FitalyStamp for the Palm Organizer is a version of the Fitaly keyboard that works as an overlay of the Graffiti area.
As a Fitaly keyboard, it retains the unique speed advantages of the Fitaly design as well as the use of sliding to enter capital letters and numbers. And of course, a very significant advantage is to leave the screen completely free for other things...
Most of the time we tap on keys of a keyboard. In addition, version 2.0 of the Fitaly keyboard has introduced the notion of sliding, that is, the act of moving the pen to another key after the initial tap. If a program were to allow both sliding and Graffiti gestures at the same time, it would be difficult to know the meaning of a pen move. So one of the two has to have precedence over the other.
Our experience with Fitaly 2.0 has shown the value of sliding to quickly enter capitals and digits. Most users have found it to be very natural and fast: it is much faster to slide a key than to tap a shift key and a given letter. So allowing sliding remains the default choice for FitalyStamp.
|The digit obtained by sliding is indicated in the lower triangle of each key of the punctuation panel. Of course, no such indication is needed for capital letters.|
To provide access to Graffiti, FitalyStamp offers a quick way to toggle the keyboard on and off with a keyboard icon conveniently placed at the lower left corner. Pressing the kyboard icon suspends FitalyStamp and offers normal access to the Graffiti area - aside from the keyboard icon itself. Another tap on the keyboard icon restores the function of the FitalyStamp keyboard.
One other overlay keyboard, the SilkyBoard, has made the opposite choice, offering direct access to Graffiti and no sliding. But our experience shows than faster entry can be achieved with sliding and if taps are not intermixed with Graffiti gestures (such as the ones needed to do spaces, enter, and backspaces in the absence of dedicated keys for them).
Note also that programs such as ScreenWrite and Jot, which allow the use of Graffiti gestures on the application screen, can be a nice complement to FitalyStamp. Interestingly enough, this leads to a reversal of usual conventions, with the Graffiti area being used by FitalyStamp and the application screen for handwriting.
The FitalyStamp overlay replaces the complete Graffiti area and therefore needs to provide its basic functions in another way. The main function of input is provided by the Fitaly keyboard itself.
|The remaining functions are provided with five icons for the application launcher, the calculator, the menu, the find command, and the keyboard toggle.|
Early experience with FitalyStamp has shown this arrangement to be quite effective. The reduced size of these icons is sufficiently large to let them be accessed without any hesitation. On the other hand, this frees space for more useful functions elsewhere.
Version 2.0 of FitalyStamp introduced pass-through slides, which are wide slides between the underlying silkscreen buttons, and which are passed through as if FitalyStamp was toggled off. This allows activation of several hacks that use such slides. For example, users of SwitchHack can slide from the menu icon to the application icon to get the switching menu. (It just happens that these icons are on top of the corresponding icons of the Graffiti silkscreen.)
Some of the existing keys of the on-screen version of Fitaly are no longer needed with an overlay design.
Thus we no longer need a close key or a move key. In addition, we have eliminated the second shift key – much less needed with sliding – and put shortcut keys in its place:
|The Graffiti shortcut key.|
|The Command key.|
Then there was a choice between having the accent block or the block with the four arrow keys: left and fast left on the first row, and right and fast right on the second row.
|The solution adopted in FitalyStamp is have the accent keys available with a single tap and the arrows with sliding taps.|
Having the accent keys as the default is justified because they are used to get characters such as @ or & which need to be accessed very quickly. And having to slide to get a directional effect is also intuitive.
The on-screen version of the Fitaly uses a one pixel separator between panels to emphasize the separation between different panels. In FitalyStamp we are able to achieve this separation in a more effective way by color.
One surprising side-effect of having an overlay version is that the precision of taps is greater. This comes from being able to tap directly on the key pattern without the parallax resulting from the one-millimeter thick glass digitizer.
(Note that of colors shown in this article are approximate. In the actual FitalyStamp, the left and right panel are printed on a metal background color over the white polyester substrate.)
What allows the Fitaly to support all 220 characters of the Ansi/Iso Latin1 character set is the use of alternative panels when modifier keys are tapped. In the case of FitalyStamp, these alternative panels are shown on the application screen and taps can be done either on the alternative panel or on the plastic overlay.
After a tap on the umlaut modifier the letter panel and the punctuation panel appear as below:
This display is optional. Many users are likely to want punctuation panels to be displayed but will not bother showing the accented letter panels as the position of accented letters is easy to infer. The table below shows the punctuation panels displayed for each of the four accent modifier keys. Each of these symbols can be entered with two taps: the accent modifier followed by the key.
Accent keys are one-time modifiers so that the popup panel disappears immediately after a tap on the key. On the other hand, the 123 key offers an alternate number panel that stays on until we tap outside the number panel or again on the 123 key.
The left side shows the number panel as you would use it to enter a phone number. In this situation, it will be convenient to be able to tap on the number panel for numbers and on FitalyStamp itself for letters. The right side shows the way the number panel appears in conjunction with the shift key, with all these rare symbols that are unlikely to be used without Fitaly.
An even faster way to get accented letters is to use sliding. It seems quite natural to obtain accented letters such as à and á by sliding from the letter a in the direction suggested by the slant of the accent. The idea has been extended to all diacritical marks as shown by the following diagram:
Version 3 of FitalyStamp even allows you to customize the characters you want to obtain with slides in 8 possible directions. So, for example, if you rarely use å but have to write a lot of email addresses containing @ you can assign this character to a slide of the letter a in the West direction.
With 8 possible directions and 2 possible sliding lengths, more than 500 different definitions can be associated with user-defined custom slides. Definitions are not limited to single characters. They can be strings of characters and even long paragraphs. They can also include macros that repeat successions of actions you would otherwise do on the keyboard.
As the FitalyStamp keyboard is always available, it becomes quite natural to use it for all actions. Launching applications is then a natural extension: It takes less time to use the pen on the keyboard than to rest the pen to use buttons.
The Application Bar is shown on the left.
The list of Most Recently Used applications is shown on the right. It is similar to that of launchers such as SwitchHack and McPhling and you can select any of these application by a tap on its line. Displaying the list is obtained with a South slide of the Tab key.
For the past years several users have tried to convince the Palm designers to abandon the concept of a dedicated Graffiti area. As this does not seem to be happening, an overlay solution is another answer to reusing that space.
At the beginning of 2000 several overlay solutions appeared on the market. The Japanese Thumbtype and SilkyBoard both use a Qwerty keyboard design. Thumbtype uses small plastic bulges to allow operation with the thumbs or with any finger. Both SilkyBoard and FitalyStamp are meant to be used with a pen. Finally, SilkyBoard emphasizes compatibility with Graffiti, while FitalyStamp concentrates on speed.
Experience in the past three years has repeatedly confirmed that FitalyStamp retains the speed lead of the on-screen Fitaly, taking advantage of the Fitaly layout and of the significant interface improvements that came from the use of sliding.
Actually, the speed dominance of FitalyStamp was reconfirmed by results of the Dom Perignon II and Dom Perignon III speed contests. Some of the winners demonstrated around 80 words per minute with FitalyStamp. The average speed achieved by Fitaly and FitalyStamp users is even more impressive as it approaches 60 words per minute.
FitalyStamp for the Palm Organizer is now available and is licensed for $35 per machine for electronic orders. Each FitalyStamp package includes four polyester FitalyStamp overlays and a User's Manual. A special price of $25 applies for registered users of the on-screen Fitaly keyboard.
See also the Palm Fitaly Forum.
Read This First|
Options and Advanced Features
Fitaly Version 2.0