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Dasher: A new text input system for multitouch?

The standard typewriter as we know it today has been around for about 100 years and in that time, as an alternative to pencils and pens, it has served us well and will continue to do so for another fifty year or more.

But typewriters are strongly dependent on tactile feedback and raised surfaces something that multitouch surfaces today don't support, so I'm always on the look out for alternative mechanisms of text entry for multitouch systems. The problem is there just are not that many promising alternatives. Swype comes to mind as one of the better alternatives.

Well thanks to pureelite I've found another alternative, Dasher . Dasher uses navigation as a means of text entry and it seems to work pretty well but has some obvious drawbacks. It requires visual attention; you can't navigate-by-feel with Dasher like you can type-by-feel on standard keyboard. Also, its a bit buggy (the Java version I tried out) and could use an extreme makeover ascetically. Still Dasher shows promise and should be dismissed to quickly.

The hard truth is that none of the alternatives to touch typing matches its speed or broad acceptance, so standard keyboards will be the norm for a long time to come. I actually really like the FrogPad which I own (complements of FrogPad's CEO, Linda Marroquin) and while you can type as fast on a FrogPad as a standard keyboard (for most people anyway) general acceptance is a challenge. Still, I recommend that HCI folks look into FrogPad as its design is really excellent.

So, for now at least, the standard keyboard is still the best we can do and a mechanical one, as opposed to a soft keyboard, is a superior experience. Perhaps we should just get used to the idea that when it comes to text entry, its hard to beat the keyboard for speed and efficiency.

Read the original blog entry...

More Stories By Richard Monson-Haefel

Richard Monson-Haefel, an award-winning author and technical analyst, owns Richard Monson-Haefel Consulting. Formerly he was VP of Developer Relations at Curl Inc. and before that a Senior Analyst at The Burton Group. He was the lead architect of OpenEJB, an open source EJB container used in Apache Geronimo, a member of the JCP Executive Committee, member of JCP EJB expert groups, and an industry analyst for Burton Group researching enterprise computing, open source, and Rich Internet Application (RIA) development.

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