the evenings out here - Thoughts, rants and musings about absolutely everything except photography. Or cats.

Mini-Keyboard for PalmOS

in Palm , Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Entering text on Palm devices has always been a bit clumsy. Graffiti, whilst simple and effective, is not a patch on the handwriting recognition in the Newton 2100 (for example), and the screens are just a little too small to comfortably write on. Third party text recognition tools such as MobileWrite are not much bettr in practice, even if the technology is impressive. Of course, one can always pick away using the built in keyboards, but these are not particularly pleasant to use either. Enter miniKeyboard by ANIMATORsoft, which in a nice bit of lateral thinking, eschews hitech solutions in favour of rethinking the onscreen keyboard.I've been using the demo on my Palm Lifedrive for the past few days, and I'm impressed.. The screenshot below shows the basic idea. The keyboard can easily be accessed in any application requiring text input by placing the cursor in a text field and clicking on an assigned hard key (Navigator-right by default on the Lifedrive). A few applications are not fully compatible with miniKeyboard, most significantly DocsToGo, but a "compatibility mode" provides a workaround where input is buffered and then "injected" into the active document, a bit like a very fast ghostwriter. There is also an issue with mo:Blog, where it does not properly take control back after exiting from miniKeyboard. However, mo:Blog is in beta (forever it seems) and I have not encountered this issue anywhere else. In any case, switching to another application and then re-entering mo:Blog restores eveything. Mini-keyboard is fast and intuitive. It is actually much more effective than you might imagine, and enables writing speeds that easily compete with Graffiti or MobileWrite. I can almost match typing speds now on the Palm, and also write in situations that up until now have been frustrating (caveat: I am a strong candidate for World's Worst Typist). At $20, Mini-Keyboard might seem a bit pricey, but it is worth it, and anyway the price of PalmOS apps has been tending to rise recently, probably as a result of falling demand. Mini-Keyboard is a highly recommended productivity enhancer. The amazing thing is that nobody seems to have thought of it before. Get the demo from ANIMATORsoft.