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Pen vs. Keyboard vs. Touch vs. Everything Else

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the good-clicky-keyboard-is-the-way-to-go dept.

Input Devices 203

benz001 writes "In the run-up to everyone's favourite tablet, Phil Gyford goes back through his gadget collection and compares text entry speeds to see which one comes out on top. It's not what you'd call a rich data set, and of course the Qwerty keyboard comes up trumps, but the iPhone virtual keyboard came in a surprisingly close second, just edging out the Treo — and all the keyboard solutions regardless of how small and fiddly beat real pen and paper. This probably matches most people's experience (when was the last time you had to handwrite more than a bullet point in a meeting?) and gels pretty well with Macworld's predictions but I'm still hoping for sub-vocal voice recognition. (Jump straight to the final results here)."

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Slow QWERTY typer (2, Insightful)

Rah'Dick (976472) | more than 4 years ago | (#30858548)

The chart looks to me as if Mr. Gyford is typing relatively slow on a full-sized keyboard, compared to the iPhone. Last I remembered, I could not use more than two fingers at once on that tiny screen. I'd be interested in how long it takes the average slashdotter to type his example text.

Re:Slow QWERTY typer (0)

bbbaldie (935205) | more than 4 years ago | (#30858574)

Mine was instant! Of course, I have a USB telepathy converter...

Re:Slow QWERTY typer (1)

imakemusic (1164993) | more than 4 years ago | (#30858716)

I knew you were going to say that.

Good, aren't they?

Re:Slow QWERTY typer (3, Interesting)

DangerFace (1315417) | more than 4 years ago | (#30858654)

That's the problem with this sort of comparison - it's completely subjective. Until pretty recently I simply had no reason to use pen and paper, but used a keyboard all the time, so my typing speed was respectable but my writing speed was atrocious. However, I have recently forced myself to rediscover the wonders of writing by hand, and I know I could write with pen and paper faster than plenty of people can type. Professional typists could have typed his example text in, what, a little over a minute? People who need to keep notes professionally, PAs or scribes or whatever, could probably get it written in about the same time. I think keyboards are logically bound to be slightly faster, but if you think pen and paper is slow you've never seen my girlfriend write in a hurry. Of course, a keyboard tends to produce fairly readable text, but that's a different (but related) issue...

Re:Slow QWERTY typer (5, Insightful)

woozlewuzzle (532172) | more than 4 years ago | (#30858680)

The other thing about handwriting is that you can do it one handed at decent speed. If you have one hand holding a clipboard, notepad, tablet, etc, you need good text input with one hand. If you only ever write where you can use 2 hands, such as at your desk, a keyboard (ie PC or laptop) is probably best.

Re:Slow QWERTY typer (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30858754) need good text input with one hand.

A straightline so obvious... Dude, this is /. You know the majority of readers here know all about one-handed typing.

Re:Slow QWERTY typer (1)

shashark (836922) | more than 4 years ago | (#30859474)

you've never seen my girlfriend write in a hurry. ..

Have you ?

Re:Slow QWERTY typer (2, Interesting)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 4 years ago | (#30858732)

75 or so wpm isn't a world record or anything, but it's probably quite a bit faster than the average person can type, and very respectable.

His iPhone speed of 40 wpm is pretty fantastic, but the minimal finger movement and not needing to hit the keys hard can make up for the extra fingers you get to use on a full size keyboard. I'm even more impressed by his Treo speed.

Re:Slow QWERTY typer (1)

clemdoc (624639) | more than 4 years ago | (#30858804)

If you mail me an iPhone, I'll be glad to tell you, how long it took me.

Where's shorthand?! (2, Interesting)

cc1984_ (1096355) | more than 4 years ago | (#30858924)

Yes, I know it's a dying art, but he put speeds up for the Palm Graffiti didn't he?!

I'm currently learning Teeline shorthand which I'm told gets speeds of around 120 words per minutes if you know what you're doing. Pitman on the other hand can reach a paper burning 300 words per minute, although you trade your sanity in for learning that.

Would completely change the results and put pen and paper up top.

Re:Slow QWERTY typer (1)

Bigbutt (65939) | more than 4 years ago | (#30858926)

I'm actually not too bad with the iPhone as far as typing goes. With my oversized hands and especially thumbs, I do tend to make a few mistakes here and there. Hitting the shift vs 'a' and space vs 'n' or 'm' are the biggest issues. Add in the word replacement the iPhone does for errors which fixes most of the worst mistakes but does replace non-standard gaming words with more common words and I can fly along.

The worst problem with the iPhone right now is replying to forum posts. You can't scroll within a text box so you're limited to the available space.


Re:Slow QWERTY typer (3, Informative)

judo_badger (812451) | more than 4 years ago | (#30859874)

A two finger drag will scroll inside a text box.

Re:Slow QWERTY typer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30859118)

Probably my fastest method of input is typing on a full-sized keyboard. However on a mobile device, my fastest method of input is by writing. On paper, however, my writing in unreadable. Even by me.

Re:Slow QWERTY typer (1)

MikeBabcock (65886) | more than 4 years ago | (#30859974)

As someone who regularly types over 80wpm, I had the same feeling.

That said, shorthand (as others have mentioned) and its possibilities in gesture-based input on touch screen devices could be much faster than other forms of handwriting shown as well.

a true geek ... (4, Interesting)

Lazy Jones (8403) | more than 4 years ago | (#30858554)

... would have compared more than those few mainstream input methods. Particularly interesting: Dvorak [] keyboards and Tikinotes, Swype [] and MessageEase [] for the iPhone.

Re:a true geek ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30858822)

I actually converted a keyboard to Dvorak for some time to see if it really was better, and honestly it felt much more comfortable, but the major problem was that my workplace shares computers, so going from Dvorak at home to QWERTY in the workplace, i would say i had an overall decrease in my WPM. if i could stick with DVORAK and not have to worry about switching back and forth, i would be perfectly content.

