Over the next several weeks, Samsung Update’s regular contributors will be presenting , under the title of Recommended App, reviews of some of our favorite apps. Those that we use the most, or that enhance our productivity the most, or are just plain fun. Apps that we think will be useful to you, our readers. Some of these will probably be well known, others more obscure. But we think they are great apps, and think you will, too.

Do you have a favorite app you’d like to see reviewed?  Post a comment, below, and let us know.

Gesture Search may be Google’s least publicized, and least known, application. It was pointed out to me by a co-worker years ago, when I got my first Android phone. It was one of the first apps I installed on that phone, and is probably the only app from that time I still use. I use it for finding entries in my large contacts list, but it can find music files, browser bookmarks, apps, and more. I’ve tried numerous other apps that claim to make it easier to search your contacts, but keep coming back to this one. It is deceptively simple, but can be a real time and keystroke saver.

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How do you use gesture search?  By doing something we all learn in grade school: writing. Simply draw, directly on the screen,  the letters in the item you’re looking for and the app instantly searches the content you’ve told it to index, narrowing the list as you write. In the left screen shot, below, the user first wrote the letter “U”, retrieving United Airlines, US Airlines, etc. Now she’s entered an “S”, which narrows the list to those entries in the right-hand screen pane.
GS-US
The app uses “fuzzy logic” in it’s search function, to minimize the impact of spelling errors and to  compensate for handwriting variations and ambiguity. If you draw a vertical line, do you mean an “I”, or a lower case “L.”  The app can’t tell, so it searches for both. Type PIZA into your contacts app when looking for the number of the local pizza joint, and you’ll get nothing. Write PIZA into Gesture Search, and you’ll still get all your Pizza places, along with other potential matches, as shown below (names and numbers redacted to protect the guilty):

GS-P

Gesture Search doesn’t just match on the initial letters of the items you’re searching, either. If you enter an O, you might see what is in the left pane, below. You could then write a U, and narrow the search, as shown in the right-hand pane.

GS-OU2

It’s smart in other ways, too. Write only the first letter of the item you’re searching for, and it puts recently accessed entries that match that letter at the top of the list. If that’s not what you want, just keep writing more letters to refine the search. Make a mistake?  Just swipe right to left to erase the last letter you wrote, although many spelling errors don’t matter.

The search is also blazingly fast. One user, with several thousand (!!) contacts, found the stock Samsung contacts app so slow as to be nearly unusable. He tried this, and reported that search results are nearly instantaneous.

The only real issue is that the app uses its own database to store and index the names of items you want to search (contacts, music files, etc.), and it doesn’t update the index automatically as you update those sources. You need to manually re-index the data when you add, for example, new contacts. If your data remains fairly stable, that’s not much of an issue. Just tap Menu -> Refresh Index after you’ve added new source data, and let the re-indexing run in the background. If your source information changes repeatedly, it might prove to be a bigger issue.

If you find yourself annoyed by the stock contacts app, either because it’s become tediously slow, or because making a single typo ruins your search, give Gesture Search a try. Heck, even if you’re not annoyed by the stock app, give it a try. It would be great to have this incorporated into Google Now, for times when you don’t want to speak your searches out loud. You can download and install it from the Google Play Store.

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