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efficient touch screen input?

  • Started by ghen
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  • From: Viken, Norway
  • Registered: 13-Dec-2006
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Congratulations to you both! Improving the worldskij, one layoutskij at a time. ;)

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I've been using MessagEase quite a bit lately.  Real life got in the way and I had to move, leaving me probably about two weeks without a computer (and therefore, keyboard) to practice Dvorak and Colemak on.  It unfortunately set me back by a decent amount, and I was forced to use my cell phone for pretty much everything.  It sucked, but on the bright side I got some pretty decent practice with MessagEase.  I can say, it is actually quite nice to "type" (if you can call it that) on compared to a standard keyboard made into a touchscreen variant.  My speed has improved a decent amount, though I don't know of a good way to test it.  I still would take a real keyboard and screen any day though.

But now, I've got the real computer set up again--and I'll probably barely even use the cell phone for text input any more.

Ironically, when I was stranded without a computer, I saw an article about a new layout for cell phones coming out called Minuum.  It looks like a joke... it's basically just a bar containing the alphabet and other characters, basically in the QWERTY format, and... that's pretty much it.  Its only claim to fame seems to be the small amount of screen space it takes up.  IMO, MessagEase seems to be about as good as it gets so far.  My only problem is that I've noticed that it often performs sluggishly on my phone, sometimes extremely slow, and registers some fast swipes as a press.  But, my phone's a cheap, low-spec one... an LG Optimus V.  You get what you pay for.

From the site:

Minuum improves mobile typing by:
...
Respecting your familiarity with the QWERTY keyboard so you don’t have to re-learn the keyboard layout

Yay, another QWERTY claiming to be something new.  The pictures on the site confirm this.

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  • From: Sofia, Bulgaria
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Yes, I saw the Minuum video on youtube and I can't say I'm a big fan either.

For your performance problems with ME – do you have multi touch enabled in the advanced settings? It's written that it increases resource requirements. And for the testing – you can either use MessagEase game from the play store or download the beta release of the hi-games.net from their website or here: http://hi-games.net/TypingTest-debug.apk (for Android).

I enjoy typing on ME a lot. The switch to it feels like the one from Qwerty to alternative layouts on a desktop. That being said most of the time I use a set of apps that allow me to type stuff on my computer and copy it to my phone's clipboard to send in IM. I like to practice ME just for fun in the game.

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Nah, I remember seeing that multi-touch setting in the options and reading about it, and it even recommended to keep it off if you're not sure that your phone can handle it.  Knowing that my phone is pretty weak, I left it disabled, didn't even mess with it.  I heard of the Hi-Games app for Android, but I'm waiting for it to leave beta and hit the Play store.  I don't really like the official game accompanying MessagEase, I think I uninstalled it after I learned the basics of how to use it.  The problem is, my phone's specs really do suck... I have to uninstall crap so often just to try something new, I lose track of what I have and don't have.  It's annoying because most of the time I want to compare three similar programs; there's no way I can do it effectively because in most cases I can barely even install two at a time.

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Installing an app that periodically cleans your apps' cache served well on my older device. Try that. If you want to continue discussion on this, send me an email so we don't spam the thread :)

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UltraZelda64 said:

My only problem is that I've noticed that it often performs sluggishly on my phone, sometimes extremely slow, and registers some fast swipes as a press.

There's a setting for "minimum drag length" - anything smaller is considered a tap; you may want to set it lower than the default (I did).

Strange that you say it's "slow", it shouldn't be worse than any other Android keyboard that uses taps and drags?

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I've had the same problem with fast swipes registering as presses. My phone has plenty of resources, so that's not the whole explanation for it at least!

The registering of swipes as presses is done in OS, not the MessagEase app (I've talked with Saied about this), but nevertheless it could/should help to reduce ME's resource usage to a minimum.

Drag length could indeed help, as I found the fast swipes I had the most trouble with were ones where I pressed both keys involved off-center towards each other when I was typing fast. TH used to be the worst but I've gotten used to it now – which is somewhat reassuring for us at least; swipes from the lower row to space are also sometimes troublesome for me. I've not managed to come to terms with the minimum drag length settings though as when I try that some drags won't register right for me.

I think the most effective solution is to train yourself to type the troublesome bigrams more distinctly, closer to the center of each key. Try to be aware of which bigrams you have trouble with.

For resource leanness, I recommend the following:
• Yes, multi-touch costs a bit. I need to use 2 or I make too many errors, but keep it as low as works for you.
• Turn off trace display! This is Saied's tip. When I did, I missed the graphical feedback from the green traces and lost 5 WPM or so which took a while to get back but I turned on a bit of tactile feedback (vibration) instead and I think it works well for me now. Training to be less dependent on the visual feedback is a good idea anyhow.
• Try a resource manager to find out if your phone is running something unnecessary in the background. There can be outdated processes and stuff that installed itself when you were trying out a new game or suchlike.


