Virtual QWERTY Keyboards to be used with Fingers...

Gustavo Sverzut Barbieri barbieri at
Sat Feb 23 23:35:25 CET 2008

On Sat, Feb 23, 2008 at 6:49 PM, "Marco Trevisan (Treviño)"
<mail at> wrote:
> I'm really excited waiting for the Freerunner to be available to the
>  public, so I'm looking around searching the resources I'll need more.
>  I think that one of the most important thing when it comes to the daily
>  phone use, is the virtual input device that imho it should be completely
>  usable with *fingers* (the stilus isn't portable!) giving the users the
>  same confort that the key-based devices give.
>  To get the best usability and speed while writing I do think that is
>  needed a QWERTY style keyboard (If you've ever tried a blackberry you'd
>  know what I mean).
>  Actually there are two alternatives: the QTopia predictive keyboard [1]
>  that works quite well if used with a good dictionary (also if it should
>  be improved for writing new words), and the iphone-like virtual keyboard
>   [2] that is already available for N800 and that should be easily
>  portable to Openmoko too.
>  Any other? If there are some others I don't know them, but the solutions
>  I've tried using the Openmoko GUI with qemu aren't so good imho.
>  I think that some virtual qwerty keyboards should be developed also
>  considering that Openmoko supports the landscape view (not using
>  accelerometers yet, but it does it!) and that mode could/should be used
>  for writing, so we could use more space to put keys in!

Hi Marco,

I disagree on this, QWERTY keyboard is a no-go for OpenMoko. I'm using
iPhone for about 2 months and I wrote the one you cited, so I think I
have some knowledge about it :-)

  - iPhone vkbd is not so great, even on iPhone hardware. The
landscape version is almost usable, but the vertical is bad - but
acceptable, see below.
  - iPhone has no sunken screen, with borders that make you loose many
physical space. This happens on Maemo devices as N800 and it's painful
in Canola and that vkbd mockup I wrote. I do not have a OpenMoko
hardware yet, but I suspect it will be even worse, as the screen is
more high dpi and smaller in physical size.
  - iPhone has a capacitive (not pressure based), VERY sensitive touch screen.
  - Running my prototype on N800 was not so bad because the screen is
huge and you have plenty of space, but you often miss some clicks due
the pressure based touch screen.

That's why I think it's not a good option. We better keep with some
kind variation of T9. I already talked to rasterman about that and he
have a great idea of a key matrix (3x3 or 4x3) that would behave like
number keypad, but the labels would weight the key with greatest
probability of being used (based on dicts, T9 like).

The major problem with T9 is it takes time to train and have it behave
fine for you. One option would be to provide a service (pc, web or on
the device itself) to feed with personal texts (mails, docs, ... text
you wrote) so it will optimize for it.  Other improvements could be
abbreviations and maybe mode selection to use even more optimized
dicts (language based and terms based, like "polite", "3733t speech",

What we need to do is implement something fast, with good feedback and
users will get used... people already got used to write "graffiti",
T9, ... and even QWERTY... they will learn yet another, just make the
behavior predictable and help the user whenever possible.

Gustavo Sverzut Barbieri - Embedded and Mobile Software Development
MSN: barbieri at
Skype: gsbarbieri
Mobile: +55 (81) 9927 0010

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