Let's not get melodramatic here: Gboard is simply Google's new iOS keyboard. It's not an app that will change your life or make your surly traditionalist uncle see the true value of technology, but it's a welcome addition to my own texting routine. Gboard features Google search right in the keyboard, plus the ability to hunt for emoji by name. There's also the Glide Typing swipeable keyboard and, of course, GIF search.
The embedded Google search function is ridiculously handy. It brings browser searching straight to the keyboard, eliminating the process of closing the texting app, opening a browser, copying a link, closing the browser and finally pasting the information into a message. Instead, tap the G icon in the upper left corner of the keyboard and search right there for anything on the web, including weather reports, addresses, flight information and nearby cat cafes (hey, we said anything). Search results pop up in a single row of clickable cards; tap one, and its headline and URL automatically populate in your message. If you want to add it, just tap the card, tap the message field, hit "paste" and voila!
Once you've searched for something, you're able to toggle among web, image and GIF results via three icons under the row of cards. To add an image or GIF, tap the card you want and it's automatically ready to be pasted, either as a boring static picture or a gloriously mobile, extra-short narrative experience. (Have I mentioned how much I love GIFs?)
But that's not the only way Gboard can add GIFs to texts. A small smiley face to the left of the spacebar brings up the standard iOS selection of emojis, plus the option to toggle to GIF search. Hit the "GIF" icon under those yellow smiley faces and search for whatever moving picture you'd like, or browse suggested searches such as "high-five," "thumbs up," "shrug" and "mic drop."
Even emojis are searchable in Gboard in a pleasantly natural way. Most icons seem to respond to a variety of terms -- for example, searching for "Halloween" brings up a jack-o-lantern. The search even works with some misspellings and inaccurate predicted text. Not using the swipeable keyboard, I searched for "Halloweeb" and still received the happy little pumpkin, while "jack" brought up the pumpkin and the Union Jack. Using the swipeable keyboard, I accidentally searched for "punishing" and received a row of fists -- and a jack-o'-lantern at the very end.
Emoji search is a wonderful addition to my texting life, since I find scrolling through rows of vaguely sorted icons to be time-consuming and frustrating. Plus, Gboard suggests emojis even when you're composing a text-only message. For example, I started asking my boyfriend if he wanted to get a burrito for lunch, and the first suggested "word" under the message was the burrito emoji. We also messaged each other about butts for a while, which is when I realized the peach emoji actually represents a booty, not a vagina. The more you know, indeed.
Overall, the Glide Typing function is suitably responsive (this isn't the first swipeable keyboard for iOS, after all), though I have to make sure the nail on my thumb doesn't interfere with my actual swiping.
Gboard makes a lot of sense. I wouldn't be surprised if it became the standard for keyboards in the near future -- it's a welcome upgrade based on how people actually send text messages. And GIFs. We can't forget the GIFs.