If you caught our review of Thumb Keyboard last month, you'll know the gist of this clever keyboard app that aims to make two-thumbed typing a breeze. It's a novel (and potentially very useful) tool for a phone, but with recent updates that have accentuated the tablet layouts, this has now become my keyboard of choice on large tablet screens, and is a potential game-changer in the new slate arena.
On phones, trace keyboards like Swype and SlideIt are extremely hard to beat in the speed department (world texting records seem to be broken on a regular basis with Swype), but on the wider tablet screen, tracing suddenly becomes much less convenient. Portrait mode on a 7" slate like the Galaxy Tab or Nook Color is tolerable for tracing, but turn it into landscape mode and it becomes a chore in dragging your finger across a large slab of glass (don't even think about tracing on a 10" display).
Traditional tap-only QWERTY keyboards don't always work well on a tablet either, as it's just close enough to a physical keyboard feel that you're all too aware of the letdowns. Keys are agonizingly missed, multi-touch is often despairingly absent, and pressing keys accidentally on these unimaginative keyboards just may be the leading cause of early male and female baldness.
This leaves room for a new outlook, an inventive solution to a problem that's never had to be dealt with before: and I believe that Thumb Keyboard has delivered a (nearly) ideal solution. With a split-screen layout, you're presented with half of the keyboard on each side of the screen (over half actually, as some middle letters are conveniently repeated on each side). This allows your thumbs to easily tap away without much stretching or hunting involved. Typing now becomes less about setting the tab down on a hard surface (as with the iPad) or tracing away with one finger (as with Swype on the Galaxy Tab) and now becomes a simple matter of holding the tablet with one hand on each side and hammering out emails or Twitter updates with those two lovely opposable thumbs.
Numbers, special characters, and those all-important arrow keys live in the center, a rare stretch away without having to skip to alternate screens. More common punctuations are available as long-presses on the letter keys.
With the arrival of the Motorola XOOM -- and the onslaught of Honeycomb-running tablets that we're about to be slugged with -- the developer of Thumb Keyboard has prepared us with a sharp-looking Honeycomb theme. While not animated and glowing like the holographic theme for the upcoming copycat SwiftKey for Tablets, the look of the theme should blend seamlessly with the rest of Android 3.0's interface. Numerous layouts are included, ranging from small phones to 10" tablets -- and pretty much everything in between.
Other additions, like auto-correction, text prediction, and a myriad of user-changeable settings are on par with most other high-end keyboards available for Android. Appropriate themes matching Gingerbread, Galaxy Tab, and several others give you options if you don't yet have Honeycomb under the hood.
If you're still attached to another keyboard, like Swype or the Droid X's multi-touch keyboard in portrait mode, you can simply install the ingenious Keyboard Manager app, which lets you switch keyboards depending on your tablet's orientation. You can check out our tutorial for installing Keyboard Manager for the full lowdown.
In the world of technology, new devices often lead to new problems, which can lead to creative new solutions. If imitation is the best form of flattery, SwiftKey's presentation of their upcoming clone of Thumb Keyboard (which they have yet to acknowledge wasn't their original idea) sings nothing but praises for this novel approach to tablet typing by developer Beansoft. You can grab it for $1.64 in the Android Market.