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Handhelds Hardware

PDA Keyboards Compared 93

The Tech-Report is currently running a feature that compares two of the leading PDA keyboards - the Targus Stowaway and the Landware GoType. I've seen a number of these used before, but haven't gotten one yet - anyone else found one that they really like?
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PDA Keyboards Compared

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  • Vile looks like a pretty cool program. However, I must admit that it took more than a little bit of courage to click on a link pointing to http://www.vile.cx/. Given the vile nature of a certian site which has a name in the Christmas Island TLD I was pretty concerned about clicking on a .cx site that actually has vile in the name. :)
  • Never thought of that...and I was figuring if I ever did buy another pilot, it would be a TRG Pro anyway.

    But right now I already have a Palm III that does everything I need it to do quite nicely (except keyboard + network simultaneously)

  • Why pay £1500 for a laptop that's only needed for text?

    Why, indeed? You raise a great point here. I am a screenwriter, and I hate lugging my laptop around everywhere I go, just in case the muse strikes me. I'll be getting a PDA very soon, and I'm adding a stowaway to my list of must have accessories.

    Incidentally, this is the type of discussion I would like to see more of on /. Since I'm only about 65% nerd these days (it's just too much damn work to keep up with the geektimes, and have a job and a family), it's nice to have a window into the collective nerd-intelligence.

  • Research In Motion's [rim.net] two blackberry devices [blackberry.net], the various motorola Talkabouts, Timeports, and Pagewriters [motorola.com], are the choices I know about.

    What about those personal organizers ? There are the Franklins [franklin.com], the Sharps [sharp-usa.com], and what else ? Anybody play around with those cybikos [cybiko.com] ?

    I'm thinking of building a prototype for a product, which will be a small organizer or two way pager like device with a key board and small 4 line screen. I know nothing about ergonomics, so I'd like to examine the best example.

  • I don't know if this will be considered off-topic, since the discussion is locked on extra keyboards for palms,but ... Hell, it was the device that changed my life so it deserves a litle karma :)

    The Psion keyboard is one of the best I've tried, there isn't one single Wince , or PalmOS, machine that compares to it.
    I first thought that the keys would be too small, and I wouldn't be able to type fast, but after the first week I typed almost as fast as in a full size keyboard.

    Then, I find a device withou a keyboard too troblesome to use, you have to learn a new alfabeth and write with enough care. My handwrite is too screwed to be understood by any OCR, so an Palm device without a keyboard is simple unthinkable for me.
    Comparing my Psion S5 with an full featered Laptop, is not even a challenge, the 30 hours autonmy is the thing I like most, right after the keyboard. :)

    The praise is given,
  • I got my folding keyboard to go with my TRGpro, and I absolutely love it.

    If I'm sitting in a seminar, or reading resarch papers in the library, I just whip out my TRG and keyboard and start typing notes. Since I habitually wear a big leather jacket with capacious inside pockets, the size of the folded keyboard isn't a problem for me.

    There's also the huge coolness factor associated with it: people keep coming up to me when I'm using it and telling me how cool it is. Even non-geeks are impressed by it.

    Given that I mostly used a laptop for taking notes, this combination is far more conveniant for me: there is no way I could ever fit a laptop in my inside jacket pockets! Also, I can have the keyboard and handheld out, set up and usable in far less time than it takes most laptops to boot.

    The requirement for a hard surface is a bit of a problem, but not an insurmountable one. The only times I want to do anything with it when I'm not near a hard surface is when I'm working in bed: I just keep a piece of hardboard by my bed instead.

    Now, if only someone would come up with a way of connecting a PS/2 connecter to it...

  • Control-V for paste? Isn't that the page down shortcut?

  • That's what I meant, of course.
  • I highly recommend the Landware Stowaway. I use a Handspring Visor Deluxe, and use the Stowaway to enter various types of data. It's especially wonderful in classes where I would normally be writing a lot of notes by hand. I have a RhinoSkin 2000 carrying case, which holds my Stowaway, my Visor, batteries, a pen, and has a bit of room left over for a cell phone and some papers. I think the best part about the Stowaway is its portability. It folds up to just a bit larger than the size of your average Palm PDA. It has an extremely high cool factor, and I also enjoy typing on it. I actually prefer the tactile response of the Stowaway's keys to those on my Adesso NuForm ergo keyboard... and I even feel that it lets me type faster.

