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Best custom keyboards for iPhone and iPad

Whether you want to swipe your way to faster messaging, access GIFs right from your keyboard, or just want to add a little flair to your keys, there are quite a few options to choose from. We've gone through most of them to pick our favorites, and these are the ones we think deserve your attention!

SwiftKey

Best custom keyboards for iOS 8: SwiftKey

SwiftKey is one of the best-selling Android keyboard apps of all time — and for good reason. Not only does SwiftKey come with a great text-prediction engine, SwiftKey Flow on the iPhone lets you swipe your way through words in a snap. And if you use multiple devices, you can use SwiftKey Cloud to sync everything SwiftKey has learned about your typing style along with all your custom dictionary data.

If swiping is your thing and you frequently spend time on multiple devices, look no further than SwiftKey.

TextExpander 3 + custom keyboard

Best custom keyboards for iOS 8: TextExpander 3

TextExpander is a wonderful little utility that lets you store custom snippets of text that you might use frequently. Before custom keyboards, TextExpander's capabilities were limited to its own notes app — but no longer. TextExpander 3's custom keyboard brings your snippets to the typing interface, allowing you to use them wherever you can pull up a keyboard. Just tap in your shortcuts and voila, TextExpander takes care of the rest.

If you work with a lot of templates or already use TextExpander elsewhere, TextExpander 3's custom keyboard is a no brainer.

Swype

Best custom keyboards for iOS 8: Swype

Swype, like SwiftKey, lets you use swipe gestures in order to make out words. Swype also comes with five different themes, if you're into color customization. Unique to the keyboard is a traditional number pad, which some users may particularly appreciate; you toggle it by pressing the number key. Like many of the other keyboard options, Swype gets smarter the more you use it and learns words as you use them more and more often.

If you want custom themes and a dedicated number pad for faster number entry, check out Swype.

Fleksy

Best custom keyboards for iOS 8: Fleksy

Fleksy does a great job of combining traditional tapping with intuitive gestures. For example, if Fleksy predicts something incorrectly, you can reverse swipe anywhere on the keyboard. To toggle between predictions, just swipe up and down. You can also change themes in the Fleksy app itself, including options for smaller and more compact on-screen keyboards.

For a completely customizable and unique way of typing, be sure to give Fleksy a try.

Minuum

Best custom keyboards for iOS 8: Minuum

Minuum offers a great predictive engine in an easy-to-use and sleek keyboard. You can even swipe down to make the interface even more compact. This mode scrunches letters together, but still manages to predict what you're typing with surprising accuracy. In its full-size version, Minuum displays a consistent experience that's similar to the default iOS keyboard, but also shows offers prediction suggestions.

For a minimal keyboard that gets out of the way while still offering up more predictions than its competitors, Minuum is the keyboard you want.

Slated

Best custom keyboards for iOS 8: Slated

Slated attempts to break down language barriers, allowing you to communicate in well over 30 languages instantaneously. Start typing in English, then choose your target language. You'll see the translation appear right below what you're typing. When you're happy with what you've typed, just tap on the translation and hit send.

If you face a language barrier either in personal or professional situations, you need Slated on standby.

Themeboard

Best custom keyboards for iOS 8: Themeboard

Themeboard by Taphive is the first of its kind and lets graphic designers from all over the world share their keyboard creations in one place. Find a theme you like, download, and apply it. Simple as that. The layout of Themeboard is extremely similar to the stock iOS keyboard and contains a lot of the same features you already enjoy, along with a few other neat keyboard tricks.

If theming is your number one priority, there's no app better than Themeboard.

Your vote for best custom keyboard?

If you've been playing around with third party keyboards from the App Store, what ones have been your favorites and why? Be sure to let me know in the comments!

(Note: Originally published, September 2014. Updated, December 2014.)

iMore senior editor from 2011 to 2015.

