Is Google's Handwrite A Step Backwards?

Jul 27, 2012 • 8:24 am | comments (17) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine

Google Handwrite SearchYesterday Google introduced a pretty cool feature to handwrite your search.

Yes, you can open your smartphone or tablet, click on settings and enable the handwrite option. Then go to the Google home page and scribble your query on the screen with your finger. It works okay and it is pretty fun to play with but will it be used?

Here are two screen shots:

Google Handwrite Search

Google Handwrite Search

I just don't how it is easier to try to write with your finger on a smartphone screen than it is to use a keyboard or virtual keyboard? Google said, "there's no keyboard that covers half of the screen and no need for hunt-and-peck typing." But try it, I find it much easier to type it than scribble it with my finger on a small screen. Am I weird?

It is a really cool feature from a technology perspective. Like the Apple Newton, writing on the screen and having it converted to text before your eyes is cool. But is it useful these days?

Other Google searches are useful such as plain typing, voice search, search by image but handwriting your search? It seems like a step backwards to me.

Here is a video:

Forum discussion at Google Web Search Help, Google+ and WebmasterWorld.

Previous story: Google, Bing, Ask & Other Logos For London 2012 Olympics Open Ceremony


David H. McGuire

07/27/2012 12:33 pm

I thought the same thing, On the video it shows a woman on a treadmill writing as if it is the easier option to just pressing letters??? Maybe I am weird?

Ramon Moor

07/27/2012 12:41 pm

Nice post and I really do understand your scepsis. However, I think there are some situation in which hand-writing can be usefull. E.g. when riding a tram or subway or another type of bumby ride. And it could also be benificiary for people with thick fingers (iPhone/ iPod) or bad sight (losts of seniors out there...). Maybe it's a bit far-fetched, but even then we can agree it's a fun feature.

Barry Schwartz

07/27/2012 12:42 pm

Wouldn't your finger be flying all over the screen when you hit a bump?

Tom Roseberry

07/27/2012 01:00 pm

changed my settings yesterday. started writing with my finger. much worse. change settings back.


07/27/2012 01:08 pm

> Am I weird? No. You've just already learned how to type using a keyboard. Its a habit, something you are accustomed to. Its perfectly natural to be find something 'new' - hard to use, because you havent learned to use it yet. And if/until become provifient it will be slower and 'alien' Also its just an option. Some people might like it. Some people wont - thats normal. Thats one of the reasons its a option. So not weird, just different (in the normal sense).

Felix Bohmann

07/27/2012 01:19 pm

And also note the person writing chinese letters! I guess it's way more convenient for a Chinese to write with a finger - or stylus! - than to type pinyin or the like.

Zane Ryan

07/27/2012 02:37 pm

I think handwritten search combined with autofill could be really funny. After 4 characters or so Google could autocomplete the rest of your query with an approximation of your handwriting. Or give personalized search results based on handwriting analysis.


07/27/2012 04:02 pm

I am really skeptical on this google innovation. Not each display allows to write more or less readable text... But I'm not thinking, that is a step backwards. The quality of tab displays should be much better...

Ian Williams

07/27/2012 04:31 pm

It's easier and quicker to just swype the words in using any of the keyboard apps out there. Because the Google homepage is so minimal it makes no difference if the keyboard covers half the screen. Might be useful if it became a standard part of the Android/Chrome browser for use on other sites though.


07/27/2012 05:22 pm

With the rise of mobile search it has posed a problem for Google. Before this searches were getting consistently more long tail as users got used to searching and started to form more precise queries. Great for Google as they don't have to work as hard to bring back relevant results. With mobile people have got lazy again, I can't be bothered to type in long queries I just plug in one word and go from there. This is why Google are working hard to make search easier, introducing voice and now handwriting. The easier it is to input the query the better the user will make it, meaning better results.


07/27/2012 07:09 pm

Why didn't they think to include a stylus, as in handheld video games?

Nick Pateman

07/30/2012 08:17 am

I would argue that long tail searches are harder to return results for. 'NY Clothing' or 'NY polo neck with purple polka dot collar' - Google has to have a much better understanding of content to return relevant results for the latter. I don't know if people have got lazy. From personal experience I still search in the same way as I do on a PC because it's the best way to get results.

Webstats Art

07/30/2012 04:04 pm

I was surprised that when I bought something from a certain apple store, I had to make my signature using my index finger. The signature looked nothing like my pen signature. I wonder where finger writing is going??


07/31/2012 03:17 pm

If you type in a longer tail query you are asking Google for something more specific. This is far easier to understand the users intent from. Google knows exactly what you are searching for. Intent is massively important and gets further diluted with the broader the term. If you search with a long tail query you are more likely to get back what you want than if you search with a broad term.

Nick Pateman

07/31/2012 03:33 pm

But that's because Google cannot read my mind. If I type 'clothes' into Google, of course I won't get the precise result that I want - however I will still get a ton of relevant results that I couldn't argue with being there. Google has to be able to crawl and understand content in a much more detailed and algorithmically complex way to return quality results for long tail and descriptive search terms. Sure, to a human long tail might appear simple because it is more precise, however it is very different for a machine to comprehend.


08/02/2012 01:43 am

At first I thought that it is a pretty cool feature. But after trying it out on my tablet, I think I am with you.. Perhaps, I am too accustomed to typing compared to trying to write on screen..


08/14/2012 03:06 pm

Nope, still missing the point here. By using a long tail query it's easier for Google to understand a users intent and therefore provide accurate results. Broad queries are harder to provide relevant results for. It's not about getting results that you "could argue with being there" but about Google being able to provide accurate results to the user, who just wants the most accurate / relevant information

blog comments powered by Disqus