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image: fitaly on CE
This is what the Fitaly keyboard looks like on a Windows CE screen. As you can see by the printout, Fitaly can handle almost any Iso/Ansi character you can throw at it.
Faster with Fitaly
New keyboard layout, built for speed, is perfect for PDAs
By Gary Krakow
    Dec. 22 —  Textware Solutions has been trying to get me to test the Fitaly keyboard for months. Over the summer they sent me what I needed to try it on a Palm. Within a few weeks the package was buried in my testing pile. But last week, after wishing for a usable Pocket PC keyboard, I remembered Fitaly. I couldn’t put it off any longer.  

Internet Sites Textware Solutions Fitaly Software
The letters representing 73 percent of the keys used for normal text are placed in a very tight central area.

       TEXTWARE’S PERSISTENCE PAID OFF. I believe they now have a convert in the making. I’m still practicing to get used to the Fitaly “key” placement, but after an hour or so I found myself picking up typing speed rapidly.
       If you look at a standard keyboard layout, the letters Q-W-E-R-T-and Y are above where your left hand is supposed to be resting on the keys. QWERTY is the layout most people learn when they begin typing.
       There are other popular keyboard layouts. DVORAK is one that immediately comes to mind. DVORAK is said to be easier on your hands when you type.
       You can buy a hardware keyboard that attachs to your handheld. It will almost definitely be QWERTY in configuration. But then you’ll have two things to carry with you when you need to do some typing. There are some clever, compact, fold-up designs available, but it’s still means there’s something else to carry.
       Let’s start with small PDAs. They come with some sort of built-in character input system. Palms sport the popular Graffiti alphabet system. Pocket PCs come with some sort of software similar to Graffiti, a pop-up software keyboard and possibly handwriting recognition technology.

       The problem is all of these input methods are slow and tedious. I know by writing this I’m opening myself up to a barrage of nasty e-mails from readers telling me how fast they can “type” using Graffiti. So can I. But when I need to write something more than three or four paragraphs long Graffiti is not the answer for me.
       Nor are the pop-up keyboards on Pocket PCs. I’ve used them. Even tapping out a simple Web address can be painful. I won’t even begin to discuss the problems with handwriting recognition — and I don’t see any of these devices offering voice recognition. . . yet.
       That brings us back to Fitaly. It consists of software you download to your PDA. Then Fitaly pops-up on your screen whenever you need to input test characters. On a Palm, you can also get a little plastic Fitaly keyboard sticker, called the Fitaly Stamp, which works as an overlay of the Graffiti area. On Pocket PCs you can choose to use Fitaly or the standard QWERTY keyboard.

       I’m going to engage Textware Solution’s help in telling you exactly what Fitaly can do:
       “The Fitaly keyboard is an ergonomic replacement for the standard on-screen QWERTY keyboard.
The Fitaly core. Letters in blue and the two space keys represent nearly three-quarters of the keys used in typing normal text.
image: Fitaly core        “The patented key arrangement is optimized for pen entry: the letters ‘ital’ ‘ne’ ‘dors’ and the space (bar) — together representing 73% of the keys used for normal text — are placed in a very tight central area.
       “Adding the letters ‘ch’ and ‘um’ brings this frequency to 84%. Remaining keys are never more than two keys away from the central area and each key is placed near the keys most likely to follow it in English text.
       “The effect is to minimize pen travel. In addition, the layout practically eliminates hand movement when typing text. This means that you can type with your hand rested on the lower area, moving only the fingers holding the pen.
       “The Fitaly is the only keyboard giving access to all 220 characters of the Iso/Ansi Latin1 character set. Most of these characters can be entered with only two taps.”
       I found that you can easily switch to a Fitaly key set that includes capitalized letters, or numbers, or accents (acute, grave, circumflex, or umlaut) or fractions and/or any number of symbols and characters. There are actually an amazing number of choices that are just a tap or two away.
       You can create and save your own typing shortcuts with Fitaly. You can also utilize a “sliding” technique — that lets you easily go back and forth from lower case to upper case to numbers to accents — without lifting the stylus from the screen. All in all, Fitaly is a very well thought out product.
After an hour or so I began to see the light.

       The snappy answer is that depends on you. When I first sat down to try Fitaly I thought I’d give it half an hour. Heck, that’s how long it took me to get down the basics of Graffiti on my first Palm Pilot in 1996.
       At the very beginning, the going is slow. You begin looking for the letters and they’re not in any recognizable order. I couldn’t understand how the Fitaly people were claiming speeds of up to 50 words-per-minute with 100 percent accuracy. I was typing at 10 wpm — at best. I took to describing my progress as “hunt-and-hunt-and-hunt-and-peck.”’s Bob Sullivan wandered neaby and spent a minute or so trying to master Fitaly. He ultimately felt my pain.
The Fitaly keyboard screen after tapping the SHift button. Notice all the possibilities.
image: Fitaly shift        But Textware Solutions’ Gene Kalb told me to give it a little more time. He e-mailed me: “Fitaly, with practice (people are different, but after an hour most people exceed their Graffiti speed easily) and with more familiarity, will get you speeds approaching 50wpm. Honest!”
       I’m glad I took his advice. After an hour or so I began to see the light. Without realizing what was happening, I was gaining speed rapidly. After two or three hours of practicing by re-typing some old columns, I’m beginning to understand exactly what’s happening.
       Now that I know where some of the key letters are placed, others needed to form words are amazingly beginning to appear right where I need them. My speed is increasing in leaps and bounds. I’m nowhere near 50 wpm, but gaining more confidence with every paragraph I write.

       What I find very interesting is that I make very few mistakes. I’m not sure why that is, but I know for sure that I make fewer mistakes with the Fitaly keyboard than I usually make with QWERTY keys.
       As for cost, you can download a fully functional time-limited demo of the Fitaly keyboard for Palms or Pocket PCs (Windows CE) for free. The demo version will cease to function after 30 days if not registered. The cost for registering is $25 per machine. The Fitaly Stamp for Palms is $35.
       I plan to continue using Fitaly to see what maximum speed I can attain. Maybe Gene is right, I’ll get so fast on a PDA that I’ll never miss a laptop when I travel.

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