146 Comments
  • When I was an Android user, I swore by SwiftKey and now on iOS it looks like it's going to be the same. The standard iOS keyboard has served me well for the past year but things like multiple language support without having to switch keyboards is heaven-sent. SwiftKey has a long way to go to match functionality with our Android brethren but it'll get there and its already off to a great start.
  • While I liked Swiftkey on Android and it was the one that I first used I actually started to use the google Version more and more and it was a nice keyboard with less quirks like its inane desire to autocorrect my password to whatever it felt it should be rather than what it actually was. I'm going to give it a go and see how it does but also downloaded Swype . If Google were to release their version I suppose I would give that a try.
  • Unbelievable,best keyboard here : http://swipekeys.com/
  • I have installed SwiftKey, but it keeps defaulting back to the regular keyboard. I have moved SwiftKey to the top of the list in the keyboards, but it still goes back to the default keyboard. Anyway to change that?
  • I deleted the English keyboard and now I just have SwiftKey
  • Yeah that happens to me too. Hope they fix that bug.
  • You have to remove the stock keyboard Sent from the iMore App
  • Delete the other keyboards Sent from the iMore App
  • Mostly a big bug. Sent from the iMore App
  • Same here. No matter what I do it keeps defaulting back to the stock keyboard. Is this normal behavior on how third party keyboards are going to work? Do you have to use the globe icon and cycle through the keyboard each time you need to use it? I sure hope not. Sent from the iMore App
  • You can hold down the globe icon glide your finger up to swift key and let go to go directly to that keyboard. Not the best answer but still better than cycling through. Sent from the iMore App
  • You need to change the order/default keyboard in keyboard settings. Go into Settings -> General -> Keyboard and click edit.. it will let you drag the keyboards from top to bottom.. Put the one you want first at top. I had to reboot my phone to take effect. Then from that point on.. default SwiftKey.. or whatever you're using.
  • Awesome tip. Thanks. Thought I was the only one. Posted via the iMore App for Android
  • Try moving your keyboard of choice so that it is at the top of the list. No matter what though, Apple defaults back to a basic keyboard for passwords and secure information so that the details cannot be pulled by a 3rd party keyboard and stored on that 3rd parties servers.
  • I'm having the same issue as others on my iPads and iPhone 5. Need to be able to set a 3rd party keyboard as default or they are too much of a pain to deal with. Posted via the Android iMore App!
  • You can set it default.. see my comment above..
  • I'm using Fleksy, I just like the look & feel of this keyboard. An absolute pleasure to use! Sent from the iMore App
  • Enjoying swiftkey. Anything is better than the default crapfest that had me constantly hitting the return or period key. We've cone a long way since hoping for mere copy and paste people. :)
  • I've always been between SwiftKey and swype. I haven't tried swype on my iPhone yet but SwiftKey is doing my justice. One of the reasons I came back to iPhone was because of the larger screen and because of custom keyboards so anything is a blessing to me.
  • All of these keyboards suck. None of them have access to your keyboard shortcuts that you set up. That is just simply annoying.
  • That really is annoying. Sent from the iMore App
  • That's not the fault of the keyboards Posted via iMore App
  • That's a limitation of iOS though
  • Which makes that aspect of ios suck, not the keyboards. Posted via iMore App
  • Sure is. Sent from the iMore App
  • What about TextExpander? You'd have to migrate your shortcuts but it's the same functionality, right? And potentially more power if you needed it. Sent from the iMore App
  • If you link Dropbox, and have your TE shortcuts saved there, you're good to go Sent from the iMore App
  • They also don't give you access to Siri dictation, which I use often.
  • ios 8 keyboard support seems a little buggy still. sometimes keyboards won't open at all, or open up as a grey rectangle. that said: i have been switching between swype, swiftkey, and the default apple keyboard, which at this point still knows me best in terms of common words.
  • Buggy is an understatement. It's terrible. Sent from the iMore App
  • apple should have done a better job to enable the options from within the app, and not require the app developer to write up rather verbose set instructions how to enable this. A simple in app settings would be great with a system prompt to enable it system wide - perhaps with a TouchID, for confirmation. Short of this the Keyboards Preferences / Settings should have a url schema that the app developer could open via a button to let the user enable the feature.
  • Why make it sound (you implied it) that the iPhone version has some special add on that allows you to swipe for words... It's IDENTICAL to the Android version. We've been swiping on it for a long time... How do you think I wrote this? Posted via iMore App
