Virtual QWERTY Keyboards to be used with Fingers...

Karsten Ensinger at
Fri Mar 7 07:10:36 CET 2008

Lorn Potter wrote:
> On Monday 03 March 2008, Karsten Ensinger wrote:
> [...]
>> 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.

Maybe you should think about a small question mark somewhere on the
edges of the keyboard, so one can press it to get help on the input

> [...]
>> 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 
> input?

Today, nearly everyone has some small experiences with qwerty
keyboards. So this learning curve is not an issue here. It is more
the opposite, due to the differences (advantages?) in handling.
Unfortunately one has to use "tricks" (finger movements) instead
of keys (like shift, ctrl or alt) to get to additional characters
in Qtopia and this contradicts to the usage of a regular qwerty
I do NOT want to say that this is bad at all, but you have to get
the user an extremely easy way to get help on your "tricks" to
prevent frustration at the first usage (this is based on my own
experience with Qtopia, where I had no assistance by others, but
was left by my own. It was EXTREMELY frustrating to feel like a
complete fool due to not being able to delete a typed character or
to switch to another layer of characters, even though I do have
used computers for more than 25 years (but maybe this 25 years
also were the cause :-) )).
Maybe you should think about the suggestion to place a "help" key
on the keyboard itself. At least, every first time user will be
very thankful.

And yes, I do have used graffiti input. I used a Palm for several
years and it took me some weeks to switch from the "regular"
keyboard to the graffiti input.

>> 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 
> symbols.
> 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?

No it is not. But one has to be able to get this information "on a
fingertip" and not by searching a help database or asking at a user
forum. :-)

> 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.

Although I DO think that the predictive keyboard can be beat in terms
of intuitivity (does this word exist?), I will give it another try
in terms of usability.
So I will give Qtopia another try and do revise my report/opinion
if necessary.


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