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Saturday, January 19, 2013

Cursor keys on tablet - the Android solution

Ever since this new crop of tablets - iPad and Android - came onto the market, I have been stunned to find the absence of these 4 cursor movement keys - Left, Right, Up and Down.

There was a situation when I was asked to compose a document on an iPad in some meeting and it was a severely frustrating experience to type even two lines. Yes I am not the greatest typist on earth but I am not unaccustomed to writing on a computer either.

It is like stuttering in typing; you type something and then you use back spaces to get back to where your correction point and retype. Surely, this is suppose to be a new generation of touch input over the familiar XP Tablet I once used for over 4 years.

If one search Google looking for answers, you come away with an impression of an ideological war to rid cursor keys on tablet. Why? I have yet seen a report from any user-interface laboratory scientifically measuring the benefit of getting rid of the cursor keys. Equally I have yet seen any substantiation of the harm having these keys present.

You have (almost) all the keys in a real QWERTY keyboard and a cursor on the screen and you still need them to type using your soft keyboard. So what harm is having the cursor keys? If one thinks such keys are unnecessary in a touch environment why not getting rid of all keys - no soft keyboard at all.

Microsoft's XP and Win7 Tablet can function efficiently entirely without a soft keyboard. Samsung Note has a pen input that it converts the scribble into text, much like the Transcriber found in the PDA era, and not using soft keyboard.

Android's development team seems to have a habit of forgetting the more important matter and including so called 'cool' stuff.

Thankfully, a group of developers couldn't put up with this nonsense ideological struggle any more and created the Hacker's Keyboard, which you can download from Google Play. It works wonders and its 4 cursor movements keys are like a torch light in a dark tunnel.

Thanks for this sensible invention (or rather reinvention), my frustrating typing sessions in my Toshiba AT1S0 running Android 3.2.1 tablet are in the distance past.

Since I do not have any Apple device and hence I have not paid too much attention looking for its supplement. A casual Google Search for iOS and cursor keys did not yield any glaringly obvious redress but an endless pleads for solutions.

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