Thursday, March 22, 2012

Obsessive ReKey

Ever since I got my iPhone, I've wondered why it had a qwerty keypad. The thing is virtual, it could be ANYTHING. I know there are good reasons for it, buy legacy is not a sufficient reason. Here's why:
  1. Keys are virtual. They can be any shape in any order. They could move, grow, and learn. There is no hardware reason to propagate the legacy.
  2. Touch screens have no variable feedback. You pretty much have to keep an eye on the typing. If you'e watching it instead of touch-typing, why not change it up?
  3. The given display keys are small enough I can't type with my thumbs (plus I have long nails) so I'm pretty much typing one fingered, including this. You know what isn't optimized for one finger typing? Qwerty.
  4. there's not a physical limit on key response. Keys could do just about anything from typing one letter to inputting a sentence or swapping screens. There's no good reason to not take advantage of that.

With that in mind, I set out to design a keypad for typing American English one-fingered. And I have a solution I'm extremely happy with. I'm torn about whether or not to upload it here, because the blog is Google archived. Email me if you want to see it while I consider posting it. An early version did go up on facebook, where I learned that the Android Platform has a programmable keyboard option. But that doesn't help me on my iPhone.

Still and all, I'm looking to program it in some testable way. A colleague's CS prof may be interested and has experience programming for the Apple platforms. If that doesn't work out I'll keep trying. I'd also like to see if I can work it for the Android, since they were so open about options.

My design principles:
Frequent letters belong together. The most frequent combos should be adjacent.
Order should trend L-R like word order, so prefix heavy mid-list letters go left, and suffix heavy letters go right.
Common keys should be bigger to allow for more slop at speed.
Adjacent keys should be swipe-able for fewer taps.
We need a few helps beyond straight letters like a comma key. And cursors (for when my blogs run long and finger dragging causes weird effects. )
By making typing more clear, autocorrect can be less aggressive and energies can be focused on value-adds over cleanup. All good stuff. I can't wait until it works!

Now, I'm 5min from boarding a plane to FLA via Dallas. My cousin is getting married and I'm a bit of a wreck because I've been keydesigning in all my spare time! I need a manipedi something fierce before the wedding ensemble's open toes.

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