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Are UMPC Dialkeys Too Small And Fiddly?

Nov 14, 2007
Ultra Mobile PCs have been an amazing development. They provide you with many of the features that you would expect from a laptop such as internet connectivity and the ability to watch movies or connect with your peers from anywhere provided you have Internet connectivity. These tiny computers are useful in the extreme. However, their small size leads to some exclusive problems.

One of the problems inherent to UMPCs is the issue of having to type on a touch screen. The touch screen makes it easy to tap out your emails with your fingers or with the provided stylus. However, there are some problems to this also. The screens are only seven inches on a typical UMPC, and this means that there is very limited space if one wants a keyboard.

The software designers could either come up with a keyboard utility that covers up the screen underneath, making it hard to see what you are actually doing, or can design a keyboard utility that does not hide the screen but which can be hard to use as the keys in question will be tiny.

Since the brilliant designers at Microsoft know that no one really likes to have to use a stylus when using a computer (even their tiny computer), DialKeys is a standard installation on UMPCs. The program was the brainchild of a company called Fortune Fountain Ltd. It is an overlay program with a split keyboard that is designed to allow the UMPC user to use his thumbs to type.

Using thumbs only to type on a standard QWERTY keyboard layout is odd enough. However, the DialKeys application takes it one step farther by transforming how the keyboard looks. The application displays as two quarter-circles, one in each lower corner of the screen, allowing you to type with your thumbs without having to make uncomfortable twists and turns of the hand. This allows you to type without changing the way that you hold the device. This is an innovative way to typing in general.

Unfortunately for many, especially many men, the DialKey application could be difficult for large-fingered people, just like many typing solutions. The unique layout of the keyboard on the screen also makes it a little bit harder to use a stylus, which can be bothersome if one is in a hurry. If your fingers hit the keys well, however, the DialKeys program has plenty of options and features to help you get even more use out of it.

One of the great things about DialKeys is that it is, to some extent, customizable. For example, you can change the color of the DialKeys application from black to white and back again. However, this does not just pertain to the looks. Switch back and forth to help alleviate the twin troubles of dark screens at night and glare from the sun during the day. Switching back and forth means that you are protected from either problem.

One way of customizing DialKeys for your UMPC is to change the opacity of the keyboard in the way that it tends to be displayed. This allows you to see what is going on under the keyboard, and while it can be distracting for some people, it could be quite a blessing.

One interesting thing about DialKeys is that there are no multi-function keys for which you would normally use the Shift key to change the meaning. Instead there are three different sets of keys, including the normal letters keypad, the numbers keypad, and a special punctuation keypad with lots of extra symbols and bits of punctuation to assist you in expressing yourself.

It might take some time to get used to the keyboard layout for DialKeys, but when you get habituated, you realize that it is one of the quicker and better onscreen keyboards available as long as you do not need to use the number, punctuation, or command features too often. For those who need more than the basics to hand when typing, however, it can be a pain to switch between the screens in order to find the required symbols.

Getting the DialKeys set up to your standards is vital if you want to make the most of it. If the color or opacity are not working for you, then you will not gain too much out of your UMPC and will find the DialKeys application harder to use and harder to appreciate. The DialKeys application may be a bit of a challenge in the beginning, but it is much quicker than learning how to type in the first place, and worth learning.

Some even find it possible to touch-type with the DialKeys application, meaning that the opacity can be turned way down. Here is an application which may not be perfect but which gives great value for money.
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