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Swype vs Shapewriter: Mix's final decision


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  1. MisterMixelpix

    MisterMixelpix Well-Known Member This Topic's Starter

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    As most of you have seen, I'm AF's resident ShapeWriter acolyte. Any time it or Swype pops up in a thread, I'm there to promote. But I decided to really, TRULY give Swype a fair shake and so over the last few days I scrapped my precious ShapeWriter in favor of its more high-profile cousin. So let's take a look at things.

    WHAT THEY ARE

    For the uninitiated, Swype and ShapeWriter are trace-style keyboards. This means that instead of tapping individual letters, you use your finger in one solid movement around the keyboard. On the surface, this seems fairly pointless, but there is a significant speed increase in not having to lift and lower fingers constantly. In addition, as the writing is characterized by word rather than letter, the space bar almost becomes a thing of the past.

    In both cases, you're presented with a standard QWERTY keyboard and encouraged to draw lines along the screen, passing over (ideally) only the letters that comprise the word you want to type. Obviously few people will have perfect aim, not to mention you'll be moving over a lot more letters than you need, but each app has a robust and sophisticated method for deciding what word you want.

    ONE VERSUS THE OTHER

    Though mostly the same, the two apps do diverge. One of the areas you'll notice first (even if you don't know you notice) is in their separate handling of spaces. ShapeWriter inserts spaces before words, and Swype inserts spaces after words.

    What does that mean? It means that when you punch a period in Swype and then just type your next word, it doesn't put the space before it automatically and you also don't get your capital letter. Instead, you have to manually space, which can be a pain. Conversely, if you put quotation marks or want to type a URL into ShapeWriter, you'll have to manually erase a few spaces, which can ALSO be a pain.

    ShapeWriter also focuses more on "overall shape" than the path traced, which creates a HUGE difference in how the pair of them treat repeating letters. With ShapeWriter, if you trace over p-o-l, you'll get both "pool" and "poll" in the box, and the app gives you no way to specify on the keyboard itself. This can lead to more word-selection than many would like.

    Swype, on the other hand, is more focused on the path as you trace it. This means that it gives you lots of little things like drawing curly-q's on letters to denote doubles. On a small touchscreen, though, this can be difficult, and Swype is far from friendly with you if you decide to simply skip that method and use its word selector (I found myself with "ned" on my screen instead of "need", for example).

    UI-wise there are minor differences, but they can become significant for heavy typers. Swype utilizes a pop-up system for showing you word choices, whereas ShapeWriter always has a bar above the keyboard that shows the choices, leading to lost screen real estate. In landscape mode, Swype's layout changes dimensions while ShapeWriter's does not.

    Also is their method of capitalization. Swype lets you capitalize before words, and then also gives you the option of swiping above the keyboard to capitalize letters in the middle of the word. ShapeWriter has you type the word and then press a key to scroll between no caps, first letter capitalized, and all caps. If you want letters in the middle capitalized, scroll back to them.

    Then there's the backspace key. Hit it in Swype and you lose a letter, hit it in ShapeWriter and you lose a word. This can mean either increased speed if you accidentally selected the wrong word or increased frustration if you just wanted to change one letter (for example, if you wanted the word "wheelz" but got "wheels" and don't have the former in your dictionary). Sure, a long press on the backspace means going back over the word in Swype, but this can be a pain.

    Furthermore, Swype's developers have put a lot of effort into customization and extra features. There are tons of tweaks and lots of extra stuff floating around the app. ShapeWriter, on the other hand, is fairly basic, with a limited special character set and not much to change. I also have to say that ShapeWriter is ugly as sin.

    WHICH IS BETTER?

    After giving this careful consideration, I've come up with the answer. And in the showdown to ask which is the better trace keyboard, the answer is...

    ...it depends.

    Simply put, ShapeWriter is faster. Since you don't need to manually space after periods and it doesn't expect you to manually indicate double letters, almost all of your time will be spent just tracing words. Additionally, ShapeWriter "learns" over time. As you use the app, the words you use the most will be more associated with certain shapes you draw. So, in our above example, if you always use the word "poll" but almost never "pool", then "poll" will land in the first slot in your selection screen and you won't need to "choose" it.

    That landscape thing also would seem like a knock against ShapeWriter at first, but in practice this is not the case. Since SW's keyboard stays the same size as it does in portrait mode, you don't need to move further and so your speed isn't diminished, an issue I was quite bugged by with Swype, since certain apps (like AndroMud) FORCE landscape mode.

    I did a few outright speed tests and in the end SW won every time. I typed a paragraph from a book at clocked 45-50 words per minute in SW and around 40 in Swype. Not a huge difference, but enough to be annoying.

    However, if you like doing more than just putting simple words on the screen, Swype is your go-to app. Its special character screen is simply phenomenal. Are you a big emoticon user? Swype kicks ass at that. ShapeWriter has a pretty sorry "smiley" selection in addition to its threadbare characters atop the normal keyboard plus a teeny amount that can be chosen by typing the @ symbol. Conversely, Swype has a HUGE character-only keyboard.