UltraZelda64 said:

My speed has improved a decent amount, though I don't know of a good way to test it.

The official way to test your ME speed is the Speed Game. It's okay if you don't like the ME Games but if you want to test your speed that's how it's done. Also, if you break 40 WPM you can be on the map and show the world how awesome your country is etc etc. ;) Don't worry if you don't like the balloon or words games though; I don't think many use those after a while. They annoy the hell out of me. I still try to get a bout of Speed Game in every now and then, to monitor how my speed's doing.

Last edited by DreymaR (21-Mar-2013 10:42:12)

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DreymaR said:

Turn off trace display! This is Saied's tip. When I did, I missed the graphical feedback from the green traces and lost 5 WPM or so which took a while to get back but I turned on a bit of tactile feedback (vibration) instead and I think it works well for me now. Training to be less dependent on the visual feedback is a good idea anyhow.

Is this a recommendation from Saied?  Does it use that much resources?  I've never tried without the trace (except for password fields where it's disabled automatically), let's see how much I depend on it...

Won't vibration consume battery if you type a lot?

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DreymaR said:

• Turn off trace display! This is Saied's tip. When I did, I missed the graphical feedback from the green traces and lost 5 WPM or so which took a while to get back but I turned on a bit of tactile feedback (vibration) instead and I think it works well for me now. Training to be less dependent on the visual feedback is a good idea anyhow.

Hmmm... I think you may be onto something with that one.  I forgot all about that option; I turned it off briefly before but ended turning it back on quickly.  It really does help when you're just getting used to the program.  I thought that the option would take a decent amount of processing power, and I did notice its performance go up slightly when doing quick movements.  I think I'll try turning it off again and see how it goes, I should be good enough at it by now that I shouldn't have to rely on it as much.  I think vibration would be a bit too much and would get annoying quickly, and as ghen said I would expect this to be bad for battery life, so I think I'll leave it as it is now, plain audio feedback.  The level of customization of MessagEase is amazing.

ghen said:

There's a setting for "minimum drag length" - anything smaller is considered a tap; you may want to set it lower than the default (I did).

Strange that you say it's "slow", it shouldn't be worse than any other Android keyboard that uses taps and drags?

Yeah, I did change that quite a while back.  Too short and it registers a tap as you said, and too long requires way too much unnecessary sliding to get most of the letters/characters.  I've settled quite a while ago on a length from center of one square just barely into the next, so quite short.  I can't remember exactly what the default was but IIRC I left it shorter than it originally was.  And I don't think I would really blame MessagEase for the slowness, I really do think that's a combination of my phone's poor specs and the programs I tend to run (GSam Battery Monitor, JuiceDefender, Opera Mobile).  It's not slow all the time, just sometimes.

pafkata90 said:

Installing an app that periodically cleans your apps' cache served well on my older device. Try that. If you want to continue discussion on this, send me an email so we don't spam the thread :)

I don't know of any such apps (or what ones are good) and, like I said, space is very limited, so I don't think that's an option.  I agree though about not polluting the thread with these couple issues.  It's annoying but I can deal with it until I get driven to really dig deeper, but like I said... I've got a real keyboard in front of me now so I doubt that I'll even use my phone for any real text entry for a while.  I did turn off the trace display though, and so far it does seem noticeably more responsive (quite a bit, actually), so that may have been the big problem... but so far I've only done a little bit of test typing.

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Wanting to test its performance and my own typing speed, I just re-installed the MessagEase game.  I got 25 WPM. While slow by my physical keyboard standards, IMO that's quite impressive for manual text input on a tiny touchscreen and a few weeks of forced use (other than using it normally, I did not practice for extended periods of time).  I've noticed that for some characters I know the location well enough that I just have to look in that direction just to make sure I hit the correct square... sometime soon maybe I'll be able to use it without labels on the squares.  This actually makes me want to start practicing to get to, say, 30-40 WPM, and be able to use it blank... if only I could get it set as Android's unlock keyboard.  That would be an awesome screen lock.

Last edited by UltraZelda64 (22-Mar-2013 00:56:48)
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It's actually easier to get to a decent speed that I expected.

Not sure about Gingerbread (which I assume you're running) but on Jelly Bean there's no problem with having your default keyboard for lockscreen password (not PIN).

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To me, the slightest hint of vibration is a good feedback option. I dislike audio feedback and don't want to annoy people in the room with it either. Since no feedback is very frustrating, the vibration is the better option for me. I fiddled with it and ended up with a quite low setting, just enough to be felt.

My battery holds through the day, and if it doesn't it's because of games and not of typing. No problem for me then.

Don't listen to pafkata, he's a cyborg but doesn't know it himself. ;)

Last edited by DreymaR (22-Mar-2013 09:28:45)

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Haha, I don't deny the great joy I get from any tech upgrade. Maybe you're right? :D

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Yeah, I think my phone runs Gingerbread.  I have looked several times but failed to find a locked-screen keyboard option.

