What Features Do You Look For In A Keyboard App?

On any computing device, we want the easiest and most efficient way of communicating. This communication encompasses both information that we feed into the device, and the one we get out.

The effectiveness of this interface between human and machine determines if we are “getting our pound of flesh” from our “investment”

I shall be focusing exclusively on Android, an Operating System (OS) whose modular design allows the stock Keyboard to be replaced by third party ones.

In the quest for the best possible keyboard application, I have tried out quite a number, with different experiences.

Notable, among the numerous I have tried my hands on, include:

swype_logo_featureSwype is my personal favourite.

Modern keyboard apps try to alleviate the problem of typing on small screens. With phablets and tablets now common place, the benefits derivable while designing those apps are easily extrapolated to the bigger screened cousins.

I daresay that the specific keyboard app you are using on your device would affect your productivity significantly. That is why it is advisable to pick the “best”, at any point in time, according to to our needs. For me, the search for “the best” is perpetual.

So, what are the features to look out for, in a keyboard app?

“Swipe” Ability

All keyboard apps allow you to tap on keys. But an elite few also allow you to “swipe’ on your touchscreen. These keyboard apps allow you to type words by sliding your finger across your touchscreen, connecting letters together to form words.

Some of the apps with this “swiping” ability are :

  • Swype
  • Ultra Keyboard
  • TouchPal

and, recently,

  • SwiftKey Flow

In the past, I have tried to make do with keyboard apps bereft of “swiping” ability (because of some other features) , but found that I can not live with such. I always gravitate back to the “swipy ones”

AutoComplete & Prediction

The second compelling feature is how accurate a keyboard app is.

I love “psychic” keyboard apps. When “swiping: or “tapping”, it should be adept at guessing what word you have in mind by suggesting reasonable words once you type a few letters.

Now, the operative word there is –  “reasonable”

A keyboard app should arrange the suggested words in terms of recently or frequently used words.

However, one of the annoying things about lots of keyboards is that they arrange the suggested words haphazardly. Some sort the words alphabetically.

But my favourite, Swype, almost always manages to suggest words, in the right order, with the suggested default being the correct one – most of the time. One of the ways these keyboards improve their smartness is to learn your writing style from your social media activities (like Twitter, facebook, gmail and Contacts).

Ability to define shortcuts

Some keyboard apps allow you to define “replacement text” for cryptic shortcuts.

You type something like:

“Brb”, and you get “be right back”


“hagw”, and get “have a great weekend”


“afaik”, and get “as far as I know”

This can save you tonnes of keystrokes, depending on how you use this wonderful ability.

This ability, sadly, is missing from “Swype” – my favourite. I am eagerly looking forward to when this feature will be incorporated into it.

Personal dictionary

Lots allow you define a dictionary consisting of words that are peculiar to you. You can put words like Naira, kobo, technical terms, etc.

I guess the idea behind the “separation of power” is to make the main internal dictionary as small in size as possible.

Cosmetic Tweakability

There are keyboard apps with tonnes of customizations, ranging from themes, coupled with the ability to change almost all the elements on the keyboard.

If “cosmetics” is your onion, you may want to check out apps like A.I.Type Keyboard, or, Ultra Keyboard.

They give you the ability to tweak to your heart’s desire. Adjustable keyboard size? no problemo!. Customizable toolbar? They have you covered!

Multiple Language Support

If you are multilingual, you would appreciate a keyboard app that speaks your tongue(s).

Usually, there are downloable “language packs” for the different supported languages. That way, you avoid bloat by downloading the packs that interest you only.

Those are some of the features that you may want to consider when choosing your keyboard.

To see the significance of a great predictive keyboard, type on a Tablet with a keyboard like Hackers’ Keyboard,  and see the difference.

The keyboard app is the most used third party app on any modern mobile device. For this reason, only the best is good enough.

What other features should we look out for?


“Seek (Well), And You Shall Find …”

Getting information from the World Wide Web can be likened to the proverbial “searching for needles in a haystack”.

However, when you fail to find the information you need on the internet, it is usually one of two things:

  • either the search engine or search parameters used are defective.
  • the much unlikely instance that the information you seek is not known to mankind.

