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Sunday, February 19, 2012

Slick Android Tablet Keyboard Is Cool, Has Problems

I'm a huge fan of Android touchscreen keyboards, so I was very interested in trying the new Float-N-Split Tablet Keyboard app from

I downloaded and installed the Float-N-Split app onto my Motorola Xoom running Android 3.2.2. When launched the first time, the app starts its Activation Wizard, which does a very nice job of helping a new user set up the application and enable it as the active input method on the tablet. Part of the wizard lets you try the keyboard for the first time.

First impression? Nice! Later impressions? Not so much.

The application displays the keyboard, which includes several buttons to access preferences and to change modes, and a strip along the top that displays the words that the app's "smart prediction" algorithms suggest might be the next word that you'd like to type. If the app displays a suggestion that you'd like, just touch the word instead of typing it and you are done. As you type a word, the app tries to predict what you're typing and shows you various guesses it's made. If it thinks you made a spelling error, it will show you a suggested correct spelling for the word it guesses you are typing. Again, you can just touch a word on the bar and the app will insert the entire word where you are typing.

The keyboard works quickly and easily, without any pauses or delays. Visual and audio feedback makes for a high-quality experience for the user.

As you might guess from the name of the company and the information on its website, this smart prediction algorithm is A.I.type's secret sauce, and it is very, very impressive. More than once, I smiled thinking that the prediction was performing so well, it must be reading my mind. The predictions come quickly, and they are very, very good.

The keyboard has three modes: full, split, and float-and-split. Full mode sits across the bottom of the screen, and can be easily resized by dragging a handle on the upper right corner of the keyboard to change how much of the screen it covers. Split mode divides the keyboard in the middle and moves the keys over to either side of the screen for thumb typing. This keyboard can also change height with the drag of a finger.

Float-and-split detaches the two halves of the keyboard and allows them to float freely and independently anywhere on the screen with a simple drag of the finger. You can resize one side of the keyboard, and the other side automatically resizes. You can move the two pieces together, or you can move them separately. The three buttons that control the resizing and moving are unobtrusive but intuitive, and I mastered their operation without needing to read any instructions. The user can control the transparency of the keyboard in float-and-split mode, so you can put the pieces of the keyboard on top of your text and see right through it. One key on the lower right side of the keyboard allows you to cycle through these three modes.


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