Short version: I’m writing a novel for National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo; the goal is a 50,000 word novel or chunk of creative writing (poetry, short stories, whatever suits your fancy), written within the month of November. I’ve done it several years in a row, but this is my first time doing it with a TextBlade, which is a good stress-test for the TextBlade and a good test for me to see how far I can go with my novel.
* Normally, I can get about a week of use out of my TextBlade before it gets low enough that I want to recharge it before it runs completely out of juice. In that week, I usually type about 250,000 characters, according to the TextBlade app.
* Since starting NaNoWriMo, my TextBlade battery life has dropped to about 2 or maybe 3 days. I’m typing as many characters in two days as I usually would in a week—or even more per two days, all the way up to 350,000 or so. (See the pictures below for some screenshots of my power usage stats)
* By reaching more than 100,000 words on Day 9, I’ve shattered many of my previous NaNoWriMo records; my previous best time to 50,000 words was the end of Day 6, with 50,060 there. This year, I made it to the 50k mark very early on Day 5, making it to 61k by the end of that day. Three more hours of writing squeezed into the prior days would have netted me 50k at the end of Day 4. Prior best to 100k was Day 17; I’ve beaten that by more than a full week, maintaining an average of more than 11,000 words per day and not planning to slow down any more than I absolutely must until the end.
* The TextBlade is amazing for noveling on, very ergonomic and comfortable. My wrist pain is gone, even though I’ve been typing like a madman for almost half of every 24 hour period. My “ergonomic” Swiftpoint GT mouse is my biggest pain in the wrist right now, because it’s right hand only. TextBlade even helps with that, by making it so I don’t have to reach for the mouse as often. Editing, selecting, cut, copy, paste, undo, redo, they’re all easy reach and I don’t have to use the mouse hardly at all.
* The TextBlade is wonderful to use, but not without some flaws; that is after all the point of a stress test, to see how things perform under stress. I’m no q-bot typing a million characters a day, but this is real typing and the TextBlade holds up very well, but not perfectly under such a load.
* The biggest problem is that it’s hard to hit the ctrl modifier on the left keyblade when typing fast, because my pinky isn’t accurate enough for that so I have to shift my hand and use my ring+middle fingers. This would be easily fixed if the hot corners on the spaceblade could be customized to put Ctrl on the left corner for Windows, Android, and Linux/Unix systems.
* Second biggest problem is the lack of lap friendliness when there is no desk around; easily fixed with improvised and ugly solutions, or whatever more elegant arrangement WayTools comes up with as a TextBlade accessory.
* Third problem, more of a nitpick, is that the power and typing stats in the app only show one record at a time, rather than something more like a fitness tracker for my typing that shows how much I type per day, how many times I hit the edit, select, media, and other chords, how many times I hit space (words) vs. backspace (mistakes). Another software fix for down the line, after the Android release of the TextBlade app.
* TextBlade is awesome for its ability to update; all the above problems, except the lapability, can be fixed by updates to the TextBlade or its app. Prior keyboards are like a smartphone where you cannot change the installed apps, download new ones, or install updates and security patches for the operating system. What you get in the box is what you will have until you buy a new one. TextBlade is a radical shift to that paradigm, able to be updated and customized by the user to fit their particular style.
If the short version is all you have time for, you’re done! (Do check out the pictures below). If you want a bit more detail and pretty language, see below!
Hello, TextBlade fans! I’ve been rather inactive here, because not much has been happening, but this month is different! This is November, which means that for us creative writer types, it’s National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo hence)! The goal is to write a 50,000-word novel within the 30 days of November, and then go on from there to hopefully edit, publish, and all that good stuff. Having to write so much so quickly requires all doubts to be cast aside so that you can take a running dive off the end of the diving board into the vast pool of story inspiration. It requires determination, persistence, and more than a little bit of craziness.
Having a good keyboard at your fingertips is also a critical feature, unless you can actually write an entire novel by hand in a single month, and also keep track of your word count without a computer to help out. If you can, more power to you! For me, though, keyboards are my best friend this month.
I’ve done NaNoWriMo for several years in a row now, starting with my first ever novel-in-a-month back in 2007. Almost every year that I can remember setting myself to do this, I’ve reached the goal and usually surpassed it by thousands of words, even while taking a full load of college credits or working a part-time job on the side. Last year, I was helped immensely by using an ergonomic keyboard and switching to Colemak. This is my first year trying this crazy storm of writing with a TextBlade on my desk, and also the greatest real-world stress test I could think of for this developing project.
