July 27, 2012

Search Google With Your Fingers

For those who get frustrated trying to type out a search query on the ubiquitous virtual keyboard found on smartphones, Google may have a solution.

Android and iOS users can now scribble out search requests on the Google search page. It must be enabled in the settings menu of course. Google offers a step-by-step tutorial on how to do this for Safari on iOS or Chrome on Android. The handwriting feature works on both mobile operating systems’ phones and tablets.

Essentially users just need to find the search settings in the browser and enable the Handwrite option. Once this is live, just save the settings and head back to the Google home page. If it doesn’t work, try refreshing the page. A new Handwrite icon will now appear in the lower right corner of the screen.

It worked fairly well when I tried a number of different search terms. It often works the best when going one letter at a time; writing too fast confused the search engine. While the directions caution against cursive, many of those queries I tried out in cursive turned out to be okay. In all, it turned out well both on an iPhone and in the Chrome browser on Android.

For now it only works on the Google homepage in either of the aforementioned mobile browsers; so don’t spend time looking for this setting in the dedicated search app. For those who want to try this out frequently, it would probably be worth saving a link to the page on your device’s home screen.

Google still calls the feature experimental, so it is unclear if it will be moving to the dedicated search app for iOS or the Google Now feature available on Android Jelly Bean devices.

Google has created a page of tips for using this new feature. They include using print instead of cursive and putting a line through zero for higher accuracy.

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