Saturday, 6 July 2013

Getting Touchy about touchscreens: Why I still have a standard Windows computer

We live in the mobile generation, a time period characterised by wireless connectivity. I admit most of my time I spend on either my tablet or my smartphone, but I still have an old, Windows XP netbook which I would loath to give up.

For all the whizz that smartphones and tablets are, and they are brilliant at many things, there are some things I think they really fail at. The most noteworthy of these is the ability to do what I am doing now, which is typing.  I agree that there are apps that can allow you to dictate something and it will be translated into some semblance of text, but traditionally data input is done through the keyboard.

When I type the keys are depressed and the text I am typing appears almost instantly on the screen, as if by magic.  I also have an inbuilt spell checker which tells me where things do not make sense.  When I do to correct something I use my mouse to pinpoint the exact location of the thing that needs changing and  then I highlight it or type over it, or whatever action is required.

Have you tried this on a smartphone or tablet?

Well if you have you will know the keyboard  often makes me mistype things and I end up with words joined by a 'V' which means the spell checker is lost for a solution.  Also trying to get to a word at the beginning of a line is almost impossible. If a word is identified as incorrect the touchscreen seems to never quite get the exact location of my finger's contact correct.  Even using a capacitive stylus, which helps a little, still means that where I am thinking I am pressing is not where the screen tells the device I am pressing.  A mouse on the other hand goes where I want it to.

Highlighting things in Android is cumbersome to say the least, in fact often it is better to delete the whole thing than try to highlight things as this can be so hit and miss and takes so much time to get correct.  Again a design flaw is that the screen often misinterprets where I put my finger of stylus.

I have also used a Bluetooth 3 Keyboard on my tablet, but it appears that the speed that I type is a little too much for the tablet so I get a severe lag and often whole words are missed making it a little like using some of the dication softwares, which require regular corrections.

It is interesting to me that this piece has taken less than 5 minutes to write on my netbook but I wonder how long it would take on the tablet.  I also must admit I love my mobile devices and have used them often to write things on.  I am a great fan of Google Keep and Evernote where many ideas are stored for later use.  Both allow me to write a lot which is great, and both have the facility for voice messages, but I tend to stick to manual input.

The question on my mind is will this be addressed soon?  If mobile technologies are to succeed in the real world to facilitate health and social care as well as business, a basic requirement is that a touch screen is accurate. My old Palm device had a great programme to calibrate the screen to your touch, in which you pressed on X's on the screen and the device would calibrate itself, why isn't this available to smartphones and tablets?

It seems a basic requirement that is a fundamental for all Android, Windows (not tested) and Apple devices.