Today is the ninth of the month, and I’ve hit 105,000 words and climbing fast; by reaching more than 100,000 words on Day 9, I’ve shattered many of my previous NaNoWriMo records; my previous best time to 50,000 words was the end of Day 6, with 50,060 there. This year, I made it to the 50k mark very early on Day 5, making it to 61k by the end of that day. Three more hours of writing squeezed into the prior days would have netted me 50k at the end of Day 4. Prior best to 100k was Day 17; I’ve beaten that by more than a full week, maintaining an average of more than 11,000 words per day and not planning to slow down any more than I absolutely must until the end.
My TextBlade, that normally lasts me a week of what I thought was moderate, even fast typing, has had to be recharged twice already, and it’s dipping down to need a third recharge, probably at the end of today. Depending on how things work out, I may even have to recharge before I’m done typing for today—but probably not. This is where the 10 battery lights come in massively handy, and the ability to check them via a key chord on the keyboard without having to get my hands out of typing position; I can very accurately gauge where I am in my available battery life, and plan my recharging times for when I’m eating lunch or dinner so that I never get stranded with a dead TextBlade and a novel still demanding that I write it as fast as I can. Another handy feature that the TextBlade offers and I don’t think any other wireless bluetooth keyboard does is the app connection; I’ve used this to track how much I’m actually using my TextBlade and how many characters I’ve typed into my novel and other programs (email, Skype, Etc.) in a given charge cycle. That blew me away to be able to see that kind of data from my keyboard, without having to install a key logger on my various devices and add up the totals between them. I know from this that normally, it takes me 5 to 9 days to deplete my TextBlade to the 10-20% mark, at which point I recharge it so that I don’t get stranded with awful legacy keyboards. (Or awful modern ones—I had to use a friend’s new Macbook, with the touchbar at the top and the itty-bitty one millimeter of key travel or whatever it has; it made my hands feel sick and wrong and I rejoiced when I had better, full-travel, multitouch keys under my fingers again)
For NaNoWriMo, I’ve had to recharge every two or three days, starting with a full charge on October 31 so I would be as ready as possible for this. In those two or three days though, I’ve consistently typed as much on my TextBlade as I would in an entire week or more before November started, averaging more than 11,000 words per day, or 230 to 350 thousand characters pounded onto my TextBlade. That’s not as fast as a q-bot might be able to do it, but this is also actual typing by a sloppy human trying to lay out plot and ahead of him as he runs headlong down a slippery slope.
And it has been amazing
. There really are no parallels; the wrist strain that’s usually starting to get really bad at this time of the month is nonexistent; having copy, paste, cut, select, and everything else all right here on home row has saved me almost immeasurable amounts of reaching, twisting, groaning, aching. At this point, my biggest source of wrist pain is my ergonomic mouse
, a Swiftpoint GT, because it’s right-hand only, so my right hand and wrist is consistently in pain from having to reach for that mouse and use it when my hands really just want to get comfy on my TextBlade. Fortunately for me, the TextBlade can do a lot of the things that I would normally use a mouse for, thanks to the many built in edit features and other clever little tricks.
Now, it’s not all sunshine and roses here at NaNoWriMo central; it wouldn’t be a good stress test if I didn’t find things that broke (Or, it would be a very good stress test that shows that this thing is 110% ready for whatever the world might throw at it. The TextBlade is not quite there, not quite yet, but it is getting better all the time)
First and biggest problem: hitting the Ctrl modkey combo when trying to type fast fast fast. Because the ModKeys don’t have an option to be sticky like the shift keys, and because Ctrl is a key chord with either pinky and ring, or a hand-shift and chording ring and middle fingers, it’s just a little bit clumsy when typing at 140 WPM. Often what happens when I go to italicize, for instance, is that I will instead hit “X”, “shift”, and then “I”, thinking that I’ve gotten Ctrl pressed down, and instead I just get “XI”. This consistent error is partly on me, because my pinky isn’t quite accurate enough to stay on its own key, so I have to maneuver to get my ring and middle fingers on that Ctrl modifier, and I thus lose touch of the tactile feedback for where my hand is on the left keyblade, and stab down before bothering to check my place. This would be easily fixed if WayTools made the hot corners on the spaceblade as versatile as the rest of the keyboard—or even just able to be modifier keys like Ctrl, Alt, and Cmd; I would set up my maps so that on all Windows, Linux, and Android machines, the left hot corner would be mapped to Ctrl; that would be an easy target to hit and know I’ve hit it, without having to shift my hand around on the left keyblade.
