A new Indic Keyboard released by the software collective Swathanthra Malayalam Computing allows users to type in 15 Indian languages on Android. The app is currently available as a free download on Google Play Store and is compatible with all Android devices running on Android version 4.1 (Jelly Bean) or later.
This app was developed as part of the ongoing Government of India-supported Android R&D project of ICFOSS (International Centre For Free and Open Source Software), an independent organisation set up by the Kerala government to popularize open source software.
Supported Languages: The app currently supports Indian languages like Assamese, Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi, Nepali, Oriya, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Sinhalese, Tamil, Telugu, Urdu. What’s worth noting here is the support for lesser spoken languages like Sanskrit.
Remember that while other third-party input apps like Swiftkey, Swype and Adaptxt also offer Indic keyboards to users, these offer fewer options for Indian languages as of now: Adaptxt supports 12 languages while Swype supports four languages and Swiftkey offers a Hindi keyboard. Google also has a Hindi input & transliteration app on Android.
How does it work?
Once installed, users can open the app and follow the on-screen instructions to set the keyboard as their preferred input method and enable the languages of their preference.
Alternately, one can also enable the keyboard from the language & input option in the phone settings, quite similar to other third party keyboard apps on Android.
What’s interesting here is that the app offers three types of keyboard layouts for most of the supported languages: a regular phonetic layout, a standard InScript layout and a transliteration layout which allows users to type the word in English letters which gets automatically transliterated to that specific language. For instance, one can type Kannada words in English which gets automatically transliterated to Kannada.
What’s missing though is the additional text input features like text prediction, word completion, or error corrections which has now become quite common with a majority of third party keyboard apps like Swiftkey, Swype and Adaptxt among others. We hope that the collective adds these features to the app in the forthcoming versions. Update: Indic Keyboard app developer Jishnu Mohan has informed that he has already implemented gesture typing and word suggestions to the app and is currently beta testing the app (video demo). Going forward, he plans to add phonetic layouts for Urdu & Oriya and dictionaries for Nepali, Oriya, Marathi and Assamese.
We also noticed that some of these language keyboards are not loading properly and appearing as blank on Nexus 4. We’re not quite sure if this is because of issues with the operating system or the device (We tried it on Nexus 4 running on Android 4.4.2). Update: Mohan has informed that languages like Gujarati and Punjabi are not supported by default on stock Android, due to which they are not appearing on the Nexus 4, however it should work fine on select Samsung devices like the Galaxy S3.
Earlier this month, ICFOSS had also stated its plans to create a standard set of Malayalam words that developers can use while creating interfaces for mobile apps, so that it is easier for them to add support for Malayalam language within their apps.