TextBlade tech odds 'n ends

Since I use the TextBlade mostly on my Mac, there have been a couple things I’ve wondered about but never go around to testing or asking for info.

Both of these are about emojis on the Mac.

First, you are supposed to be able to bring up an emoji panel on the Mac by pressing cmd-ctrl-space.

Except that doesn’t seem to work with the TextBlade. I thought maybe the Mac had changed it, but when I tried with a usb keyboard, it worked.

So I guess my first question is, why doesn’t the TB do it - and is this going to work on the new firmware?

Second, I’ve never been interested in an infinite number of emoji. So on my iOS maps, I set aside a section of one of the layers to hold the emojis I used regularly. But putting emoji characters on a Mac slot, they don’t work.

I really don’t understand why I can copy an emoji from someplace and paste it where I want, but I can place in in a map and just hit a key to enter it into any app text field.

Is there a way? If not, will it be work with the new firmware?

There’s a Mac key remapping app called Karabiner Elements which includes a utility called Event Viewer. It might be useful to see what key code the TextBlade emits, so you can remap it to Cmd-Ctrl-Space.
I use it to map the Section key (§) to Escape, which is easier to use for vim than the stupid Escape symbol on the touch strip thingy.

I believe I messed with that before. I forget the details, but some problems developed and I removed it. Thanks anyway. But the basic concept is good so maybe I can find another way.

That touch strip has to be the stupidest thing Apple has made since the hockey puck mouse.

People have been messing with dynamic keys for decades but nobody’s found a winning combination yet. Anyone know of any winners?

My first and favorite experience was an app on my Treo (remember those?) that had intelligent adaptive keys.

I think ultimately what might work is if keys were to do smart multi step things, as suggestions from the AI. If it notices every time I get a 3 paragraph email from a certain person I color it green, file it in a certain folder, and start a reply, that can be offered up as a key. To make this work there will have to be a way to let the user be aware of what is included, so I think the first time it’s offered up as a notification and if I like it I give it a name and then the AI offers that button with my name whenever it thinks I might need it.

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As a concept, it sounds great. It would work perfectly if it was just miniature displays on top of real key caps.In practice I hate it. Newer versions at least have a real Escape key (mine doesn’t).
One of the common failure modes for me is that the screen will suddenly turn off, caused by me pausing while typing something - my left ring finger gets too close to the “screen dim” button and dims it all the way to zero.
Another drawback is that all of the fancy text prediction modes are wasted on me - I’m looking at the screen while I’m typing, not down at the keyboard, so I never see them.

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Yup. I have all of these problems, and worse. It really is the worst product that Apple has made in the last 15 years.

The touchbar is far more stupid than the puck mouse:

  • anyone who understands ergonomics would have told you exactly why it would suck
  • it was really done just for the “Look! Shiny!” reasons and did not actually improve usability. Other examples: folding screen smartphones.

But what makes it truly stupid is the endless denial game. The puck mouse was reverse coursed in 2 years, with SJ himself going on stage and laughing about it, and announcing its replacement with one of the nicest mice.

How long did the flat keyboard fiasco last?

How long will Touchbar last? People who touch type and use function keys have been avoiding it since it was introduced in 2016. It is 2021 and still available.

I’m fine when Apple adds eye candy that doesn’t harm the user experience, such as when they used to bleed off some of the screen backlight to light up the Apple logo, which they then rotated 180 degrees so it would appear upright in the open mode. No actual user benefits from the glowing Apple logo when they are working; this was done so any Mac in public would garner attention, and drive sales. I’m fine with that.

But when your glowing lights mean handicapping the usability of function keys - then you’ll get your users bristling.

Or when thinness comes at the cost of typing, increased noise, and killing the reliability - then you have to ask who authorized those trade offs. And why they authorized them. You start to suspect the negatives such as “planned obsolescence” because how else could you make such a stupid decision?

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The thing that gets me so angry about Apple: is how far they have fallen.

They used to sweat all the hard decisions, from whether to base their OS on open source technologies, to whether to use unbleached cardboard for their packaging, and they would make all these optimal trade offs and just endure the noise, such as how much they were lambasted for ditching the floppy. They skipped wireless charging for so long because it is a literal waste of energy, and Lightning can be plugged in in the dark while half drunk.

More and more, they operate the opposite. Make everything for the “Look! Shiny!” effect and not give a crap how long it lasts, or whether it is better for you (and the environment) in the long run.

It happens at the business level too! Why else would Phil Schiller quit? They used to have a conscience, but now they don’t listen to him. To suggest that the 30% App Store margins could be reduced and to “present it in strength”, was “I know this is controversial” and of course they won’t do it. Until the law forces them to.

