If you ask any Android user, they will each give you a different favourite keyboard: Swiftkey keyboard, AI keyboard, SlideIT Keyboard, Thumb Keyboard, Kii keyboard (my favourite) or even the stock Android keyboard. Most have the same or similar features, each with their own unique feature done well. The most noticeable thing is that they all look similar; a QWERTY layout (or other layout depending on preference and country), taking up anything from a third to half the screen height.
Now, a new developer has thrown their hat into the ring to challenge the standard dominance of the ‘standard’ layout. Minuum keyboard, developed by Whirlscape, has been on our radar for months, ever since they released their alpha about six months ago. The most staggering change to Minuum, is that it doesn’t use the ‘standard’ layout, they have developed a new layout which squashes the keyboard to just 160 pixels on the screen.
With this smaller keyboard profile, hitting the correct key is, obviously, very difficult. But that’s not the point of the keyboard. Minuum Keyboard uses a special and newly developed algorithm which will work out what buttons it thinks you were meant to hit. This isn’t unlike current key corrections algorithms in the competitors, but with Minuum Keyboard’s smaller profile, the algorithm has to work harder to get legible words out of your keystrokes. A nice touch, I found, is that Minuum Keyboard’s word suggestions show you the word you actually typed (usually an illegible string of characters like “whdh” for when). In the week I’ve been using it, I’ve found the algorithm is very accurate, only turning out one or two tweets this week with wrong words because I didn’t check.
The ‘downside’, if you could call it that, is that there is a little bit of a learning curve to getting to use Minuum Keyboard. Because of it’s squashed profile, you have to almost re-learn how to type. Having said that, I’ve been using it all this week, and I can now type just as quickly as I could with the old ‘standard’ layout.
Another clever design feature of Minuum Keyboard, is that it allows you to customise the layout to a certain extent. The basic layout comes without a spacebar (space is achieved by swiping left to right and delete is right to left), but this can be changed in the options, giving you a spacebar at the bottom, a delete key at the top right and punctuation buttons. This is my preferred option, as it gives slightly more control on the typing.
Minuum Keyboard is ver