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Ask Slashdot: A 'Mavis Beacon' For Teaching Smartphone and Tablet Typing? 55

Posted by Soulskill
from the start-texting-conversations-with-a-teenager dept.
theodp writes: "Where have you gone, Mavis Beacon? A nation of smartphone and tablet typists could use your help. You've seen people type fast-and-furiously on smartphones and tablets, so you know it can be done, but how exactly do these one- and two-fingered wonders (YouTube video) manage to do so? Is it their reaction time? Technique? Both? Back in the day, touch-typing teachers showed kids the secrets to higher word-per-minute scores on their Smith Coronas. Later, typing tutor software got kids up-to-speed on PCs. So, with over 1 billion smartphones and 200 million or so tablets shipped in 2013, what are the best software and tutorials that teach mobile typing techniques? And what platform specific features — iOS, Android, WP8/Win8, BB — do you find make your mobile typing life a whole lot easier?"
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Ask Slashdot: A 'Mavis Beacon' For Teaching Smartphone and Tablet Typing?

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  • by Xacid (560407) on Saturday June 07, 2014 @12:10PM (#47186675) Journal

    I can't tell if this is a serious article or not. Practice really is the hardest part of learning to type quickly. I don't think I've seen a kid with a cellphone who couldn't type furiously at it because it's all they've known and they all pretty much have a mobile device these days. Is there really such a demand for such a thing? I really don't see it. What I think the limitation is now is more of an interface problem than a user problem. Consider a good implementation of a swype-like interface versus a touch interface - I can type substantially faster on the swype-like interface after about 2 weeks of practice.

    • Re:Practice. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by CastrTroy (595695) on Saturday June 07, 2014 @12:22PM (#47186723) Homepage
      On a real keyboard, it's all about technique. Putting your fingers where they're supposed to go can speed you up quite a bit. I've known people who practiced a lot with two fingers on ICQ or MSN back in the day, and could probably get close to 30-40 WPM, but that still doesn't compare to someone using good technique. I'm not sure that's there's really any technique you can use on phone keyboards. They all pretty much suck. The best onscreen keyboard I've ever used was on my surface. The arrow keys help a lot when correcting mistakes. But there isn't enough room for such useful features on a small phone screen.
      • I can ten-finger type on an ipad, the difference is they're no tactile feedback so I need to keep my eye on the keyboard. but the keyboard blocks most of the screen anyway so there's nothing else to look at.
        • by xfade551 (2627499)
          Find a bunch of teenagers to spend 90% of your waking hours and 25% of your sleeping hours texting with. That's how they get fast, anyway... 500 text messages per day!
          • by Dogtanian (588974)

            Find a bunch of teenagers to spend 90% of your waking hours and 25% of your sleeping hours texting with. That's how they get fast, anyway... 500 text messages per day!

            This may be true, but is typing on a smartphone's virtual QWERTY keyboard the same skill as old-school numeric keypad texting that the then-teenagers of 10 to 15 years ago picked up on their Nokia 3210s et al (i.e. three letters to a physical button)?

            In fact, as far as I'm aware, "texting" in its original SMS sense is in decline in Western nations, (*) which doesn't surprise me as smartphones have other ways to send messages. My technophobic Mum seemed quite proud of the fact that she was actually quite c

            • what's great and unique about SMS is you can send a SMS message to any cell phone and it will chime and the user will get a notice. maybe if you know that a person has snapchat you can snapchat your butt or whatever. but snapchat will die, so will everything else. sms as a technology isn't going anywhere.
              • by Dogtanian (588974)

                what's great and unique about SMS is you can send a SMS message to any cell phone and it will chime and the user will get a notice. maybe if you know that a person has snapchat you can snapchat your butt or whatever. but snapchat will die, so will everything else. sms as a technology isn't going anywhere.

                True, the universality is a benefit, and that's why SMS will probably remain as a "baseline" service for quite a long time. OTOH, it *is* very limited, even by the standards of the late-90s when it first became *really* popular. (The 140 character limit is more reminiscent of limits imposed by the tiny RAMs of late-70s computers!).

