July 27, 2012
How's your handwriting? As long as it results in the least bit of legibility, you can put it to use with Google's latest mobile search innovation. Google has already provided users of touchscreen mobile devices with plenty of search innovations. These include Google Instant, Google Voice Search, and Google Goggles. But today Google has introduced another in the form of Handwrite. Handwrite is a new option that lets you scribble rather than type search keywords on your iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad. To activate Handwrite on your iPhone or iPod touch, go to Google.com in Safari or whatever your preferred mobile browser is. Then, tap "Settings" at the bottom of the screen and enable "Handwrite." On your iPad, make sure your browser is showing the tablet version instead of the classic version of Google.com. Then, tap the gear icon at the upper right corner of the screen and tap "Search settings." You should be able to activate "Handwrite" from there. Once enabled, Handwrite adds an overlay at the bottom of the screen containing a space bar, a backspace button, and the Handwrite icon. The latter serves as a toggle for the writing surface, which is automatically disabled anyway upon submitting a search so you can freely scroll through the results. If you can't see the video embedded above, please click here. You can write your search queries anywhere on the writing surface. You can even write just a few letters and see whether your intended query is among Google's autosuggestions. "We designed Handwrite to complement rather than replace typing," says Rui Ueyama, Software Engineer at Google. "[W]ith the feature enabled, you can still use the keyboard at any time by tapping on the search box." Currently an experimental feature, Handwrite works better in some mobile browsers than others. It seems to work admirably in Safari and, of course, Chrome. Handwrite is quite an impressive search enhancement. Then again, "enhancement" may not be an appropriate designation if it ends up being an impediment to users who have awful handwriting. And to users who, like me, type considerably quicker with little to no error, Handwrite may prove rather counterproductive. Nevertheless, given the special cases in which it can really come in handy, Handwrite is not something to be written off as a mere gimmick. Will you be Googling on your iDevice with Handwrite?