There’s no doubt about it, entering text is one of the most difficult parts of using a handheld.
Whether you’re using Graffiti, Letter Recognizer, or something else, many people regard writing more than a sentence or two on a handheld as a daunting prospect.
Still, I’ve come to realize that a lot of people have a bad habit that’s really slowing down their text entry. Losing this habit can really speed up the process.
Open Your Mind
Before I wrote this editorial, I posted the gist of it in the Brighthand Forums. One of the responses I received said, in effect, “I’ve been using handhelds for many years, and I don’t need any suggestions from blankety-blank know-it-alls on how to speed up my text entry.”
So, before I get into the details of my suggestion, I ask you to keep an open mind about it.
I don’t guarantee that it’s going to speed up everyone’s text entry. But I think it will help enough people that it’s worth talking about.
Keep Your Eyes on What You’re Doing
The bad habit I’m hoping to break people of involves writing a letter, waiting for it to appear and confirming that it is really the letter you wanted, writing another, waiting for it to appear, and so on.
There’s no other way to say it: this is an immensely inefficient way to enter text. And the constant glancing back and forth between the text-entry area and each letter as it appears is not just slowing you down, it’s making your text-entry less accurate. Keep your eyes on what you’re doing, and let your handheld take care of itself.
Just write the letters one after another. As soon as the feedback lines disappear off the screen, write the next letter. Keep your eyes on the text-entry area, and write as fast as is comfortable.
At the end of each paragraph, you can look back at the text you’ve entered and fix any mistakes you’ve made.
At the absolute worst I get about two errors per sentence, and my handwriting is terrible. In many paragraphs I get no errors at all, which is why I find it much more efficient to not be constantly looking for them.
After a lot of experience, I’ve found that this is far and away the fastest, most accurate, way of entering text.
Keep Your Eyes on What You’re Doing, Part 2
There’s a sort of second version of this habit that some of you might consider giving up.
Some people never look at the text-entry area at all while they are writing. They only watch the text as it appears. This lets them correct each mistaken character as it appears.
I understand that this works for a lot of people. But not everyone.
It’s a lot faster than the constant looking back and forth between the text area and the letters as they appear, but it’s easy to make mistakes because you aren’t looking at what you’re doing.
If this is the method you use, and your text entry suffers from a lot of errors, you should really consider changing your focus to the text-entry area. This will make you more accurate, and thereby increase the speed at which you can write.
G2 vs. G1
I’ll well aware that most of the complaints about slow text entry come from Palm OS users. This is caused by the fact that Graffiti 2 works differently from the original version.
Many people, if they insist on waiting for each character to appear before starting the next one, find G2 slower. This is because it takes two strokes to enter some letters, and the Palm often waits a bit to see if you’re going to enter the second stroke before displaying the character.
I’ve never had problems with G2 being slower than G1 because I don’t wait for my handheld to display each letter before beginning the next one.
If you follow my suggestion, there may be slight delays while your Palm is waiting to see if you’ve entered an L, T, I, etc. but they don’t effect the speed at which you can enter text, just the speed at which that particular letter appears, and you won’t care, because you aren’t waiting for that.