Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Suggestions for improved Swype Japanese input


I was at first thrilled to find that Swype supported Japanese input, but as several commenters pointed out, it is indeed the exact opposite of using a wnn (Japanese IME) keyboard as your primary input. Japanese keyboards are great for Japanese, but support for English is lackluster. If you need to enter more than about one word, it's usually faster to switch keyboards entirely. I have a friend who I thought were always drunk, until I realized he exclusively types English on the Google Japanese Keyboard.

I'd say that Swyping to type Japanese on the current version (1.5.14) of the Swype keyboard is a decent option for about 40% of what I type. I can manage to enter about 80-90% of words by typing them on the Swype keyboard. For the rest, you have to fallback to typing individual characters using either the on or kun readings, or typing common words that contain the desired kanji, then deleting the unneeded characters.

So after using the trial and purchasing the pro app (It's worth 99 cents), here are some suggestions for improvement, ordered by obviousness (to me):

(Let us know your suggestions and we'll add them to this list.)

1. Greatly expand the dictionary. Ask Apple, you can't build a map database through crowdsourcing, much less an entire language. You have to do the hard work or license the product of someone who did.

2. Better swype prediction. If hunting and pecking around the keyboard brings up the correct word, then the same should work when swyping across the keyboard, except that it doesn't. Any sort of semi-complex verb conjugation will fail. Try swyping 犬に噛まれた (inu ni kamareta; bitten by a dog). It's not possible.

The order of swipes clearly resolves to kamareta, which is not an option.

Swype fails to understand the conjugation and suggests a word that isn't even close (misses the ma for a ka. If you peck this out on the keyboard, you can enter it with no problem. This behavior is consistent; Swype fails so poorly to understand the conjugation, it suggests words that aren't even words (飲もいや? WTF does that mean?), like in the below example.
Total fail. Maybe I should type 飲みましょうか?

3. Add a dedicated enter button. This is absolutely necessary when typing Japanese using an IME. You must have a way of accepting the input as entered, ignoring all the suggestions. See this example. type 俺 (ore; I), then も (mo; too/also). There is no way to do enter the mo as "also" instead of something dumb like "algae" because, unbelievably, the simple hiragana is not an option in ANY of the suggestions. Seriously. (You have to switch input methods to accept this as も and keep typing.)

4. Add swype support for kunrei-shiki romanization (once you fix number 2 above). I don't type Japanese by phonetically spelling words out using the Hepburn system (e.g., Tsuyoshi). It's faster to just type tuyosi. Typing on the Swype keyboard supports this. Swiping does not. "Tsu" requires you to swipe your finger all over the keyboard. "Tu" does not.

So that's call I an think of. Do you have any suggestions for improvement?


  1. Point 3 (no 無変換 button) is utterly infuriating! It doesn't even work when type a single も on the keyboard (no swyping) iirc, and since it doesn't come up as an option anywhere you can't add it to the dictionary lol. You have to tap the cursor to somewhere else in the sentence.

  2. It is indeed frustrating to see the lack of real international keyboard on Android, when Apple provides that since 2008!
    Now that Japan is a huge market for Android, I don't understand why google themselves don't do a proper keyboard.

    The swyping option is interesting, but I am more into normal typing. Still, no proper solution (and I tried many of them).

    One more comment on the swype keyboard: the switch between languages is too slow. Just sliding on the space bar should be enough, like on swiftkey.

  3. Sliding from the gesture key to the space bar will switch languages on Swype.

  4. Only between the current language and the previous one. That does not work when you use 3 or more languages... and I do (French, English, Japanese)

  5. Oh, yea that could be a pain.

  6. Google does have a "Google Japanese Keyboard" and it's pretty good - my wife uses it exclusively. And I don't remember who made the stock samsung sg II lte Japanese keyboard, but it was pretty good as well - better than swype. Then there's also the FSkaren keyboard that comes with transformers, which is crap unless you're using the keyboard dock. -- but yeah, they need a better default baked in Japanese keyboard.

  7. on point 1, do you mean the swype keyboard maps or do you mean the language? They definitely don't have enough common or uncommon 漢字 correctly stored in the database. It's very frustrating to think of word combinations to get the characters you need.

  8. I used Google Japanese Keyboard and it was pretty good but useless to type English.
    Go Keyboard was interesting but the Japanese predictions were too bad and usage not very smooth.
    I now use Simeji and I find it the best of the lot. Predictions are good, switching languages is easy.

  9. There are good japanese keyboards, but you can't find any good international keyboard that would include a good japanese one...

    Switching keyboard apps is slow and painfull, while having a language button like on the iPhone to switch between languages is good. The big question si why nobody is doing it on Android!!

  10. In addition to the wonderful points mentioned
    1: Add support for Japanese style emotacons
    2: Enable full width numbers when typing them in Japanese. Now they always default to half width which is very frustrating when filling out web forms that require all full width input.
    3: make it easier/faster to type the * symbol