Re:a true geek ... (1)

adolf (21054) | more than 4 years ago | (#30858890)

Thanks for the tip. I just installed a Swype beta on my Droid (not in the marketplace; Google it), and it's an interesting thing that seems to work very well with every mostly common word that I tried, and at least initially, seems quite fast.

(It did, unsurprisingly, fall on its face when I tried to enter "antidisestablishmenterianism," however.)

Re:a true geek ... (0)

Kozz (7764) | more than 4 years ago | (#30858970)

... would have compared more than those few mainstream input methods. Particularly interesting: Dvorak keyboards and Tikinotes, Swype and MessageEase for the iPhone.

(emphasis mine)

Sorry, I don't think that word means what you think it means.Aside from Dvorak, I've never heard of the rest of them. Is that because I'm not a bonafide member of the iPhone cult^H^H^H^Howners?

I've worked with lots of geeks, been to university, have a CS degree, but I've never actually SEEN a Dvorak keyboard. Which isn't to say people don't use them, but it's got to represent a small fraction of 1%.

Re:a true geek ... (1)

mdwh2 (535323) | more than 4 years ago | (#30859368)

Well yes, that's why he said more than those few mainstream methods. I don't think that implies the other methods he suggested are mainstream.

Re:a true geek ... (1)

BetterSense (1398915) | more than 4 years ago | (#30859262)

I type Dvorak exclusively; I never learned qwerty. I was advised to take up dvorak becaues of a wrist injury I had at the time. I love it, it types very easily and I can't even imagine typing on that abomination of a qwerty keyboard. It's offensive. Then again, I learned on Dvorak to start with and I understand that the learning curve would keep people from switching to it. But the increase in efficiency is obvious. I can tell just by looking at people's hands. My friend types at least as fast as I can, probably faster, on qwerty, but his hands fly everywhere; I'm like "what the hell are you typing" but it's just that qwerty forces you to do that where as when I type dvorak my hards are more or less just sitting here chewing out words.

I don't think anyone could hand-write as fast as I (and many other fast typers) can type. I can type 100+wpm, and many can type faster. With 5-letter words, that's 8 letters per second. There's just no way you could handwrite that fast, unless it was some kind of shorthand.

Re:a true geek ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30859470)

I can type 100+wpm, and many can type faster. With 5-letter words, that's 8 letters per second. There's just no way you could handwrite that fast, unless it was some kind of shorthand.

Apparantly, stenography can reach 250 wpm [] .

Re:a true geek ... (1)

LordSnooty (853791) | more than 4 years ago | (#30859542)

Should take anyone who's concious about two or three weeks to smith to Dvorak and become comfortable.

Re:a true geek ... (1)

LordSnooty (853791) | more than 4 years ago | (#30859564)

Hehe, and there you can see that i use it, as W is next to M - so a typo for switch can be swith or smith....

Re:a true geek ... (1)

BetterSense (1398915) | more than 4 years ago | (#30859860)

You get different typos on Dvorak I've noticed. Most of the world chronically misspells "the" as "teh". I don't have any trouble with that one, but I often misspell "com" as "cmo".

Really the two layouts aren't as different as people make them out to be; they actually have a lot in common. "M" and "A" are in the same place.~

Re:a true geek ... (1)

bdcrazy (817679) | more than 4 years ago | (#30859708)

And then spend the rest of their life in frustration when every other computer they touch doesn't work right or having to reconfigure them back and forth if that is even possible.

Re:a true geek ... (1)

BetterSense (1398915) | more than 4 years ago | (#30859830)

It's possible, and it's very easy on any modern operating system.

Any Unix I've ever been on takes "setxkbmap dvorak" and I'm rockin.

Windows XP (last windows I used) is about 4 mouse clicks "control panel-regional-add layout..dvorak is the first one on the list. Default behavior allows you to easily toggle between them with a keycombo, but always defaults to the default layout on boot or when opening new programs.

I've been going to make a microcontroller-controlled hardware translator box, but haven't got around to it.

We just need those little mouth shields... (3, Interesting)

millia (35740) | more than 4 years ago | (#30858556)

I went to jury duty the other day, and the steno reporter... wasn't really using a steno machine. She was annotating the taping by speaking the non-verbal events into a little mouth-shield thingie.
So verbal dictation is possible- you'll just like more of a geek.

Re:We just need those little mouth shields... (3, Informative)

cthugha (185672) | more than 4 years ago | (#30858642)

It's more likely that the audio was being uploaded to a centralised typing pool to be transcribed and that the finished transcript would itself be made available electronically. I'd be surprised if any jurisdiction was ready to trust the recording of its proceedings to voice recognition software.

Re:We just need those little mouth shields... (1)

millia (35740) | more than 4 years ago | (#30858704)

I have no idea if they're transcribing as you say; you're probably right. I do know that a) they were recording with a pc there and b) she was using the mouth-hood to record when people nodded, etc. They have this big ol' MOTU firewire box to take input from all the microphones. I didn't actually get a chance to see the software.

10 years ago, they used digital tape in this same courtroom. 20 years ago, they had a steno machine.

Re:We just need those little mouth shields... (1)

cthugha (185672) | more than 4 years ago | (#30859074)

But the mouth-hood is new and wasn't present in the digital tape era? That's odd, although it could be that there's been an unrelated change in the relevant rules for recording trials and evidence that say that body language and other non-verbal communication now has to be recorded in case it's of interest to an appellate court.

Of course, I've no idea which court you've done jury duty in and probably wouldn't be familiar with its practice and procedure anyway. I've just worked in courts that use a system similar to the one I originally described.

Re:We just need those little mouth shields... (1)

millia (35740) | more than 4 years ago | (#30859604)

I don't recall there being the mouth shield before. It might have been there. It probably was, and I just wasn't thinking of applications for cubicle-worker dictation then.

