2008-07-12

Critique of iPhone Dvorak keyboard

Update: See Read More on Dvorak for iPhone for more!

Unfortunately, the iPhone Dvorak keyboard hack isn't as good as it could be. There are two problems with it. First, the key clue is Cyrillic, not English. By "key clue," I mean the key that the keyboard displays above your thumb. When you press a key, the key is displayed above your thumb, and the keyboard doesn't type the key until you raise your thumb. This improves your typing accuracy because your thumbs obscure the keys, and you can move your thumb around the keyboard until you find the key you want, then release. While I can touch type Dvorak, touch typing doesn't translate directly to thumb typing. I need the key clues. The key clues, though, are Cyrillic, so they are useless for English.

The other problem is the lack of autocompletion. When I type English words on the QWERTY keyboard, the iPhone does a great job correcting my mistakes, and it learns my peculiar vocabulary and jargon to its autocompletion dictionary as I go. As with the key clue, this is a great boon to typing accuracy. The Cyrillic based Dvorak hack does neither--there is no autocompletion. The only way to correct your mistakes is to actually correct your mistakes. (It's funny how we whine about things not working well, when they didn't even exist five or ten years ago.)

So while it's nice that there is a Dvorak keyboard hack, in practice, I rarely use it. I thumb type QUERTY on the iPhone, just as I would on any other phone, and touch type Dvorak on the PC's full size keyboard.

7 comments:

jsl said...

Yeah, this really annoys me on the iPhone. I need to use Dvorak, and it seems less-than-simple to do so on the iPhone. I wish that Apple would step it up a bit on this one. Just another reason that we need a good open-source alternative, though.

Masago said...

I'm a Dvorak keyboarder too and thinking about buying an iPhone. I'm disappointed the Dvorak isn't built in. :-(

Anonymous said...

Send your feedback to Apple:
http://www.apple.com/feedback/iphone.html

Select feedback type: Configurability
------------------------------
Dear Apple:

Please add the Dvorak Simplified Keyboard to the iPhone.

Thank you.
XXXXX XXXXXXX
------------------------------

If you send feedback, post here and let us know.

Anonymous said...

Masago...

I switched to Dvorak in '89 (wow, 20 years next year) and just got an iPhone. My experience is it's not a problem. There's a difference between touch typing on my Dvorak keyboard as I am now and the kind of "hunt and peck" when I'm looking right at the iPhone QWERTY. It's not been a problem and I'm getting faster.

Plus the iPhone does a "suggestion" thing where it memorizes words you type so more and more often, all I'm typing are the first two or three letters.

My personal opinion is, it's not a "barrier" to getting one. Yeah I'd rather have Dvorak on it but it's not turned out to be much an issue. You can't touch type on the iPhone so I'm not too sure it would matter how the "keys" were arranged.

Anyway, I upgraded (been with AT&T long enough to get one of those discount thingies) thinking mostly "I wanna toy". Turns out, the thing is actually pretty useful.

Heh, I even managed to make the extra $30 per month for Internet access AT&T charges by cutting my satellite TV service back. I discovered I can get free podcasts for the few things I was keeping the higher priced TV package for. Dropped my satellite TV bill by $30 a month.

I still get the few shows I was paying that extra $30 to the satellite TV bunch for plus everything else I can do with the Internet on the iPhone. Which includes one case of an emergency family trip in which the mapping and Googling for motels was quite the life saver.

Steel said...

So what do you think are the chances that they would ever internalize a Dvorak set?

Richard said...

Well, I'm sure it's a numbers game. There just aren't enough Dvorak typists for it to matter to Apple. It's hard to find good statistics on the number of Dvorak typists in the world; here are some biased surveys:

* >81% QWERTY, 16% Dvorak [Source: Do you QWERTY or Dvorak?, 2008-01-04)
* 69% QWERTY, 31% Dvorak [Source: Dvorak vs QWERTY, 2008-01-04]
* 30% QWERTY, 46% Dvorak [Source: Any Dvorak Users?, 2008-01-04]

I bet the truth is that the proportion of Dvorak typists in the world is less than 10%, maybe even less than 1%.

Richard said...

See iPhone Dvorak for real for notes on a true Dvorak keyboard for iPhone.

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