How Gboard Could Be Better for Hebrew

Oh (edit): Most of these suggestions are implemented as of February 7 2018. The only significant change that still does not seem to be implemented is the Oleh character. Thank you, Google, for your continued improvements of Gboard.

I mostly use the Gboard app for writing on my phone. The Samsung keyboard is generally not bad, but it doesn’t include Hebrew vowels, and I need them.

There are, however, several characters that are needed for Hebrew, and that aren’t included in Gboard, and some unnecessary characters could be removed.

These can be removed:

  • Long-pressing the minus (-) in the punctuation keyboard shows interpunct (·) and the em dash (—). They are unnecessary for Hebrew. The en dash (–), must not be removed, but see below.
  • The low line (_) appears twice in the punctuation keyboard: as its own key to the left of &, and as an option when long-pressing the minus (-). One of them can be removed. I’ll further argue that the en dash (–) is more useful for Hebrew than the low line (_), and the standalone low line can be replaced with the en dash. The low line is not used much anywhere except programming, while the en dash is useful for typing ranges correctly in Hebrew. I’ll readily admit that not a lot of Hebrew speakers know about the en dash’s correct semantics, but not many more people use the low line anyway.

And these should be added:

  • Maqaf (־, U+05be): It’s the Hebrew hyphen. It has different appearance and different direction semantics. It should be available when you long-press the minus in the main keyboard, and can also appear when you long-press the minus in the punctuation keyboard (for example, instead of the unnecessary em dash).
  • Geresh (׳, U+05f3) and Gershayim (״, U+05f4): These punctuation marks are similar in appearance to quotation marks, but they have different semantics. Apple went as far as replacing quotation marks on Hebrew keyboards on its devices with Geresh and Gershayim, which is an exaggeration. The usual quotation marks (‘, “) are used by most people, even though they are not perfect, and they must stay on Gboard where they are. The elegant Hebrew quotation marks (‚’„”) also appear on Gboard and must not be removed. Geresh and Gershayim can be added on the additional punctuation
  • Rafe (U+05bf): It’s a diacritic that looks like a line above a letter, and the opposite of dagesh, which is already available. It can appear when you long-press the letter resh (ר).
  • Oleh (U+05ab): It’s a diacritic that looks like a left-pointing arrow above a letter, and in modern Hebrew it signifies stress. It can appear when you long-press the letter ayin (ע).

The five character that I suggest to add are already part of the standard Hebrew keyboard (SII 1452), which is implemented in Windows 8. They must also be available in Android.

I hope that Google developers see this and make the necessary changes.

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