If the popularity of styli like Microsoft’s pen accessory for Surface devices is any indication, there’s still a place for handwriting in a touchscreen-keyboard world. Apps that demand any degree of real precision require a stylus, which is probably why Google’s subtly encouraging them with the release of a new app for Android. Aptly titled Google Handwriting Input, it’s a keyboard plugin that lets you ditch the digital QWERTY for fully-featured handwriting.
For Google’s first attempt at a handwriting suite, the app isn’t bad. Compatible with both smartphones and tablets, it’s usable with or without a stylus, recognizes printed and cursive writing, and supports 82 different languages and 20 distinct scripts. Like the handwriting input on Windows 8 and above, it can input text in any app or browser field — if you want to handwrite your tax returns for some godforsaken reason, there’s nothing stopping you.
In our limited tests, Handwriting Input does a pretty good job of recognizing chicken scratch. Of course, it’s capable of more than that — Google suggests it as “a fun way to enter emojis” and “useful for languages that can be challenging to type on a standard keyboard.”
Google’s been historically capricious about handwriting support in Android. The company released Google Gesture Search — an app which lets you swiftly access contacts, applications, and more by drawing letters and numbers — back in 2010, and more recently debuted browser-based handwriting input for searches initiated on the mobile Google homepage. Hopefully, the release of Handwriting Input marks the beginning of steadier support going forward.
If you’d been holding off on that shiny new stylus because Android lacked a Google-backed handwriting solution, you need wait no longer (then again, scribbling works just as well). The app should be especially fun on tablets and phablets. Handwriting Input is compatible with Android 4.0.3 and above, and available now as a free download in the Google Play Store.