Regardless, you couldn't hear her speaking into it, and she was definitely recording events. When the judge would ask if anybody knew the defendant, and none of the jurors responded, she was entering that fact; or at least, you could see that she was saying something.

This was a city-level court in Georgia, dealing with low-level criminal and civil cases.

Re:We just need those little mouth shields... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30858936)

Any reason why a transcription pool couldn't be used for everyday voice recognition? If coupled with an automated system so that anything with a high confidence of being properly recognized isn't passed on to the humans...

Re:We just need those little mouth shields... (1)

cthugha (185672) | more than 4 years ago | (#30859182)

Any reason why a transcription pool couldn't be used for everyday voice recognition? If coupled with an automated system so that anything with a high confidence of being properly recognized isn't passed on to the humans...

If the transcript needs to be certified correct by an authorised recording/reporting officer, as is often the case, then that can only be done by the transcriptionist or someone watching the process. It would certainly be easier on the typist to sit and watch the software while listening to the audio, which could be paused while recognition errors are corrected manually, but a human would still need to be involved in the process.

Re:We just need those little mouth shields... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30859444)

Or even more likely it wasn't even being converted to written form unless it went to appeals.
(I was on a jury trial a few years ago, and the plaintiff's attorney that said something basically boiled down to the plaintiff was just as screwed up BEFORE the defendant hit the plaintiff's car... Unfortunately, the rest of the jury slept through it and the judge wouldn't provide the transcript. So, to get back to work I ended up agreeing with the ones that wanted to ream the defendant so I could get back to work with a nice note of "Next time don't say you were at fault.".)

Re:We just need those little mouth shields... (1)

rickb928 (945187) | more than 4 years ago | (#30859718)

I serviced court-reporting systems in the 70s, both Stenograph (an independent technician, and the Stenograph Corp hated me and my kind) and tape recorders. Even then, some steno reporters started using tape and shielded mics to supplement their transcription, and most tapes were not immediately transcribed if there was no need for a written record. Of course, there was a need for transcripts for most cases, and so the transcription services worked long hours overnight to git 'r done.

And often the first requestor paid the fee, so it was an interesting cat-and-mouse game to see who requested the transcripts. If the judge did, every one got to pay for copies, pretty cheap. If counsel did, well, they caught the bill for the typists, and everyone else got off paying just for copies, except the court that always got copies for free.

I was part of a team that brought multichannel recording on cassettes into use there, and it was a blessing. Typists often had to call reporters in the night and ask what they remembered about an exhcange where everyone was talking at once, recorded in stereo if they were lucky. And of course, some participants didn't actually want their remarks heard, so they would avoid the microphone at all costs, with the result that they were inaudible. After a bit, judges had steno reporters monitor the recording and signal to them when someone's remarks weren't clear - and the judge would magically instruct them to speak loud and clearly for the record...

I supported Sony equipment, and it was solid. But not perfect. The previous Lanier systems weren't very good in the long haul, but the Sony stuff was still working 20 years later. Now of course it's all digital, good stuff. But Sony had good mics, excellent fidelity, and superior AGC and such.

The mouth shields were common in Federal court, where steno reporters seemed to be part of a union or something, and had to record everything - no tapes. And military courts occasionally. But that's pretty mich gone from what I hear.

And I don't miss working on Stenograph machines. Reporters are very, very picky about keyboard feel, and silence is one of the critical features of a Stenograph. That and staining your fingers blue while working on them.

Obligatory Dvorak advocacy (4, Informative)

jonaskoelker (922170) | more than 4 years ago | (#30858570)

It's not what you'd call a rich data set, and of course the Qwerty keyboard comes up trumps

I of course have to mention the Dvorak layout. I encourage you to try it. Your hands might thank you (and fall in love), and if not you can always go back rather easily. See []

Also, for some experimental geekery, trying to find out whether it's all the shit it's made out to be, see []

That's it. Thank you for listening. My hands thank me for listening way back when, too ;)

Re:Obligatory Dvorak advocacy (1)

93,000 (150453) | more than 4 years ago | (#30858838)

Just looked at the wiki page and 'air typed' a few sentences based on the diagram. Wow. It's amazing how much is 'right there' for you in home row (of course, I suppose that's the point).

Re:Obligatory Dvorak advocacy (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30859218)

I tried 'air-typing' the sentence, "I am in love with a hot girl," and found that both "love" and "girl" require significant reaches from the home-row position. Typing about "deuterium" or "ubuntu," however, becomes easier and more comfortable.

This keyboard layout: I do not like its psychological ramifications.

Re:Obligatory Dvorak advocacy (3, Funny)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | more than 4 years ago | (#30858876)

I tried a Dvorak keyboard once, but I hated having to take my hand away from the mouse to press W and S when gaming. Much like Linux, I don't think it's ready for the mainstream yet...

Re:Obligatory Dvorak advocacy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30859494)

Are you for real?, Dvorak not ready for mainstream?

Well, Dvorak certainly was not designed to be used efficiently as a game controller, specially when that very same key combination was made for a Qwerty layout, those keys were assigned there because of the physical location of the key, not because wasd makes any sense.

Dvorak was designed for write, and it is damn good at it. If you mostly play, then by all means keep qwerty, if you type for a living and don't want to end with wrist damage years later, then Dvorak is the best choice, not to mention that you can customize the keys in any game to remain in the same positions as they were in qwerty, after all, what is important is the physical placement, not type wasd. Also, I don't know how it works in the windows world, but in linux all it takes is a click (or a key combination if you assigned a hot key to it) to switch between one and the other. If I play a game that requires the use of wasd, I just switch and play.

Also, worth mentioning, you don't forget how to use qwerty because you learn dvorak, you just become more efficient typing in dvorak, and I am pretty sure typing efficiency is not your main concern while you are playing a game in which you have to type a few messages. Still, if it is, you can still configure the keys differently to have both.