                Also, rather obviously, you can't SMS text a photo of your butt(!), and most of the end-users of other services are probably only doing so for ephemeral use- let's face it, that

        • Re:Practice. (Score:4, Interesting)

          by milkmage (795746) on Saturday June 07, 2014 @12:57PM (#47186867)

          try this

          http://fleksy.com/ [fleksy.com]

          I think it's still free. no bullshit, I tried it for literally 10 minutes and was touch typing w/o looking at the keyboard.

          I think it registers your taps in relative position to each other and has predictive correction/selection

          This will probably be my third party keyboard of choice once iOS8 comes out.

    • I agree, practice is a huge part of it. Back in the days of type on the old Smith corona very few people owned their own typewriter. Additionally there was no benefit, other than to practice, to type incessantly. Texting is a form of communication, it's totally different. Even typing on a computer is different. If you make a mistake, it'll probably be auto-corrected.

      When I learned to type you could try to erase the error with one of those green pencil type ink erasers with a brush on one end. Half

    • by Dogtanian (588974)

      I can't tell if this is a serious article or not. Practice really is the hardest part of learning to type quickly.

      I got to be a relatively fast typist for a hunt-and-pecker after several years of using computers, to the point that some people at school were quite impressed. (Course, this is back when computers were still geek things- and I was a geek!- and most others only used them for games if at all).

      Even so, further computer use alone- i.e. practice- would at best have made me a slightly better hunt-and-peck typist. There's no way I'd have picked up touch-typing if I hadn't made the decision to intentionally lear

    • by hodet (620484)

      I am a phone typist the way my Dad is computer keyboard typist. Slow and painful to watch. I can smoke a regular keyboard (and not bad on a bb keyboard) but touchscreens are a challenge for me, no matter how much I practice on a touchscreen I will never be faster than a 14 yr old girl with tiny fingers on a gossip mission.

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  • by Animats (122034) on Saturday June 07, 2014 @12:11PM (#47186683) Homepage

    I have this horrible vision of a system where, as you advance from level to level, the touch-screen buttons keep getting smaller.

    • I have this horrible vision of a system where, as you advance from level to level, the touch-screen buttons keep getting smaller.

      I guess it's time to look for slender fingered women to breed with.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    If you want to learn typing, get a keyboard. It's the right tool for the job.

    • by tepples (727027)
      Good luck carrying a Bluetooth keyboard with you and whipping it out at red lights.
  • Steam (Score:3, Informative)

    by jdwoods (89242) on Saturday June 07, 2014 @12:20PM (#47186711) Homepage

    "Where have you gone, Mavis Beacon?"

    Steam
    http://store.steampowered.com/... [steampowered.com]

  • "people type fast-and-furiously on smartphones and tablets, so you know it can be done, but how exactly do these one- and two-fingered wonders (YouTube video) manage to do so?"

    And my mom said playing video games wouldn't amount to anything. Look how fast I can type on my phone now bitch...my thumbs are flying
  • by Anonymous Coward

    On a real keyboard, I can destroy the world record speed for phone typing.

    I am a decent typist, but by no means near the top of the pack. I'm good for a tad over 100 WPM if I concentrate on it, and 75 if I'm slacking off. Wikipedia:

    As of 2012, Grace Pak (USA) held the world record of 280 character-per-minute for the fastest typing on a smart phone

    Which can be considered about 56 WPM. That's dreadful. I can do 100 on a keyboard, but really fast typists are up around the 150WPM range, and burst over 200.

    Most people will be much, much slower on a phone than Grace Pak. Personally, I don't know if I can enter text on a p

    • by BronsCon (927697)
      Wow! 56WPM? That's the record? I was hitting 60WPM on my BlackBerry Curve when I first got it; but then, that had a physical keyboard. I never did test my typing speed after having it for a while, but I'd venture it was somewhere north of where I started.
    • When I'm mixing languages, and I have to type accents, I type much faster and much more accurately on my phone than on my PC.

      That's only because the virtual keyboard on my phone has mined my gmail archive, my sms history, my twitter posts, and my facebook posts, that it knows what I'm going to type before I type it. And here, I'm not just talking about word completion, or accent completion, my phone has enough data on me that if I start a sentence a particular way, it not only knows enough to complete the w

  • by Anonymous Coward

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=64tfnG77Nl8

  • Someone needs to port Typing Of The Dead to Android and iOS.

