I accidentally found something that just made my Android experience a few levels better! BeanSoft makes a simple app called Thumb Keyboard. For us old Blackberry thumb typing experts that took weeks and months to convert our fingers to being able to actually type on a virtual keyboard, this app brings me back to how fast I used to be able to type… I know some of you remember this painful conversion experience all to well.
The app is easy to find in the Android Market, do a search for Thumb Keyboard, a few options will come up. After doing some research I decided on the Thumb Keyboard from BeanSoft. It was around $2 dollars US after the conversion from Pounds in Google Checkout. My only complaint here is that Google Checkout wouldn’t let me use our Amex default. (Google Checkout issue, not BeanSoft)
To properly test the Thumb Keyboard we decided the test suite should be a phone and a tablet with different versions of Android, the choice was our Motorola Xoom Tablet running Android 3 (aka Honeycomb) and the Motorola Atrix running Android 2.2.1.
Important safety tip: The fine folks at BeanSoft actually pop a nice instruction screen up on how to enable the keyboard on various versions of Android, read this, maybe jot down a few notes, such as which menu items under setup you will need to choose based on your version of Android. We figured it out, but paying attention would have made it a simpler event. Additionally, Android warns you by saying basically, “Are you sure? This app can be used to capture sensitive information that you type”, yes, some app maker could make something like this to capture all kinds of keyboard input similar to the old key-logger tools used to steal information. So, I decided to check out BeanSoft and after some homework, felt safe in making the Thumb Keyboard my default input method. (if you try other keyboard replacement apps, do yourself a favor and do some internet searching first so that you get more comfortable)
Here is the view on the Atrix
Thumb Keyboard - BeanSoft
Here is the view on the Xoom
Once you have it installed you can easily get the configuration screen up by “long pressing” the key on the lower left with the keyboard icon. You will be presented with some configuration options for screen sizes and preferences. We turned on the button color as you can see in the above photo and turned off the key press sounds, although the typewriter sounds were entertaining it got old quickly. The ability to customize your experience was easy and feature rich.
Thumb Keyboard - Preferences
On the Xoom we set it to Tablet 10″ layout. At any point you can select Other Input Method and return yourself to the orginal keyboard or something else, voice etc. (more on the Voice option in future testing)
Now here is the fun part, hold the tablet or the phone sideways and start composing your email, text message or basically enter text anywhere you need it. The Thumb Keyboard is the default keyboard for all apps now.
Initially I found myself stumbling and hitting the wrong keys, but I forced myself to use it on both devices for a few hours and what happened next was amazing… I was starting to pick up speed and I was flashing back to the Blackberry “no look” days when I could thumb words out as fast as I could say them out-loud. YES! It works!!! My iPad doesn’t have this! We have played with a few different input methods on the iPad and have yet to find anything as sweet as the Thumb Keyboard from BeanSoft!
Loving Android some more again!