Ever since Apple opened the floodgates with iOS 8, a veritable tsunami of third-party keyboards has washed ashore in the App Store. Most are well-intentioned but ultimately too gimmicky to use every day, while a rare few actually wind up being good enough to replace Apple’s own.
The social keyboard
Air Social Keyboard (free with in-app purchases available) falls somewhere in-between, but has the potential to be truly great. The app connects with popular social networks, making it easier to compose posts prior to sharing from any app. The all-star lineup includes Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Tumblr, and Slack (sorry, Google+ fans), along with address book contacts.
After connecting accounts and enabling the keyboard, Air resembles the stock Apple keyboard, with the exception of two symbols at either side: @ slides the keyboard aside to reveal contacts, while # displays recently-used and trending hashtags; either content can be added with a tap. Users can also select the appropriate key and begin typing to enable autocomplete suggestions.
But it’s only after tapping the center Air icon that this full-featured keyboard really kicks into high gear: Twitter users can compose tweets longer than 140 characters, paste boilerplate text, use the built-in calculator, or create custom images with added text.
With a $2 in-app purchase, users can also unlock Air Identity, which adds custom avatar, signature, and/or watermark options in place of the app default. It’s worth noting there are actually two different apps, one free with a light theme, another paid with dark. Make sure you purchase the right one, because upgrades can’t be ported from one to another.
Get the message
Air Image Editor is easily the most fascinating feature: After typing a short message with the keyboard, select an image from your device library and text appears superimposed on top of it. Tap to edit properties like font style, size, justification, shadow, and color, or relocate text to the top, center, or bottom with your finger.
You’ll also have the option to crop images to predefined sizes, zoom, reposition, or adjust opacity. Edited images are saved to the camera roll, where they can be uploaded from any social networking app. Because Air maintains a timeline of your posts, it’s easy to reuse content in a few taps.
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