  • At least for me, it was gradually developed over time jut by doing it faster and faster. The same goes for regular keyboards, actually - I made post a while back about Mario Teaches Typing being effective, but I didn't have much time with it (only in school), so I only got the middle row from that. The rest was from hunt and peck, which gradually evolved on its' own into touch typing. Just keep using it regularly, and you'll get faster.
  • I find using Dvorak on smartphones and tablets to be much more comfortable and efficient. I never could touchtype Dvorak on a regular keyboard as well as I can touchtype QWERTY, but since typing on smartphones and tablets basically requires the user to hunt-and-peck, Dvorak really shines in this environment, even for someone whose brain is wired for QWERTY.

    • by TeknoHog (164938)

      This reminds me of my experiences of typing on a Nokia N800, which is too small for any human fingers, and you actually have to peck with a stylus. (Unless you use the mode where the virtual keyboard fills the entire screen.) However, I found that my touch-typing background goes a long way -- there is little hunting involved if you really know your QWERTY, so the pecking with the stylus is surprisingly natural. It is also surprisingly fast due to the small range of movements. I guess it also helps that the

  • by meeotch (524339) on Saturday June 07, 2014 @04:20PM (#47187553) Homepage

    ...at least not on my goddamn telephone. I don't know how to "thumb type" at all, and oddly, when I'm sitting on the subway and I look around to see all the people furiously hammering away on their phones, I'm not one of them.

    I use Swype (which is irritating in its own way, due to flaky prediction), and it's just usable enough that I can reply to an important email/text, or look something up on the net/maps. If it's not important, it waits until I'm sitting in front of a monitor - or better still, slips off the agenda entirely.

    By all means, improve predictive text / speech recognition / HCI whatever. But why in the hell would I waste my time acquiring a skill that's only useful for burying one's head in (further) neurotic withdrawal from physical reality? It's like learning Esperanto so more people can read your Facebook page.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    i just use a bluetooth keyboard. problem solved.

  • by FuzzNugget (2840687) on Saturday June 07, 2014 @04:25PM (#47187573)

    There is no good way to type on a mobile system, they're not meant for content creation beyond the minimum. Not even those click-on keyboards for Windows tablets (all 5 of them) are any good. They're this soft, felty, flat bar of pointlessness with no tactility, that exist purely for style (and not much of it). Maybe you can get a *real* 102-key IBM PC keyboard connected via Bluetooth... but that pretty much defeats the purpose of a mobile device (consumption and feeding you ads)

    The best you'll get is a mish-mash of Swype, pecking and autocorrect, and there's no standard or correct manner of using it. It's just what works for you individually.

    If you to type, get a laptop. The best laptop keyboard you'll ever find is on a ThinkPad of the Core 2 generation, and if you're just typing, that's all you really need.

    • by jon3k (691256)

      that exist purely for style

      They exist so that the software keyboard can move out of the way and the input mechanism can be changed by software. It's a trade off. You trade the ability to type more quickly for a per application, software defined user interface.

      (consumption and feeding you ads)

      You forgot communication. Phone calls, email, text messages, facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, Snapchat, Yik Yak (I could go on for a while).

  • you can apply QUERTY techniques.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      How on earth did you manage to miss spell that?

  • by reanjr (588767) on Saturday June 07, 2014 @09:37PM (#47188601) Homepage

    The issue is that the traditional keyboard layout. It's designed to accept up to 10 fingers of input. Your phone is only designed to accept two. This is reasonable only for the shittiest of typing skills. Most people who are fast at touch screen typing, get that way by learning to accept spelling mistakes, ignore grammar and punctuation, and let auto-correct generate something close to what you really intended. Their goals are completely different from traditional Mavis Beacon like software, because accuracy is practically irrelevant.

    If you have a real desire to learn to type on a touch screen, toss out all of your QERTY keyboard bullshit and use something that was designed for - you know - touch screens (swype is an abomination that takes auto-correct down to the character level).

    https://play.google.com/store/... [google.com]

    • I was just about to type something along the lines of what you did, but since you already did, it seems I can save myself the typing.

      The way I see it: Desktop keyboards, Dvorak or Colemak; cell phones and tablet computers, MessagEase. Use the right tool for the job, and ironically, QWERTY is never the right tool (and this is especially true on a touchscreen "keyboard").

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