    I don't know too much about the GoType, but if you're looking for portability, I can't recommend it. It doesn't fold up, and seems rather bulky to carry around.
  • I haven't seen the Stowaway, but a colleague of mine has a Go-Type, which he has let me play with. It's nice, but the big drawback for me is that is not rigid when extended, meaning you have to put it on a table to use it. Compare this with the nice extending keyboards in IBM Thinkpads. If the Go-Type were rigid enough to use on my lap I would certainly get one for my Palm IIIx.
  • So? It only cost about $2 to make the pizza I ate last night, but I paid $14.

    Belkin can charge more for their cables because you can be sure that they work, and if they don't, they give you another one. Price is based on what the market will bear.

    If you don't want to pay $20 for a Belkin printer cable, go buy one at Wal-Mart for $5, but don't whine when you get I/O errors.

  • A cheaper solution that consists of a sticker and some software is the fitaly "keyboard". It's an overlay you put on the graffi area with a letter frequency arranged tapping keyboard. Work well for me.


    (I'm just a satisfied customer, etc., etc..)
  • I have and like the GoType!. Yeah, the keys are smaller than normal, but it isn't a problem for me. (I can see it being a problem for someone like my dad who has really big fingers). It works well, and I like the fact that it doesn't fold, as I can sit it on my bed or my lap or my couch.

    I also got it for $20. :) A while back, office depot printed an error in their flyer, advertising the palm folding keyboard for $19.99. Well, they pulled the stock from the shelves and told customers that they were "out of stock" instead of honoring their printed price. Well, Best Buy happens to honor the printed price of their competitors, so I took it there. They were actually out of stock of the palm folding keyboard (the one in the add), so they gave me the discount on the GoType! instead.

    I'm happy with it. No, I don't carry it with me - I use it at home and on the plane to type long emails and do text editing.

  • From the iMac Update: December 7, 2000

    On a recent hike, twelve-year-old Nicole Wineland-Thompson kept a diary. That's not unusual.

    Nicole kept her daily journal on her Blueberry iBook. That's not that unusual either.

    This next part, however, is a bit out of the ordinary: Nicole's ten-day "hike" took her to the top of Africa. To the blustery peak of Mt. Kilimanjaro, to be exact, a chilly 19,340 feet above sea level. "I put the entire trip in the iBook each day,"she recalls.

    What prompted Nicole's hike in Tanzania?Read "Climbing Kilimanjaro," a new story on our website:

    http://www.apple.com/hotnews/articles/2000/11/ki li manjaro/

    Feh! Whatta twelve year olds know? Here's a case where I'd definitely be using the PDA+Stowaway. Imagine lugging a laptop up Kilimanjaro! No matter how much I may like Macs, I wouldn't lug an iBook up a mountain. Not even if it had LinuxPPC installed.

    This is where Palm OS devices shine. Someone earlier said "Why not just get a laptop?". I'll tell you why. Two AAAs last a couple of weeks on a Palm device, and an extra set only weighs a few ounces, as opposed to a pound or two for laptop batteries.
  • Right on. I like the Newton 'board's size, shape, everything, except the keys are sticky as hell. Makes my hands tired typing a short paper. Good thing the handwriting rec. rules, no?
  • keyboard is $59.99, while it has an average cost of $42. The same thing follows for cabling; [...] Sure, stores have to make a profit somewhere, but come on! It doesn't take a moron to figure out that these things are cheaper than ever to manufacture!

    Cheaper than ever... Since they weren't available previously, I don't see how they can be cheaper, so who's the moron?

    But seriously, the cost of parts is not the only thing you pay for. The stowaway is actually $100, so if it really costs $42 in parts, the profit is $58. Now, in addition to the bits of plastic, springs, wires, etc, the company has to pay an engineer or two to figure out how to make it, it has to pay for a place for them to work, payroll taxes, and so on. It even has to pay interest on the money the company borrowed to pay the engineers/rent/etc, until the company can sell a few keyboards.

