Hardware

Making tablets better: A keyboard that makes sense

Jack Wallen says that once you try the Thumb Keyboard application from Beansoft, you'll never go back to the standard keyboard on your tablet.

Tablets will easily take over the business world, but their keyboards are still subpar. It seems, no matter how you hold a tablet, the keyboard is just not right. The only way to successfully tap out a message, URL, or just about anything (that's not a full document) is to hold the device with one hand and finger-peck out the characters. Since that's not very efficient, a different solution is necessary.

Fortunately, I found that solution. The Thumb Keyboard from Beansoft is exactly what it sounds like -- a keyboard that's designed primarily for your thumbs. It enables the user to comfortably hold the tablet in either portrait or landscape mode, and it allows for easy entering of text with only two digits! The Thumb Keyboard really works and makes perfect sense.

Anyone who has tried to add a new virtual keyboard to an Android device knows that it's not as simple as just installing an app. First, let's look at the app itself and the features that it offers.

Features

  • Adjustable height/width
  • Split design that adjusts to landscape or portrait positions
  • Themeable
  • Customizable long-press symbols
  • Customizable keyboard wallpapers
  • Customizable shortcuts
  • Outstanding predictive typing

For anyone using a tablet, this keyboard is a MUST HAVE. Now, it will cost you a whopping $2.53 (USD). Trust me, this keyboard is worth that tiny price. Now that you know what Thumb Keyboard has to offer, let's get it installed and working.

Installation

The installation is quite simple. Follow these steps:

  1. Open up the Android Market
  2. Search for Thumb Keyboard
  3. Purchase the software and download/install as per normal

Once installed, the Thumb Keyboard will not be activated for use. Here's how to to set this app as the default input method:

  1. Open up the Settings window (how this is done will depend upon what launcher you use)
  2. Tap Language & input | Configure input methods
  3. Enable Thumb Keyboard 4 by tapping its entry to make sure the check box is selected
  4. Go back to Language & input
  5. Tap Current input method
  6. Select Thumb Keyboard 4 from the list
  7. Okay the warning (if given)

Thumb Keyboard is now your default.

Configure the layout

One of the most important configurations you can do with Thumb Keyboard is the layout. Thumb Keyboard offers the following layout settings:

  • Standard
  • Phone Split - Large Layout
  • Phone Split - Compact Layout
  • Phone/Small Tablet (5") Split
  • Tablet 7" Layout 1
  • Tablet 7" Layout 2
  • Tablet 10" Layout

Believe it or not, the layout is quite crucial to the type of device. For example, using a 7" layout on a 10" tablet will mean your thumbs won't reach all of the keys. Remember, the point of this keyboard is to enable the thumbs to do much of the work. So, make sure you select the correct layout, or you'll be longing for longer thumbs.

Figure A shows the Tablet 10" layout, with a little themed action. Figure A

Here you see a themed keyboard with a custom keyboard wallpaper.

It's also possible to select separate layouts for both Portrait and Landscape modes. Simply follow these steps:

  1. Tap Language & input
  2. Tap Settings under Thumb Keyboard 4
  3. Tap Layout Keyboard
  4. Tap Custom Layout Configuration
  5. Tap Portrait Layout and select the desired configuration
  6. Tap Landscape Layout and select the desired configuration

This will allow you to customize your layout, depending on how your tablet is held. Once you've set your layout, tap the Test Layout button to try your set up. If you like it, you're good to go.

Of all the tablet/phone input devices I've used, I have to say that Thumb Keyboard is the best in show. Not only is it highly configurable, but it also makes the task of typing on a tablet incredibly easy -- regardless of the size of your fingers. Even though this application has a small price, it certainly is worth the cost. Give Thumb Keyboard a try, and I bet you'll never go back to the standard keyboard on your tablet.

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

7 comments
chdchan
chdchan

With cloud services emerging, better speech recognition can be provided with super-computing power.

swerson
swerson

Stupid Earthlings, take out the keyboard on a netbook, and just because it is fashionable pay twice what it's worth, just changing its name to Tablet?

fergusfog
fergusfog

Jack, were you paid for this advert? Honest question.

BRS
BRS

the keyboard is just not right. The only way to successfully tap out a message, URL, or just about anything (that???s not a full document) ...........PK obviously does not read to well

pk de cville
pk de cville

Jack, How many docs have you typed? How long have you lived with this? USer reaction other than yours? Thanks

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Jack, would you mind posting an screenshot WITHOUT the theme and wallpaper? They make the image very confusing; it looks like the middle keys are very distorted.

sersoft
sersoft

Just click the picture of the keyboard to expand it. Then you should see a clearer layout.