Multilingual Keyboard Switching

Federico Viticci of MacStories commented on Wang Ling’s proposal for a redesign of the keyboard switching experience in iOS.

Once you throw in a couple of additional keyboards in the mix … the only sensible way to switch keyboards is tapping & holding the globe button then sliding over to the keyboard you want to use again – which takes about 1 second in my experience … That doesn’t sound like a lot, but the annoyance adds up; plus, imagine doing that for years.

I have five keyboards enabled: English, Japanese romaji, traditional Chinese (for writing recognition of hand-drawn characters), emoji, and TextExpander. My wife primarily uses Japanese on her iPhone, and has three keyboards: English, kana, and emoji.

To add a couple of gripes I didn’t see Viticci make, the emoji keyboard moves the keyboard switch one slot to the left and removes the visual indicator of the globe, making switching from that keyboard back to other keyboards especially annoying. And, third-party keyboards don’t (or can’t) honor the tap-and-hold multi-keyboard switch, which has been the case since they were first allowed in iOS 8.

Wangling’s design proposal has my support and duplicate radar report.

  1. Enabled keyboards can be put in one of the two groups: frequently-used keyboards and occasionally-used keyboards.
  2. Considering most uses are monolingual, in order to avoid unnecessary recognition burdens on them, only the frequently-used keyboard group is shown by default. Only after a user enables more than 2 keyboards should the occasionally-used keyboard group be shown and an explanation be given.
  3. Single tap on the globe button only switches among frequently-used keyboards.
  4. Long press the globe button to present the keyboard picker which includes all enabled keyboards so users can switch to their occasionally-used keyboards.Single tap on the globe button while using a occasionally-used keyboard switches back to the previously selected frequently-used keyboard.