This why getting a good grip of how to use search engines like Clusty, Bing, Google, DevilFinder, e.t.c, used to be so important.

But, beyond learning to type in cryptic command to properly drill down and get to what you seek, there are services and applications designed specifically to make searching for information as easy as just typing the text of what you desire.

I am a mobile app Junkie. Reading eBooks is my onion. You can then easily guess that I would make use of search engines a lot.

How many times have you had to type arcane commands like these into Google?:

“File Expert” filetype:apk

This searches for all webpages containing the Android app (with extension “.apk”) named “file Expert”


“sidney sheldon” filetype:epub

which lists downloadable “epub” documents of the renowned writer, Sidney Sheldon

The problem with this approach is that there are many ebook formats (e.g .txt, .pdf, .epub, .djvu and so on). If you were looking for a specific ebook, there may be the need to repeatedly search for different file formats.

In the Android App example above, the particular app may not exist in the ‘apk’ format. Perhaps it has been compressed into a “.rar” or “.zip” format, in which case your search will not yield any results.

Getting to your information faster

A good method is to use any of the many apps or services that allow the specification of a search item, and then crawls the web, looking for different instances of your search parameter. These services or apps, however, differ markedly in terms of the comprehensiveness and variety of the hosted documents.

There is, of course, the popular Youtube which gives you access to numerous videos for direct viewing and downloading.

Two other well known services that I use are:


Millions of people share files (audios, videos, apps, ebooks, e.t.c) on 4Shared daily. You could download the 4shared app unto your mobile device (this exists for all the major Operating Systems – Android, iOS and BlackBerry), or visit the website itself.

I prefer to use the 4shared app rather than visit the the website because the app way is faster, and goes directly to the download task.

Download EveryThing

This is a free Android and iOS application. It searches, downloads and allows you listen to all the indexed 4Shared apps and documents, as well as those on MegaUpLoad. That is a big collection of information.

Focused Wandering

Of course, there are many situations when you have some free time and would rather do some leisurely browsing without any particular thing in mind. All of us have topics that interest us. Some of mine are Automobiles, Medicine, Philosophy and Personal Finance.

How about a service or app that allows you stumble upon websites, based on your specific interests?

Well, affords you that service. There is also a mobile app equivalent for major mobile platforms. StumbleUpon also exists as a “plugin” for some Desktop Browsers like FireFox.

To use the StumbleUpon service, you have to sign up, specify the subjects that interest you (say, Religion,Jokes, e.t.c). Each time you click the “stumble” button, you are presented with webpages that match your specified interest in a randomized way.

These webpages are “crowd_sourced” from other StumbleUpon Users who rate and “recommend” webpages that they love. The higher the rating of a particular webpage, the more likely it is that it would be presented to viewers.

You are assured of “Stumbling Upon” interesting sites (and people!) that you would normally probably never come across.

Gadgets Mobile

Your Next Desktop Could Be A Phone

Why carry two devices, when you could carry only one? Imagine carrying a full desktop computer in your pocket. We’re talking about a real desktop OS built in to your smartphone. Your next high-end smartphone has far more horsepower than you’ll need on a phone, and more than enough for a laptop. Canonical, the company behind Ubuntu, wants to make that happen. Android for the phone experience, Ubuntu for the desktop, all on one device, running at the same time.

In your pocket, it’s an Android-powered smartphone. Not just any smartphone, either – it’s your smartphone. Pull it out and drop it in a docking station, though, and it becomes a full workstation powered by Ubuntu, complete with monitor and keyboard. Sounds incredible, right? One address book. One set of bookmarks. One place for your text messages and email. No more typing on a tiny screen when all you want is a keyboard and a mouse. No more going round in circles trying to make your mobile do what it was not intended for. Seamless integration of your desktop and mobile worlds. Brilliant.

Why add anything to Android?

Android is a mobile solution, designed for a touch interface on a handheld device. On the desktop, where users expect a pointer-driven experience, a PC operating system is essential. Several vendors have tried to bring Android-based desktops or laptops to market, with no success; Android was designed for touch only, and has its hands full winning the tablet wars.

