I’m now ready to post what I would call some reasonably informed thoughts on the TextBlade, trying to go chronologically:
Initial impressions, even in my memory right now, were and remain SPECTACULAR. You truly have no idea from the videos or photos what this thing is like in your hands, in daily use, and ESPECIALLY in the depth of the truly pro level features it has.
I love the keytravel. I remember reading some people’s posts where they said it was the best feeling keyboard they’ll ever used and I have to admit I was skeptical, I’ve found over the years that people, especially online, seem to “forgive” shortfalls if something else (say the cool factor) is significant enough. So I read those posts assuming what they meant was “the key feel is very good, and because this thing is so portable, I consider it to be better than anything else I’ve used”. In actual fact, the keys are spectacular! Even compared to other standard keys. I’ll put it this way to put it into perspective: If they made a standard layout/size keyboard with these keys (keytravel, mechanism, etc), I seriously think it would be incredibly popular, especially oh laptops. One other thing I think is worth mentioning on this front: The keys also have a reassuring sound. They aren’t loud at all but do have enough (and soft) of a sound to reassure you and give the feedback that I like having.
Please remember I wasn’t a touch typist before getting the TextBlade, I was initially pulled in by the cool factor and portability, but my efficiency at typing was very poor at first. The angle of the keys meant my previously learned two finger method wasn’t usable on the TextBlade. Here are some ways this was manifest for me:
A. If I had limited time to type a long post here, I’d do it on a regular keyboard because it took too long to do with the TextBlade
B. If I had a lot to communicate to a co-worker, I’d use a regular keyboard rather than have them wait what felt like forever (more to me than them, honestly, because of going from 90 wpm to 15 wpm) for me to type things out.
C. I just lacked confidence. In retrospect, this stemmed largely from having to stop and really SEARCH for characters like @ or !. It is hard to explain, but I’ve prided myself on being able to type faster than “most” other people. At least of those I’m around, I’m the fastest typist. That meant I could rapidly send information to someone at work over IM or email. It meant sending out a long email to document a complicated finding was a task I looked forward to because it wou.d go quickly and would alleviate confusion instead of being a dreadful long chore. My initial use of the TextBlade was troubled by this in a way I hadn’t anticipated. I guess it was a bit of pride. I had feelings like… “what if they think I’ve suddenly become unable to type well?” And “what if they feel like I’m taking too long to respond” or “what if I end up having to send my response with typos in it just to try to send it in a reasonable amount of time?” For me, these were real feelings that impacted my willingness to use the TextBlade for all my daily activities.
It felt (and still does actually) very strange to have to “shift” numbers to type them. In other words, to first have to hold a key down to type a number in. I guess after DECADES of typing numbers in without doing anything special, this just felt odd. It still feels odd. I find myself typing the letters instead of the numbers on occasion because I still forget. This is a VERY WORTHWHILE trade off though. I can now easily touch type all the numbers without looking, something I’d never done in decades of typing! And in addition, because of how they do function keys, I can touch type the function keys, which is VERY handy for coding. So the trade off is well worth it, just takes a while to overcome decades of muscle memory. And speaking of that…
Learn to touch type before you get your TextBlade!!! That would have been huge for me. Instead, a huge part of my transition has ALSO been learning to type properly.
I think for me, reaching just 40 wpm on the TextBlade was enough for me to be comfortable enough to transition. I’m now at 50 wpm and will get higher over time I’m sure. I can feel a huge improvement after just using the TextBlade for two days as my only keyboard!
Some continued mistypes occur for me as I get used to the TextBlade. Most notably, I hit backspace instead of the letter p, less often return instead of ‘, and z remains difficult for me to consistently type. I have some issues with v/b n/m and r/t and y/u. If you look at a TextBlade, this comes down to me having problems around the characters that share the same physical key. It is going to take me some time. I feel it getting better the more I use it, and honestly the most difficulty stems from poor form on my part. My previous typing style had me hovering over the keyboard by several inches. If I do that with the TextBlade, my fingers lose their place. I need to stick closer to keys now and this feels different but will translate to increased typing speed from my fingers having less distance to travel. Time and practice will fix this, I am certain.
There is no way I can express this well enough here, but the sheer depth of configuratiom is wholly unparalleled, I’ve been trying to think of a way to explain this, and I’ve failed, but this is my best bet: Some keyboards and mice have zero configurability to change things like what the keys do, macros, etc. And MANY people would say you don’t need to change that stuff. And for some people, that would be true. I’ve owned several 4+ button mice in my life. Some of them were fully customizable, some had effectively none. In a particularly bad situation, one I bought from Logitech began life with lots of customizability, but later software releases reduced this immensely to where I could no longer do what I’d done before. Then you get to those situations where you use a mouse or a keyboard on multiple operating systems. I’ve owned DOZENS of mice and keyboards over the years, and none of them handle multiple OS’s in a consistent way. And always there is one that is “primary” in terms of what you can adjust (ie, on windows you have lots of options but on OS X you don’t or vice versa). Granted, the APP to adjust things for the TextBlade is iOS specific, but once configured, those changes work equally well on each OS (windows, mac, iOS, android). Further, the sheer depth of what can be configured is off the charts. I’ll be honest, and I don’t like to be critical, but the documentation, to me anyway, isn’t as good as it could be. I would even go so far as to say it isn’t as good as it NEEDS to be in some cases, but I’m going to be working with Waytools to improve that. NONE of the documentation issues are such that they should delay general release, but I still want to help improve the situation.
In summary, the TextBlade is on the surface an alternative keyboard with immense portability. In depth, however, it is something truly extraordinary in a breadth of areas, some unexpected, many of them things not everyone will need, but surely everyone will need or at least appreciate some of them. The portability still blows my mind, as does the customization.
Waytools the company, the people, despite the impression you may get from the naysayers here and elsewhere, they have a heart, a soul, a desire to make something extraordinary, and it shows. The care with which this device has been crafted in every dimension from the hardware to the software, to even the layout of the shifted/chorded keys is remarkable to me. I mean that very sincerely. In almost every case that I’ve had the power to remap where things are on a keyboard, I’ve been able to make vast useability improvements almost immediately. The TextBlade is thought out so well, I haven’t had any need to do that. But the capability exists (i know, I used it to make changes I eventually realized I didn’t have to. ). One of the things that gives me confidence in the TextBlade is knowing that if I want to make any changes in the future, that I can.
Having used the TextBlade for nearly a month now, I am truly in awe of not only how much is packed into this tiny device, but HOW WELL it was packed in.