Re:Obligatory Dvorak advocacy (2, Insightful)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | more than 4 years ago | (#30859820)

... Either English is not your first language (and you have difficulty in understanding irony) or this is the biggest Whooooosh!-worthy reply I've ever read.

"trumps"? (0, Offtopic)

horatio (127595) | more than 4 years ago | (#30858586)

of course the Qwerty keyboard comes up trumps

Not to nitpick, but what the hell are "trumps"? AFAIK, there is no plural form of "trump". The idiom I believe you were looking for was "...comes up aces" - which even in context seems like a stretch to find a phrase synonymous with "is the winner" or "comes out on top"

Re:"trumps"? (2, Informative)

LMacG (118321) | more than 4 years ago | (#30858616)

Let me Google that for you - []

Granted 38,500 is not an overwhelming number of results, but the phrase is certainly not unknown. Surprise, your idiom isn't somebody else's!

Re:"trumps"? (1)

horatio (127595) | more than 4 years ago | (#30858832)

My apologies for my US-centric vocabulary. Apparently this is a valid phrase in British and Australian english. I'm from the Midwest where we play Euchre. Other parts of the country tend to look at us funny when we talk about it. When I googled "trumps" I didn't see anything that made sense - until the reference was to the famous family.

Re:"trumps"? (1)

nudeatom (740966) | more than 4 years ago | (#30858624)

Never played 'Top Trumps' then?

Re:"trumps"? (2, Insightful)

Troy Roberts (4682) | more than 4 years ago | (#30858648)

From the Merriam-Webster dictionary:

Main Entry: 2trump
Function: noun
Etymology: alteration of 1triumph
Date: 1529

1 a : a card of a suit any of whose cards will win over a card that is not of this suit --called also trump card b : the suit whose cards are trumps for a particular hand --often used in plural
2 : a decisive overriding factor or final resource --called also trump card
3 : a dependable and exemplary person

Re:"trumps"? (1)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 4 years ago | (#30858752)

Actually, I think they were thinking something along the lines of "Qwerty trumps all the others", but in the process of writing it came out the way it did. And while other people point out that this has apparently become an idiom, it does not to my ears make sense.

Re:"trumps"? (1)

beelsebob (529313) | more than 4 years ago | (#30858964)

Plural trumps refers to the plural cards that are all trump cards in a deck during a game of (for example) bridge.


Re:"trumps"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30859164)

These are Top Trumps. []

Great game played it all the way through Primary School

Capture = knockers

iphone vs. graffiti (3, Insightful)

stokessd (89903) | more than 4 years ago | (#30858590)

I used to be lightning fast with the original graffiti, very close to my speed on the iPhone. But Palm went and changed it (I know legal reasons etc) and it got slow and sucky. The best part of graffiti was that you could take notes without looking at the device. I would think the original graffiti would be much faster than it is on that table, or they got a newbie to do the graffiti writing.

The iPhone keyboard works amazingly well. I saw the preview demo of the phone in 2007and I thought that soft keyboard was full of fail (30+ touch points in the size of two postage stamps-c'mon), but there's enough heuristics behind it that it actually works really well. I'm way faster on the iPhone keyboard than I am on a crackberry keyboard.


Re:iphone vs. graffiti (1)

arb phd slp (1144717) | more than 4 years ago | (#30858708)

Graffiti was awesome! There were multiple ways to make some letters but all letters could be made with a single stroke. It was really fast. Graffiti 2 was a huge step backwards. I ended up copying Graffiti 1 files from my Handspring Visor onto my Palm TX to replace Graffiti 2 (a trick I learned about here on Slashdot, I think).

Re:iphone vs. graffiti (1)

rickb928 (945187) | more than 4 years ago | (#30859754)

I just snarfed a used X41 Tablet, and if I could tesch it Graffiti, it would be perfect.

But pen tablets have some advantages over touch screens. You can rest your hand on the screen and not type garbage or ruin a drawing. The pen is natural - writing with your finger less so, but learnable. The haptics are much better than touch screen keyboards.

Of course, the pen gets chewed up by your dog, or yourself...

A keyboard's just a mouse with 101 keys (1)

petes_PoV (912422) | more than 4 years ago | (#30858598)

... that doesn't move.

A touchpad is probably the dumbest design you can think of, for anything except the most coarse-grained "point and shoot". Imagine trying to use photoshop on a touch screen. All the areas you want to select are automatically obscured by the very finger(s) that are doing the selecting. How stoooopid is that? Obviously the people who thought it was a good idea either took us all for fools, or reckoned we'd evolve transparent fingers in a year or two.

Re:A keyboard's just a mouse with 101 keys (1)

Heian-794 (834234) | more than 4 years ago | (#30858668)

All the areas you want to select are automatically obscured by the very finger(s) that are doing the selecting. How stoooopid is that?

Stupid indeed, but one way to make it slightly easier is to have iconswhose visible parts are mainly where your finger isn't.

For example, my pointer-arrow cursor assumes that the user is right-handed, so it points up and to the left, with the hot spot in the upper left corner, as if the arrow were being wielded by a right hand.

I never thought I'd say anything good about the lingering right-hand-centrism of even the computer world, but in this case I could easily see my own light pen to the left of the cursor, because it was on the opposite side of the cursor's "body".

Obviously this won't work for touch-screen keys and buttons that are smaller than a finger. But I wonder if better icons and cursors wouldn't help a bit. Imagine a "mouseover"-like button explanation that comes up to the right of the button, confirming what it does, as your left index finger hovers over the actual button. Better than what we've got noe!

Re:A keyboard's just a mouse with 101 keys (3, Insightful)

sslayer (968948) | more than 4 years ago | (#30858674)

Imagine trying to use photoshop on a touch screen. All the areas you want to select are automatically obscured by the very finger(s) that are doing the selecting. How stoooopid is that?