A complete desktop solution needs a full range of desktop applications. While a mobile OS carries no deep desktop software catalogue, Ubuntu offers thousands of applications, all designed for the desktop and most, like Ubuntu, free. And Ubuntu is certified by governments, industry and enterprises, widely deployed on the desktop, and supported by leading management solutions.

Another alternative would be a web-top, or web only desktop. But markets have not responded to web-only environments. The desktop is a high-productivity mode, not a media consumption mode or a browsing mode like you have on mobiles.

Canonical seems to have covered all the bases here, too; since the Android kernel is based on the Linux kernel, it’s fully compatible with Ubuntu. This means that, thanks to some software tweaks built into Ubuntu for Android, you still have access to all of your phone’s goodies, including SMS messages and phone calls.

What kind of horsepower would it take to run something like this, though? Honestly, not that much. In fact, most multi-core phones with at least 512MB of RAM, HDMI, and USB should be able to handle what Canonical is proposing.

At this point, Canonical is still calling out to manufacturers and carriers to hop on board so they can start integrating Ubuntu for Android into handsets, so it’s hard to say when we’ll actually see this in the consumer market. Canonical is, however, planning to demo Ubuntu for Android at next week’s Mobile World Congress convention in Barcelona, so hopefully that will spark more interest.


Access A Write-Protected Drive

DURING A BIT of housecleaning the other day, I uncovered an old USB hard drive that I hadn’t used in a couple years. I decided to plug it in, check the contents, and see whether it contained anything I still needed. The drive turned out to be filled with a bunch of old, unnecessary files. “Great,” I thought, “I’ll just delete them and put the drive back into use for other things.”

Just one problem: When I tried to erase the unwanted files, Windows popped up an error message declaring that the drive was write-protected. Uh, okay. I wasn’t sure why that would be the case, but whatever. I figured that I would just go ahead and format the drive; that was sure to clear everything out.

Whoops! Same error. Oh, Windows, you baffling, unpredictable, endlessly annoying operating system, you. (By the way, I’m running Windows 7 64-bit on my current PC. The drive was most likely formatted in a 32-bit version of Windows XP. Maybe that had something to do with the problem.)

I spent some time investigating fixes for this issue, which can affect any kind of drive, and landed on the following procedure:

1 Open a Command prompt by clicking Start, typing command in the field, and clicking Command Prompt.

2 Type diskpart and press <Enter>.

3 Type list volume and press <Enter>.

4 Type select volume x, where x is the number of the drive that’s giving you the ‘write-protected’ error. In my case, I ended up typing ‘select volume 3’.

5 Type attributes disk clear readonly and press <Enter>.

6 Type exit and press <Enter>.

That’s it! At this point you should have full write access to the problematic drive. This series of steps definitely worked for me.

Humor Lifestyle

Help Desk [Joke]

Just a nice little story to remember and think of when you think that your computer hates you!

This is a story from the Word Perfect Helpline which was transcribed from a recording monitoring the customer care department.

Needless to say the HelpDesk employee was fired; however, he is currently suing the WordPerfect organization for “Termination without Cause”.

Actual dialogue of a former WordPerfect Customer Support employee (now I know why they record these conversations).

“Ridge Hall computer assistance; may I help you?”

“Yes, well, I’m having trouble with WordPerfect.”

“What sort of trouble?”

“Well I was just typing along, and all of a sudden the words went away”.

“Went away?”

“They disappeared.”

“Hmm. So what does your screen look like now?”



“It’s blank; it won’t accept anything when I type.”

“Are you still in WordPerfect or did you get out?”

“Howdo I tell?”

“Can you see the C:prompt on the screen?”

“What’s a sea-prompt?”

“Never mind. Can you move your cursor around the screen?”

“There isn’t any cursor: I told you, it won’t accept anything I type”.

“Does your monitor have a power indicator?”

“What’s a monitor?”

“It’s the thing with the screen on it that looks like a TV. Does it have a little light that tells you when it’s on?”

“I don’t know?”

“Well, then look on the back of the monitor and find where the power cord goes into it. Can you see that?”

“Yes, I think so”.

“Great. Follow the cord to the plug, and tell me if it’s plugged into the wall.”

“Yes it is”

“When you were behind the monitor, did you notice that there were two cables plugged into the back of it, not just one?”


