Review: Input – Software Keyboards

Input Review: Soft Keyboards (Pocket PC) – Part I – This is a quick review in a series discussing various input methods for genealogy applications on PDAs.
Spb Full Screen Keyboard – An on-screen keyboard that covers the *entire* screen, and has large enough keys that a stylus need not be used. $9.95. Has won several awards, including Pocket PC Magazine’s “Best Soft Keyboard” category. vs The built-in keyboard that comes with Windows Mobile 2003 SE. Tested on Pocket Genealogist

Built-in Soft Keyboard - Portrait

This is the built-in/default soft keyboard in portrait mode. As you can see, not the easiest method for data entry – slow, easy to hit the wrong key, and has nothing allowing it to be customized for your particular needs or preferences.

Built-In Soft Keyboard - Landscape

yhe built-in soft keyboard in landscape mode. The size of the keyboard hasn’t changed from portrait (there maybe an option somewhere to make it extend the full length, but I have not found it). You still have the same issues as you did in portrait mode.

SPB Full-Screen Keyboard - Landscape

Spb Full Screen Keyboard. Big difference. Much easier to see (especially if your eyesight is not what it once was. Also much easier to use, with or without a stylus. Because the keys are larger, there is much more room for error – important when your inputing a lot of text – you don’t have to be dead center on the key necessarily. Also, note the numeric characters. This can save you a lot of time alone, since a lot of raw genealogy information involves numeric data of one sort or another. You have some of the most frequently used non-alphanumeric characters that are one shift key away, instead of changing keyboards.


Built-in Soft Keyboard – Not an easy way to input text. If your doing a lot of numeric entry, your going to find yourself having to manually switch back and forth between a letter keyboard and a numeric keyboard. It is free though.
Spb Full Screen Keyboard – Winner, hands down. Uses the whole space, can be customized to a look that you like or find easy to read (through the use of skins, which can also be used to easily change the language/character set). Also, your PDA is easily adapted for left-handed people using a skin (some PDAs are not the most left-handed friendly when placed in landscape mode). Whether you use a stylus or not (you don’t necessarily need one with Spb Keyboard, but you’ll find yourself making less mistakes if you do use a stylus), I highly recommend you pick up a screen protector, such as one from Boxwave. Data entry can put a lot of wear and tear on your PDA’s screen. There is one drawback with the Spb Keyboard – you can only see one line of text at a time, and so proofreading can require you to exit the Full Screen mode. On the other hand (pun intended), because it’s larger and easier to use, the chances of you making mistakes is greatly reduced. Is it worth $9.95? You bet. Spb Full Screen Keyboard can easily increase your input speed and accuracy, that alone is worth the price, especially considering where many of us are going to be using PDAs in genealogy – in situations where we don’t want to spend a lot of time doing simple text input.
Neither keyboard had any issues in testing with Pocket Genealogist.
Spb Full Screen Keyboard can be purchased (and downloaded) at Handango for $9.95 (there is a free trial period with full functionality).