ThickButtons Predicts and Enlarges Letters for Better Android Typing [Downloads]

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Android: One of Android’s biggest weaknesses, at least compared to the iPhone, is its on-screen keyboard. ThickButtons tries to improve Android’s typing experience by guessing what words you might be typing and enlarging the next letter you’ll type, and it (mostly) succeeds.

ThickButtons Predicts and Enlarges Letters for Better Android TypingDesigner Lukas Mathias has thoroughly detailed the differences in iPhone and Android one-finger typing. The major improvement on the Apple side of the scale is that the iPhone quietly and invisibly enlarges the “hit area” for the letters you’re most likely to type next, based on your own word use and the built-in dictionary. ThickButtons seems inspired by the lack of such a feature on the Android keyboard’s uniformly sized buttons.

As you start typing, ThickButtons’ keyboard replacement looks at the words that the Android system normally suggests for auto-completion, then enlarges and lightly color-shades the keys that correspond to the next letters in each of those words. If there are a lot of words that have a letter that follows what you just typed, that letter gets super-sized. Type “t-h,” for example, and “e” will balloon up as a likely candidate, and it’s easier to hit with your thumb.

I’ve only had about 30 minutes to test out ThickButtons, but, on the whole, I like how it works. I often forget that auto-complete suggestions are right above the keyboard, and sometimes find them more effort than they’re worth to reach up and hit (or remember to hit the space bar to activate), so getting a halfway solution of auto-enlarging keys is right up my alley. Then again, when I’m typing out a word that Android would not have guessed I was going for, seeing the other letters all lit up and enlarged can cause a slight distraction as I try to peck out my word. When ThickButtons is right about what you’re writing, it’s really helpful; when it’s wrong, it can be a slight inconvenience for some. That’s a worthy trade, I’d think, and I’m finding it more useful and less intrusive (or slow) than HTC’s Sense keyboard or Swype. My one immediate request: offer an option to keep ThickButtons off when typing in landscape mode, because some experienced two-thumb typists might find it more distracting than helpful.

You can customize which dictionaries (default, contacts, SMS) ThickButtons pulls from in your Locale & Keyboard settings, and you'll want to read ThickButtons’ installation instructions for enabling it on your system. It’s a free download, at least while it’s in its beta phase, and found in the Market and at the developers’ site.