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!