Don’t just type “Hi”

Don’t just type “Hi”

Don’t just type “Hi”

Let’s admit it – keyboards and touch screens don’t exactly go together.

The popular Facebook pages that describe funny, or semi-funny, errors (search Google for something like “damn it, error correction,” but don’t expect too much refined humor), caused by the automatic error correction mechanisms in smartphones, point to a process that is actually taking place: the decline of the keyboard. So, after years in which we have learned to touch type, the transition to touch screen-based devices means that the rules have changed again. And as the education system shifts from a “one computer per child” model to “one tablet per child,” we need to reassess the ways in which we turn thoughts into letters and words. As long as we don’t have to type. (All of the tools mentioned in this post are free applications for Android.)

Slide it! – Instead of pressing on keys, slide your finger between the letters, without lifting it. Don’t worry, even if you only pass in approximately the right area, the keyboard will understand what you mean, with the help of the famous (or infamous) spelling correction mechanism. The pioneer in this area was Swype, one of the popular keyboards for Android, which offers smooth, rapid typing with a rich vocabulary, but both Swiftkey, with its flow function, and Google Keyboard do the job impressively. Want to do it with two hands? Try Keymonk.

Scan it! – Why key in internet addresses, contact details, or e-mail addresses, when you can simply scan a QR code with the camera? Instead of giving vague instructions in class (“Go into Google, type…,” or “Do you see the menu? In the top right corner…,” or “I put a link on the school’s website,” or “small m, like marry”), teachers can simply display or print a code that will send the students straight to the worksheet they have prepared. The most successful tools for this purpose for tablet computers are QR Droid and Google Goggles.

Say it! – Have you ever tried using the microphone icon next to the search line on your Android? Its voice recognition capabilities are most impressive. Google’s Voice Search allows you to simply say what you are looking for, even in Hebrew (you will need to change the search language in the device’s setup page). Particularly useful while driving, when searching for an address in Waze.

Maybe just write it? – Contrary to all our expectations, touch screens take us back to handwriting. Do you remember the palm computers of the late 1990s, with their touch screens and handwriting identification, which required users to practice the right movements so as to differentiate between i and j? Well, today it’s much simpler. You’d be surprised to see how the tablet will be able interpret your own hieroglyphics, even in Hebrew. The MyScript Stylus application replaces the keyboard with an area on the screen on which you can scrawl instead of type, either with your finger or with a stylus; the MyScript Calculator allows you to write complicated mathematics exercises, with fractions, algebraic expressions and various sorts of brackets, in your own handwriting; with Write you can summarize meetings and lectures in your own handwriting, later editing the text as you would with a word processor, and even adding bookmarks; with Skitch, you can add notes, arrows and handwritten notes on any document or image; and Google Translate will translate for you anything that you scribble on the screen (but not in Hebrew).

Photograph it! – The smartphone or tablet camera can be a wonderful took for searches (with Google Goggles, you can scan a work of art in a museum, or a box of cereal in the supermarket, in order to search for additional information; with Google Translate, you can photograph signs and advertisements in a language that you don’t understand, and get an instant translation), for cataloguing and organizing documents: CamScanner can turn your smartphone into a sophisticated document scanner, allowing you to store documents in PDF format, to scan and OCR to documents in English, and more; and Evernote, the popular notebook application, will allow you to quickly create post-it notes and reminders with the aid of the camera.

Bottom line: don’t type “Hi” to me – say/shoot/slide/scribble “See you!”

Photo Credit: ebayink via Compfight cc