Thumbs Up!

posted in Guides on August 4th, 2007

Pocket PC are becoming more and more of a replacement for small time computing. They may not yet be able to replace your office PC for a 100% but typing a long email, doing some mobile blogging or other input sensitive tasks is no uncommon thing anymore.

In recent years, a number of devices have been released with integrated keyboards and you can of course always attach an external keyboard to your device, but there is still a huge amount of Pocket PCs that have to rely on Software Input Panels (SIP) to get the job done. With such a big (potential) customer base, it is only natural that companies will try to come up with solutions that make your life easier.

One of these solutions is TenGo Thumb, a SIP that is big enough to be used with your thumbs (yet, it still works very well with a stylus). The application is aimed at people that want to input data quickly and easily on the go, without going through the additional hassle of pulling a stylus out of its silo.

Rules of thumb

After installing TenGO Thumb and starting any application that requires text input, you will be presented with a choice to either skip or follow the TenGO Thumb tutorial. While you could use the SIP without any training, I would recommend you to go through the included tutorial, for the simple reason that more advanced things like spelling words that are not yet in your dictionary, are hard to do if you have no clue as to how you can activate such a feature.

TenGO Thumb’s biggest advantage over many other large-button SIPs is that it includes a predictive text input feature called the TenGO core engine. With it, you can easily type words and just as easily go back and correct the word(s) you typed. Another useful feature of TenGO is that it stores your most used words at the most left part of the list, which can help if you type the same words a lot. You can see, in part, how the engine works, by looking at the characters that are displayed in the small box on the right hand side.

Thumbing a ride

Now, all of this is certainly very interesting, but we all know that a picture speaks a thousand words, so I decided to create a short video clip of someone typing an email, because, if a picture is able to speak a thousand words, this clip will speak volumes.

The clip is available in a variety of flavors, you can watch it right now in your browser, by going to the Flash version (4.7 mb), or you can download a smaller WMV version here (2.4 mb).

It should be noted that the typing is a lot faster than the screen recorder is capable of recording and as such, you only see one third of the keys actually being hit.

Another thing that you are not seeing is that I am actually using my thumbs to type the email. Based on the visual setup of TenGO Thumb, which basically comes down to six large keys for the various characters, typing long texts becomes a lot easier.

Thumb Problem

When I first came across TenGO Thumb, I installed it on a Windows Mobile 2003 device where it worked without a hitch. Then came my new Pocket PC and I installed the SIP there too but I had trouble activating it. In two out of five cases, the keyboard would not open and the only way to get it working again was a soft-reset.

Soft-resetting your device all the time, while harmless, gets annoying really quick and so I contacted the TenGO support team. I have to admit that I have not met support guys that walk the extra marathon (yes, marathon, not just mile) for a future customer like TenGO did. A dozen possible ways to solve the problem later, I ended up removing some of the (preinstalled) O2 applications from my Pocket PC and voilĂ  the keyboard opens whenever I need it and I have not had a problem with it since.

Thumbs up or down?

All in all, TenGO Thumb is a great piece of software and makes typing on Pocket PCs without a keyboard a lot easier and a lot more efficient. Even with big thumbs, you will not face any problems and with predictive text input, you will be typing away at your first mobile novel in no time. At a mere $12.95, this application is a steal and will pay for itself in no time.

As far as I am concerned, TenGO Thumb gets a definite thumbs up from me. The only downside I can see with this application is that you might be able to damage your screen if you are using your device without a good screen protector.