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Microsoft shares secrets of the keyboard in Windows Phone 8

In addition to the developer programme announced today, Microsoft has also revealed secrets behind the keyboard in Windows Phone 8. The keyboard in Windows Phone has been praised by consumers and critics alike since the platform launched back in 2010, and it has gone through heavy usage and development to further improve the user experience.

So what's the secret to Microsoft's success?

Windows Phone 8 is the release where Microsoft worked hard on refining the keyboard as well as everything else that was included in the final build (let's not forget an upcoming update is on its way). And now the team behind Windows Phone has revealed some the magic behind the text-prediction technology.

'Word Flow' is what Microsoft is now calling the keyboard and it includes 600,000 of the most common words and phrases that people type on mobile devices. From pop culture to slang, all the top words are included. These are the words that are displayed when the keyboard detects misspellings and are also used in auto-correction.

"On average people type 20 to 30 messages a day on their phones; that’s over 10,000 a year. They also make a lot of mistakes: about one in every three words, we’ve found. Windows Phone 8 introduces Word Flow—an improved and renamed version of the Quick Correct feature from Windows Phone 7.5—to help prevent time-wasting typos and focus on what matters: communicating with the people you care about."

It's claimed in the blog post that the auto-correction is 94% accurate, on average, and adapts to an individual's communication style. The suggestions supplied to users are powered by dictionaries that were created by the team in collaboration with the Office group, who have been working on dictionary perfection for more than 20 years.

"Office uses a variety of sources—from linguistic research to frequency analysis of documents, books, and web pages—to build their dictionaries. Since “happy” is used more often by people than the word “happen,” we offer “happy” as the first suggestion."

Keyboard

Windows Phone has to not only know a large collection of words, but how people use them in phrases and constructed sentences. Example: "New York C" is almost always "New York City", and it's character deployment like that where the smart system goes to work. Another example would be "Happy B" then "Birthday" would be a more common word than other possibilities.  

So how does Microsoft go about improving the dictionaries with words and phrases that consumers use regularly? By collecting data of course, so we can all feel proud of working together. 

"Remember the little checkbox during phone set up (and in Settings) that talks about helping us improve text suggestions and build a better product? When someone gives us permission, we collect anonymous typing data—free of passwords, names, numbers, and other personal info—to help create and test Word Flow."

One other engineering challenge involved the "fat finger" problem, which is when those with larger fingers unintentionally pressing the wrong keys. This is solved with the Windows Phone keyboard by altering the invisible 'hit target' (touch-sensitive area around each letter) for each key. The targets for each key are continuously changing size, check out the video to see it in action.

The last feature is the custom dictionary where words are manually added by the user. The dictionary then adapts to the style of writing and provides suggestions based on what's present on the list. The result of everything explained in the blog post is the Windows Phone keyboard, which is arguably the most intelligent smartphone keyboard available on the market.

Be sure to read up more on the keyboard in Windows Phone 8 over on the Windows Phone Blog, it's an interesting read.

Source: Windows Phone Blog

Rich Edmonds
Senior Editor, PC Build

Rich Edmonds is Senior Editor of PC hardware at Windows Central, covering everything related to PC components and NAS. He's been involved in technology for more than a decade and knows a thing or two about the magic inside a PC chassis. You can follow him over on Twitter at @RichEdmonds.