    On top of that, the company has to pay for advertising to let you know about their keyboard, they have to send free samples to magazines and such, they have to pay accountants, secretaries, and janitors.

    Of course, Targus/Think Outside doesn't get the whole $58. Office Depot et al gets some of it. They use it to print that weekly ad, rent store space, heat the store, pay clerks to take your money, and even pay for insurance in case you trip and fall and sue them.

    And then there is a bit of profit.

    So, if you think there is too much profit involved don't buy it.

    If it doesn't offer you $100 worth of functionality, don't buy it.

    If you need a keyboard that is easy to carry more than you need $100, then go ahead and buy it.

  • Hrm. Except that I would want the keyboard mostly for typing meeting notes and the like. Note the sort of thing voice recognition would let me do(people in meetings tend to get so annoyed when I talk out for no apparant reason:>)

  • Thanks for the clarification. I hope the idiot that modded my post up is suitably mortified.
  • came with my Psion 5mx. All it lacks is ethernet access.
  • The Apple Newton keyboard (if you can get one) is excellent. It is so small that you can fit it into one of your thigh pockets if you wear army surplus pants, but I swear it felt like it was full-size when you typed on it. (In fact, maybe it did have full-size keys -- I'm not sure. It was completely usable for diary entries, class notes, and even extended coding sessions.

    The Newton was never a "PDA" like the Palm Pilot -- it was more like a very small laptop in terms of what you used it for. No matter how much you like your Palm Pilot, you do not spend 4 hours on an airplane writing source code and e-mail in it. I did that with my Newton.

    I'm still looking forward to a new handheld that is as usable as the Newton...

  • this thread got me wondering whether anyone here uses a twiddler (http://www.handykey.com) with a palmos device. seems like it would be a great combo.
  • All i know is that i have an HP 820 and the keyboard rocks. I can type around 60-70wpm and the addons i can jack into it make it indespensable. Unfortunatly HP stopped making it due to its profit cutting on laptop sales
  • The basic assumption made in the article seems to be that
    "PDA" EQUALS "input through touch screen - ONLY".
    No ifs, buts or maybes. As long-time Psion users (I'm on my third, mostly due to cracking screens when falling off my bike) know, this is simply a false equality.
    The standard SlashDot assumption of
    "America" EQUALS "all there is in the universe"
    seems to be in full grip, as usual. But over here in Europe, Psion is still a vital force and an excellent PDA. Having said that, I know from repeated complaints in Compuserve's Palmtops/Psion forum that the Psion repair and maintainance service in the 'States is less than marvellous. Often terrible in fact. Which is probably why the 'Palm' style of PDA managed to get started at all.
  • I have tried both of these products and my biggest gripe is that they both will not allow you to use an add-on modem while using the keyboard. If someone came out with a keyboard that worked with a modem I would be a happy man.

    I just bought a Sharp Mobilon Tripad and I am very pleased with it. It comes with a decent keyboard (yes it's like typing on chiclets at times but you get used to it quickly) and a built in modem. It also has a PCMCIA slot for an ethernet card and a Compact Flas slot. You can also swivel the screen and use it in tablet mode. It comes with Win CE but you can run NetBSD on it. The 12 hour battery life is a nice little bonus too.
  • Consumer Electronics reviewed. Click here [slashdot.org] to read it.


  • by mikers ( 137971 ) on Thursday December 07, 2000 @10:13AM (#574657)
    At the time when I needed a keyboard for my Palmpilot Personal (512kb) the only choice around was the GoType. I've been using it for about 2 years now and am quite happy with it.

    The keys are large enough for comfortable typing, they could use to be larger. It does not drain batteries excessively. I've cranked out some large amounts of text in relatively short times and haven't found myself cursing the size of the keys.

    My only complaint is that: the driver I am currently using with Hackmaster will occasionally require me to power down and power back up for the keyboard to work (this only happens after a 'timeout' shutdown, not a manual shutdown). This problem is probably fixed with new driver versions though.

