and add tags.)
After your Evernote is all linked up, SwiftKey offers a quick tutorial. You’ll see a blank text box with a keyboard underneath that looks nearly identical to Apple’s own. When you start typing, SwiftKey suggests the word or phrase it thinks you want to say next, displaying up to three predictions in a word bank directly under the text box. Tap one of the words to select it. With common phrases, it will even predict the next few words before you even start typing.
If you misspell a word, SwiftKey can fix that too. It gives you three correctly spelled suggestions, and you just tap on the word you meant. When you spell a new word that SwiftKey doesn't know, you'll see that in your bank as well—tap it to add it to your dictionary. To make text bold or italicized, swipe to the left across your word bank to see your options.
At any time, you can add a particular note to an existing notebook, or create a new one. If you’re linked with Evernote, new notes will automatically sync to your Evernote account across the board, allowing you to access that note on other devices. You can also add tags, and Note handily suggests tags for you based on key words you’ve entered. When you’re finished with a note, you have the option to export it via Message or Mail, or you could copy it to paste elsewhere. Note’s main landing page has three columns to sort your notes, notebooks, and tags, so you can easily find past projects there.
I have to admit: SwiftKey’s prediction feature is smoother and smarter than Apple’s native autocorrect. Typing with SwiftKey doesn’t feel drastically different either, though selecting words from the bank takes a bit of getting used to.
The finger motions to select a word are pretty much the same in Note as they are with the native keyboard, but I find myself focusing on the word bank and waiting for it to predict a word instead of just typing as normal. In Note’s advanced settings, you can customize what the spacebar does, if you’d prefer to keep using the spacebar this way. However, the more I use it, the more comfortable I’m getting with this new workflow.
(Speaking of flow, Android’s version of SwiftKey has a nifty feature called Flow that is nowhere to be found in Note for iOS. Flow is similar to Swype and lets you slide your finger from letter to letter across the keyboard instead of typing. I reckon this is a feature we might find in a future update of SwiftKey Note.)
Overall, your experience with SwiftKey Note will depend on your individual use. As an Evernote user, I love that Note helps me type faster and integrates with my existing notebooks, so it improves my workflow instead of disrupting it.
However, if you don’t use Evernote or prefer another note-taking platform, you might not appreciate Note’s bare-bones notebook style. Its focus is on the typing, not on the notes themselves, and there are certainly better apps in the App Store for note organization. Hopefully, Note is just the beginning of SwiftKey, because its robust predictive text only makes typing better.