    Here's a test: make the face :| in ShapeWriter in eBuddy. Let me save you some time: it can't be done. To get the | character means going into the smiley menu, which inserts the :) face and since eBuddy uses graphical emoticons it just plain doesn't work. As a big user of the :| face and its variants, this became a major PITA and Swype's character set made things a lot easier.

    URLs and words with capitals in odd places are also much easier with Swype since you capitalize as you go, and the period issue we talked about earlier means URLs don't require any additional puttering around.

    In the end, I'm likely not leaving my precious ShapeWriter. Banging out texts is far easier, and as annoyed as I am with not being able to easily type out web addresses or all the emoticons I like, I'm willing to sacrifice that for swiftness.

    Hope this helps you make a decision!
     

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  2. thekarens

    thekarens Well-Known Member

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    I wish you would have included SlideIT in your survey. I've tried all 3 and personally think it's the easiest to use, but Swype is the prettiest. SlideIt is pretty ugly. I didn't like ShapeWriter at all, but I would have been interested in a detailed review of all three.
     
  3. MisterMixelpix

    MisterMixelpix Well-Known Member This Topic's Starter

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    You know I was tempted to try that out, but the interface was just SO bad and basic I couldn't make myself use it. There's just not enough there.
     
  4. the337

    the337 Active Member

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    Good reviews. I've never used ShapeWriter but I've been using Swype for about two weeks now. Just a couple comments though.

    In Swype it seems though as it has been "learning" over time to what words I use most. Also, I never manually enter in spaces in Swype. I Swype a period and space together since they're right next to each other. Maybe this is what you mean.
     
  5. MisterMixelpix

    MisterMixelpix Well-Known Member This Topic's Starter

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    It's possible Swype learns. I haven't given it as much time as I gave SW. And as for the period, yeah, you swipe them as a pair, which is a bit of a learning curve, and one that I never got adjusted to.
     
  6. iowabowtech

    iowabowtech root@android:/ #

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    Good review. More facts than opinions, always good.
     
  7. chanj

    chanj New Member

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    There is a way for putting a space after the period in Swype, by connecting the period to the space bar. I am so used to it, when I am trying to put in a website, I accidentally put in the space between . and com.
     
  8. doctajay

    doctajay Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for the review I am going to download shape writer now to try it out

    Sent from my Nexus One
     
  9. DroidGnome

    DroidGnome Well-Known Member

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    One item to consider.. Swype is not available :( The only way you can use it is if you got into beta.. where Shapewriter is available and Free..
     
  10. MisterMixelpix

    MisterMixelpix Well-Known Member This Topic's Starter

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    Also a big, fair point. Getting Swype is difficult, and to be honest I'm not sure it's worth the effort when ShapeWriter IS better for simply writing. Things may change significantly when the beta hits full release.
     
  11. Taylored

    Taylored Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for the review. My Swype ran out last night. I guess I will try Shapewriter again. I was really not a fan of it the first time I tried it.
     
  12. WitchyKitty

    WitchyKitty Member

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    Just went to the market for shapewriter as a backup to my swype and it says that they will be removing shapewriter from the android market on 6/20 for an indefinite amount of time. They are asking everyone to update to the newest version that will not expire.
     
  13. leebsammy

    leebsammy Well-Known Member

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    read this comparision this morning. it convinced me to try shapewriter. i've been using swype for quite a while now. There a some very nice features in shapewriter that swype doesn't have. but i can't tell which i like more. i will give shapewriter a few mor days trial. thanks for this.
     
  14. jeffdlb

    jeffdlb Well-Known Member

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    I just installed ShapeWriter because my beloved Swype beta expired. Very distressing.

    This is *hugely* annoying in ShapeWriter! At least in Swype you have the choice.

    This is also going to be a problem.

    Sadly, unless Swype actually becomes available without hassle and secretive downloading then I guess ShapeWriter will have to do. It's not bad at all, but the two shortcomings above are notable.
     
  15. tcpatter

    tcpatter New Member

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    The thing that drove me nuts about Shapewriter was that I could use it to enter my password. The way they handle capitalization means you haven't to capitalize the first letter, all of them, or none of them and I got tired of changing keyboards anytime I needed to enter a password.
     
  16. scrubs

    scrubs Well-Known Member

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    Yeah, I really don't like the capitalization scheme in SW. Also, the lack of a dash (-) on the main keyboard makes SW infinitely more difficult for me to get used to.
     
  17. Beradon

    Beradon Member

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    This thread actually brought me to sign up for these forums. Despite how frequently I actually read them, I had to put my 2 cents here.

    I've used Shapewriter and Swype both reasonably extensively since I got my EVO 4G (just over 2 weeks now).

    Initially I downloaded swype from a download someone posted at XDA and the beta I was running ran out. I did, however, register for the beta on the Swype website which was closed at the time.

