Fitaly in the Press
Fitaly vs. T9|
by Rick Broida
Tap Magazine, Issue 1.6, November 1998
Textware Solutions’ Fitaly Keyboard proceeds from the assumption that the Palm/Pilot’s built-in keyboard requires too much hand movement. The extra pen travel mandated by its wide design translates to slow and inaccurate data entry, the company asserts. Hence, the Fitaly Keyboard arranges letters in a tight group designed to minimize hand movement and speed up your tap-typing. And it works!
As if to prove that the Palm/Pilot’s keyboard is indeed too broad, the Fitaly doesn’t even span the full width of the screen. In fact, it actually floats over the screen, which is good and bad. Bad because it can obscure areas you want to see; good because you can drag it to any spot on the screen. By contrast, Tegic’s T9 and the Palm/Pilot’s keyboard are anchored, forcing a smaller display area but never blocking any text. To its credit, the Fitaly Keyboard immediately pops to a different location if it winds up on top of the cursor.
The letter keys are grouped five rows high and six across, with a pair of “space bars” on either side of the center keys. Flanking this oddly organized alphabet are the usual extras: tab and shift keys, about a dozen symbols, and miscellaneous cursor-control keys. A “123” button brings up a numeric keypad. The most commonly used letters are situated at or near the center of the keyboard, with the lesser-used ones—“q,” “x” and “z”—at the corners. Again, the idea is to make your stylus move as little as possible.
And it takes lots of practice to make that idea a reality. The Fitaly layout is even more foreign than the T9, and as such requires the most effort. It can take upwards of a week before you’re comfortable with this keyboard. Once you are, however, you’ll find it a much faster and more enjoyable means of entering text.
A reduction in pen travel is just one of the Fitaly’s advantages over the Palm/Pilot keyboard. Another is that virtually every symbol and punctuation mark is readily accessible. You don’t have to press the shift key to get characters like the exclamation point and question mark. (However, it did take us a while to locate the semi-colon, which seemed to be missing from both the main and numeric keyboards. We found it when we tapped the shift key, which brings up a handful of different punctuation marks.) Additionally, neither T9 nor the Palm/Pilot keyboard automatically capitalize the first letter of a new sentence, but Fitaly does.
Our complaints with Fitaly are few and minor. First, the “@” sign is only available from the numeric keyboard, meaning you have to switch back and forth when entering an e-mail address. A much more convenient location would be the shift-key punctuation set that contains the semi-colon, which already includes the underscore (another frequently used e-mail character). Also, the letter keys toggle to uppercase when you tap the caps-lock key, but not when you press the shift key.
Textware’s thoroughly illustrated manual, provided in Adobe PDF format, is exemplary. Even novices should have no difficulty learning to use the software, which isn’t particularly complicated to begin with. Nor is it particularly large, filling just 41K of memory. Best of all, the Fitaly Keyboard sells for the reasonable price of $25.
If you regularly use the Palm/Pilot’s keyboard for data entry, Fitaly merits consideration. Mastering its unique layout requires a fair investment of time and effort, but in the end you’ll be a faster tap-typist.
Fitaly was shown to be more than twice faster than T9. It was the fastest of all software input methods on the Palm Pilot. It came second only to a hardware keyboard! The table shows the time to enter a sample text, a new contact listing, and the web address