Monday, July 18, 2005

A Post QWERTY World

Here are today's comment from the Unicode list on the Optimus keyboard. They have a good point. We all want a post-qwerty world but what is the best way to get there.

Ken Whistler:

"I remain an utter skeptic about the usefulness of LED keyboards.They will serve a niche market, of course, but for most typists, they would be counterproductive. The whole concept of moving your hands *off* the keys to *read* the keys, and then back on the keys to key your input -- particularly for complicated IME's that change the state of input as you go -- strikes me as at best un-ergonomic and at worst frustrating and inefficient.The better alternative, all along, as far as I am concerned, has been to use the *visual* environment -- namely the monitor you are already looking at -- to provide a virtual keyboard that matches whatever the input state is. That avoids the hardware issues of LED keys (including the fact that keyboards get dirty), and lets you focus your visual attention on the screen and your tactile attention to the keyboard. Furthermore, a visual keyboard can also respond to pointing device (mouse, whatever) input as well, so that you can "hunt and peck" on it with the mouse, if you like, for unfamiliar keys, or to deal with the shift states of IME's."

And Raymond Mercier:

"We are more bound by the tactile experience of the keys than we imagine, even those of us who are not real touch typists.I tried a new keyboard recently (mis-designed by Belkin) that had the unfortunate characteristic that the character appeared on the screen only after the finger was lifted from the key, instead of appearing on the downstroke of the key. It was quite impossible to type at normal speed. That experience rather suggests to me that normal typing would be very frustrated by having to pay so much visual attention to the keys."

Personally I have been using virtual keyboards for multilingual keyboarding and really like them. However, they are often not the keyboards bundled with my software. I have written about some of these keyboards before.

I did try downloading a few keyboards but even then I could never get the functionality out of them that a javascript application offers. However, these are limited to prototypes or samples, limited window space etc. They suit my cognitive processes but are not adequate for real world word-processing.

When it comes to keyboards, I am still looking for a solution.

That reminds me - I tried checking email on my cellphone the other day. Now, that felt like magic. I found that it took a minute to train my reflexes to get the buttons pushed, 4x for S, 2x for U and 4x for Z, then I was off to the races. I could definitely get used to that.

I need to add that these are two of my favourite keyboards: the Syllabic Keyboard Editor for Tamil and Q9 input for Chinese. You really have to use them, click around and try them out, even if you can't read what you have written.

Having said that, some people are more interested in a different layout for the alphabet - that's important too. We all want a post-qwerty world.

Question: How should I spell post-qwerty, with or without a hyphen, with or without caps. Too bad - it will never google anyhow.


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