That's the very thing I really HATE about capacitive touch-screens. All this blah blah blah about how much precision it has. What the heck do I mind its precision when I don't know where I've put my finger, since I cannot see what's behind it? Not to speak of the problems using a screen of these when you're wearing gloves and such.

This things are really stupid. I can get far more accuracy in my old Palm TX since I can use a stylus as thin as I want, my fingernail or just the reverse side of the BIC pen I'm using to write down on paper.

Re:A keyboard's just a mouse with 101 keys (2, Informative)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#30859034)

So track down a stylus that works with capacitive screens (they do exist).

Nokia 5800 (1)

mdwh2 (535323) | more than 4 years ago | (#30859350)

Indeed. I have the 5800, which has a virtual keyboard so would also come out second place. But as well as the option for touch, it also comes with a stylus, which I find even quicker (plus you can use the mini virtual keyboard, which lets you still see most of the rest of the screen). It's a shame he didn't do that - but sadly it seems he, like most the media, only cares about comparing the almighty Iphone.

Finger touch is useful, but I find it odd that the stylus has seemingly gone so out of fashion. And regarding capacitive touch screens, I agree - the 5800 doesn't do multitouch, but I'd prefer the accuracy over complex gestures I'm not likely to use ("one mouse button is simpler", remember Apple fans?)

Re:Nokia 5800 (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 4 years ago | (#30860124)

I still find myself trying to pull out the (non existent) stylus on my iPhone. Too many years of using Palm stuff (RIP).

Re:A keyboard's just a mouse with 101 keys (3, Insightful)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 4 years ago | (#30858772)

If you want to use Photoshop, buy yourself a stylus.

On the other hand, perhaps you've seen artists doing charcoal sketches? You know, where they use that giant stick of charcoal (that obscures where they're working), and then they smudge it with, gasp, their fingers?

The finger isn't great for everything, but it certainly works fine for a lot of tasks.

Re:A keyboard's just a mouse with 101 keys (1)

imakemusic (1164993) | more than 4 years ago | (#30858820)

All the areas you want to select are automatically obscured by the very finger(s) that are doing the selecting. How stoooopid is that?

It makes you wonder how Michaelangelo managed to paint so well, what with his brush covering up the painting all the time...

Re:A keyboard's just a mouse with 101 keys (2, Insightful)

Marcika (1003625) | more than 4 years ago | (#30859008)

All the areas you want to select are automatically obscured by the very finger(s) that are doing the selecting. How stoooopid is that?

It makes you wonder how Michaelangelo managed to paint so well, what with his brush covering up the painting all the time...

Well, he used a stylus when needed (a fine-tipped paintbrush). There might be a reason why the most famous artworks aren't fingerpainted...

virtual keyboard (2, Interesting)

necro81 (917438) | more than 4 years ago | (#30858696)

A comment on one of the input methods the MacWorld article touched on: an on-screen virtual keyboard. Unless you have some tactile response, an on-screen virtual keyboard almost requires you to look at it to see what you are typing. However - and this is a point that the article author may not have fully grasped - being that it is a tablet and not a laptop, you're already going to be looking at the keyboard, because you are looking at the screen, because that's the usually the place you're looking at on a tablet computer.

This doesn't meant that I relish the notion of doing much writing on any tablet computer with a virtual keyboard. But, it isn't as bad as, say, a laptop with a touchscreen top and bottom.

The Answer Is: It Depends! (5, Insightful)

adamgolding (871654) | more than 4 years ago | (#30858724)

This depends on the strings: you can handwrite many mathematical expressions more quickly than you can type them in most setups. This is especially true for things with a lot of super/sub scripts. It's *especially* true for symbols not in the character sets available to you.

Also, sometimes the same *content* can be recorded more quickly as handwritten math/logic than as typed strings.

Sometimes handwriting is faster, sometimes typing is faster.

Therefore, the fastest setup is one where you can switch between handwriting and typing seamlessly, such as on a tablet PC on some sort of stand situated like an easel with an external keyboard at elbow height, or at a desktop with a keyboard and graphics tabletin which case, for the monitor position, you don't have to compromise between what's good for your hands/arms and what's good for your eyes/neck/back.

Language too (1)

Rocketship Underpant (804162) | more than 4 years ago | (#30859556)

It depends on language too. Japanese input on most phones and on the iPhone is predictive, so it suggests the next word or particle based on grammatical rules and your own typing history.

Re:The Answer Is: It Depends! (1)

The Assistant (1162547) | more than 4 years ago | (#30860240)

So, I would think that the best thing to do would be to include some sort of basic input strategy built-in, and allow for additional input deviced to be connected based on the user's preferences. Also, use bluetooth, or other wireless method of having those devices communicate with the tablet. This way, if you need a specific device, buy it as an accessory. (Of course those device need to be made/brought to market in a timely manner). This way you don't add an excessive amount to the price of the initial system, and only pay for the devices you deem necessary (or as "can't do without").

Keyboard Projector Thingie (2, Insightful)

The Assistant (1162547) | more than 4 years ago | (#30858746)

A while ago, I saw a keyboard that was more projector/sensor than physical keyboard. The projector would idsplay a keyboard on a flat(hopefully) surface, and then you would type by pressing the "keys" (key displayed on flat surface). So, instead of having to carry around a full keyboard, you would just need the projector/sensor. I would probably go with this as the "I need something to be able to type my novel on" type of device, but also have the touch screen to use for less demanding typing jobs, such as an occasional URL. I know, it's probably patented by someone else, which would be an obstactle for Apple to work out, but the aim here is to have something that can be effective, while not needing a .

AC Karma Whore (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30859286)

You mean this handy little device [] on sister site ThinkGeek?

