Google Scribe: great word prediction with word processing

UPDATE: Scribe is no longer a standalone page, nor does the bookmarklet appear to be available anymore since becoming a Blogger tool. I am leaving the review up as information.

Edited to add easier link to bookmarklet. I haven’t been fond of Google lately; the heavily mouseover driven changes to almost every aspect really shook the accessibility. However, Google Labs has developed a good thing in Google Scribe, a combination of “lite” word processing and heavy word prediction. I had a review of an earlier version in my drafts, but I’m glad I didn’t get around to it until now. For the most part, the latest incarnation is much cleaner. Google Scribe is its own web page, from which you can copy a lot of text and paste it into a fuller word processor; there is also a bookmarklet that gives you word prediction in any text field online.

The environment for Google Scribe looks a bit like WordPad and has about the same number of functions. You cannot, however, save. Therefore, Scribe is more a really good buffer than a word processor. It’s good because it doesn’t clutter anything and makes the suggestions easier to navigate.

You have the option of displaying single or multiple suggestions. To select from multiple suggestions, click the arrow next to the pen icon and then the multiple suggestions option. Or just press Control Shift J. As you type, a list of 5 word or phrase suggestions pops up following the caret. You can use the arrow keys and accept the word with Space, or click the word if you’re able. Be aware, however, that the list disappears in about 10 seconds. An earlier version let you choose with number keys; I wish that were still an option. Well, it still is an option, but only for the bookmarklet.

For single suggestions, you type until the word you want appears in grey, then accept with Space. This method can be a little slower, but I recommend it if you type slowly on a physical keyboard or have trouble with targeting keys on a virtual keyboard. That way you don’t lose time going between the list and the keys, so there’s less chance of your suggestions vanishing. You can’t use single word method in the bookmarklet.

The suggestions are for the most part logical, relying on frequently used word combinations. There’s a good chance you’ll find the right words. I like that the suggestions are pretty much grammatical; if you choose a plural noun, the verb you spell towards will be conjugated accordingly. If you start with a capital letter, Scribe will start its suggestions with names or proper nouns depending on where you are in the sentence.

I dislike that contractions aren’t formatted correctly; suggestions like “haven’ta” and “don”t” are mixed with the proper words. That’s not so bad in list view because you can still choose the correct form, but it’s annoying when it happens in single word mode. Since Space will accept the improper suggestion, you have to either press Escape or wait for the suggestion to time out to ignore it.

If you’re editing within a previous sentence or paragraph, be aware that Scribe will keep trying to suggest things. To get the unwanted words out of the way, just press Escape or click away from that spot.

Scribe is also multilingual. You can switch among languages on the fly, though you might have to type a word or two more before the language is detected. It’s possible to have multiple tabs open, each using a different language. Suggestions contain the necessary accent marks.

It would probably still be a good idea to have a dedicated word prediction program for when you need or want to work offline, but Google Scribe is an excellent option for those who work online a lot or who can’t afford a dedicated program — especially if you want to use multiple languages, which doesn’t come cheap in dedicated programs. (Unless it comes free, which is another review.) In fact, Scribe easily rivals dedicated programs.

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