  • I'm not sure what is more offensive, that picture or the fact that I've seen the original photo that it's derived from. **shudder**


  • Try the handspring visor, it allows you to use both the modem and the keyboard at the same time. The modem goes into the add-on module slot at the top, and the keyboard is connected from the bottom of the Visor..Fun stuff.
  • Same exact product ... just re-branded.

    ThinkOutside [thinkoutside.com] designed the product.


  • This company iBiz sells a keyboard that works on both Palm and Pocket PC. www.ibizcorp.com I have also seen their products at CompUSA...
  • The Happy Hacker keyboard [pfuca.com] is also available for your PDA, if you don't mind the extra size. For serious keyboard jockeys (or, if you use your Palm to telnet into a server and use Emacs), it might be another option.

  • Even the smallest keyboards are too bulky and inconvenient to carry around all the time. The point of a PDA is to be simple and fast and they get in the way IMHO.

    Personally, I think handwritten input [mi-corporation.com] might be a better way to go.
  • I've had a stowaway for about 2 months now and love it. (Actually mine is for the Palm, and appears to be distributed by Palm Inc.) There are a couple of things that I have noticed about it that get in the way. The fact that it bends in the middle is annyoing. That combined with the fragile docking layout makes it next to impossible to type on your lap. But, put a book in your lap and you're good to go. The second thing that gets me is the lack of some important keys. There is no home or end key which can get very frustrating. You can scroll around word-at-a-time with this one though, just by using the CTRL key. The final thing that gets in the way of a total 5 start rating is that one of the programs I use all of the time, Brain Forest, doesn't have all of it's commands fully supported, especially cmd-1 which is mapped to something else on the keyboard. All and all, I love it. Especially since I got mine for $20 when Office Depot miss printed their add.

  • GoType - keys stick, have to be hit dead on, kind of small, hack software has odd behavior re: power on, find the device.

    The Palm Keyboard - the folding one - much better ergo, nice smooth key travel, folds up, must rest on a flat surface. BUT IT'S ALMOST A HUNDRED DOLLARS!!!

    There is the HH cradle which allows you to connect an IBMPC keyboard - convenient if you drag the cradle around to offices with keyboards. Hard pressed to see the value of this.

    Other 3rd party larger keyboards are around - they're just bigger, what's the point???

    On screen keyboards are the way to go.
  • Carrying a separate keyboard to unfold and attach your Palm/Handspring
    to is not the only way to have portable keyboard input. There are at
    least two very usable PDA models that have a built-in keyboard: the
    Psion Revo [psion.com] and the HP 200LX [palmtop.net]

    I find that the Revo is just as portable as a Palm, and far superior
    for text entry. The unit is about the size and weight of a checkbook,
    and fits well in a front pants pocket or suit jacket inside pocket.

    The keyboard works amazingly well considering its size. Since I'm not
    a touch-typist, I find that text entry on the Revo is almost as fast
    as with full size desktop keyboard.

    The screen is 480x160, providing a full document width in the built in
    word processor and spreadsheet. The included web browser works well,
    and there is now a Revo Plus that comes with Opera as a browser and
    supports 128-bit SSL, frames, etc.

    The PsiWin software syncs to Microsoft Outlook, among others, and can
    convert documents between MS Office and Psion formats.

    If you like using a keyboard, but could never find a keyboard-based
    PDA that was both usable and sufficiently portable, you should take a
    close look at the Revo. Psion also makes some other models - the Series
    5MX is quite nice but a bit large for a pocket, and the Siena is
    extremely small but closer to a Sharp organizer than a full scale PDA.

    Prior to the Revo I used an HP 200LX. The 200LX can also be carried in
    a front pants pocket, but is bit bulkier. It runs DOS 5.0 in a full
    80x25 screen, and as a result there are thousands (maybe tens of
    thousands) of (generally older) programs that can run on it.

    The 200LX has an RS232 port on the side, making it a good choice
    for a portable terminal for people who have to administer devices via
    a serial port. On the other side is a standard Type II PCMCIA slot.

