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Add handwriting input to Gmail on the Web

Looking for a faster way to input characters from languages other than English? Or maybe you have a need for handwriting input when writing e-mail? Check out these easy steps for enabling the handwriting input feature in Gmail.

Handwriting input can be extremely useful when you're trying to input characters from a language that is not represented on your current keyboard. It also serves as an alternative method to keyboard typing for those with disabilities. In the past you would either need to handwrite Gmail messages outside of the actual Web interface, or use an extension with your Web browser. Now, you can set up handwriting input within Gmail, along with onscreen keyboards for other languages.

Whether it's something you need, or something you just want to try, it's quick to set up. Here's how:

Step 1: Log in to your Gmail account and then head to the Settings menu (the cog icon in the top right-hand corner).

Screenshot by Nicole Cozma/CNET

Step 2: Near the top of the General tab, you will the Language section. Check the box next to Enable Input Tools.

Screenshot by Nicole Cozma/CNET

Step 3: When the Input Tools window opens, find the languages you'd like to be able to handwrite into Gmail in the left-hand column (the ones with pencil icons), then click the arrow to add them to the right-hand column. Press OK when you are finished.

Note: Only languages with the pencil icon can be used for handwriting input.

Step 4: Make sure that you press the Save button at the bottom of the Settings area, or your handwriting input will not be enabled. After hitting Save, Gmail will reload.

Step 5: To input handwriting in an e-mail, click the pencil icon next to the Settings cog. You'll need to choose the language you want to write in, and make sure you have a text field selected as a destination for the words or characters.

Screenshot by Nicole Cozma/CNET

As you are writing, you can pick the word or character that best matches under the drawing input box. You may still need assistance from your physical keyboard, or your operating system's onscreen keyboard, for punctuation.

Do you have a better way to use handwriting input with Web services? If so, share it, or just your general thoughts on this one, in the comments.