Over a year after the initial launch of the iPad, we are finally seeing some decent tablet alternatives on the market. Recent legal quarrels between Apple and Samsung indicate that competition will be fierce. Obviously, the most recent Android Honeycomb tablets are up to par, even in the eyes of Apple.
If you have recently switched to an Android 3.x tablet and are struggling with the keyboard, this article may help you out. It shows how to set up the touchscreen keyboard and I suggest an alternative keyboard containing all of the special characters you’re used to. Finally, I share some tips for touch typers and I hope that practice will convince you that getting an external keyboard is not a necessity.
Explore Your Keyboard Options
The screenshots below show the default Android 3.x keyboard. Note that this is the German keyboard, i.e. the QWERTZ variant.
This keyboard has nice big keys, but as you can see it is lacking a lot of essential characters and unfortunately, not all of them can be released when pressing the > ?123 key.
You can access the settings of the current keyboard by clicking the tools button in the bottom left area of the keyboard itself. In the above example it’s the key in the very bottom left. If you want to switch to another keyboard layout, click the keyboard symbol in the bottom right of your Android taskbar for a list of installed alternatives.
If you depend on special characters and can work with smaller keys, you should look into alternative keyboards. My suggestion is the Hacker’s Keyboard, which is also available in many different layouts, for example German, Russian, Spanish, and French.
The Hacker’s Keyboard provides a full five rows of keys, containing almost all of the characters found on a conventional keyboard. In the settings you will find options for both portrait and landscape mode, allowing you to set the height of the keyboard among other things.
Set Up Your Tablet Touchscreen Keyboard
You will find the full touchscreen keyboard options under > Settings > Language and input. Under > Keyboard settings you can select your > Current input method (default), set the > Input method selector, and > Configure input methods.
I would recommend to start with the last item in the list, adjusting the behavior of the touchpad and the default keyboards. For example you can set auto capitalization, auto correction, or a vibration of the tablet when pressing a key. For some keyboards you can also select > Active input methods, i.e. the keyboard languages that will be supported.
Practice Typing On Your Touchscreen Keyboard
Typing on a touchscreen comes with several challenges. First of all, it’s difficult to find the right keys because there are no sensory cues to guide you. This also makes it very hard for your hands to return to their ‘home position’. Secondly, it’s almost impossible to rest your hands on the tablet without triggering menus or random keys. Finally, if you do manage to fly-type and hit all of the right keys, you may end up being too fast for the touchscreen to keep up with you.
For touch typers, these obstacles are huge. The truth is, you may have to re-learn typing on a touchscreen and your 10 finger system may not work as well as returning to a coordinated three or four finger system. But if you do want to give touch typing on a touchscreen a chance, try the following things:
- set the touchscreen up in an angle
- rest your wrists on a surface, for example a table
- hover with fingers over the tablet touchscreen keyboard and align in ‘home position’
- use your index finger to hit the spacebar as using your thumbs may trigger the taskbar
- type slowly
Do you think a good touchscreen keyboard is sufficient for your purposes? If you consider getting an external keyboard, you should check out the following article and the discussion within the comments: Why Tablets Shouldn’t Have Keyboards Included With Them [Geeks Weigh In].
If you haven’t yet bought a Tablet PC because you’re undecided, I recommend this article - 5 Things To Consider Before Buying A Tablet PC.
How do you use your tablet and do you type a lot at all?