Saturday, June 1, 2002

Get a whole solution with half a keyboard

PRODUCT REVIEW

By Vladimir Campos

What is the Half Keyboard? It's a small size keyboard for Palm OS handhelds created by Matias Corporation (at http://www.halfkeyboard.com). The strange part of it is that it only has half the keys of a regular keyboard. When I first saw the Half Keyboard prototype on the Matias Corporation Web site, I asked myself: "Why would I use a Half Keyboard with so many full size keyboards available for Palm OS devices in the market?"

First of all, it's half the size of a regular keyboard. And not only that, as far as I know, the Half Keyboard is the only non-thumb keyboard on the market that will let you type with one hand while holding the both the handheld and the keyboard in the other hand, as shown in Figure A.

FIGURE A

Type with one hand while holding the handheld and the keyboard in the other hand.

Also, there's no need for a flat surface or any surface at all. You can really walk and type. Or, if you prefer, you can sit anywhere and start using the Half Keyboard with your handheld.

Matias Corporation has created a very nice piece of hardware that has half the keys but 100% of the functionality of a regular keyboard. You may even use symbols and accents from most of the Latin languages. You can really type all the letters, numbers, and symbols found on a regular keyboard.

The Half Keyboard secret is the space bar that works both as a regular space bar and as a sort of shift key. Let's understand how that works. If, for example, you hit the key marked with a big letter "W" on the keyboard, you'll get the letter "W" on the handheld screen, but if you hit the "W" key while holding the space bar pressed, you'll get the letter "O". Yes, each key is related to two or more symbols, letters, and numbers.

Another important key is located on the top right corner of the keyboard: the "A-Z, 0-9 and <->" key. Like the space bar, this key also works as a sort of shift key and can be combined with the space bar. If you press the "A-Z, 0-9 and <->" key once, you'll be able to write using the white letters and symbols on the keyboard, pressing the space bar or not. Press it twice and you'll get access to the yellow numbers and symbols. Pressing it three times lets you use the blue symbols.

Let's go back to the letter "W" example. The letter "W" key also has some other small symbols marked on it: "O", "9", "@", "(", and "PgUp". Hit the "A-Z, 0-9 and <->" key twice, and the letter "W" key will show the number "9" on the screen when you type it. Hit the "A-Z, 0-9 and <->" key three times, and the letter "W" key will become a "PgUp" key.