Windows 8 allows tablet and slate-based PCs to offer users a touch screen keyboard. Such features are common among Android-based tablets and, of course, the iPad. But is there a better way to make these kinds of keyboards more useful?
In the latest post on the official Windows 8 blog, Microsoft talks about all the work that went into making the current design of the Windows 8 touch screen keyboard. One thing that Microsoft researched was how people hold tablets. Some hold the device in one hand and then type with the other hand. Yet another has the user holding a tablet with both hands and then typing with their thumbs. Finally, some users tend to type while the tablet is resting on a table or on their lap.
An interesting observation from our posture research is that people frequently switch postures, and that posture switch is often seen as a positive thing, as we move about to remain comfortable. So in our keyboard layouts we also considered what it would be like to type for a period of time—say, an email to your mom—and switch postures while you do it. You might start by typing with the tablet lying on the coffee table, for example, but then you might tire of that posture and pick up the tablet, lie back on the couch, and interact with two thumbs.
Another area of research looked into how people type on a tablet's glass surface. Microsoft decided to offer Windows 8 users changes in color when they typed in something on the touch screen keyboard, along with a corresponding sound. The blog added:
We considered other forms of feedback, but ruled them out as too disruptive or unnatural. For example, we explored haptic feedback (a vibration of the device based on input) which you also find on many phones. But most people find the current state-of-the-art haptics somewhat irritating when typing pieces of any length and a buzz can feel as much like a punishment as a reassurance.
Microsoft considered putting in a row of numbers in the standard touch screen keyboard for Windows 8 but decided against it when testers said that the keyboard design felt cramped for them to use. Numbers are shown as a keypad on the right side when a Windows 8 user switches the normal keyboard layout to one with a numbers and symbols layout.
The final default version of the Windows 8 touch screen keyboard, shown above, can be switched over to a standard keyboard layout. Microsoft says, "This is easily enabled from the settings Charm, in the General Settings section of PC Settings."
Source: Windows 8 blog | Image via Microsoft