Virtual QWERTY Keyboards to be used with Fingers...

Lorn Potter lpotter at
Mon Mar 3 20:39:34 CET 2008

On Monday 03 March 2008, Karsten Ensinger wrote:

> Then I started Qtopia (without a SIM card inserted) and had a look
> at the notes application (this was the first application I found
> which offers text input).
> The keyboard contained only lower case characters and there was no
> obvious way to get upper case letters. I was also missing a
> possibility to remove mistyped characters.
> So the first impression was: an "intuitive user interface" looks
> different to me.
> Although the character distance was very small, I managed to get
> a "hit rate" of more than 90 percent for hitting the intended
> "key".
> The word prediction was great when writing simple english stuff,
> but absolutely useless, when typing german. In addition to this,
> it missed most of the complicated english vocabulary I tried.
> I could not find a way to switch a dictionary, so this was not
> an option.
> Survey (after half an hour of testing and three complete screen
> lockups):
> I don't want to put down the implementation of the Qtopia
> keyboard at all. I have much respect for the quality one can
> see.
> But to me it seems as if the keyboard was not designed for finger
> use in first place. A "hit rate" of 90 percent (when using an adult
> fingertip) is barely acceptable.

Actually it was. You only have to come close to a letter to select one. It 
tries to guess what word you are wanting, as well as looking at the letters 
in the general area of your finger pressing.

If  you do not like the predictive feature, then you can hold down on a letter 
to select only that one.

> The usage is not yet intuitive (how to do a backspace, a delete,
> use upper case letters, use special characters (like @,$,&,/)?)

move your finger up or down to get to get to 
caps, numbers and symbols. backspace is moving your finger from right to left.

> and due to the "look alike" of a regular "hardware" keyboard and
> the expectations caused by this, the frustration is high, when
> one can not handle simple things without looking for help
> (is there a helpfile for the keyboard input? I only found help
> for the application itself but not for the usage of the keyboard).

There should be yes. But looking at the input method help from the menu I am 
not seeing it. I will look into this and make sure it gets fixed.

> The GUI of Qtopia itself looks very impressive from a design
> point of view. But I am missing something like a bubble-help
> (e.g. press and hold a key and get a small hint of what the
> meaning of the key is), although this is not specific to Qtopia
> but is missing in Openmoko also. It is NOT always true that
> a picture says more than a thousand words (at least not pictures
> of 64x64 pixels).
> Maybe I am too biased, but most of the critics we discussed
> months ago became manifest in this implementation of a screen
> keyboard. It is smart, but needs "tricks" to handle the problems
> of imprecise finger touches, lack of screen space for great numbers
> of keys and fault tolerance. This leads to a learning curve one
> has to master before being able to use the keyboard as such.

A qwerty keyboard also has a learning curve at first. Ever tried graffiti 

> If the user has to master a learning curve anyway, why not take a
> completely different approach, which is designed exactly for the
> problems first and foremost? If the approach is different enough,
> the user will accept/expect a learning curve (and will tolerate it,
> if it is not too steep).

Knowing four things for the predictive keyboard in Qtopia will get you going.

1) tap on the letters like normal, a word, or words will appear, you have to 
tap on the word to enter that in whatever text you are inputting.

2) slide your finger up and down to switch caps, undercase, numbers and 

3) slider your finger right to left to backspace

4) to select a letter without the word prediction, hold down your finger over 
a letter. You can even rotate your finger to select letters around it if it 
detected the wrong one.

Is that a too high learning curve?

Using only a finger, the predictive keyboard cannot be beat. Qtopia also has 
handwriting and a 'normal' qwerty keyboard with the use of a stylus. Someone 
has also gotten dasher running.

Lorn 'ljp' Potter
Software Engineer, Systems Group, MES, Trolltech

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