    After Swype ran out I downloaded shapewriter and I have to say I'm not at all impressed with it. Maybe its purely a user preference thing, but I felt like I had to be significantly more accurate with shapewriter than with swype, and shapewriter did not 'feel' forgiving at all for minor spelling errors. Plus, I have to agree with the OP, the symbols entry in Shapewriter is impossibly annoying.

    While I usually have pretty good spelling, swype is far more forgiving when I go off in crazy-ville with my finger but find my way back to the 'more-or-less' correct places somewhere through the word.

    In terms of UI-feel, I rarely switch to landscape for typing, although I havent found much of an annoyance-level difference with the wider swype keyboard in landscape, I have to imagine thats for the people that still insist on touch-typing with the keyboard. 95% of my text entry occurs in portrait mode. Also, a final point between swype/shapewriter is that I like the bigger letter 'keys' in swype. Shapewriter's just seemed too small for comfort, but I have very large hands/fingers.

    Also, Swype does indeed learn, if you touch-type something that is not in the Swype dictionary it automatically learns it for future use. On Shapewriter you have to touch-type then tap the word in the bar with [add] next to it in order to add it to the dictionary, something I routinely forgot to do.

    It also 'seems' to learn your preference for certain things you type more frequently, although I'm still trying to verify this. Such as 'our' and 'or' which lie on the same line, but usually cause the suggestion window to pop up. After a couple selections of 'or' it seems to assume I want that more, now it doesnt automatically insert it unless I do the Swype 'hopping' method (which I dont waste time doing), but it does make it the 'default' entry (green word at the top) so when I continue my text input it just auto-enters it.

    Setting options in Shapewriter seemed to be an annoyance to me as well, but it may have been lack of consistent use of that function. I prefer being able to just hit the Swype button for options rather than having to do some pattern for options to come up. I definitely like that depending on the context the Swype button is used in it has different functions.

    Finally, I feel it very necessary for me to mention that Swype has now entered open beta, and according to their forums, it will be open for an indefinite amount of time. They have also mentioned that while Swype is first-and-foremost an OEM licensed product, they will never leave their 'beta' users high and dry. The only reason they expire betas is so that old versions of the program are not left in the wild. If you want the new one, just sign up, its free and relatively hassle-free as well. They have said it will always have a 'beta' because there are certain aspects of Swype that cannot be 'installed' but must have collaboration with device manufacturers and carriers to implement, so technically its always going to be 'beta' for those who have to download it.

    Swype | Text Input for Screens
     
  18. RickMG

    RickMG Member

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    I just want to say, I just downloaded Shapewriter after reading this thread. Been using Swipe for a few days as well (not a big user) My biggest problem so far with both is finding a letter without lifting my hand as it's in the way of the keyboard. I guess after awhile I might just get used to where the letters are like typing but for now both seem to be a pain.
     
  19. TheBiles

    TheBiles Well-Known Member

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    This has to have been pointed out, but you have no idea how to properly Swype. When you type a period you just Swype from the period to the space bar to insert your space and get your capital letter.

    -------------
    Sent from my HTC EVO 4G using Tapatalk Pro.
     
  20. Squiggy

    Squiggy Well-Known Member

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    I just found that out yesterday by reading the Help files that you can find under Menu/Settings/Keyboard/Swype
     
  21. MisterMixelpix

    MisterMixelpix Well-Known Member This Topic's Starter

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    This has to be pointed out: you are bad at reading comprehension. It's an extra step regardless of whether you punch in or swipe (by the way the verb is "swipe", they didn't brand-name the gesture), whereas with ShapeWriter there's no need to worry about it whatsoever.

    Point stands. :)
     
  22. Squiggy

    Squiggy Well-Known Member

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    In those many instances where I don't want a space after a period, Do I have to manually take it out with Shapewriter? That would seem to be much less intuitive than simply Swyping :) over the space key or not.
     
  23. DenverRalphy

    DenverRalphy Well-Known Member

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    The period is right next to the spacebar. I wouldn't consider a quick flick of the finger an extra step as compared to a simple tap. Both take the same amount of time, and the swype method allows for easier url entry.
     
  24. Ngo93

    Ngo93 Well-Known Member

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    Maybe you should redo your speed test with swiping the period instead of tapping it and then having to hit the space bar.
     
  25. TheBiles

    TheBiles Well-Known Member

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    1. Sliding your finger from the period to the space bar (which happens to be right next to it) as opposed to hitting the period then hitting the space bar seems to eliminate a step to me. 1 movement < 2 movements.

    2. I was using "Swype" as a verb, much as you would use "Google" as one. Those of us who Swype a lot refer to it in this manner.

    3. Not related to this argument, but ShapeWriter is about to become just as difficult (if not more difficult) to find on June 20th when it disappears from the Market. Hopefully this means they were infringing on some of Swype's patents and the official Swype is right around the corner.
     
    MisterMixelpix likes this.

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