For many, typing has long overtaken handwriting as their primary word and sentence creation method. So much so that some schools no longer teach cursive.
But now, Google is bringing some good old-fashioned handwriting back to modern communication, adding new handwriting input tools to Gmail and Google Docs.
Those tools now allow you to write out what you want to say with a mousepad or cursor and Google will do its best to create a typed version of your words. The input box will show the most likely matches for your word, so below your handwritten “cats” it might display this list of possible words: cats, rats, Cats, oats, and carts. Click on the right one and keep on writing.
The tool might have a harder time deciphering your fancy calligraphy or messy chicken scratches, but it seems to do a decent job with my sloppy cursive-ish writing.
While English is an option, it’s more for complicated alphabets where drawing out a character is sometimes easier than typing it, like Japanese or Hindi.
“Handwriting input makes the Internet easier to use by people worldwide and is also part of a larger effort to break the barrier between languages,” said Google’s Xiangye Xia in a blog post announcing the feature.
Gmail users can get the new tool in more than 50 languages, Google Docs users in more than 20.
To test it out, go to your Gmail or Docs settings and, under the Languages setting in the General tab, click “Show all language options.” Select the box that says “Enable input tools” and you’ll get a list of every type of keyboard Google has to offer. The languages with a pencil icon beside them are the ones that support written words.
Once you’ve added an input option, you can select it anytime from a drop down on top of the menu bar above the document or email you’re writing.
Google already has handwriting support for its mobile translation apps so you can scrawl a word on the screen and see it instantly in another language. This is particularly helpful if you’re not familiar with a local alphabet and want to know what something says.
Heather Kelly | CNN