Nintype is an incredible keyboard concept, and I think it could prove to be one of the very best ways to type on a tablet screen. I’ve always thought that an awesome touchscreen keyboard would involve a mix of tapping and swiping, which is exactly what Nintype offers. But the most innovative feature of this keyboard is that it can accept taps and swipes within the same word.
Other keyboards like Swype require that you complete an entire word by tracing a single line through multiple letters for a single word, which can be very clumsy for words that are longer than five characters long. Nintype addresses this by allowing me to write by using combinations of taps and swipes, in whatever order I like.
For example, typing the word “keyboard” starts with a tap on the letter “K”, then my left thumb taps “E”, my right thumb traces a line from Y-B-O and then my left thumb finishes by tracing through “A” then “R” then “D”. Working with Nintype is a lot like learning a dance. There’s a rhythm and order to the process, and it’s confounding to witness for the first few minutes. However, the really impressive thing is that this idea actually works out in practice… and it’s really fun to use.
With a bit of practice, it’s a joy to blaze through longer words and add quick capitalization with gestures and shortcuts littered throughout the keyboard. Nintype also makes it easy to correct mistakes in the last three words I’ve typed, simply by tapping and holding on one of those words in the top bar. There’s obviously a lot of thought that went into the creation of this keyboard, and the TLC really shows.
Nintype on the iPad is also impressive because it takes a number of different use cases into account. I think this keyboard is best used with rapid thumb typing in portrait mode, and so I set it up as a split keyboard to make the iPad easier to use with just two thumbs. Landscape lends itself more to quick finger pecking with the iPad on a flat surface, and so I have Nintype set up with a larger set of keys when the tablet is in landscape. This is the first third party keyboard I’ve used that offers this level of customization and I think it’s awesome to see.
What tends to hold Nintype back is that it’s too fancy for its own good. There are so many settings to drill through, and they’re displayed in small sub-menus that feel very far removed from the main keyboard. Then there are the visual limitations. Nintype has so many fancy visual effects that it ends up being too intense for the iPad Air 2 to display. In fact the keyboard can’t even be shown in full retina resolution because that would apparently take up too much RAM (according to iOS 8 limitations, not any limitations of the Air 2 hardware). The good news is that Nintype is fast to load when compared to other third party keyboards, and it has been fairly stable for me as of the latest iOS update. It’s just a shame about that resolution.
I think the core idea behind Nintype is quite solid, but it’s hidden beneath far too many controls and options to be useful to most people. I know there’s a hardcore crowd out there on Reddit that love Nintype as it is now, but I think the app could do a lot more for others if it were simplified a little over time.
If you’re interested in exploring the cutting edge of touchscreen typing and granular controls are what get you out of bed in the morning, you’ll likely have a great time with Nintype. However, for everybody else, I think this keyboard is just a little too intense right now.
Here’s an App Store link for Nintype; it’s priced at $5.