“Well, there are. I need you to look back there again and find the other cable.”

“Okay, here it is.”

“Follow it for me, and tell me if it’s plugged securely into the back of your computer”.

“I can’t reach it.”

“Uh huh. Well, can you see if it is?”


“Even if you maybe put your knee on something and Lean way over?”

“Oh, it’s not because I don’t have the right angle It’s because it’s dark.”


“Yes the office light is off, and the only light I have is coming in from the window.”

“Well, turn on the office light then.”

“I can’t.”

“No? Why not?”

“Because there’s a power failure.”

“A power…. A power failure? Aha, Okay, we’ve got it licked now. Do you still have the boxes and manuals and packing stuff your computer came in?”

“Well, yes I keep them in the closet.”

“Good. Go get them, and unplug your system and pack it up just like it was when you got it. Then take it back to the store you bought it from.”

“Really? Is it that bad?”

“Yes, I’m afraid it is.”

“Well, all right then, I suppose. What do I tell them?”


– Posted using BlogPress

Gadgets Mobile

15-year-old sets new record for typing on an iPad

Eduard Saakashvili, the 15-year-old son of the president of the country of Georgia, has been awarded a Guinness Book of World Records certification as the fastest typist on an iPad, correctly typing the entire English alphabet in just 5.26 seconds — with one hand, Cult of Mac reports. The record was set at a resort on the Black Sea often used for high-level diplomatic conferences, and beat the previous record by over a second.

The previous record-holder was another teenager, a Charlie McDonnell of the UK, who had done the feat in 6.31 seconds a year ago. President Mikheil Saakashvili and his wife Sandra Roelofs were said to be “very proud” of their son’s accomplishment, which was limited to using the on-screen iPad keyboard only (although the iPad can also utilize a Bluetooth keyboard).

Numerous videos on the web show techniques and demonstrations of fast typing on an iPad, where even casual but accomplished touch-typists can often equal the speed they can achieve on a conventional “tactile” keyboard.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


RIM’s BlackBerry PlayBook: A Promising Tablet

RESEARCH IN Motion’s BlackBerry PlayBook ($500 for 16GB version, $600 for 32GB, and $700 for 64GB) offers a convenient size and novel navigation, but its software can be frustrating.
In some respects, the PlayBook is the most impressive tablet I’ve seen. But native apps such as its browser have disappointing glitches, and its variety of third-party apps is limited.

The PlayBook is compact and light. Offering a 7-inch display (which is significantly smaller than the 9.7-inch screen of the iPad 2), it can fit into a roomy coat pocket. And its weight is just under 1 pound, which makes it 28 percent lighter than the 1.3-pound iPad 2. The PlayBook is very easy to hold, too.

In landscape orientation, the PlayBook’s 3-megapixel front-facing camera sits at center top. On the back top is a 5-megapixel camera.

The stereo speakers offer the best audio output I’ve heard yet from a tablet.

Along the bottom of the tablet are three ports, for HDMI Micro, Micro-USB, and a magnetic rapid charger connection. (A Micro-USB wall charger is included.)

Powering the tablet is a 1GHz dual-core processor and 1GB of memory. It connects to 802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-Fi, but a mobile broadband connection must wait until late summer, when RIM will release 4G LTE and WiMax versions. The tablet has no memory expansion card slot.

The PlayBook runs RIM’s new BlackBerry Tablet OS, which has a fresh look and feel; its swipe-based touchscreen navigation is novel and innovative, albeit with a few bumps. While it looks complex, navigation is intuitive and quickly becomes second nature. The PlayBook is also responsive: Screens refresh quickly. On the whole, RIM’s approach to navigation is easier to use and more flexible than that of the iPad 2’s iOS 4.3.

The PlayBook’s handling of video, music, and pictures is a mixed bag. It does some things extraordinarily well. For example, if you leave an app that’s in the middle of playing a video, and then return later, the PlayBook instantly resumes the video where you left off.

You can buy music on a PlayBook through 7digital, the same DRM-free store you can shop via a BlackBerry phone. RIM plans to offer a video store as well.

The on-screen keyboard has some minuses, such as no autocorrection. And it also feels cramped—not surprising, with a 7-inch screen. A bigger issue is that the rows of keys are not staggered as QWERTY keyboards almost always are, throwing off touch typing.

