Google Translate has introduced handwriting input mode for five Indian languages – Gujarati, Kannada, Punjabi, Tamil and Telugu on the web and its Android app. The company has also updated its Google Translate iOS app to offer handwriting support for two Indian languages – Kannada and Tamil.
With this, Google now offers handwriting support in seven Indian languages, having added support for Hindi last August and Marathi sometime earlier this year. Last month, Google Translate had released an updated version of its iOS app to add handwriting support for four Indian languages – Gujarati, Marathi, Punjabi and Telugu.
Besides Google Translate, this input mode is also available on Google’s mobile search site and desktop version of Gmail and Google Drive.
We tried the Google Translate app on Nexus 4 and noticed that one can select their preferred language among the supported ones from the drop down menu at the top and tap on the handwriting icon on the app home screen. This opens up a blank canvas which allows users to write characters from their preferred language and the app automatically starts suggesting possible words & the respective translation for these words in the chosen language, based on what the user is writing.
We found the handwriting recognition and the respective translations to be quite accurate although there seems to be a bug in the app due to which a single word is being repeated multiple times if we write a sentence at once. However, it works fine if you keep choosing one of the suggested words before writing the next word in the sentence. There is also no option to delete a single character or a single word while writing, which can turn out to be quite cumbersome for users. Also, note that one needs to have an active Internet connection on their phone to make use of this service.
On the web, handwriting input is still cumbersome since it has been designed keeping touch-screens in mind. It will probably be less cumbersome if you have a touchscreen desktop and a laptop.
Other Indic Initiatives from Google
Earlier in December 2013, Google Translate had added support for Punjabi language as part of nine new languages which includes Nepali, Mongolian, Maori and African languages Somali, Zulu and others.
Google Translate had also added support for Marathi language on the web and Android in May 2013 and extended it to iOS in September 2013. It had released offline language packages to Google Translate’s Android app with support for fifty languages including Hindi in March 2013.
Besides this, Google had introduced support for six Indic languages on Gmail on feature phone browsers in March 2013 and released a text input app called Google Hindi Input, which allows users to type in Hindi on their Android phones. The company had rolled out system wide support for Hindi on Android through the 4.3 ‘Jelly Bean’ update in August 2013.