Tiny Keyboard Heaven
When tablets first arrived on scene, I was critical that they would not be very useful as productivity devices. In retrospect, I think my primary concern was one of input methodology. Typing on those tiny keyboards can be inconvenient, inaccurate, frustrating, and a real pain in the — thumbs. I'm beginning to rethink my premises. The flaw in my thinking was based on an erroneous premise. Simply said, I failed to take into account the power of these devices to adapt with software improvements. Here is a good example.
For me — no, perhaps for my entire generation — input means keyboards. How quaint, how archaic, how old-school. I've recently discovered a wonderful Android app produced by Nuance — the makers of my beloved Dragon Systems NaturallySpeaking speech-to-text transcription software. I've used NaturallySpeaking for years on my desktop computer, enduring their learning curve, and watching the product gets better and better with each generation. I now use it almost exclusively for my writing. Almost everything you read from me starts off as a dictation which is transcribed by NaturallySpeaking and then polished in final editing using the keyboard. It works so well on my computer I'm amazed it took me so long to discover their similar product for my Android phone and tablet devices. I suspect I was asleep at the switch because of the awful marketing name – FlexT9. Really? FlexT9? That's the best you guys could come up with?
Don't let this ridiculous name prevent you from discovering this wonderful smartphone and tablet app. Suffice it to say, I'm now using it exclusively on every Android device I own. It's far too feature-rich for me to explain in this blog, so I'll let you check it out for yourself.
The key point is that FlexT9 allows four different types of input – voice-to-text transcription, trace, write, and tap. As odd as it sounds – and as unexpected as it was for me – I find myself flipping between all four types of input, using each for its own strengths. For example, I'll often dictate a sentence for transcription, then use trace to insert or change a given word, and even use handwriting recognition for some input. The mode I use the least is old-school tap typing. It seems that no matter which input method I use, they're all equally accurate and amazingly fast. This is one app I cannot recommend highly enough. Do yourself a favor and give it a test drive — especially if you want to use your Android phone or tablet device as a productivity tool.
For you iPad folks, unfortunately this is one of those very rare instances where there just doesn't seem to be an equivalent in the Apple ecosystem. Somebody, somewhere must be working on it, so you'll just have to keep your eye out — and your fingers crossed (no pun intended) — for a swipe input type keyboard. In the meantime, you do have Dragon Dictate which works quite well on the iPad, assuming you have Internet connection.