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How to: Setting Up a Third Party Keyboard on Android [Beginners’ Guide]

One of the features that we tend to overlook is the ability to install custom 3rd party keyboards on our Android phones. They allow for different methods of inputting text such as swiping, pecking, speed pecking, or simply speaking into our device. The means of installing the keyboards are somewhat questionable at times so allow us to quickly walk you through it. 

Installing a 3rd party keyboard:

The best place to score a new keyboard is from Google Play. There’s many to choose from, but for this guide we’ll use one of the more popular ones called SwiftKey 3.

1.  Open Google Play.
2.  Search “SwiftKey.”
3.  Once you’ve located the app, install it onto your device.

SwiftKey offers a great interface for enabling the keyboard from inside the application. The above image shows these steps.

4.  Once you’ve followed their setup guide, you’ll now be running a 3rd party keyboard.

We used SwiftKey due to the fact that everyone tends to really enjoy it. It has a great look and its auto-correct is unbeatable. Now onto changing between keyboards.

Enabling a 3rd party keyboard:

Sometimes, the keyboards you install won’t have a built-in enabling feature. For this, we’ll walk you through how to enable a 3rd party keyboard from the Settings menu.

1.  From a homescreen, open up the main Settings menu.
2.  Under Personal, select “Language and input.”
3.  Under this menu, you will find every keyboard application you have installed.
4.  Check the box for which keyboard you would like to enable.

A box will appear warning you that installing a 3rd party keyboard could be potentially risky.

5.  Select “OK.”

You’ve now enabled the keyboard. Depending on the device, you’ll see a button for “Default.” This button determines which keyboard your phone uses. Hit it and select the keyboard you wish to use. Now you’re up and running with your new keyboard.

Changing between keyboards:

Once you have multiple keyboards installed, you’ll want to easily be able to switch between them as you so choose. Either follow the directions above by going through the main Settings menu or follow this method below to enable different keyboards from inside your messaging applications.

1.  While inside an app that allows for text input, pull down on your notification bar.
2.  Select “Select input method.”
3.  Choose which keyboard/input method you would like to choose.

That’s the easiest way to go through them.

*The rest of the Android Beginners’ Guide is a one-stop shop for all of those new to Android.

  • Philip A. Kaiser

    Noteworthy to add, but thumb keyboard is the best for tablets. Perfect spacing so you can grip it and type with just your thumbs without having to have mutant fingers.

    • Lactose_the_Intolerant

      Thumb Keyboard rocks on my wifi Xoom.

  • Philip A. Kaiser

    Pretty funny that the article is about 3rd party keyboards and the most chatter is generated by a stock one. This is why I never switched from my Sammy keys

  • Lactose_the_Intolerant

    For those that want swype-style input using the stock keyboard:

    Menu > Settings > Language & Keyboard > Touch input slider bars icon > Trace Keyboard… activate and pick your trace color…. BOOM GOES THE DYNAMITE.

    • elemeno

      That is an OEM skin feature and not a stock (AOSP) Android feature.

      • Lactose_the_Intolerant

        stock Rezound running OTA ICS… you’re saying it’s a function of HTC’s Sense that gives the feature?

        • Philip A. Kaiser

          Yeppers. Enjoy.

          • Lactose_the_Intolerant

            Wow, thanks for the info… had no idea!

          • LionStone

            Cool thanks for mentioning, it made me check on the Inc4 and they put it on it too…I’m lovin swype right now

        • elemeno

          Pretty sure. It’s not on any of my devices running AOSP ICS or JB roms.

          • Lactose_the_Intolerant

            Thanks for the update — edited original post to include “stock Rezound”

  • ShadrachCA

    Is that SwiftKey in the main photo? What theme is that? None of the choices I have look that clean. I like.

    • picaso86

      I am a keyboard freak, I want to have that one too.. it looks really clean…

    • That’s the stock Samsung keyboard.

      • ShadrachCA

        Bummer. I was afraid that was the answer.

        • compwagon

          Doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t use it, if you like it that much and don’t mind that it isn’t SwiftKey (I personally could never give up my own favorite, Swype). I’m sure someone has posted the APK, and many Samsung apps don’t device-check.

  • ddevito

    Since ICS and now JB I don’t miss Swype – but I once thought that was the best keyboard. Ever. Period.

    • Lactose_the_Intolerant

      Stock keyboard with ICS has swype-style function that you can enable… I don’t know if JB has it (but I’d be willing to bet that it does).

  • Mr ilheis


    • fixxmyhead

      nope, swype u only need one finger. swiftkey still requires effort with 2 fingers. yes im that lazy

    • JPose

      Probably the most underrated part of SwiftKey is that no matter what language you type, auto correct transitions automatically without needing to switch from English to French or French to Spanish! SwiftKey FTW!

  • Richard Wolff

    best 3rd party keyboard? looking for one i would rather it include a option for voice input.

    • Flyinion

      Swiftkey has voice input. I don’t really use that feature so I can’t say how it compares to other keyboards with voice input, but it’s there.

      • Mr ilheis

        I use Voice Input quite often and since they updated it for ICS and JB it works really well.

        • Flyinion

          Cool, I really need to start using voice stuff more. Doesn’t work too well in an office situation but outside of that it could be a lot more convenient.

          • jfr69

            The voice input on Swiftkey works quite well, seemingly better on ICS than it was on GB.. I’ve been using Swiftkey for quite a while now, and the more you type, the better it gets at predicting.

        • Philip A. Kaiser

          Was never a big fan of voice commands until jellybean and Google now. Best new feature of Google in quite some time.

    • Richard Wolff

      i got down-voted for asking for a opinion? internet is awsome

    • jbegs23

      Swype…It’s in beta right now. They have teamed with FlexT9. The keyboard is so smooth. It also has one of the best speech to text inputs.

    • Raven

      I still think that FlexT9 is the best keyboard available for smaller screens. It combines the best features of Swype and Swiftkey and also has Nuance Dragon powered voice text input.

      For my 3 tablets I have recently switched to using GO Keyboard with the GO Keyboard Pad Plugin. It provides a really nice tablet thumb typing layout and it is FREE.