    The built-in PIM software is generally pretty good, and has some
    quick-lookup features that I've still never seen any other PDA

    Unfortunately HP discontinued it a while back, but I expect they are
    still available in the secondary/used markets.

    Both systems can be used quite well without a hard surface - simply
    hold under the system with your fingers, and type with your thumbs. It
    sounds awkward, but it works pretty well, and I can usually enter a
    contact faster than neighboring Palm users.

  • Hands down, no question. It's easily the best $100 I've dropped on a gadget in years. My IIIxe goes in one pocket, keyboard in another. It's great for popping out and tapping in MapQuest direx when doing it in Graffiti would take too long and the laptop would take too much time to wake up. I've had friends try out both and they've all got Stowaways or a re-branded version thereof. The GoType looks and feels like it was designed by Microsoft or ex-M$-ers. They're trying to cram too much into too little of a space. Why would I want to use a sub-notebook sized half-keyboard that fits in my satchel/backpack when I can carry arround a classic-style IBM 101-type kbd in my pocket? 'dillo
  • Take a look at pedit Pro [paulcomputing.com], which includes a word count function and is very keyboard-friendly.
  • huh? there isn't an iPAQ version of the folding keyboard.

    sure, you may be able to install linux or god-knows-what on one of those damn things ... but if a visor+keyboard does the trick ... why go there?

    what are you talking about, seriously?


  • by Funky Jester ( 24420 ) on Thursday December 07, 2000 @09:43AM (#574670)
    I have a GoType for my Palm3 and I find that the Stowaway (which I've used) is much more like the standard PC keyboard than the GoType.
    As mentioned in the article, the keys on the GoType are a tad small to type comfortably. In addition, the keys don't have as much 'spring', and I find I have to keep an eye on the screen to make sure my typing has gone through.
    For long documents, it's still quite a bit better than grafitti (which is convenient, but frustratingly inaccurate, given the way I'm used to writing).
  • by BenHmm ( 90784 ) <[moc.yelsremmahneb] [ta] [neb]> on Thursday December 07, 2000 @09:43AM (#574671) Homepage
    It's not a statement of preference, but I have to say the stowaway has made a big difference to my life.

    I'm a journalist, and travel extensively. While it's nice to have a ThinkPad with me, they are heavy, take enormous amounts of adaptors, rechargers and cables to work and are expensive to replace. It's a big hassle for email and text editing enough to write a thousand words a day.

    Since the summer I've been using a visor and the stowaway, with a Xircom modem in the top and pEdit inside. The whole thing fits into my pocket, takes AAA batteries and if I lose any of the bits costs less than a hundred pounds to replace.

    I can touch type on the Stowaway with no problems, and I now carry one less bag on planes. If you travel a lot, that alone makes a huge difference. We're even looking at kitting all our reporters with them. Why pay £1500 for a laptop that's only needed for text?

    If only PalmOS came with a word count function as standard.
  • Isnt one point of having a PDA that you dont NEED a keyboard? I can see that these fold up nicely, but do i want to take it out, unfold it, plug it in, etc, just to type a quick memo to myself while on the bus? Not really. They may work if you keep your pda in the office for a while during the day, and then just take it with you for reference, but then there is no need to not use a normal keyboard...
  • I can just see whipping out the PDA, whipping out the keyboard, unfolding the keyboard, plugging the PDA into it, and then writing down the phone number of that cute geek-girl you're talking to at a rave -- I'm sure it won't be awkward or cumbersome at all...
  • How about something as small as both of these that you can use while walking down the street. The twiddler [handykey.com] is a one handed chorded keyboard the only requires one had.

    There is currently a happy hacking cradle which allows the use of PS/2 keyboards with the palm. I hope someone makes a springboard module to use a PS/2 keyboard with the Handspring Visor, before I have to make it myself...

  • I'd love to use a keyboard on my pilot. At home it acts as a dumb terminal for my firewall, and also as the controller for my mp3 jukebox (source code coming out on my web page soon :)

    The only time I want to use a keyboard, however, is if I'm using the pilot as a terminal. Is it even possible to do both at once since the pilot uses the serial port for network (or dumb terminal) connection?

