Microsoft just came up with a brilliant way to switch between apps without ever visiting your phone's homescreen


Microsoft's latest experimental free Android app is the "Hub Keyboard," a custom phone keyboard that literally puts information at your fingertips. 


In addition to letting you tap a message as you would normally, Microsoft's Hub Keyboard also lets you tab through your documents, contacts, e-mail, and other stuff all without having to leave the conversation. 

Here's a video that shows off what Hub Keyboard can do:

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In a blog entry, Microsoft explains that Hub Keyboard is the brainchild of Steve Won, who works on the Microsoft Office team as a designer. After sharing the idea and taking it to fruition as an "internal science fair" project, the Microsoft Garage skunkworks decided to release it to the world. 


The essential idea behind Hub Keyboard, Won says, is that apps may behave differently, but they all have to use a keyboard. By making the keyboard the place where information is collected, it's a common way to work between different apps. 

Hub also has a number of other time savers worked into it. For example, you can keep a list of frequently copied text (like your contact information or address) and paste it into messages without having to type things over and over again.

Hub Keyboard microsoft


Lots of people have been thinking about the keyboard as a starting point for productivity: the Slash keyboard, for instance, which also hit the iPhone late last year. 

Microsoft has been thinking hard about improving productivity on smartphones: Just this week, Microsoft announced a partnership with Cyanogen, which makes a modified version of Android, that makes it easier to access its apps and services from within core phone features. 


And earlier in February, Microsoft bought SwiftKey, a very popular predictive text keyboard for iPhone and Android, for a reported $250 million.

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