RIM stocks the PlayBook with a solid complement of preinstalled apps, but with some notable omissions.

The strongest software on board is Adobe Reader and the three productivity apps—Word To Go, Sheet To Go, and Slideshow To Go—that stem from RIM’s acquisition of DataViz. These apps provide interoperability with Microsoft Office documents, and allow for document editing and creation.

The PlayBook doesn’t include any calendar, contact, or e-mail apps. Instead, you’re expected to use a feature called BlackBerry Bridge to pair your PlayBook with a BlackBerry phone, viewing your phone data on the PlayBook’s bigger screen. As a substitute for a native mail app, RIM offers four app icons—one each for AOL Mail, Gmail, Hotmail, and Yahoo Mail—that redirect to those Web-based mail sites rather than to an installed mail app.

Businesspeople who already depend on BlackBerry phones should value both the way those phones will interact with the PlayBook and the built-in security of the platform. For that audience, those capabilities will override many of the PlayBook’s other weaknesses.


– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


ThinkGeek Gadgets For The Home Office

Getting bogged down in the office space can be a real drag come midweek, especially as we look forward to the weekend. But with some help from silly and fun items scattered throughout the work space, your work space can be made to be just a little more fun. For those of us who work from home, it’s not uncommon for us to work even longer hours than most folks, so we need even more distraction to keep our spirits lifted. To this end, I’d like to highlight my top ThinkGeek gadgets and products for the home office.

1) Wall Coverings- Nintendo Wall Graphics!  Seen in my own home office graphic below (sorry for the crop shot; the office is being redone), the graphics themselves are fun to apply and to look at throughout the day.

2) Infamous Red Stapler – From the days of the cult classic movie Office Space, the red stapler is something you can guard with your life should others throughout the house find themselves frequenting your workplace.

ThinkGeek Gadgets For The Home Office
Photo by Matt Hartley

3) Inflatable Brains – I cannot speak for others out there, but I’ve certainly had days when access to to some extra inflatable brains might have been able to supplement those I was born with.

4) Gamer Hand Exerciser – While I simply don’t have any time for games these days, I do like to keep my typing fingers feeling strong and nimble. And let me be the first to point out that the Xtensor device is just what the doctor ordered.

5) Card Carrier – If you’re working in the enterprise realm, chances are you have some business cards made up. But are you keeping them on you in a way that really screams “geek?” Now that is the real question. This Circuit Board Card Carrier is the only way to go.

So next time you’re feeling stressed out, consider this. Fill up your desk with lots of “stuff” to distract your attention for a few minutes. After all, sometimes we just need a quick giggle or something to get our minds off of that difficult problem we might be working over.


Opensource: The cure to Software Piracy

Software Piracy, as defined by Wikipedia refers to several practices which involve the unauthorized copying of computer software.
There is an unspoken consensus, especially in this part of the world, regarding Software Piracy. For computer users to be productive, certain tools must be present on their computers. This includes, but is not restricted to, an Office Suite, browser, Media Player, etc. Some of these tools are already present with the Preinstalled Operating System that comes with your computer, however, some others are not, most notably, the Office Suite.
The first impulse for most honest individuals would be to go to the markets to purchase a copy of that particular software they need. However, on getting there, they are hard pressed to find an original copy, and even when they do, it is so expensive, that most average folk can’t afford it.
The last resort is therefore to buy that 200 Naira recordable CD containing a pirated copy of that software we so desparately need, install and get some work done. Others more conversant with technology will take to the torrent and file sharing sites, search for, and download the appropriate file.

This scenario I have painted above obviously does not mirror the collective behaviour of software pirates. Some of them have decided not to buy any software ever in their lives, even if it is brought right to their doorsteps.

However, for those of us that get a guilty conscience when we copy that executable file from our friends, or download that software from torrent sites, there might be redemption for you yet.

Over the last couple of years, I have began a slow but steady migration from Proprietary software over to free and opensource Software. It all started with dualbooting my computer with Ubuntu Linux.

I know some readers might not be as impulsive or do not want to dive into something completely unfamiliar. Luckily, most Opensource software are also available for windows (some are even exclusively built for windows).

