Touchscreens might be the rage right now, but one department in which they are seen as being markedly inferior to their ‘keyboard’ endowed predecessors is typing – many is the person who has complained about the inconvenience of using an onscreen keyboard whose keys simply do not have the same kind of ‘give’ that a ‘real’ keyboard has. This being the app era, many developers have tried their hand at getting a way around this, with solutions that range from voice commands to swipe-rather-than-type solution to handwriting recognition. And now, Minuum Keyboard has added an entirely new element to the typing mix by introducing the concept of a keyboard that occupies exactly one line on your display. No, it does not come cheap – USD 3.99 is a bit steep for an app that claims to be in beta, but it certainly puts a spin on your ‘regular’ typing experience.
At 20 MB, Minuum is a relatively large download as far as onscreen keyboards go, but it installed smoothly without any hassles on our Nexus 4. Set it as your default keyboard and the next time you need to type something, you will not be confronted by the regular, mutltiple-row keyboard that takes up close to half of your display, but instead just a single line of alphabets at the bottom, with numbers and icons arranged just above it. They may look too horribly clustered to let you type easily but well, once you get started, you will be amazed at how efficiently the system works.
Basically you simply keep typing by placing your finger on the approximate location of the letters – the app has an “auto correction algorithm” that tries to guess what you are typing. And most of the time, it does a darned good job of it. You can also see other word options on a small bar above the keyboard and pick an alternative word when the algorithm goes wrong or well, simply invoke a full-size keyboard for an unusual word. There is some gesture integration built in as well – swiping to the right adds a space, swiping to the left deletes the word behind the cursor, swiping upwards to the right is the equivalent of enter, and swiping upwards to the left brings up voice commands. Pressing and holding the single-line keyboard with two fingers brings up the full keyboard!
And it all actually works. Once we had integrated our contacts with the app, typing was a very simple affair as long as one stuck to well-known words – the auto-correct guessed right almost every time. We seldom ever had to invoke the full-sized keyboard, especially after we figured out that long pressing any section of the keyboard would show that portion in a larger form, letting you pick and choose the letter or number you wanted. Pretty neat, if you ask us. You also can tweak the height of the word suggestion row and that of the keyboard, and also choose the layout of the keyboard : QWERTY, AZERTY, QWERTZ or Alphabetical. We actually found going with alphabetical a better idea than QWERTY as we were more used to seeing the QWERTY layout spread across rows than in a single line.
All of which makes Minuum Keyboard definitely one of the most interesting and innovative onscreen typing innovations that we have seen for a while. A must-download? We are not too sure as of now, as it does involve some getting used to (a single row also means that you end up accidentally hitting the main Android buttons just below the display) and comes with a price tag that is on the stiff side. What we ARE sure of is that we are going to see a lot more of this keyboard in particular and this concept of a single line of letters in the coming days across more devices (especially the ones with smaller displays – read ‘smartwatches’). Definitely worth trying out if you are in the mood to try something new and want a slice of the future.
Available from: Google Play
Price: USD $3.99