Tablet Keyboards: Pros and Cons

In a previous entry, I talked about my attempt to survive through a working week without a laptop. There is so much to say that I’ve decided to return to the topic and look at one of the biggest issues I encountered, the keyboard.

The biggest problem I encountered when trying to replace my laptop with the Galaxy tab was the keyboard or, more accurately, the absence of one. There are obviously many great advantages to the on-screen keyboard but I’m a reasonably competent touch typist so when I actually sit down to do some serious writing or coding the on-screen keyboard is a massive productivity inhibitor.

I’ve tried 4 different keyboards:

  • The SwiftX tablet keyboard: In many ways, this is a really excellent keyboard. It has really good predictive capabilities. Once you get the hang of selecting the predicted word rather than completing typing it, it is amazing. At times, it would guess 5 or 6 words in a row without me hitting a single letter on the keyboard. However it might seem, it’s not actually thought controlled, but has a very clever algorithm which guesses the next most likely words in a sentence. The only real problem is that the predictive algorithm fails horribly when used with Kingston Office.
  • The Swype keyboard: I really love Swype on my phone. The ability to just draw on the keyboard and only get the word shape loosely right is a huge boon on small screens. On the large table, it does not seem to work anywhere near as well. I think it is just the fact that you have to move your finger a long way on the bigger keyboard. It is much better in portrait mode or in its “shrunk” setting in landscape mode than in full landscape. It is however still much slower than a real keyboard.
  • For completeness, I did try both the standard ‘Droid keyboard and the Samsung keyboard. I can’t really say that either of these excited me.

Overall, the SwiftX keyboard seemed the best to me and when my trial expires I’ll almost certainly buy it.

I also tried working with voice input. There are two big problems with this: the first is that you need to be somewhere quiet with a good Internet connection, the second being that it’s really not that good! It’s slow to process your voice and makes a lot of errors. To give you an idea: I said, “In all honesty, the number of errors makes it pretty much unusable,” which was interpreted as, “Illinois state number of arrows makes it pretty much unusable.” I have high hopes that once the version of Swype with Dragon Voice incorporated makes it onto the Galaxy Tab, things will improve greatly.

For now, I’m keenly awaiting the physical keyboard dock from Samsung. I have really high hopes for that. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Mike Way

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