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Gboard v8 beta: Features Overview and Technical Insights

Gboard has been updated after a month. This is what I found in Gboard first v8 beta update.

Removal of SMS

Google Play Store has been taking action to limit apps’ ability to receive Call Log and SMS permissions on Android devices since the announcement of Project Strobe.

Various apps, including Facebook, have been hit with this crackdown. And Google’s own Gboard is no exception.

Starting from v8, Gboard can no longer read SMS on Android. The app no longer asks for permissions to access SMS messages, and no longer contains the code that touches it.

Revamped GIF Picker

Gboard’s UI redesign for Material Design v2 is underway. In this update, they are testing a revamped GIF picker.

Gboard v8 Revamped GIF Picker

This revamp of the GIF picker includes:

  • Simplify layout into two tabs: recent tab (with the clock icon), and popular GIF categories (with the flame icon)

  • Popular GIF categories list, displayed in a grid layout

The switcher bar for emojis, GIFs, and stickers at the bottom has also been redesigned in Material Design v2.

Clipboard

Gboard Clipboard is an opt-in feature that saves clipboard contents for one hour.

gboard clipboard nux

Users are free to turn it off at any time.

gboard clipboard off

Export Personal Dictionary

Gboard is testing a way for users to export their personal dictionary, making life easier for migrating to new Android devices.

Gboard v8 Personal Dictionary Export

Once the “Export” menu button shown above has been tapped, Gboard will generate a ZIP file containing the backup of the personal dictionary and trigger a share action for that backup file.

An example of a Gboard Personal Dictionary export ZIP file

Technical Insight

The ZIP contains one single text file called dictionary.txt, with the format similar to this:

# Gboard dictionary version:1
f_wmj_o_twttr	Follow @wongmjane on Twitter!	en-US
@wongmjane	Jane Manchun Wong	en-US

At the time of writing, there does not seem to be an option to import a Gboard dictionary ZIP file or an integrated option to upload the backup to Google Drive.

Share Gboard

Gboard has been working on different features for growth.

They are testing “Share Gboard” for encouraging users to promote the multilingual aspect of the app with others.

Share Gboard from Settings

Once users have picked the language(s) in Gboard they would like to share, Gboard will then generate invite message for the user to share, which is in the following format:

I’m using Gboard to type in this language and that language. You can try it at: https։//gboard.app.goo.gl/xxxx

Once the receiver have opened the link, one of the following will happen depends on the scenario:

Scenario A: Gboard is not installed

User will be redirected to Gboard’s listing on the Play Store.

Scenario B: Gboard is installed, not all of the shared languages enabled

share gboard picker

User will be redirected to Gboard, where it will let user pick to enable any of the languages shared from the link.

Scenario C: Gboard is installed, with all of the shared languages enabled

share gboard picked

User will be redirected to Gboard, where it will let user to share the lanauges with others.

Technical Insight

Share Gboard Links indicates it is powered by Firebase Dynamic Links

This “Share Gboard” feature is powered by Firebase Dynamic Links. It stores user’s choices of shared languages on Firebase to create dynamic links with it. And shorten it on Google’s own link shortening service.

Once the shared link has been opened, the Dynamic Links client in Gboard app will receive it as deeplinks and display the choices of shared languages to the user receiving it. If no Gboard has been installed, no apps will intercept the link, and will fallback by opening web browser with it, bringing the user to Play Store.

Styling Refinements

gboard blue emoji

  • Gboard might display Key Borders by default in new installs in the future.

  • The emoji button is now blue.

Firebase Integration

Technical Insight

In this build, Gboard has also added a bunch of configs for Firebase, including Cloud Storage, Crash Reporting, Database, etc. It seems likely Gboard will be using Firebase as their full-fledged backend.