With the release of Windows 8, Microsoft has taken the Windows experience to a different level. Apart from several new features, several already adopted features are revamped. Being a touch screen operating system, it must exhibit an optimized interface for text input i.e. ‘on-screen touch keyboard’ for tablet devices, as it is not possible to fulfill the user’s expectations and needs without a great touch keyboard. A set of optimized features of this ‘on-screen touch keyboard’ in Windows 8 include:
Optimized for Comfort
While thinking about enhancing the current typing experience of the users on an ‘on-screen touch keyboard’, Microsoft designed a number of keyboard patters, as users have different style of interacting with a touch screen interface. Some hold it in one hand and operate it with another. A few are seen typing with both hands resting the device on a table or lap while many hold it in both hands and interacting with their thumbs.
Generally, an on-screen touch facilitates the user to rest it on a table or on their lap and type with both hands. Microsoft, on its very first preview of Windows 8 revealed its ‘thumb keyboard’ for those who hold the tablet in both hands and type with their thumbs. It can be adjusted according to the hand size of the user.
Interacting with the Glass
Unlike other on-screen touch keyboards, the dimension and structure of a physical keyboard was kept in the mind while designing it. A physical keyboard usually has small bumps on its J and F keys in order to position your hands on it. Thinking from a user perspective demands that there should be some indication when you type on this keyboard. The same was employed in this keyboard, as its sensitive touch produces a tapping sound to confirm the key striking, which was argued as irritating. In addition, the color of the touched key changes, as it does on a typical touch keypad in phones.
People even found this color changing mechanism not ideal while entering a password; therefore, it can be turned off manually.
Ideal for Typing
The size of the keyboard enhances the typing speed and accuracy of the users; however, it is one of the factors in demand. A physical keyboard is used on computer so that the users can type even faster than they could not on a touch interface. Therefore, in order to include all of the keys that are in a physical keyboard, the size factor came across, as not even a single key can be removed. Microsoft’s principle behind developing this keyboard was that, “They must be great for typing”, as it is the primary purpose.
There were several prototypes made for this keyboard according to the views of different users. People recommended that there should be a row of the number keys at the top of the keyboard. Microsoft designed a keyboard prototype accordingly, but it acquired more than half screen of the tablet while typing. A further observation was that letters are typed more frequently as compared to the number and symbol, and then these were settled on a different view. Moreover, these number keys are arranged in an order as 1, 2, and 3 on the top instead of 7, 8, and 9.
Tab key is one of the most used keys on a keyboard as it is used in formatting of the documents and even when going through the input fields on a website. In the latter design, several keys were removed and the borders surrounded the rest. This irritated the users, as they often touched the border instead of the keys. Therefore, it had to be removed to improve the typing speed of the users and hence, to get quality response.
The latter design of the keyboard included a downshift key on the right side, which was embedded to change letters view of the keyboard to a view containing frequently used symbols. This design was employed to select these symbols without minimizing the typing speed. Unfortunately, it was enough confusing and typing became halted; therefore, it was removed. It was later replaced by a new design that utilized a feature of the physical keyboard i.e. when you press and hold a key on a physical keyboard, it repeats. In this touch keyboard, it displays different characters or symbols. It was something that adopted later.
Microsoft conducted several studies of where does a user look while typing, and does it affect their speed of typing of this touch keyboard. This study resulted that the user sight is at the particular character he/she types. The result was very consistent that developers facilitated text suggestions while typing, which further enhanced the typing speed of the user. However, in case of a PC with a physical keyboard, users do not go for these text suggestions, as it halts them while typing. The study also revealed that the user site changes, with their typing speed.
After many refinements, a final version of this ‘on-screen touch keyboard’ was released in Windows 8; however, a few changes were still observed with a different reason behind:
It has a backspace key as it is most frequently used while typing. It has a mode switch key to change the views, languages and even to hide the keyboard. In addition, it allows you to feature this touch-screen keyboard. A control key and two left and right arrow keys helps in text editing. It also helps you in copy/cut and paste, bold, italic operations etc. A wide enough space bar that is placed right as it is in a physical keyboard. It is kept wide as it is the most used key on a keyboard. An emoticon icon key is also there that switches the keyboard to a view containing a number of emoticons, as this is a part of how users write to express themselves. It has a ‘&123’ key that changes the view to symbols and numbers when hold, and return to the previous view when released.
Microsoft received quality feedback for this design, as it carries a different experience.