There most certainly is no shortage of downloadable iOS 8 keyboards in the App Store, so much so that the proliferation of soft-keyboards makes it virtually impossible for us to cover each and every one that hits the Apple platform.
On the other hand, themable keyboards like CoolKey, a keyboard for the colorful, are few and far between.
Customization matters to an awful lot of people and there’s admittedly a void here than needs filling. That’s where Themeboard jumps in.
Created by Germany-based Taphive, the brains behind such apps as TodoMovies that we reviewed back in March, this app is an advanced iPhone and iPad keyboard with a built-in repository of wonderfully designed themes by some of the best designers around.
Theme board sports a unique Emoji/Kaomoji bar and has plenty of features that users have come to expect from Apple’s default keyboard like auto-correction, Caps lock, slide-shift to capitalize, quick delete with three speeds, text predictions, custom shortcuts and more.
Read on for the full review of this feature-packed keyboard.
To get started, you must first install the Themeboard keyboard in order to use it and experiment with the themes. Just go to Settings > General > Keyboard > Keyboards.
Next, tap Add New Keyboard, tap Themeboard on the list of third-party keyboards below and then “Themeboard-Themeboard”. Finally, flip the “Allow Full Access” switch to ON and you’re good to go.
As a side-note, I’m a big fan of the app’s thoughtful, transparent and unobtrusive handling of promotional messages via Push Notifications. As shown below, you’re kindly asked upfront whether you’d like to receive a single Push Notification per week to keep yourself in the loop with new themes and designers, if any.
With that off my back, I should point out that Themeboard sports a unique, quick-access Emoji/Kaomoji bar which does away with the switching back and forth between character and emoji keyboards. Instead, the bar co-exists with the rest of the keyboard allowing you to continue typing without the need to switch context to enter an emoji.
To hide or show the Emoji bar, just tap once on the keyboard’s standard Globe icon, which would normally cycle through your available keyboards. Don’t worry, you can still switch to your other keyboards by tapping and holding the Globe icon on the keyboard like you normally would.
I was also appreciative of the fact that I could rearrange the Emoji bar from the Themeboard app.
Even though the app doesn’t support adding emojis yet, this feature should be enable in a future update, Taphive tells me. Speaking of keyboards, it’s interesting that Themeboard supports many standard features of Apple’s default keyboard and then some more.
This includes stuff like auto-correct, slide-shift for quick capitalization, Caps lock, quick delete with three speeds and even text predictions, something the vast majority of iOS 8 keyboards don’t have yet.
Moving on to the themes…
To browse the themes, tap the Themes button found alongside the bottom in the Themeboard app. This is where designers make their themes available to iOS users. You can browse and download themes, learn more about their designers and connect with them via email or social media.
Tap any theme to read the description provided by its designer. Or, tap a designer’s name to check out their profile and ways to connect. It’s pretty great that each and every theme is designed for all iPhone and iPad sizes, ranging from the four-inch iPhone 4s and all the way up to the 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus.
Having tested plenty of these on both my iPad Air and iPhone 6 Plus, I’m happy to report that themes look fantastic and feel natural rather than being clunky, blown up versions of their four-inch counterparts.
Downloadable themes come from some of the best designers and illustrators from the U.S., Germany, Spain, Czech Republic and Switzerland, with new ones being added on a regular basis.
And if that’s not enough, there are a few exclusive themes from the likes of The European Space Agency ESA/Hubble; Tapity, an Apple Design Award winner and creators of Grades, Languages and Hours; Radiantlabs, the studio behind the gorgeous Living Earth weather app; and Noidentity, creators of Next and MoneyBook apps.
I can’t stress enough how gorgeously done most of the themes are so best thing I let a couple example screenshots do the talking. Here are a few themes, as seen on an iPhone and iPad.
Some world-class keyboard artwork there!
Tap hive tells me they wanted to create a place where the best designers and illustrators from all over the world could create and publish high-quality keyboard themes for iOS and boy does Themeboard deliver.
Find something you like? Hit the Download button. Here I am checking out the intriguing Silver Mark theme inspired by Apple’s aluminum keyboard for the Mac.
Once downloaded, you can immediately test the theme by hitting the keyboard icon in the top-right. As show further below, this will bring up the virtual keyboard allowing you to test the keyboard without switching apps, provided you have activated the Themeboard keyboard as described at the beginning of the article.
Like on the physical Apple keyboard, the orange LED on the Caps lock key turns green when activated — pretty sweet!
I’ve had a great experience testing Themeboard in the run-up to its release. Unlike some other third-party iOS 8 keyboards, Themeboard is fast, fluid and a joy to use.
Auto-correct and suggestions work precisely as you’d expect. It’s cool that I can double tap a suggestion to automatically insert it followed by a period. Also, if you type “LOL” or “:D”, the laughing emoji automatically appears among the suggestions.
Next, auto-capitalization doesn’t just work on new lines or special characters such as “!”, “?” and “.” (followed by space), but also when deleting words. And tapping a punctuation (,.?!-/) automatically inserts a correction followed by the punctuation.
There’s more: double spaces get replaced with a period and the keyboard smartly puts only a space if you type a period or space before.
Folks who rely on custom keyboard shortcuts defined in Settings > General > Keyboard > Shortcuts will be pleased to learn that Themeboard automatically imports your Apple keyboard shortcuts for use with any theme.
I’m a big fan of context-sensitive keyboards and Themeboard doesn’t disappoint in that regard: the keyboard automatically switches to an appropriate layout when typing in web addresses, numbers and filling email fields.
AS for the Shift key, there’s more to it than meets the eye. For example, if you tap-hold the Shift key then slide your finger, you’ll enable capitalization. To capitalize a single character, simply tap-hold the Shift key then slide to the character, like with the Apple keyboard.
There’s even an optional Shift Adjust Keys Case feature in the app’s settings that changes characters on buttons to uppercase when the Shift key is pressed. Rounding it all off, the Caps Lock key gets automatically turned off when switching to the number pad.
And check out that eye-candy app icon!
The app requires an iPhone, iPod touch or iPad with iOS 8 or later. Additional information and tidbits are available at the Themeboard website.
As noted above, the vast majority of themes are free, but some will cost you money via In-App Purchases.