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Google lets you handwrite searches on Android and iOS

Here's a fun thing to try last thing on a Friday. Google now lets you handwrite searches on Google.com on iPhone and Android.

Nick Hide Managing copy editor
Nick manages CNET's advice copy desk from Springfield, Virginia. He's worked at CNET since 2005.
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Here's a fun thing to try last thing on a Friday. Go to Google.com on your phone's browser, go to settings, hit enable handwriting, save and refresh the page, and boom! You can now write searches with handwritten letters, scrawling over your screen like a toddler who hasn't yet learned about personal property.

"Say you're standing on a busy street corner, in a bumpy taxi ride, talking with a friend, or sitting on the couch with your tablet," Google engineer Rui Ueyama writes. "Handwrite enables you to search by just writing letters with your finger most anywhere on your device's screen -- there's no keyboard that covers half of the screen and no need for hunt-and-peck typing."

I can see this being a bit easier to use on tablets, where you have more room to swipe around. To set it up on a tablet, the settings menu is behind the gear icon in the top right of Google.com.

A button appears at the bottom right of the screen with a handwritten g icon. Tap that to get scrawling. Your letters appear in bright blue over the screen and when it works out which letter or letters you've written, they pop up in the search box, with autocomplete guessing what you're searching for.

I found it didn't like my rudimentary joined-up writing, but if I did one letter at a time, it worked pretty well. You have to make sure the search box is on-screen -- you haven't scrolled halfway down your previous search -- because otherwise you can't see which letters it thinks you've drawn. If that happens, just hit the g icon to disengage handwriting, scroll up and hit g again. You can also just go back to typing at any time by tapping the search box.

"Handwrite is experimental," Ueyama warns, "and works better in some browsers than others -- on Android devices, it works best in Chrome. For now, we've enabled Handwrite for iOS5+ devices, Android 2.3+ phones and Android 4.0+ tablets -- in 27 languages."

I've embedded a video from Google below if you want more. Would you use this feature? Does this kind of text input help or just get in the way? Scribble me a note in the comments, or on our hand-crafted Facebook page.