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Home -> Windows Mobile Software Reviews -> Fitaly 5 for Windows Mobile Professional and Pocket PC

Textware Fitaly 5

Reviewed September 2008 by Tanker Bob

One has to ask again the question from my review of Fitaly 4.0: How do you top yourself when you already have a masterpiece that almost rules the market? Since the early days of the PalmOS, PocketPC and now Window Mobile operating systems, innovators have offered a host of input systems for users. By far the most popular has been the excellent Fitaly keyboard series. This new Fitaly 5.0 version reminds us just why that is.

This review will not be comprehensive, as the theory behind the Fitaly keyboard, the keyboard functions, and a great deal of the basic operation remains intact or slightly improved since my last review. As background for this write-up, please go read that review first. You will find what follows very incomplete without that previous review.

I should note that Fitaly's creator, the very talented Dr. Jean Ichbiah, passed away on January 26, 2007. Some may recall that he was the original designer and program manager for the Ada programming language, which represents just one of his lasting contributions to the computing community. The French government appointed him a knight (French: chevalier) in the French Legion of Honor, and the US Government awarded Jean the Certificate of Distinguished Service for his outstanding work. Fitaly was his labor of love during his “retirement”, along with Instant Text. Jean frequented his company forums, personally interacting with and helping his customers. His kindness and openness provided a breath of refreshing air in the field of online customer support. His devoted wife Marianne and son Emmanuel carry on his legacy by keeping Instant Text and Fitaly growing.

Expand your vocabulary—literally!

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Fitaly 5.0 brings several innovations to the table beyond version 4. Most prominently, it incorporates a version of Instant Text, which the Textware calls Text Expander. Text Expander speeds writing tasks by offering common phrases when the user types in the first letters of the words in a phrase. In the illustration above, I typed in an 'a' and Fitaly provided a list of glossary expansions starting with 'a'. I can choose from amongst these or type another letter to narrow the offered field.

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In the above picture, I have typed 'tt' to narrow the field to phrases whose first two words start with 'tt'. You can think of Text Expander as Windows Mobile's internal dictionary on serious steroids. Fitaly stores all these phrases in glossary files. The one pictured is the business glossary. Fitaly comes with a number of other glossaries, some of which are shown below:

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You can create your own glossaries or modify existing ones using Fitaly's new built-in editor. The glossary editor doubles as the slide editor. More on slides in a bit. Glossaries and slides are stored in ordinary text files, so you can also create them on your desktop and upload them to the PDA. Your choice.

The concept of the glossaries rapidly grows on you. They really come into their own in specialized fields like science, medicine or law where they can further increase your writing productivity. Instead of writing out long phrases or names (e.g., disorders or medications), you can either download or create a glossary that saves hundreds of key taps in an average document. The incorporation of Text Expander glossaries into Fitaly 5 amounts to a stroke of genius.

Macros to go

Fitaly 5.0 also enhanced its macro capabilities. In addition to inputting text and simple commands with macros, Fitaly can now execute applications or photos through the “launch”, “open”, and “show” functions. It can also change the active glossary or slide file with one stroke. These new capabilities make Fitaly a simple application launcher as well as a text input system, and all from the keyboard itself.

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Fitaly implements macros through slides on its keys. Slides can be assigned to any of 8 compass directions from the key, as shown in the illustration above. In the example immediately below, I have displayed the default north slide for the 'm' key.

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Note that this slide includes a complex macro to insert your name and address into a document, as well as a Greek letter and common words. These can be great time savers.

In addition to text input, slides can also execute commands. For example, I created macros on my Ctrl key that select all, copy, paste, and cut text. They function in any program in which I'm working, so are always available. You can use the rich Fitaly macro feature to tailor your device to your vocabulary and usage patterns.

Usability enhancements

Textware also made some minor usability enhancement to Fitaly. They implemented a new key repeating feature. You can also specify the position of the macro slide pop-up for right-, left-handed, or centered above the key.

The simplest slide setup implements only capital letters on sliding. If you have “capitals only” set for slides, then Fitaly will now display the capital letter on the keyboard rather than a pop-up.

Make a fashion statement

Fitaly 5 now comes with a variety of colorful skins. There's one to suit almost everyone's tastes. As you can tell from my screenshots, I still prefer the original, but the others have a wide following. The color schemes provide enough variety to match almost any device or theme. Textware says that the dot scheme provides a positive target to tap. Makes sense.

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Above: one of the included skins.

For those who prefer something extremely laid back, Textware offers what they call the “Serene and Blue” skin:

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In the wild

Fitaly has always been fast and configurable. The inclusion of application execution and text expansion has even further increased its productivity enhancement. Making the jump from Fitaly 4 proved a non-event. If you are upgrading, you must disable your previous version Fitaly so that Windows Mobile will install the new system files over the old ones. Once you decide which glossary (or glossaries) best fits your uses, your text input will accelerate beyond what you could imagine.

Fitaly is fast enough that I don't use the WM6 built-in text completion dictionary very often. The new text expansion in Fitaly proved a more useful enhancement. Suggestions pop up instantly, and the time to pick the correct one proved way shorter than continued typing. I have it mechanized such that its text suggestions (set to start at 2 typed letters) always disappear before the WM6 box (set to start at 4 letters) pops up. This provides some great synergy between the two systems.

I'm a major macro user. Fitaly macros handle a host of mundane text-manipulating tasks uniformly across all programs. I don't have to learn where every program hid cut, paste, etc. I also have macro slides for changing text case, including simple capitalization. These help me clean up notes after a fast-paced lecture or sermon.

In the end, it isn't any one feature that keeps me using Fitaly, but the combination of capabilities that it brings to the table. The new text expansion proves to be the latest in a long string of productivity features that shows that the folks at Textware understand their users. The “get it”.

Conclusion

I have used a variety of input schemes over the years. Some didn't make the jump to WM6 and were left behind. Others just don't provide the speed or macro power of Textware Fitaly 5.0. Now with text expansion, it pulls even further out in front of the competition. The price hasn't changed since I started using it years ago. A low $29 will get a registered copy on your device from scratch. Upgrading from version 3.x and earlier costs just $19. Showing that they are a class act, Textware provides a free upgrade from version 4!

Fitaly is Tanker Bob's primary input system on his HP iPAQ 211 with Windows Mobile 6.0 Classic. Version 5.0 again demonstrates why.

Pros:
Rock solid stability
Highly optimized for blindingly fast and accurate “typing”
Slides make it very customizable
Powerful macro capabilities, including application launching
Text Expansion makes light work of common phrases
Full Unicode support
Easy to use
Great documentation and support

Cons:
Still doesn't make my lunch

 

Web site: www.fitaly.com

Price: $29 (free if upgrading from version 4, $19 if upgrading from older versions).

 

 

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