  • I think he means within ios, I have an android phone and an ipad air and I love SwiftKey, on my iPad it doesn't include flow. It is only on the iPhone version. I am also having a problem with it sometimes switching back to the regular keyboard. Posted via the Android iMore App!
  • No. I said iphone version because the iPad does not support flow.
  • My bad... I must have lumped you (wrongly I might add) into the same category I reserve for people like Rene... Posted via iMore App
  • Extremely attractive extremists? Posted via iMore App
  • He has become a parody of himself Like Samuel L Jackson Posted via the Android iMore App!
  • I love Fleksy. I have it on my S3. I will buy it once I get my iPhone 6. I will purchase it for my iPad. I hope I can still long press for alternate keyboard buttons.
  • I use none, because there is always a second of lag before the 3rd party keyboard, in this case SwiftKey, comes up. Sent from the iMore App
  • Same here. I wanted to use Fleksy but I couldn't stand the annoying lag. Sent from the iMore App
  • Yeah, that's been bothering me also. Funny thing is, that I don't mind the iOS 8 keyboard. For some reason I have amazingly high accuracy when I stop looking at the keys and just tap away. I want my keyboard to support all the features of the OS. It'd be nice if they could allow dictation and custom shortcuts throughout the third party keyboards.
  • FYI: Making your keyboard Default. You need to change the order/default keyboard in keyboard settings. Go into Settings -> General -> Keyboard and click edit.. it will let you drag the keyboards from top to bottom.. Put the one you want first at top. I had to reboot my phone to take effect. Then from that point on.. default SwiftKey.. or whatever you're using.
  • That only works for a while. It reverts to the stock keyboard eventually.
  • Ally, did you try Text Expander's keyboard for awhile or just quickly? I want to buy it, but it's reviews aren't very good so far.
  • I did. I never consider something as best unless I test it fairly thoroughly. I think there are some layout glitches on the iPhone 6 and 6+ that need to be addressed. Other than that it's a solid option.
  • Is there any keyboard with cursor keys? Prediction is never perfect and it's a pain to have to point to move the cursor when a few taps on a cursor key would do it much quicker. A gesture to go back a character or a word would work too.
  • Fleksy does all this
  • I just picked up an iPhone 6 yesterday, and the first thing I did was download SwiftKey. Sadly, it's not nearly as good as it was on my Samsung Note 2. I had the pay version, but you could hold on letters and get numbers, and the ? and ! were easier to use. I wish you could get the same exact SwiftKey as you can get on Android. I would definitely pay for it.
  • That's an ios limitation. They can't have pop-up that go past the set size of the keyboard Posted via iMore App
  • Thank you. Then SwiftKey needs to redesign it's app to work with IOS8.
  • I believe they rushed it to meet launch day. Expect regular updates to fix bug, add features, and increase speed. SwiftKey is no Facebook with their change logs. You get to see what they add and what not. Although I doubt that feature you want will show up for sometime. The pop-ups on my Nexus S, and Shield tab just go past the word suggestions when I use the top row.
    (And they may not be able to give access to special figures regardless. I don't know about this though) Posted via iMore App
  • Are there no full-QWERTY notebook style keyboards for iOS 8? With iP6+ and iPad, I'm happy to devote more screen real estate to a more robust keyboard. Certain apps gave these.
  • In order for Swiftkey to work you have to allow "full access". If you toggle this, here's the message you get: "Full access allows the developer of this keyboard to transmit anything you type, including things you have previously typed with this keyboard. This could include sensitive information such as your credit card number our street address.".
    Am I the only one who has major concerns about this??
    Having said that, I'm using swype, that I used in my Android days and I love it. It has a few minor issues that will be sorted out I'm sure. Other than that, it works great!
  • Unless you specifically remove it, your street address is already online with a picture of your house on Spokeo.com Posted via iMore App
  • Yup, I was a bit concerned about that which is why I clicked no, rendering the app useless. Don't like the idea of my credit card details being broadcast. Do the other apps have the same warning/issue? Sent from the iMore App
  • Broadcast where? The communication, as explained by Swiftkey everywhere (two seconds on Google will get you there), occurs only between the keyboard and the app on your dashboard (due to the way iOS is built), unless you have cloud enabled, in which case it's all encrypted from beginning to end. Please read the notes on iossupport.swiftkey.com and read the privacy policy. You dont have to believe them, but then again you dont have to believe what Google, Apple or Facebook say they do with your data. No need for unnecessary panic. Dont enable cloud support and dont always believe iOS messages about third party apps. Besides, your credit card details and address are most likely out there already on much less secured servers.
