Fitaly's use of this cipher-based analysis
(I later confirmed my conclusion with Mr. Ichbiah) results in the
minimum hand movement to enter common words. The location of two
large “space bars” on either side of center also contributes
to rapid input. The second row of letters from the top provides
the product's name—FITALY—in the same manner that the
QWERTY keyboard derives its common name. Mr. Ichbiah emphasized
in his answer that the use of this method to locate the next likely
letter next to its predecessor greatly contributes to minimizing
hand movement and increasing input speed. You can read a brief
description of the philosophy here.
He recommended visualizing the words on the keyboards as you type
them, which can enhance input speed. A discussion of this technique
Other functions like tab, backspace, return,
caps lock, etc. appear around the outside of the keyboard. These
include a key for the shortcut symbol and the command stroke. The
numeric and punctuation keys separate the letters from the functions
on the right side. Interestingly, the numbers and common punctuation
occupy the same keys with several ways to access them. The user
can choose to split the keys diagonally as they are pictured, or
use a customizable stylus drag to access the less common function
of these keys to match their personal usage. The cursor right/left
and field next/previous keys are particularly handy.
Fitaly is not just a keyboard, though. A downward
slide starting at the Home icon brings up an application bar. This
bar offers up eight user-configurable applications for easy access.
Simply drag and tap to swap around through different applications.
Tapping anywhere off the application bar dismisses the bar without
Like Ronco, that's not all...Slide the stylus
down from the tab key and a window with your 12 most recently used
applications pops up. The list uses app icons for quick identification.
Again, tapping anywhere outside this window dismisses it. The T3
provides the six most recently used apps by tapping and holding
on the Home icon on the status bar, but it doesn't support apps
on the card as FitalyVirtual does. The most recent list will not
duplicate the apps on the application bar, offering 20 different
applications for easy access.
Fitaly includes a large number of configurable
options. These may be accessed by tapping on the ‘i' key
in the lower left corner, or through the configuration application
FVSetup. You can set the keyboard so that dragging on the letters
produces capitals or custom keys (including foreign letters w/accents),
as well as set the length of the drags. A number of the special
keys can be assigned particular functions accessed by dragging
in specific directions—up to eight directions per key. FitalyVirtualT3
supplies configuration settings for keys options, pop-up behavior,
skin setup, general operation, the application bar, and special
sliding options. It even has a calibration test to account for
anomalies in the DIA if any exist.
On the T3, compatibility with the on-screen Graffiti
2 provides increased flexibility for the user. Textware covered
that ground very well. FitalyVirtualT3 behaves as one would expect
when moving from app to app, dismissing the graffiti area, and
opening/closing the slider. In my case, I usually have on-screen
graffiti active at the same time as FitalyVirtualT3 as shown in
the illustrations so that I can write in Fitaly with the slider
open or graffiti on the screen with the slider closed. Excellent
implementation that mirrors the built-in graffiti area behavior.
So, how well does it all work? Like any input
system new to a given user, Fitaly carries a learning curve. Textware
advertises up to 50 words per minute for a proficient user on this
keyboard. They run a periodic speed contest for users called Don
Perignon. The last challenge produced an astounding 78.25 WPM as
the top Fitaly-based speed. I've seen the videos from some of these
contests, and I can hardly watch as fast as some of these folks
tap! I'm not nearly that fast, but I am getting to the point of
being able to write my notes for teaching Sunday school expeditiously
in WordSmith. The overall combination of letter frequency and digraph
placement proves very powerful.
I have a few suggestions for Textware. My primary
one involves the limited punctuation accessible. While the pop-up
panels provide more than the most common on the number keys, critical
ones for me like double quotes for text searches in some apps and
the semi-colon don't appear anywhere in Fitaly that I can find.
They can be programmed onto a key as a special function, but I
think it could replace lesser-used symbols (like the funky bullet
character under the < sign on the pop-up) preprogrammed into
keys or pop-ups. A dedicated punctuation pop-up would be the best
Also, the function of the Home, Calc, Menu, Find,
and Toggle Fitaly buttons on the left side of the keyboard cannot
be changed. With the status bar active on the T3, these aren't
needed. It would be nice to be able to reprogram them to more useful
apps consistent with the silkscreen reprogramming through the Palm
Buttons Preference in the OS. The limitation for this latter suggestion
again lies with the lack of data on Palm's DIA API, though, and
not with any lack at Textware. I wonder if PalmOne will listen
to the community on this. These both seem like nit-picky complaints,
though, given the excellent overall functionality of FitalyVirtualT3.
Jean Ichbiah and his team furnish excellent developer
support for FitalyVirtual. They not only answer their email promptly
and thoroughly, but also frequent their web site's support forum.
Knowledgeable users inhabit that forum as well. Online registration
could hardly be easier. Textware stands out as a class act you
Fitaly has grown in both flexibility and power
since I last tried it. I am impressed with its current functionality,
especially on the T3. The small keys haven't proved as much of
a problem as I anticipated, and actually help minimize hand movement
for rapid input. As I write this, FitalyVirtual stands alone as
the sole non-QWERTY T3 soft keyboard replacement, but it would
hold its own even if it wasn't alone. Fitaly is available as a
stamp for other devices, a virtual keyboard for Sony's Virtual
Graffiti devices, and has also been ported to the Pocket PC. You
can test drive the fully functional FitalyVirtualT3 for ten days
before registering. Available for $25 from Textware,
FitalyVirtualT3 provides an excellent replacement or augmentation
to Graffiti 2. As of this writing, I now use it as my primary input
method on my T3.