10 things you should know about Google’s Gboard keyboard

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gboard
Gboard is probably the best third-party keyboard on iOS.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

Google now offers its very own keyboard for iOS, and it’s awesome. It’s packed full of useful features like glide typing and built-in search, and it has a clean and simple design that’s a pleasure to type on. It’s probably the best third-party keyboard on iPhone.

But there are 10 things you should know about Gboard before you get set up.

10 Gboard tips, features and warnings

1. It’s not watching what you type

Every third-party keyboard requires this warning on iOS.
Every third-party keyboard requires this warning on iOS.
Screenshot: Cult of Mac

You may have seen tweets from Google bashers who think the company is using Gboard to keep tabs on every single thing you type on your iPhone. But in actual fact, that’s not the case.

Granting Gboard “full access” will summon a scary popup that warns it could collect the words you type — but you will see this with every third-party keyboard you install. The warning isn’t exclusive to Gboard, and Google makes it clear during setup that it will only collect search results.

What’s more, Gboard doesn’t even give you the option to sign in with your Google account. So even if it is looking at your searches, the company doesn’t know they’re yours. The searches you make in Gboard will not show up in your Google Search history.

2. You can glide type

Glide typing in action.
Glide typing in action.
Photo: Google

It’s difficult to tap-type on a touchscreen when you only have one hand free — especially if you have the larger iPhone Plus. But with Gboard, you can swipe to type.

If you’ve switched to iPhone from Android, you’ve probably used glide typing in the past. You simply glide your thumb over the keys you need, and Gboard will identify the word you want and insert it. It’s much faster than tapping, and you’ll be surprised by how accurate it is.

But be warned: Once you get used to glide typing, you’ll never go back to tapping.

3. The space bar is a trackpad

It's more than just a space bar.
It’s more than just a space bar.
Screenshot: Cult of Mac

You know how you can press firmly on the keyboard to move the cursor on an iPhone 6s? Well, with Gboard, you can simply swipe back and forth on the space bar, which means you get a useful trackpad that will allow you to move your cursor between text, even on older devices.

4. Get instant search results

It's as easy as that!
It’s as easy as that!
Photo: Google

So, you’ve booked a table at your favorite restaurant for this weekend, but none of your friends know how to get there. Usually, you would open your browser, search for the restaurant, find the address, then copy and paste it into a text and send it.

With Gboard, Google Search is built in — so none of that rigamarole is necessary. During the conversation, simply tap the Google button, type in your search, tap a result, and the information is automatically pasted into your message. You can also search for GIFs and YouTube videos.

5. Search for emoji

Finding emoji couldn't be easier.
Finding emoji couldn’t be easier.
Photo: Google

You know there’s an emoji that’s perfect for this moment, but with hundreds to choose from, you just can’t find it. With Gboard, you can just search for it.

Tap the emoji button, then the search bar, then type things like “angry,” “pizza,” “cat” and “car” to see all relevant emoji characters in an instant.

6. Customize Gboard for iOS

Gboard lets you customize more than you might think.
Gboard lets you customize more than you might think.
Screenshot: Cult of Mac

If you open up the Gboard app, you’ll find all kinds of options that let you customize the keyboard to your liking. Don’t want glide typing? You can disable it. Plus, you can toggle things like auto-correction, auto-capitalization, caps lock and lots more.

You can also customize your search settings, clear your search history and custom dictionary, and provide Google with feedback.

7. Get to Gboard faster

Get to Gboard faster!
Get to Gboard faster!
Screenshot: Cult of Mac

iOS still doesn’t handle third-party keyboards as well as it should, so even after you’ve activated Gboard, you’ll find the default iOS keyboard still appears from time to time.

Rather than tapping the globe button over and over to get Gboard back, just tap and hold it, wait for your keyboard options to pop up, then slide your thumb onto Gboard and release.

8. Gboard can’t enter passwords

You can't use Gboard here.
You can’t use Gboard here.
Screenshot: Cult of Mac

Sometimes the default iOS keyboard will appear, and it’s the only keyboard you’ll be able to use. That’s because Apple won’t allow you to use third-party keyboards when entering passwords in iOS. This can be annoying, but it’s probably for our own good.

9. Gboard can do dictation

Gboard can't do dictation.
Gboard can now do dictation.
Screenshot: Cult of Mac

(Update: This post was revised February 23, when the Gboard app gained dictation capabilities.)

With its latest update, Gboard offers voice dictation. To activate it, simply hold the space bar and you’ll see a microphone. Everything you say will be translated into text.

10. It is now available outside the U.S.

Don't bother looking for Gboard outside the U.S.
Not anymore!
Screenshot: Cult of Mac

(Update: This post was revised February 23.)

Gboard was only available to those who live in the United States or have a U.S. iTunes account when it made its debut, but that’s no longer the case. You can now download the keyboard in most countries, and with its latest update, it received support for 15 additional languages.

  • Carlos

    exactly, to enter passwords in iOS you should always use the default system keyboard, there’s no guarantee that what you type in third party keyboard is not going to an external server. That’s why for AppStore and iCloud passwords you will be forced to use the system keyboard.

  • Hayden Evans

    “but you will see this with every single third-party keyboard you install. The warning isn’t exclusive to Gboard, and Google makes it clear during setup that it will only collect search results.

    What’s more, Gboard doesn’t even give you the option to sign in with your Google account. So even if it is looking at your searches, the company doesn’t know they’re yours. The searches you make in Gboard will not show up in your Google Search history.”

    1) Just because every third party has the same Full Access alert, it doesn’t mean Google is NOT storing whatever people are tying. This means that Google, like any other keyboard that asks for full access CAN store everything/anything. There’s a big difference.

    2) Just because you can’t log into your account, Google can use a variety of methods to re-associate you to your searches in this keyboard. There are plenty of security white papers that show how easy this is with just a couple data vectors.

    Point is, if Google is granted the power to access all data typed on a keyboard, you bet your ass they are going to collect info on it. That’s how their business works. Simple as that.

    • Arisa Soler

      I remember seeing this tweet from Gboard’s product manager.

  • Merckel

    Those who agree to the TOS in the popup will never know the day when Google DOES collect CC information, address, etc. (if not Day 1). I’m not granting ANY access to Google under its TOS and ppl who do are plumb crazy.

  • “But be warned: Once you get used to glide typing, you’ll never go back to tapping”

    Wrong. I hate swipey keys. The tapping of keys is incredibly satisfying.