Re:AC Karma Whore (1)

The Assistant (1162547) | more than 4 years ago | (#30860134)

I was thinking of a device that came out over a year ago, but this looks like a new and improved version of what I was talking about. I still don't remember exactly what they called it, and sorry for the typos in my last message.

It seems that slashdot and the browser that I'm forced to use don't get along well when previewing stories to be submitted.

Morse? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30858766)

There are morse input devices for disabled people. A competent operator could probably do quite well, especially with an iambic input device (two buttons or paddles).

This may be of interest: funny hats not needed!

iPhone BTstack Keyboard (1)

DanTheManMS (1039636) | more than 4 years ago | (#30858778)

If you're really concerned with typing efficiency on an iPhone, look into BTstack [] which is a homebrew Bluetooth stack available to jailbroken users. BTstack is just the stack itself, though other applications have added support for it in other ways, the most relevant here being "BTstack keyboard" which is available for $5 from the Cydia store. Connect any Bluetooth keyboard and you're good to go. Oh, and it works in any app on the phone, not just a single app that you'd have to copy and paste text out of.

Now granted, the mental image of arriving to a meeting with *just* a keyboard and your phone is rather amusing, but the point is that it's possible. This stack is also used in another program that connects Bluetooth mice (using a mouse cursor library), and various game emulators have begun adding support for Bluetooth connetivity with the Wii remote.

Personally I find that the standard iPhone keyboard is actually fairly efficient once you get the hang of it, though part of it is the copious amount of autocorrect that the system applies. If I had to manually correct every error I made, I would be cursing the lack of physical buttons to the end of time.

Subjective (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30858780)

One of the more subjective articles I've read in a while...Speed of typing will be directly proportional to the length of time you have spent using the particular gadget.

Pull out keyboard (1)

RemoWilliams84 (1348761) | more than 4 years ago | (#30858798)

I'm a firm believer that all tablets and smart phones need some kind of a pullout keyboard. Would it really be that hard to incorporate a pull-out keyboard with the most basic keys (numbers, letters, shift, space...)? It could even have smaller keys than a real keyboard and be practical. I don't want to be cornered into using a touch screen or stylus for extensive note taking and such.

Stylus and touch screen, please (1)

cthugha (185672) | more than 4 years ago | (#30858802)

For me, text entry isn't that important a feature for a tablet; the mobile nature of the device makes it an unlikely choice of platform to generate documents of any length or complexity. Rather, the benefit of a tablet is the ability to consume or peruse data wherever I want.

To that end, I'm more interested in tools for tagging, noting up and generally scribbling on content generated elsewhere. Right now, I'll print drafts of documents just so I can have the freedom of leaning back in my chair or getting up and walking around while I review them, or putting them next to whatever (hard copy) source material I was using to create them to do side-by-side comparisons. Out of desktops, laptops and netbooks, no device lets me do that, and the screens on PDAs and smartphones are too small.

A screen that can take both stylus and touch input would likely fit the bill, with a virtual keyboard on the rare occasions I'd need it. We already have devices that handle extensive text entry in the conditions where that activity is best done.

Re:Stylus and touch screen, please (1)

jo_ham (604554) | more than 4 years ago | (#30860138)

The iPhone's screen can already do this - you just need a stylus that works with a capacitive screen. I would imagine that any large tablet is going to have something included with it that allows you to use your fingers or something more precise.

Treo Keypads Are Fast (2, Interesting)

TheNinjaroach (878876) | more than 4 years ago | (#30858882)

I have a Palm Treo 755p which has a full QWERTY keypad on it. The buttons are tiny but they are shaped just right for quick entry. My friends with iPhones agree that the real keypad on my phone is certainly quicker than typing on their touch screens. With a bit more practice, I bet the author would agree.

The iPhone virtual keyboard? Not a chance! (2, Insightful)

VShael (62735) | more than 4 years ago | (#30858888)

I've had the "pleasure" of using this for about a year now. It's a terrible interface.
It takes an appreciable amount of time for each keypress to be acknowledged by the system.
And if you try to type quickly, without waiting for the device to catch up, you'll very soon be touch typing and hoping like hell you haven't made a mistake or run out the memory buffer.
And god help you if haven't disabled to the autocorrect feature, which has suggested some truly astonishing word replacements in the last 12 months.

Re:The iPhone virtual keyboard? Not a chance! (2, Insightful)

jo_ham (604554) | more than 4 years ago | (#30860186)

The autocorrect feature is what makes it effective to use at speed - I'm not surprised you hate it if you have this feature turned off.

It's certainly not an ideal system, but it's not bad for an on screen keyboard. I have seen some of the crazy words it suggests for predictive input (it adds to that selection as you type more and more, so it learns your most common writing style over time - it does get better but often still throws up some real doozies). The keyboard assumes you will make mistakes due to the size of the keys and the lack of touch feedback.

I would like to see if it would be faster to type on it using a stylus and the autocorrect off, or using fingers. I have no idea which way that would go.

Sure, but what are you writing? (3, Interesting)

Minwee (522556) | more than 4 years ago | (#30858912)

The tests were done using a 221 word long paragraph in English. How fast would any of these methods be at entering something like the Schrödinger Equation [] ? Sure, you could type "i\hbar\frac{\partial\psi}{\partial t} = \frac{\hbar^2}{2m}\nabla^2\psi + V(\mathbf{r})\psi" on a keyboard just about as easily as "I have enough faith in my fellow creatures in Great Britain", but realizing that you've made a mistake and fixing it would be difficult.

Some things are easier with a keyboard and some things that are just easier to do with a pen and paper, be they real or virtual.

Virtual keyboard not faster (3, Insightful)

YourExperiment (1081089) | more than 4 years ago | (#30858932)

the iPhone virtual keyboard came in a surprisingly close second... This probably matches most people's experience

Not at all. There is no way the iPhone keyboard can possibly be as fast to use as a physical qwerty keypad. I can only imagine that there's something sub-optimal about the Treo keyboard (having never tried it myself). Alternatively, perhaps the author hasn't used his Treo for a while, whereas he's well-practised on the iPhone at the moment.