I will bet that the moment Elon knew Phil was leaving, he called and offered him a spot.

Phil: “gee I know I don’t agree with how Apple is running today, but I won’t kick them to the curb” —> “sorry Elon, I’ve worked my whole life and a close friend nearly died of COVID and I’ve been worrying how much time I have left to spend with my kids.”

To me, as good as Jonny Ives was about many things, I think he also got too caught up in thinness and “simplicity”. Like when he changed the little things you’d have to tap to move around. Sometimes it is best to be able to look at something and be able to tell at a glance what it probably does. Even if it doesn’t look as “sleek”.

I wonder if that was part of the reason for getting rid of the reload icon for the upcoming OS releases (hopefully changing). Did they think it “looks cleaner without that icon”? And were so dumb about it that they didn’t even include it in the customization options? It’s like their attitude was, “We think this looks better and we will force you to do things the hard way whether you like it or not - no opt out”.

There are things Apple does I don’t like that I can at least see an argument for. But some of this stuff just seems to be pure stubborness.

I haven’t used a MB with touchbar, but I can imagine some use cases - maybe with some definitely adjustments. But I can’t imagine anyone thinking the hockey puck mouse works better for them!

Sort of like I can at least think of reasons for the TB not being released, or even sent to treggers with new firmware. I can even come up with reasons for not giving update info. But I can’t imagine any reason to announce they will be giving some info in a certain time frame and not do it! Last one of these was back in mid February and info was supposed to come out around the end of that month. Well, it still hasn’t!

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I agree with there being much more than meets the eye with the TextBlade delays. Our societal progress is a double-edged sword: it gives to individual entrepreneurs a way to bootstrap the next Apple with very little capital, but at the same time, the complexity of technology, the vast supply chain dependencies (ever tried to buy lots of Lithium Ion batteries, or even capacitors if Apple happens to use that part?), and also crazy high customer expectations.

Gone are the days when “it makes coffee, great!” would suffice. If you haven’t heard the term “invent a better mousetrap” recently, maybe it is because in modern times, it is more like:

  • hire a team of AI developers to train the mouse-recognition model
  • deal with the environmentalists who complain that you are also scaring the local squirrels, of which 13 are endangered, and when you scare them, then the hibernating snakes won’t have food
  • deal with the global chip shortage
  • deal with not having the capital to start your own factory, therefore being at the behest of suppliers for everything, including them using your own inventory for someone else’s order (and hoping to secretly replace your inventory before you noticed, but then the chip shortage hit)
  • deal with all the sneuflakes who claim that a (vastly inferior) competitor’s product is better, “because I have it now, and it has RGB lights! where are yours??!??”

And on and on. I’m not even an inventor, but having seen what they have to go through (my list above is a tiny, tiny, insignificant list) I sure as hell don’t want to be one.

I think it comes down to a fundamental misunderstanding of the keyboard. (Something that WayTools got right.) It’s this truth:

  • You never, ever look at a good keyboard.
  • Did I mention that you don’t look at it?
  • Don’t look down. Don’t look at the freaking keyboard.

Here are the three things that make the TouchBar such a great invention:

  • Look at the Touchbar
  • Do NOT look at the screen. Only look at the Touchbar
  • Any time you want to do something useful, take your eyes off your work and look down at the touchbar, then take a few seconds to figure out what random thing it’s currently displaying, then another few seconds to absorb that and make a choice, and then carefully press the thing you need.

Awesome. It’s the anti-keyboard. The anti-productivity. And a nuisance for touch-typers because it’s constantly thinking you’re playing with its buttons when you’re not.

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That factory thing could be one of the issues with the TB. This is a heck of a long time to have a factory not doing anything on a large scale. And with covid, you just add to the problems - but the long delay existed before covid.

I wonder if the touchbar could have been useful if treated as an “extra”. That is, you still have the physical escape key or other basic stuff, but the user could program the touchbar to only show specific things in specific places. Or maybe an advance mode where besides that user created “standard” layout, they could gave it change for specific apps - again, exactly how the user designs it. Sort of like I can program my mouse buttons for general needs, but I can also specify special things for certain apps.

While I am not a designer, I have read books, and watched interviews of designers. And of course, I swallowed some of the clips that Apple put out over the years.

Good design doesn’t have “maybe” in it.

It’s a radio. It won’t “maybe” make a good mousetrap.

It’s a keyboard. It won’t “maybe” be a flashy status symbol, fidget cube, advertising shtick, or toy.

Perhaps this is what Dieter Rams meant.

