It’s always a fun morning when we get to look at keyboards, so let’s just cut to the chase here. Google has started to roll out Gboard 8.4 beta overnight, with a few welcome changes and one that has us scratching our heads. Are you sitting comfortably? Then let’s begin.
Taller Media Panel
Google’s been playing with the look and feel of the media panel (where you pick your emoji and get distracted by stickers, GIFs and more) for the last couple of months.
For emoji, Gboard has moved past the side-scrolling emoji pages and changed to vertical scrolling pages as well as tweaking some of the group contents and arrangement of emoji categories and search (for a while this appeared to be in A/B testing as some of my own devices had it while others didn’t 🤷♂️).
The vertical scrolling list does let you get at emoji faster, but it also feels more constrained because you’re scrolling in less vertical space than you used to swipe laterally to switch pages, and 3 rows doesn’t really provide you much visual context.
Gboard is addressing this by making the media panel taller, which appears to effect the on screen keyboard height rather than being an overlay. 9to5Google is reporting seven rows of emoji on screen at once (also reporting that users are saying it’s too much, and they’re probably right). It appears to be another A/B test though, with it only turning up for some users.
The taller media panel probably works really well for GIF searches though, where a bit more space will let you see more of the available results and hopefully help you find the right Forrest Gump Running GIF.
Perhaps the best way to handle this might be to let users drag it up/down the screen and resize the area for their personal preference.
While Ausdroiders love stickers in our Telegram chat we tend not to use them much in Gboard, much preferring traction GIFs instead. It looks like we’re alone in that regard though, with enough Gboard users into sticker packs that it looks like Gboard will add “Trending” sticker packs.
It also looks like “Favorites” might change to “My Packs”. That’s fine. They’re not my actual favorites, anyway.
What’s not being added to Sticker pack management? Search.. Come on.
Finally, it seems Google’s getting a handle on why your personal dictionary doesn’t follow you from device to device – by making you do it.
Gboard will provide import/export options to work with a .zip file containing all your favourite colloquial profanities, street names, nicknames and everything else you’ve taught it to remember since you installed it (my own dictionary has a LOT of Transformers names in it).
It’s weird that Google doesn’t sync this data into your, well, Google account given that it’s 2019 and you don’t need to back up anything else on your phone any more. That’s how we’ve assumed personal dictionaries would/could/should work for a while now, but there to go.
Hopefully you remember to back up your dictionary before you lose your phone otherwise you’ll have to teach it to spell Wurundjeri all over again.
We kid because we love. Gboard is my second install on any phone, after LastPass. I can’t use any other keyboard any more, so I’m glad to see it evolving.
Gboard 8.4 is rolling out in the public beta channel now. You can join the beta for the keyboard on the Gboard Play Store listing for the app, but do remember you’re in it if you join, as you might see some breaking changes.
Let us know what you think of the changes!