107 Comments
  • This is going to sound dumb, but do I need to turn this on? I feel like wp8 corrects things less than wp7 ever did.
  • I feel this too. For the most part I prefer the WP7 version!
  • Same here most of the time when I type fast it doesn't even auto correct it for me. And typing keyboard on websites or applications lag now!
  • seems to me the word predictions pop up too slowly. It feels slower to wait for predictions than to just type out the word. If you've used SwiftKey on android you probably know the kind of performance i'm looking for outta the default keyboard.
  • Dumbáss did you NOT read the fuçkin article? It said that the WP keyboard is the most accurate and advanced keyboard, can't beat the office team.
  • Why do you put people down so often, and literally over nothing. You're an internet jerk off
  • Why do you always bítch and moan over nothing?
  • Practice what you preach
  • Indeed.  I clicked Round and Round's name to see all of his most recent comments, and he adds absolutely nothing to any conversation.
  • Incredibly he/she has managed to avoid the banhammer.
  • It is all for attention, and the more we pay it, the more inclination there is for this person to continue. I hope this unnecessary swearing stops... Windows Phone should bring out the best in people, and make us work together, not insult and fight.
  • Why don't we have a report button?
  • You're asking me, ScarletStar? I have no idea. I know the writers look at the comments section on a regular basis, and I hope they are planning SOME simple route to either warning or, potentially, banning a particular user if enough reports are received.
  • Need to lay off the roids, dude.....Its just phones, lol
  • Lol he/she was complaining about a "crude innuendo" that demeans women and in this article that person is putting someone down lol
  • You sir/madam, are a dickhead. 
  • Shut up
  • i never had wp7, but i dont think my wp8 keyboard is that good.  my iphone was much better at correcting the most basic of mistakes, my wp8 8x lets too many things remain misspelled 
  • Troll
  • That wasn't trolling.
  • Oh yes it was
  • STFU
  • My experience is they both seem off at times, but on my ipad i get the strangest corrections, and corrections for words that should not need corrections. This happens far less on my wp. I prefer wp in this arena
  • That's funny because the autocorrect on iPhone is by far the worst I have ever used. Worst that my old BlackBerry. WP is definitely one of the nicer ones. Although you're speaking of Windows Phone 8 which I have no personal experience yet...
  • Exactly which is why its bullshít.
  • I actually agree with mark.  I switched from an iPhone 3G to a Lumia 920 and I can definitely say that autocorrection on my iPhone was way better. 
  • Then you are just as much on crack as he is.
  • You americans, learn how to spell.
  • The problem with autocorrect on wp8 for me is I will often get underlined words. When I tap the word to see suggestions, the very first suggestion is the word I meant to type I'd say 90% of the time. I won't say iPhone is better, because a select few seem butthurt about even the thought of that being true, but I will say I have to go back and correct misspelled words much less frequently . Conversely, on iPhone I will often get autocorrected the wrong word. That doesn't happen too often (almost never) on WP. Instead, I just get the dreaded red squiggle.
  • And this is why those threads about "wasted space" on the Windows Phone keyboard are 100% nonsense. There is no "wasted space", every pixel is used.
  • Well, its tough to argue that the keyboard needs to take up nearly 2/3 of the screen be it a 3.5" or a 4.5" screen. If it is functional on a 3.5" screen, I'd think if it took up the exact same space as it does there, but on the 4.5" screen it should still be functional.
  • What bugs me most about the Windows Phone keyboard is its treatment of swears.  I realize that there are some people who don't want to see anything r-rated accidentally.  However, Microsoft screwed up.  What I mean by this is that for those of us who do occasionally say things like that, it's not possible to have it autocorrected.  The phone realizes that the word is a word, because it doesn't have a red underline, which means that it can't be added into autocorrect.  But it also refuses to automatically correct to it.  The real solution would be to not have them in the dictionary at all, and then allow those of us who WANT to to add them to the dictionary.  Instead, Microsoft blocks it for everyone.
  • I agree with this as well.
  • I've been praying over this for over 2years now. I can't even add cursive words, let alone autocorrecting them. Seems like Microsoft thinks that cursive words aren't even words! And i really miss the loud keyboard sounds before the mango update.
  • For me the autocorrect on WP8 has been brilliant. Maybe my typing style on my phone is different from other people, but I rarely have to "fix" an autocorrected word. WP7 was also pretty good with this. In both cases, I can type without looking and save for a couple of words, the rest of my message will be perfect thanks to autocorrect.
  • +1
  • +2
  • How does this compare with the BB10 keyboard?
  • For whatever reason I found wp7 keyboard to have worked better. As with most things, I wish MS would allow 3rd party keyboards. More choice, people are bound to find one that works for them
  • Yes agreed, the WP7 keyboard does appear to be more accurate, especially auto correcting lazy entries.
  • I won't lie but my typing experience on wp8 is not as good compared to wp7. I honestly never had to worry about mistakes which I find myself correcting alot now and am also having a serious problem with this comma button next to space bar, its so annoying.
  • Totally,in,agreement,with,this.I,regularly,end,up,hitting,the,comma,button,instead,of,space,in,my,L820.
  • I think it works great, but I wish it was as good as my Surface at word predictions. I think the surface is insanely good at that.
  • I guess the real question is - how long before the WP8 keyboard 'learns' your habits and makes the best of your typing.
     
