Third-party custom keyboards were one of the accessibility enhancements that was most anticipated in iOS 8. One of the most popular third-party keyboards is a tap-typing keyboard called Fleksy which boasts a super-accurate autocorrect and many other features.
Description from Fleksy’s own website:
Tap-typing reinvented. Fleksy is the Fastest Keyboard in the World.
It makes typing fast, accurate, and so easy you can even type without looking.
Fleksy is available for both iPhone and iPad. It costs $0.99, with an additional in-app purchase $0.99 for premium themes.
A note about the questions below: I am using the same headings for each keyboard to review, to make it easier to compare keyboards. Different users have different accessibility needs so it’s not necessarily better to offer more of these things, offering less may be a design decision that increases accessibility in different ways.
What keys are available?
All standard alphabet/numbers/punctuation keys spread over 3 screens, plus 600 Emoji accessed by holding down ‘enter’ key.
Alternate input methods available?
Tapping only for most character entry, gesture option for space and most punctuation, gesture-only for interacting with autocorrect/prediction.
Can the user predefine abbreviations/shortcuts?
Does it use gestures? What for?
Optional gestures for space and punctuation, backspace. Gesture only for changing predictions/autocorrections. There is a full description of how to use Fleksy.
Punctuation and special characters
Two space = period?
Yes. Also two spaces plus up/down gestures for access to other punctuation.
Auto caps after appropriate punctuation/whitespace?
Yes. Can be customised in settings.
Hold down key for special characters? (accents, .com, etc?)
Extended hold “backspace/delete” key to delete quickly?
No, uses a gesture for quick deletion instead. Can be customised in settings.
Double-tap shift for capslock?
Yes! Fleksy’s autocorrect is the best in the business and the primary selling point of the keyboard. The autocorrect is only available after a word is finished though – typing a space is what triggers the autocorrection engine, so it can’t be used to complete words. Autocomplete suggestions are also quite difficult to see in the keyboard.
Prediction of next word available?
Autocorrect learns from input?
Can use external sources to train autocorrect?
Misc correction/prediction (eg cloud syncing, other languages)
Cloud syncing is available. Many languages are available.
Key size (compared to standard)?
Several options are available – can be smaller, same, and larger than default keyboard size.
Does not show key edges, only letters. Three rows of letters, centre row has slightly lighter background colour to help distinguish rows. Bottom row is non-letter keys – shift/space/enter/etc – and can be optionally hidden. Default theme is dark grey background with white glyphs.
Case of alphabet on board changes with context?
No – always capitals.
Key layout options (Qwertz? Azerty? Dvorak? Colemac?)
Qwerty only, but key layout has a ‘minimal’ setting which hides the bottom line with space, enter, backspace, etc. This is quite functional because most of the keys on that row have gesture alternatives.
Has multiple themes? (any specific disability ones?)
Yes. Only background colour and glyph colour change. Six selections available by default, including light on dark grey, dark on light grey, and dark on yellow. Another six themes available via in-app purchase.
Can design own theme? (easy/hard? how complex can themes be?) No.
Misc appearance (eg keyboard font, different colouring for different keys, etc.)
Optional keyboard clicks and swipe sounds available. Can be customised in settings.
Fleksy has a history of being very VoiceOver accessible but due to bugs it is currently not very usable for VO users. Current advice from VO users is to turn on Voice Feedback from within the Fleksy app, and when you want to use the keyboard to toggle VoiceOver off and just rely on the voice feedback. The Fleksy developers are very aware of the needs of VoiceOver users and have reported they’re actively working on this problem so hopefully full accessibility will be available soon.
Fleksy suffers from the limitations affecting all third-party iOS keyboards at present, but it’s nice to use and the autocorrect is very accurate even if your typing is impressively sloppy. Fleksy has also produced third-party keyboards for Android for many years so they have a good track record in this area.
For those who aren’t interested in swipe-style typing but who love their autocorrect, Fleksy is definitely worth trying.