Don't get me wrong, I think virtual keyboards on touch screens are a wonderful innovation, and I personally would never buy a device with a physical keyboard, due to the extra bulk and weight it engenders in the device. At the end of the day, I read stuff on my phone a lot more often than I enter data, so I want the device optimised for viewing and portability rather than speed of text entry.

But that doesn't change the fact that a tactile keyboard is quicker than a virtual one. Perhaps the "swipe" style virtual keyboards that are now appearing will turn this around.

Re:Virtual keyboard not faster (1)

netsavior (627338) | more than 4 years ago | (#30859516)

From best to worst, phones I have had for more than 4 months, used daily to type way too much text

I had a Sidekick 1 (color) when they first came out (2002 or 2003) The keyboard is the fastest I have used in a small formfactor, the later versions they screwed up everything that was right in favor of making it thinner (the keyboard is now more "set in" so your thumbs are down in a canyon when typing, so it is MUCH slower. This device had a wide keyboard, rubber keys (aka non-slip) with plenty of travel, very effectively backlit keyboard, plenty of space between keys... I could easily out type most of my family/friends if they were on a computer and I was on this thing.

Treo 650 The keys are nice and raised, there is a lot of keyboard travel, so there are fewer "did I hit that key or not" moments... The keyboard is MUCH too narrow. I would have to guess my WPM was about 50% of the sidekick

Blackberry Bold The keys are way too flat, but it is nice and wide. Almost no key travel I would guess wpm about 90% the treo (I currently use the BB)

iPhone - I had it for about 7 months, so I was well past my new user curve, and the keyboard was still a joke. I would guess that ACCURATE typing (aka auto-correct turned off, because it is so bad) is maybe 10% as fast as my blackberry.

So in all,I have gone down in typing speed significantly with each device because I guess I am the only one who actually likes typing things out on a phone or something? Or maybe because keyboards and usability don't sell, shininess and thinness sell. Pity. Each phone that was a step down in typing speed was A LOT more shiny than the last, so I guess that is what the phone industry is after.

Re:Virtual keyboard not faster (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30859802)

I, for one, will never purchase another stupid virtual keyboard device. I had a treo 700 that was decent for taking notes, my WM Samsung Omnia completely sucks. MS word recognigion invariably overwrites obscure words or names, and I'm constantly having to go back and re-write.

On a tablet, I'd still say I'd never pay for one. I'd probably graciously take one as a gift, and give it to my 4 year old to color on.

Re:Virtual keyboard not faster (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30860210)

Turn auto-correct back on and rely on it. In my experience, it works unbelievably well. Your typing speed will increase 10x.

Typing and Writing Speeds (1)

Cassini2 (956052) | more than 4 years ago | (#30858952)

Sometimes I wonder how much we have forgotten. The advantage of a good computer keyboard is that a secretary, and even a programmer, should be able to touch type. They can type a long passage of text, without looking at the keys. If you can do this, your typing speed is way faster than someone that has to look at notes, and then look back at the keyboard.

Further, the advantage of handwriting was that you could write far faster than you could type. That was the whole point of script and shorthand. With shorthand, you can write as fast as someone speaks, and people can speak very fast. Today, no one teaches shorthand, and many schools omit cursive script.

In a few more years, someone will patent writing with a pen on a tablet with special symbols that makes handwriting faster. Only, it won't be called shorthand ...

"...handwrite more than a bullet point..." ??? (5, Insightful)

DoctorNathaniel (459436) | more than 4 years ago | (#30859006)

I'm sorry, but is the submitter fscking insane? I rely heavily on handwritten notes all the time. So does every college student and scientist that I know. Note that I'm talking about extremely tech-savvy people here, who often DO own an iPhone... but they are fundamentally useless for taking notes.

Taking notes, of course, is not the only writing one does, but it's a pretty important thing. Writing serves a a communication medium to others, but equally serves as expansion of short- and long-term memory for ourselves. I have yet to meet any GUI interface that has the flexibility of a pad of paper:

- Effortless data entry.
- Figures, mathematics or other non-ASCII input are faster than any other technique (and likely to remain so)
- No learning curve (for people past 6th grade)
- Bookmarking, fast page finding.
- No limit to page-space viewable at one time
  -Needs no recharging, syncing
- Not a target for theft
- Light and comfortable in the hand
- Cheap, reliable components
- Easily backed up by photocopier or scanner

The only downside, for me, is it's a little slow for pure-text entry, and it's sometimes hard to read by own sloppy writing. But that's just user skill, not the fault of the technology.

Re:"...handwrite more than a bullet point..." ??? (2, Interesting)

Nerdfest (867930) | more than 4 years ago | (#30859294)

The downside for me is a pretty much complete lack of searchability. I find there's little point of writing something down on apper again, as odds are, I'll never be able to find it again.

Re:"...handwrite more than a bullet point..." ??? (1)

MikeBabcock (65886) | more than 4 years ago | (#30860038)

Seriously? Annotating the edges of pages isn't that hard, and using separate pages for different concepts, etc. isn't either.

Palm Graffiti (3, Interesting)

Logical Zebra (1423045) | more than 4 years ago | (#30859030)

I'm surprised that Palm Graffiti came in last place, especially by that big of a margin. I used a Palm Pilot extensively for several years, and I could "write" on my Palm Pilot much faster than I could write on pen and paper.

It took a few weeks to get used to it, but after you learned Graffiti well enough, you could actually "write" pretty fast with it. The test behind TFA apparently used a novice to test Palm's Graffiti. A Palm Pilot veteran would have been able to write in Graffiti at speeds nearer to actual writing, and maybe faster.

