by Bill Snyder

Google’s ‘Handwrite’ Lets You Search by Scribbling

Jul 30, 2012 3 mins
Internet Mobile Small and Medium Business

Riding in a bumpy cab and need to search? Now you can skip the typos by writing a query with a finger on the screen of any iOS or Android device.rn

Maybe you have steadier hands than I do. But when I’m in a cab or a streetcar or standing on the corner and want to search for something with my iPhone I find it very difficult to use the virtual keyboard. A bumpy ride and teensy keys add up to a plethora of annoying typos. Wouldn’t it be cool if you could just write on the screen the way you would on a piece of paper? Now you can — sort of.

Google has just added a feature called “Handwrite” to its mobile search. Handwrite allows you to write on the screen of your iOS or Android smartphone or tablet when you’re on the Google search page. Unlike the old Graffiti language for Palm devices, you do it with your finger using natural gestures. No special characters required.

The best way to understand this handy little feature is to watch this short Google video below:

To use Handwrite you’ve got to enable it in your mobile browser. It’s simple. Just go to the Google search, scroll down until you see “Settings,” and click on it. There are lots of choices on the menu, but the one you want is Handwrite. Click on the button and you’ve got it.

Google Handwrite

You may need to close your browser after you’ve enabled Handwrite, but after that it will work until you disable it.

Two caveats: To use Handwrite you have to be the Google search page; it won’t work using the search Window that appears next to the address bar. On my iPhone it worked just fine using Safari, but not using OperaMini, and I suspect it won’t work on other alternative browsers.

When you’re ready to search, go to and look in the bottom right hand corner of the screen. You’ll see a little box with a cursive g in the middle. Touch it and you’re in Handwrite mode. The screen will no longer scroll, so you can write anywhere on it in nice large letters. It seems to work best if you use cursive and don’t lift your finger until you’ve completed the letter. As you finish each letter, it will automatically appear as a typed letter in the standard search box. There’s a space key and a backspace key that do just what you think they do.

Handwrite isn’t perfect; you’ll still make some typos. But it’s so simple, and such an obvious enhancement to a touch-enabled device, that you’ll wonder why someone didn’t think of this sooner.