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Google slides its soft finger-fondling into any willing Android doodad

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Google's own on-screen keyboard software for touch-driven Android gadgets is now available as a freebie for all.

The advertising giant's "soft" keyboard comes preinstalled onto its own devices, and offers the joy of sliding one's finger between letters to spell out words rather than tapping them out like a pecking hen. Now Google is giving its keyboard away to anyone who wants it.

That's assuming one has at least Android 4.0, and hasn't already gone for one of the alternatives such as Swype or Swiftkey. Google's keyboard will happily coexist with those, but on first glance it's not quite as good, though some users will no-doubt disagree.

Users of soft keyboards seem to divide into two camps - those addicted to text messaging and those who prefer working with a traditional keyboard of sorts.

Those who are wedded to messaging love word completion; their eyes are on the keyboard ready to tap on suggestions - and software keyboards that suggest the next word (such as Google's) or the next phrase (Swiftkey) are most desirable.

But heavy computer users aren't generally looking at the keyboard, so suggestions pass them by. They love swiping between keys - essentially building words from finger gestures - as it enables them to think a word at a time rather than considering each letter in turn, more akin to touch typing than pecking txt msgs.

Today's keyboards are trying to meet both markets, though few people seem to use both facilities, and with all the popular options being so similar it's the esoteric features that become the deciding factor.

Google's keyboard is impractical for your correspondent as (unlike Swype) there are no cursor keys, essential for making those minute adjustments to copy sometimes required while working out and about, but for anyone else the Google offering is probably worth a download, at least until the Bluetooth Twiddler finally arrives. ®

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