With opensource software, you don’t have to feel guilty when copying that file from a friend or downloading it online, because, that is what you are expected to do. It is even stated in the Licence for most Open source software. It your right.

There is a reoccuring argument that Opensource software is always substandard and not on par with their Proprietary alternative. However, as you will soon realise, this is not the case most of the time. For example, I am typing this post in Writer, An equivalent to Microsoft word, and all the features I have found invaluable on MSWord are right here, and even more, such as the “export to PDF function”.

Most Opensource software is developed by volunteers in their spare time or non governmental (not for profit) organisations. Therefore, they mostly only require donations from those that can give.

Since Opensource software is free to download and share, there is really no harm in trying them out and one might be pleasantly surprised how good they are. You might even already be using one or two opensource software without realising it.

Below, is a list some of the most popular Opensource Software and their Proprietary (and mosttimes more well known counterparts)

1. Mozilla Firefox (Internet Explorer Alternative)
2. (Microsoft Office Alternative)
3. The Gimp (Photoshop Alternative)
4. (MSPaint or even Photoshop Alternative)
5. Blender (3D Max or Maya Alternative)
6. VLC Media Player
7. Dia (Microsoft Visio Alternative), etc.

The list is limitless. To find an appropriate opensource alternative to any proprietary software you might be using, the best place to go is

As we see free and legal alternatives to Proprietary software that offer the same, and even sometimes better functionality, I hope that we will begin to cut back on Software piracy in all forms.

NB: If you clone a system, or buy a system without an Operating System, there are always Opensource Operating Systems you can Install.


Increase Your Typing Speed

I recently came across a utility called “Turbo Type”. The version I am using on my Windows NetBook is 1.39.002. Of course, as you can guess, I am using the free version. This serves my needs just well.  What this software does is to monitor your typing. Before you finish typing a word, it would have suggested a list of words for you. You can then simply pick the one you want.  Yes, a wordprocessor like Microsoft Word has an inbuilt facility that allows you define shortcuts which are then expanded to what you define. For example, you can specify that, when you type the sequence ‘bc’, Ms Word should expand that to ‘because’. Or that it should take the sequence of letters ‘b4’ to mean ‘before’. But, additionally using a utility like “Turbo Type” is the icing on the cake of automated typing.

“Turbo Type” has its dictionary. It is not as comprehensive as it could be. But, as you may have guessed, it allows you to add your own words, to your heart’s desire. The utility comes in most useful when you have to type long words. Type  the sequence a-u-t-o, and voila a population appears listing ‘autonomy’, ‘automatically’, ‘automatic.  Just pick. It would potentially save you numerous keystrokes. You can configure this nifty utility to pop up its suggestions after the number of keystrokes you define. As an example, I have configured mine to popup suggestions after four (4) keystrokes.

What I have noticed with this utility is that if you are a really speedy and accurate typist, you may find that this software will not be of much benefit. This is because there is some time loss in picking from the list of suggestions that an accurate professional typist  may not appreciate.

All-in-all, for the regular keyboard user, this software radically reduces the number of keystrokes necessary while typing on your keyboard.  For people who need to type a lot of text (bloggers, journalists, novelists) , this virtually reduces (or eliminates!) their likelihood of suffering from Repititive Motion Syndrome or Carpal Tunnel Syndrome . This utility reminds me of an application  I used to have on my Nokia 3250 smartphone some years back. It was called QuickWrite 2.2 (available for Symbian 60 3rd Edition) . The two applications are virtually identical in operation.

You can configure the software to auto-start when you start up your system.  The free version (which I am using) needs to be restarted every two hours. A minor inconvenience as I do not type non-stop for that long. The paid version has no such limitation.

Its dictionary supports English, Romanian and French. And, if you are multilingual, you can choose your language on the fly. The Graphical User InterFace (GUI)  supports Romanian, English, Italian, Deutsch and French. It is really really customizable and flexible Give this software a spin, and see if you will not just loooove it!  It supports Windows Xp, Vista and Windows 7 and works with any application that supports text input.  Visit and grab yourself a copy.

A possible alternative to ‘Turbo Type is at Pen Friend