Larger keyboard? (1)

teh dave (1618221) | more than 4 years ago | (#30859066)

I would like to point out HTC's Touch Pro 2 and Sony Ericsson's XPERIA X1, as two examples of one of the kinds of phone keyboards he has missed, the larger physical slide-out QWERTY keyboard. They are much easier to use than the Treo's tiny, fiddly keys, as the keyboard spans the entire width of the longer side of the phone as opposed to the shorter side. I would expect that many people would be quicker with the iPhone than with the Treo after equal practise at both, but then you try a larger physical keyboard like the ones offered by either of the two devices I just mentioned (or countless other devices).

There's an app for that (1)

sarcaca (866954) | more than 4 years ago | (#30859120)

Seems like a natural fit would be to use the iPhone as the keyboard for the new Tablet. Need a keyboard? There's an app for that. When you go with the iPhone as a keyboard option, you have to buy the anti-gravity/levitating option on the Tablet.

What's everyone's favorite tablet? (1)

crazybilly (947714) | more than 4 years ago | (#30859184)

"Everyone's favorite tablet"? Really?

I think a more accurate description would have been "the tablet that as far as 90% of the population is concerned is only a rumor of something will end up being more expensive than I can afford anyways, so they really haven't bothered to care."

Re:What's everyone's favorite tablet? (1)

TheLink (130905) | more than 4 years ago | (#30860206)

Viagra? ;)

OK I know it's not the best selling, but it's a favourite in many other ways (jokes, spam etc)...

Re:What's everyone's favorite tablet? (1)

jo_ham (604554) | more than 4 years ago | (#30860226)

I see sarcasm escapes you. That is exactly what that three word phrase means in this context.


Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30859206)

Why are people so stuck on this?

"In the run-up to everyone's favourite tablet?"

What are you talking about? We don't know if apple has a tablet. If they do, we don't know if it's going to be any good.

Yes, apple made the ipod and OSX is a pretty decent OS built off of unix. But this same company made the apple newton and quicktime.

Steve Jobs is not some magical creature whose every creation is pure gold. After the ipod they've made a hojillion varieties of the same damn item until they released a multitouch interface and suddenly they are gods gift to hardware.

If I hear one more thing about apples Second-Coming-of-God-Damned-Jesus tablet my brain is going to explode in unfettered rage.

68 WPM (2, Interesting)

MortenMW (968289) | more than 4 years ago | (#30859244)

He wrote at 65 words per minute on the QWERTY keyboard. IMHO that is quite slow, someone who known touch would easily beat the iPhone.

Re:68 WPM (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30859468)

That was my reaction as well - 65 wpm is a slow typist! I'm a programmer for a living and have no troubles hitting 110-120 wpm when typing English text. This is by no means a highly unusual speed. Even on the old manual typewriters with about 3 inches of key travel, I could hit 78 wpm. When electric typewriters with less key travel became common, that sped up, and sped up yet again on computer keyboards.

I own several mobile devices, but nothing can remotely come close to the real keyboard. Really, it's not even the same ballpark. If I'd ever learned dvorak I'd probably be even faster, but I never have.

Expected QWERTY much faster (1)

KiwiCanuck (1075767) | more than 4 years ago | (#30859554)

Really? He expected the QWERY to be more than 50% faster than the iPhone. Data (in seconds) 296/194 = 1.526 or 52.6% faster. It would have been nice if he use someone proficient with an iPhone, and have them type. We all know how fast people can type, but the iPhoe hasn't been around long enough to get decent data points. Or have a iPhone QWERTY challenge.

Do you have miniaturized hands? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30859836)

Seriously, you think someone could reach touch-typing speeds on an iPhone, with enough practice? Or do you think people will evolve little tiny hands after enough generations are exposed to this timeless digital niche...?

Do you understand that a fast touch-typist is using all of his fingers at once, positioned over different keys that are about to strike? As far as I can tell from the iPhone or other small virtual keyboards, there is a lack of space to position fingers over adjacent keys, as well as a lack of tactile feedback to allow touch-typing, i.e. where you do not need to visually orient your hands nor even worse visually aim each finger strike.

Blackberry? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30859768)

So what about a Blackberry, in particular the Bold 9000 keyboard? I don't see how anyone could be faster on a virtual iphone keyboard than the beautifully clicky tilty buttoned bold

Interesting, to me... (2, Interesting)

crazycheetah (1416001) | more than 4 years ago | (#30860174)

I really want to know how much this changes on a per person basis...

At work, I use a tablet PC exclusively. Now, I'm able to dock the (once pretty nice, but now piece of shit, thanks to dating hardware and loads of paranoid IT apps monitoring every single thing we do) thing, but the majority of my input on it is handwriting. Now, the fact that I get to use a point and click interface for it does alter it. However, I have to catch a lot of information in one paragraph, and the goal is to complete that and all of the extra pointing and clicking (often including handwriting as the point and click doesn't have everything, and I'm forced to use an "Other" entry box) within a very short time. This can be as long as 5-10 minutes, but is usually under that. This also includes correcting the handwriting recognition's text, which I have to do a hell of a lot, as I'm doing this in a medical setting, using a lot of medical terminology, without a medical dictionary installed to the handwriting recognition (it exists, but getting IT to replace batteries and styli that are long overdue for replacement is a pain in the ass enough money-wise).

What I'm getting at: my handwriting in these circumstances has gotten ridiculously fast--and I don't use any kind of shorthand or even abbreviations. To the point that, if I didn't type over 100 wpm, it would probably be faster for me to handwrite than type in QWERTY. It certainly destroys my typing speed on my Droid, which I've gotten pretty damn good at (specifically the on screen keyboard, because I got well faster at that than I am at the hardware keyboard). So, really, this is interesting, but I really think it's going to vary by just who you test it on. I could see the majority matching these results, but I think it would be stupid to say it's a catch-all...

Translation here (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30860182)

Buy an iphone

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