  • Add your 3rd party keyboard, move it to the top of the list. Move your emoji to 2nd on the list. Then delete all other keyboards. That will keep your keyboard from changing. Hold the globe down and select your keyboard.
  • Fair enough but what about credit card numbers?
  • Basically it's a warning that if you're allowing full access, key strokes "could" be recorded, including cc numbers. That doesn't mean they are. Services like SwiftKey transmit info to offer better predictions etc. but they also encrypt your info. I find it unfortunate how apple chose to word that popup. Sent from the iMore App
  • I don't find it unfortunate. As privacy disintegrates before our very eyes I think every little detail matters. Better to err on the side of caution ... For Apple's sake, and ours.
  • Well, it scares people away from something that isn't phishing for data. But I'm used to it because the warning is the same on Android. *off topic*
    Can someone tell me how 8 runs on a 5s? I've been reluctant to update until the first patch, but I'm curious.. Posted via iMore App
  • I've been running iOS 8 on a 5s, 5, ipad2, and iPad air. (Used the 2 as a tester lol) the only thing I notice occasionally is the 4 finger swipe up doesn't work. And in Facebook tapping the top sometimes doesn't quick scroll to the first post. Other than that, no issues.
  • SwiftKey is the keyboard to roll with. Sent from the iMore App
  • No one else is worried about giving them full access and the keyboard app sending everything you type to the developer?
  • So download a major keyword that is being watched by others. Smart Android users don't download that stupid "cute" third party keyboard and we're fine. So iOS users should do the same. Every keyboard on her list has been active for years, and as such, should be safe enough. DON'T DOWNLOAD THE STUPID THIRD PARTY KEYBOARDS THAT SERVE NO PURPOSE! Posted via iMore App
  • This guy gets it. ಠ益ಠ
  • i tried both swiftkey and swype. the both did what they are supposed to do. both had a few bugs that i am sure will get worked out. but swiftkey wanted to be allowed to know everything that i typed (very intrusive). swype did not and that is what is on my iphone. btw @diante//i totally agree.
  • All keyboards have that. Just use the main ones, that are trusted. Posted via the iMore App for Android
  • When I was on Android I used swift key and I loved it. I was so excited when I heard it was coming to iOS! Sent from the iMore App
  • Any keyboards that have number rows on top? Posted via the iMore App for Android
  • I second this. I love having a fixed number row. I'm using SwiftKey on my Nexus 5, and it's really disappointing that the iOS 8 version is so limited - no number row, no long press for alternative characters. Without these things I may as well stay with the stock keyboard. Posted via iMore App
  • I totally agree. This SwiftKey is worthless, without number options, and long press for special charcters like Android. Very disappointing. This is my first iPhone, and the keyboard situation is enough to turn me off.
  • iKeywi adds an extra row of keys which I believe defaults to numbers but can be customized from there. It also allows its users to swipe the keyboard to move the cursor.
  • I'll have to look into iKeywi. Thanks.
  • I too agree. I'd willingly pay for a keyboard like this. Not going to say how much I'd pay, but for that row alone I'd drop a few dollars.
  • I find it really unfortunate how SwiftKey requires authorization to go beyond the protective sandbox that Apple places it in. They say that this is only to make the keyboard less memory intensive by letting the app do all the work... And that all the data stays in your phone unless you use their cloud service. But if you check your data use, you can see SwiftKey uses more and more data the more you type. Unfortunately until this blatant disrespect for user privacy is fixed, I won't be using this keyboard and hope that you with this knowledge seek to do the same.
  • So Apple's severs are somehow better than SwiftKey/other major Keyboards? Android includes the same wrinkle for security *gasp* and most people ignore it with the likes of SwiftKey and Flesky. I notice it's rather fast switching Keyboards on iOS8... So switch when you feel like you're typing sensitive information. SwiftKey's data usage grows as you use it more, because it's learning you better so it can work better. Turn off cloud service if it concerns you. You still get personalization, but it's limited to said device. *shameless plug inbound* And if your everyday life is all that private I suggest BB10 to you. One of the best software Keyboards, with market/mindshare so small as well as some of the best back end security in the mobile business (I might even say the best ;)) it's rarely if ever attacked (the same reason Macs used to almost never get bugs back in the day) the Z30 is a middle ground between the 6 and 6+ and still preforms very well. Posted via iMore App