HTC Magic’s keyboard

02 - Default KeyboardI have the plain HTC Magic (i.e. not the “with Google” version), and have been learning how to type with it.  My first complaint was that the keyboard in portrait mode, the standard QWERTY keyboard became a little small to work with.  Especially if you have slightly wider fingers or not too accurate hand-eye-coordination.  So one of my first missions was to investigate the alternative keyboards.

From my initial reading, I’d not seen much that gave me great hope for any better keyboards in portrait mode.  One of the guys in our offices recently got a Samsung Omnia and was showing how he’d swapped to an “XT9” keyboard in portrait, and I wished that Android had been clever enough to do the same.  With little hope I clicked on the little “cog” and went through the following steps:

03 - Keyboard Settings 04 - Touch Input Settings 05 - Touch Input Settings - Keyboard Types selected
Click the “Setup” cog< /td> Touch Input Settings Click Keyboard Types
06 - Touch Input Settings - Keyboard Types 07 - Touch Input Settings - Compact QWERTY 08 - Compact QWERTY
Keyboard Types List Click “Compact QWERTY” Enter Text

The result is a slightly fatter keyed QWERTY keyboard.  It’s not one I’m used to using so this didn’t quite work out too well for me.  Looking at the other option in the list of keyboard types (“Phone Keypad”) I just assumed it would be a quick way to enter numbers.  Boy was I wrong.  I followed the same steps as above, and chose “Phone Keypad” and came back to my browser and found this:

09 - Phone Keypad I now had a phone keypad just like the physical pad I used to have on my old iMate SP3.  The little “XT9”/”ABC” button on the left swaps between T9 predictive text and standard multiple-push ABC style entry.  To make things even cooler, if I tilt the phone on it’s side, it doesn’t stick with this keyboard but rather swaps to the standard QWERTY layout again because there is now enough space to use bigger keys, as follows:

10 - Landscape Keyboard

Now I can have the best of both worlds.  Of course my fingers still sometimes make mistakes, but that’s where the clever “auto correct” type feature kicks in and saves the day.  For example, if I’m typing an SMS and I want to start with “Hello” but by mistake I miss the “h” and press “g” to start with, the following happens:

11 - AutoCorrectIt actually lists alternative words that use keys near to the ones that I pressed, and selects the one it thinks is the most likely correction.  If I press “space”, it will automatically choose the word highlighted in green.  This is really useful and, as Leo Laporte said in an episode of TWIT (referring to the iPhone’s auto-correct feature) “as long as you trust in Steve, it will all work out” (slightly paraphrased). 

There are times when it’s not so great, as in the first time I typed in “Er” where it helpfully substituted the word “We”.  I didn’t realise that it thought I’d made a spelling mistake, so I happily sent off a rather cryptic sentence via Google Talk.  But that’s where Android have been really smart.  If I type in a word that the phone doesn’t recognise, I just have to tap on the word in the list of suggestions and it adds it to it’s dictionary and will use the new word in future.

I think the reason that the “T9” style keyboard is called “XT9” is because they’ve extended the standard “T9” to allow for similar mis-pressed keys.  So that the same ability that the landscape keyboard has to recover gracefully from my badly pressed keys extends to the “T9” keyboard too.

By mistake I also found out that doing a “long press” on a key gives you an “options” menu as follows:

09 - Phone Keypad - long touch     12 - Standard QWERTY - Long Press

For people who have to write Afrikaans stuff often, the ability to write é or ö at will could be great in the standard keyboard and when using the “ABC” mode of the “Phone Keypad”, it can be a nice time saver sometimes.

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