And by the way, sound is vibration.  You can't have vibration without sound. ;) I didn't mess around much with the settings (I prefer audible feedback), but at least the default vibration options made quite a bit of noise.  You'd definitely have to play with those settings to quiet it down if you really want it quiet.

I use vibration for my unlock screen pattern/gesture (allows me to unlock without taking my eyes off the road when using the phone as an audio player while driving), and currently also coupled with text messages from Google Voice.  Helps tell apart the few standard text messages I get (mostly important and/or automated messages) and those I get through my GV number (the majority).  Plus, with phone in holster, the sound can be muffled and the vibration actually helps in that case.  That's about the only vibration I use.

By the way, one thing I noticed right from the start when I began using the keyboard a while back is that the ! and ? locations are awkward.  I swapped the + and ? buttons and IMO it's much better.  I would have probably done it before, but the reprogramming feature is a bit complex and I didn't feel like figuring it out.

Last edited by UltraZelda64 (22-Mar-2013 22:16:40)
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For those not following MessagEase on Facebook:

An interview with ChengWei, the world's fastest texter.

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Discovered messagease dual-wielding thanks to this thread.  I'd previously thought my speed had been capped (~30wpm with one thumb).  Looking forward to proving myself wrong.

Dual-layout is fine and dandy, but I do wish there was a separate "two-thumb" layout that would take advantage of the extra "tap" buttons available.  Ideally optimized for thumb-alternation, so that it'd have dvorak-inspired cues like vowels all on one side.

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That would require a new layout, which is incompatible with portrait typing on a phone. So it would probably be only useful for tablet users...

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pafkata90 said:

That would require a new layout, which is incompatible with portrait typing on a phone.

I don't think so.  This is how it currently looks to me on the phone:
dual

I'm saying that, if we had a two-thumb layout with different tap-keys on each side, it would cut down on the number of swipe-keys necessary, be better for muscle memory (since there'd be only one way to type any particular letter), and generally be faster.

Last edited by lalop (07-Apr-2013 00:58:17)
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And you find these key size comfortable? That's one of the main points of ME – to provide large keys for better comfort. But I suppose different people, different preferences. If the keys were this small, I'd find them useful only for tapping, not for swiping, and with this many keys, you can actually have all the letters on either tap or double tap – which has already been around for quite a while – the QW ER TY type layouts.

I'm currently using MessagEase with two thumbs but on one 3x3 grid (if not counting the 4th column and space) all the way from the left edge to the right on a 4.7" screen and it works great for me.

BTW which app is that on the screenshot?

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It's So you think you can type? (doesn't seem to be search-listed).

I already used that size for convenient one-handed typing, taking less space and allowing you to avoid reaching far away.  It may not be quite as accurate, but the cost is minimal.

It doesn't translate so well into two-hands for the reasons I listed above, but I'm hoping (short of exideas optimizing the two-thumbed layout) that I can just get used to it through practice.

Last edited by lalop (07-Apr-2013 03:49:15)
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Sadly I can't see it. It's probably unavailable in Denmark.

I don't think exideas will make any changes on the layout. Introducing a separate layout for the left and the right 3×3 grid would require not only a lot of research but some major rework on the software and they've got quite a lot on their hands already. Just saying, but if you wish to ask them, head over to their website.

Last edited by pafkata90 (07-Apr-2013 04:54:18)
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Actually... it wouldn't require reworking of the software as such, only a new definition entry. Much like the "Colemakoid" layout would. That entry would have to redefine the 123 part of its layout, so you'd lose the number pad which is probably unacceptable for most people.

More importantly, Exideas don't want to provide a slew of alternative layouts. They've settled on one optimized layout and are having a hard enough time already trying to convince potential users that this one is what they want. Adding a lot of choices to that equation would just make it more obscure – much like how many outsiders get confused by the plethora of Linux distros and options you can choose from. ("Open WHAT with KD-WHATNOW? I just want something that works... please?")

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I'm still hoping they see reason.  Their default layout may well be "good enough" (as you and ghen seem to have consensed on page 4), but the dual-thumb layout is not, by a longshot.

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Not sure that a native two-thumb layout would be all that much more effective, really. It's worth a try and I've given it some thought myself, but the fact that ChengWei can two-thumb his way to 84 WPM with the single 3×3 pad (and furthermore, others are following his lead so he's not some freak storm) is reassuring. Now that I've gotten used to it I feel that I can dual-thumb quite nicely on the standard pad (I still use my own Colemakoid modification but I believe that isn't significantly more effective per se ... and I hope it isn't significantly less effective either).

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That doesn't really work in landscape, it takes a lot more space than I'm used to, and I doubt even a large swiping layout is more effective than 18 letters supplemented with a few swipes.

That said, while I'm hopeful, I'm willing to bet Exideas says exactly those same things. =/

Last edited by lalop (08-Apr-2013 00:48:39)
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