Measure TouchBar and measure Apple’s recently removed flat keyboards against his principles!

Now measure TextBlade!

As for “extra”, good design removes unneeded stuff. Does Apple “want” to sell more Macs? Sure. Does it “need” to put eye candy at your expense? Does it “need” to cater to people who don’t understand what keyboards are for? Does it “need” to put an “extra” Graphical User Interface - when any Mac is dominated by its giant Graphical User Interface?

One of the worst things to do is white text on yellow background:

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Yeah, fortunately Dieter Ram’s design principles are widely spread; much obliged if you can suggest a web site with those same rules, minus its own design fails. :wink:

Speaking of more design fails, here is John Gruber (Daring Fireball) and his comment on Apple’s proposed UI changes to Safari:

The new Safari tab UI strikes me as being different for the sake of being different, not different for the sake of being better. The new design certainly makes Safari look distinctive. But is it more usable or discoverable in any way? I honestly can’t think of a single problem the new design solves other than saving about 30 points (60 @2× pixels) of vertical screen space by omitting a dedicated tab bar.

And that’s what bothers me about Apple. They used to be bold (innovative) and thorough in their designs, be it an iPod or iMac. Now, they are “being different for the sake of being different, not different for the sake of being better.”

Take that worm out of the Apple!

Another gem from John Gruber:

It’s worse. It just looks simpler. All the old functionality remains — it’s just harder to access, harder to discover intuitively, and more distracting. One can only presume that Apple’s HI team thinks they’re reducing needless “clutter”, but what they’re doing is systematically removing the coherence between what apps look like and the functionality they offer.

Here’s another axiom, whose attribution is certain: “Most people make the mistake of thinking design is what it looks like. People think it’s this veneer — that the designers are handed this box and told, ‘Make it look good!’ That’s not what we think design is. It’s not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.”

It used to be that “Designed in Cupertino” was a really big deal. But I’m starting to wonder, why shouldn’t it be “Designed in Santa Monica”?

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While Safari Technology Preview put the reload button back in (though the same update elimated Tab Groups), so far I don’t see any reason to eliminate a separate address bar. It just seems harder to tell what is going on when the address box keeps moving to the active tab. Lacks visual stability.

I can at least imagine some benefit to iOS with moving the address to the bottom, within easy reach. But it still needs to have an independent reload button. Some other things I’m not sure about.

What I’d really like to see is Tab Groups combined with Vivaldi’s tab stacks. Those stacks are really great when you want to see more than one tab at a time but if I could also have groups, that would be another bonus. I presently use Safari for some things, but mostly Vivaldi.

While I love the TextBlade, there is one thing I felt would make it better when I first got in Treg. It had to do with angle of the key blades. I kinda forgot about it until today.

Many of us used keyboards where there is no angle. That and other things we have done before may develop habits where the angle on the TextBlade cause more problems for some. I know Mark did research to determine the “best” angle, but I submit there is no “best”. There are no doubt choices that work best for most people, but that isn’t the same thing.

In fact, I think the most recurring issue during Treg testing was because of the many different hand sizes, finger sizes, angles, etc. They had worked out those things for the people testing IN HOUSE, but Treg brought in a whole bunch more variety which took a lot of work!

One thing that helped was the ability to adjust a number of key boundaries. These would be small changes, but they really can make a difference.

But, at least for me, I suspect that if I could reduce that angle, that would have solved many of my problems.

You see, my normal typing position usually has my arms right against my side. If I put my elbows on the armrests of my task chair, it works pretty well. But if I go back to my preferred position, it pulls the pinkie finger down. Other fingers too, just not as much. I think most of the keys I needed to change boundaries on would not have needed changing if the angle was less.

I could even see having them straight across could work better for some people.

I can make a small change by wedging something at the top of where the keyblades connect. But can’t make too big a difference because then you can break the connection of the three pieces. Don’t know if future versions could be designed to allow a bigger change. But even with what I have, it would be nice to have something magnetic that could slide on one of the blade connectors (magnetic so it tends to stay put when stacked).

OTOH, I’m more interested in getting version one shipped!

That’s an interesting thought. A simple wedge shape to help make the adjustment. Of course, even with a magnetic connection, I would imagine the transition from the “stored” to the “working” configuration would make it easy for the wedge to be knocked off and lost.

I’m curious, in the current design, would that wedge still fit within the case for the textblade, thus protecting it while in your pocket?

Possibly even better would be for the future textblade to have the configuration available as a solid piece. Then, we could order it with the current angle or a straight across angle.

@dabigkahuna: Have you seen ANY responses from WayTools in the last couple months?