SwiftKey is one of the most popular third-party keyboards across both iOS and Android, and the company today released the latest beta version of its Android app. The app’s main functionality hasn’t changed, but this update brings a completely redesigned options menu—and I think it suits the keyboard pretty well…

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I wasn’t quite sure at first about a keyboard using a slide-out menu, but it actually works pretty well. After you’ve tapped a text field, the SwiftKey beta keyboard will pop up, and you can then drag in from the left side of the device to access what SwiftKey is calling the “SwiftKey Hub.”

This hub offers many options that were previously located only in the settings app, and changing them from here is now a lot faster. For instance, you can now slide in the SwiftKey hub, tap the middle keyboard design section, and change how your keyboard looks with just a single tap. This is also where the SwiftKey store is located, but tapping it takes you out to another window.

There are a couple of other sections in the app, with the left-most one oddly being called “Personalize” by the SwiftKey team (personally, I think that’s what the middle one should be called). This section includes access to SwiftKey Cloud, some handy stats about your experience typing with SwiftKey, and social sharing options. I’m not sure why this is the main section because I didn’t have much use for any of these options.

The right-most section contains a few quick settings options (which are very handy), including quick access to keyboard layout, size, and input methods. You can also dock and undock the keyboard from this menu with a single tap, and there’s a button to access layout customization options. Finally, there’s a button to access the rest of SwiftKey’s more intricate settings.

Overall, this new beta entry from SwiftKey offers some convenient improvements, although with one very unfortunate flaw. I found that grabbing the left side of the keyboard to pull out the menu could be pretty dificult—about 50% of the time, I just missed the tap target and I had to try again. This was annoying, but I think this is something I could look past considering the options menu shouldn’t be something that needs to be accessed all too often.

If you love to change the look of your keyboard often, using the SwiftKey Hub is going to make your life a lot easier. Most of the settings you might need to change are much more accessible, and the app now offers some pretty interesting stats about your keyboarding skills that are just a swipe away. If you want to try the keyboard, be sure to join the SwiftKey beta community on Google Groups.

Otherwise, you can get the current stable version of SwiftKey on the Play Store for free.

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