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Microsoft’s Hub Keyboard for Android and iOS blends functionality with multitasking

There’s a new keyboard in town, and it has a unique twist. I know you’ve heard that one before, but this isn’t about reinventing the keyboard itself, it’s about giving you access to relevant information without needing to switch apps — something we haven’t seen before. And now, it’s available for smartphone users on both sides of the Android and Apple fence.

Updated on 04-08-2016 by Lulu ChangMicrosoft releases the Hub Keyboard app on iOS

Created from Microsoft’s Garage Project, the Hub Keyboard allows you to copy and paste recent items, search and share documents, and share contact information without leaving the keyboard. And if that’s not enough, it even has a built-in translator. Following a successful Android release in February, Microsoft has made the popular keyboard available for download on iOS as well.

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If you’re messaging a colleague and they ask you for someone else’s phone number, you don’t have to go through the tedious task of minimizing your messenger app, opening your contacts app, copying the phone number to the clipboard, and re-opening the messenger app to paste it. Instead, you can simply tap on the contacts icon on the keyboard and quickly search for the contact. It works from any app that requires a keyboard.

In addition to Contacts, you’ll find icons labeled Clipboard, Documents, and Translate. Clipboard provides access to your previous copied text, Documents allows you to search all your docs in OneDrive and SharePoint to attach them, and the Translate function will translate your messages to a different language.

Steve Won, a senior designer on the Office team, came up with the idea for the Hub Keyboard about one year ago. “Personally I don’t like switching between apps to do different things on my smartphone,” said Won.

It started as a personal project in March 2015, but after getting feedback from an internal science fair, he entered the project into the Microsoft Hackathon. At that point it incorporated just enough coding to convey his vision, but he needed more developers to make it stable. Microsoft assigned seven team members, and the rest is history.

Other Microsoft Garage apps include Fetch!, Mimicker Alarm, and Tossup.

Microsoft recently bought SwiftKey, which is probably the most popular third-party keyboard available on Android and iOS. The Hub Keyboard is a completely separate project, but it’s possible that we could see these same multitasking features in SwiftKey at a later date.

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Click here to download the Hub Keyboard from Google Play.