It makes sense to have that left spaceblade corner be Cmd for Apple devices, since that gives you exactly the quick access to italics, underlining, bold, Etc, that would be so handy. But the simple fact is most of the computers in the world are not made by Apple
. If you look at market share, Windows, Android, and Linux or Linux-based systems completely flatten every Apple product—computers, tablets, phones, wearables, schoolhouse computers, computer-on-a-stick systems, anything like that, and they all use Ctrl for text formatting that should be quick access, and Cmd/Super for other, less instant, frequnt things such as pulling up the start menu. (that’s my experience anyway, yours may differ)
The second major problem with the TextBlade for pounding out a massive novel is the lack of lapability. Not as much a problem for me lately, because I do generally have a good desk in front of me when writing, whether it be a standing or sitting desk. But I have had times where I had to juggle clumsy, improvised solutions to get my TextBlade to work correctly. An elegant fix of some sort for that particular issue would be very welcomed.
The third thing, not so much a major problem as a minor nitpick—I wish I could see more than one set of my typing statistics in the TextBlade app. Being able to do a “typing fitness tracker” in the app, showing metrics on a day by day basis, would be very handy and informative. Another layer of data to show how often I use things like edit, select, app, and media chords, and something to show how many times I hit space, backspace, that kind of thing, would be handy, interesting, and informative as well.
So far, of these problems, only one is a hardware fix, and that’s probably not for the TextBlade itself, but for a lap-friendly addon that the TextBlade can fit itself into and that will support it. This brings me to the single best thing about the TextBlade: it can be updated. This is one of those basic things that has been with computers, programs, apps, and other devices for a long time; if something is broken, or if the company wants to add a new feature, they can roll out a new version of their software, that will still run on the existing hardware. If you have a Windows computer, you have almost certainly installed updates as a simple download; same for any smartphone and their apps. Can you imagine what the world would be like without those updates to bestow new and better functionality on the tools we use every day? Can you imagine still trying to use the first publicly available version of Internet Explorer, Chrome, or Firefox, on the modern web? Running Windows 98? But for the longest time, the fundamental workings of mainstream keyboards have been excluded from these updates. Sure, there are some custom keyboards that you put together yourself from kits, where you can remap some of the keys or change a bit of the firmware, but nothing as truly comprehensive as the updates we get to all our other daily devices.
Imagine getting a new smartphone, chucking your outdated one, and then you are told that you will never get an update for your new phone. The apps, the operating system, all of them will be 100% the same a few years down the line as they are right now, and you won’t be able to download any new apps or features either, because all that the designers think you need is on there now. Perhaps this is touted as a security feature, or something that would reduce the user’s amount of hassle and their poor experience with their device. But the fact remains that you are stuck with what you got in that smartphone the first day you bought it. If there are problems, or security flaws, or brand-new social media platforms and other apps that you want to get on your phone, that’s too bad, you’re stuck with what you have, exactly as it came out of the box. It sounds absurd, but this is the reality of our current keyboards—they are pretty much fixed, static, and they are also in use for a lot longer than many people wait to upgrade their phone. Keyboards are pretty much stuck as they are, until you buy a whole new device.Until TextBlade gets out there.
With my TextBlade, I can go into the app, change the boundary and timing settings to be more to my liking, such as if I notice a problem with where my fingers naturally hit the keys, or problems with how quickly I can roll from one key to the next. On legacy keyboards, I would pretty much have to adapt myself to the keyboard, and however the designer thought it should perform. But with the TextBlade, I can meet my keyboard in the middle, by adjusting its settings to where I am comfortable with them and also relearn how to work my hands. I can see where my fingers strike the keys, according to the TextBlade’s array of sensors; it can show me heatmaps and boatloads of other data and if something isn’t where I think it should be, I can change it right there in the app, push a button, and have a completely different typing experience in just a few seconds once the TextBlade has updated. And that is truly stunning. The TextBlade has a long, long list of features that set it apart from every other keyboard in the world, and also features that it does better and bundles together instead of only having one or two of those incredible capabilities. And arguably one of the best, and most understated features of the TextBlade is that it can be updated
. The physical product may stay the same, at least until the release cycle of the TextBlade 2 (or whatever edgy name WayTools comes up for their follow up device), but your TextBlade will not be the same beast as when you first got it. You will tinker with settings, or maps, or download an update with fixes and improvements, and your TextBlade will change to fit you. It won’t be a big deal; you’ll notice that something is just a little bit off, and change it to suit you, and have a few minutes of “Wow! This feels so much better”, and then you’ll forget about it and move on with the new normal, working a little faster, a little better, a little more productively. Or WayTools will send out an update with bug fixes and things you never thought about, and you might not even notice but your typing experience will change and you’ll not know what it is, but something just clicks.
This isn’t a one-and-done device; this is a living, breathing thing that will grow and change and become different as you find yourself with different needs or use cases. And whether you’re coding, typing up business emails, texting with friends, or sprinting for a novel in a month, you will have a friend in your pocket to help you, a little three-piece magnetic wonder that will always catch attention whenever you snap it out and start to work.