    I think i can type better on my focus than my 920 right now, but my focus had 2 years to learn my typing habits, my 920 has had 4 weeks... Hopefully it won't be too long before i hit the sweet spot withe 920 and I start flying again through that keyboard.
  • Keyboard is very good. Still would love Swype.
  • Not getting it
  • The Focus doesn't learn anything about your habits when it comes to the keyboard except the words you add to the dictionary. Only WP8 learns the common words you use etc
  • I think it may be the change in size from my Focus to this Lumia 920, but the autocorrect doesn't seem to work as well for me as it used to. Again, could be the words I'm mistyping are due to the way I'm typing on a larger screen. Also, im, is always corrected to "in" as opposed to "I'm". Its annoying.
  • Same here.
  • make sure you have US English keyboard enabled, and not UK. I found US works much much better
  • WP8 keyboard is solid but iPhone is better IMO. MSFT has work to do here....
  • Stupid troll
  • Bro chill out dude its just a statement of their personal experience
  • I thought the WP8 keyboard wasn't as good as WP7's (which was awesome) but it seems to be getting better & better so I think its a testament to how well WP7 learned to fix its individual users typing.  So well in fact that it makes WP8 seem worse.  However if I'm right then WP8 will continue to get better as well as mine seems to be doing.
  • Precisely, the more you use it, the more it learns from you and builds its own database dictionary of your vocabulary and the better it gets. That said, the more shorthand you use the less intelligent it can be unless you add every shorthand to the database.
  • For me I think it has more to do with the larger keyboard. My fingers need to travel a greater distance then what I am used to. (Lumia 900 to 920). However I rarely have to type out a full word because of the predicting text. I maybe have to type 3 letters before the word I want to use shows up.
  • Strange that your typing profile doesn't get synced across devices then. 
  • I love the Word Flow feature. It has made me far more accurate and efficient when typing. I'm not sure what people are talking about when they report words appear slower, and I've not experienced that at all.
     
    However, as I commented on Microsoft's article, I do find the shrinking hit areas to be problematic for words with double-letters or for abbreviations.
  • Excellent comment. This is what an ideal comment on this article should be.
  • And Round And Round is a good example of what a banned user should be.
  • Boy do we have some trolls on this article
  • So anyone that doesn't give all out praise, aka fall in line, is a troll? Lol
  • They're shítting on a good news article.
  • Everyone is entitled to an opinion. The comments that you refer to as trolling are relevant and on topic. Its not up to you to decide who is right or wrong. I think you should look up the definition of trolling "dumbass"
  • Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh shut the fúck up stupid muthafuçker shut the fúck up!
  • Is this perfect keyboard your defending the same one that you keep making all these spelling mistakes on?
  • There are no spelling mistakes
  • I just wish it would realize that when I
    write,this
    I meant to
    write this
    I,mean,who,writes,a,comma,without,a,space?
  • or a period....
  • I love the keyboard in WP8. The predictive text is amazing. And as always the autocorrect is extremely good.
  • All you whiners....learn how to spell. Problem solved. I love my Nokia Lumia 900 (cyan)
  • I turned off autocorrect because i type in spanglish but still better than what i had which was nothing.
  • Have you downloaded the Spanish keyboard in the settings? I could be wrong, but it should predict Spanish words. You can also switch between the different keyboards on the fly. The switch keyboard button is next to the smiley face.
  • The predictive text works well, but tuebkeyboard itself with s utter ass (normal typing on an 8x). Why can't u resize the keyboard?
  • I  kinda have to agree that the keyboard on WP8 is not that great. Before I was using SwiftKey on Android and it was truly amazing that I could just smash the screen and still get accurate sentences. Can't really do that anymore on WP8. The prediction is too slow for any fast texter. Also I miss the haptic feedback.
  • I've always thought the auto correct worked very well. My biggest complaint lately is hitting the space bar in the middle of a word (its so odd, but one word auto corrects to two) and that it constantly thinks I'm trying to say thong instead of thing. Who the heck uses thong in everyday conversation?
  • Coming from android(note) and iphone 4, the lumia 920's keyboard falls behind. Swype for android and the smooth typing on ios beat wp8 'word flow' by a mile. In other words, there's nothing worth keeping a secret here, Microsoft. Maybe next time, just keep it a secret until your product rivals competitors' performance. 
     
  • Shut your stupid áss up
  • The symbian one has a very simialr layout, and the predictions seem to be close as well.. I wonder if Nokia boworrowd some tech from MS for it
     
    https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-ipSMVPb7cJ8/UMFzCJ1pkUI/AAAAAAAAD5U/W28sHsqT5MA/s512/scr000037.jpg
     
     
  • Agree with those that say wp8 corrects less than wp7. In my experience, it seems to be way less. :/
  • In the 12 days that i've had my L920, it has already learned my name. Instead of suggesting James when i type "Jam", it now has my name as the first in line
  • It's because WP7 had a lot longer time to learn your habits. Obviously if everyone thinks that WP8 is worse than WP7, then it HAS to be true that Windows Phone learns your habits.
  • Why waste all that time with the soft keyboard and just give us a keyboard? This is a problem 100% created by Apple, those pricks.
  • I think a soft keyboard is so much better than a physical keyboard. Physical keyboard typically don't do autocorrect.
  • As much as I love WPCentral, the articles, the comments, and especially the editors/writers... Will someone in charge of the website PLEASE have some monitoring function for the comments section? I, along with 99% of the users here, love Windows Phone Central and I do enjoy reading the comments after reading the article. Hell, I don't have WP8 yet, but I love to read people's opinions on it. But I don't enjoy seeing every other user arguing, swearing, fighting. Sort this out; it's ruining the site and becoming more of a problem everyday. Keep up the good work though.
  • Plus 123456789
  • Deal with it
  • ^This guy being the first to go.
  • +1000000
  • I hope nobody gets banned. I only wish something be done of the mess that is the comments section.
  • Man...i love the keyboard on wp8...especially predictive text...it's just genius....
  • I too notive that the keyboard on wp8 is a little below the keyboard on wp7. See the typo in the beginning of this...wp7 would have picked it up. I notice that when I miss a space wp7 was able to separate that better than wp8. I guess it will get better with time.
  • I typed "notive" on mine and it corrected itself.
  • make sure you have US english keyboard enabled, and not UK english in settings control panel
  • Yeah i have no problem with the keyboard so far except that I keep hitting the b button instead of space argh.
  • With the negative responses about the WP8 keyboard, I might hold down my purchase of the Lumia 920 until MS sorted this out, because I'm very happy with the keyboard on my WP7.5 at the moment.
  • People are just being idiots.
  • I guess its ok if you type slower. Maybe sometimes I try to go to fast
  • Its working perfect for me, English and Spanish, kudos to MS
  • This keyboard does rock: I hardly have to type anything on my Lumia 920, just pick words from the list.
  • works great for me too!
  • Apple's gonna copy this. 
  • I am oncredibly happy With wp Keyboard ,i installed my own language by adding words in my language(Not supporteinitially) and now it corrects in LUXEMBURGISH! You even know my Country!? Guess Not !
  • I found that US English keyboard is much better than UK English.  And some countries (i.e. Canada) enable UKEnglish by default.  You might want to go into your settings control panel and make sure you have US English enabled, and not UK.
     
  • The space bar is way too small. Coming from an iphone, i keep pressing the , key. there's already a way to type the dot . Simply by pressing the space bar twice. So why the redundancy of having a . key. It isn't needed, it would make the space bar wider. the iphone has a less wide screen, yet manage to have bigger keys. I have to pay much more attention to the way I'm typing. not that impress with wp8 keyboard.
  • Apple explained the self adjusting key sensitivity area when they first introduced the iphone 5 years ago... Apple has little to copy here. Theyve been doing the same stuff for years.
  • After I updated my Nokia Lumia 720 for AMBER is no longer running this keyboard functionality, what can I do to solve this problem … Help me …