  • by yamla ( 136560 ) <chris@@@hypocrite...org> on Thursday December 07, 2000 @09:46AM (#574676)
    I have tried out both keyboards and ended up buying the stowaway keyboard. The points raised in this article are spot-on. One thing that I should emphasize, though, is that the GoType keys are small. Much too small for me to touch-type on them. In fact, they were too small for me to use them properly at all, even hunt-and-peck, and I do not have big fingers.

    The stowaway keyboard, on the other hand, ends up providing full laptop-sized keys which alone was enough to make the decision for me.

  • The first person I ever saw with one of these things was Dr. Michel Marriot, the Circuits editor of the New York Times.

    For an interview, I want something nice and stable that I can set up quickly, to speed up my note-taking power without necessarily having to hide behind a big laptop, which is bad for my interview style.

    I either need a nice stable wide collapsible keyboard or a voice software/microphone set up that can distinguish 2 or more voices speaking quickly in a crowded room AND transcribe them accurately...

    (yeah, right..)

  • Is it just me, or was there something wrong with the link? It critiqued the Stowaway just fine, but didn't go anywhee else, no 'next page' link, or anything to do with the GoType.

    I'm probably just missing something...
    Kevin Fox
  • Well, the PalmOS is defiantly "elegently-simple" but if you look at the Visor, one of its key features is being able to expand it to better suit your needs.

    But, for my first example (developing on the palm), if that is something you want to do, a keyboard is a very valid tool to have.

    It reminds of the Super Man/Clark Kent parallel. On one side, is a mild-mannered PDA... but when needed, it can be turned into a mini super PC.

    So, if there is a valid need, and the option is there, what's wrong with that?
  • I have tried both the GoType and the Targus/Palm (actually Think Outside) folding keyboard.

    The GoType is small because it's trying to be.

    The Targus/Palm (actually Think Outside) keyboard is.

    I bought a Targus/Palm (actually Think Outside) because I'd be stupid not to after seeing one... and, well, because it works. It's an amazing piece of engineering. I can't really see why anyone would want a laptop after seeing one of these.

    As far as feel/feedback goes it's top notch. It feels full-sized and you can set the software to make a click sound if you need the extra feedback.

    The only thing that sucks about it is that you can't use it on uneven surfaces. You'll need something like a book to keep it from flopping apart in your lap. I prefer a table when typing so this doesn't bug me as much.

    psst... if you haven't caught on... the idea is to flood the market with cheap, open, color Linux A/V handhelds able to connect to an 802.11 freenet infrastructure. This is the better keyboard if your into that ;^)
  • One thing that I should emphasize, though, is that the GoType keys are small. Much too small for me to touch-type on them. In fact, they were too small for me to use them properly at all, even hunt-and-peck, and I do not have big fingers.

    This was exactly my feeling when I looked at both of them, so I tend to disagree with the article when they say that the Go Type gives you better value. IMO it's totally useless as a keyboard, so you're wasting your money when buying it. If it doesn't work right, it's not a good deal no matter how cheap it is.

  • The Palm keyboard really is the Stowaway. Targus sells the versions for Visors and wince machines, and Palm sells the version for the Palms
  • by RebornData ( 25811 ) on Thursday December 07, 2000 @10:31AM (#574683)
    She's a graduate student, and wanted to be able to type up notes in class. She already had a Visor, and since she walks to school, she didn't want to lug around a laptop the size we could afford (smaller being more expensive). There's also the matter that nobody else uses a computer in class- she didn't want to be conspicuous hooking a big machine.

    She's been using the Stowaway / Visor combination for a whole semester now, and it's been perfect, with two exceptions. First, it wasn't any use in her Greek class (nonalphabetical character set). Second, the cool-ass folding keyboard attracted much more attention for the first few weeks than a laptop would. :-)

    Even though the Stowaway feels sort of flimsy when unfolded, it seems quite durable when packed away (she carries it in the pocket of her backpack, which gets banged around a bit). Even with heavy use, it's holding up very well- no obvious wear.

    It took me a few minutes with the thing to figure out how it got so skinny and still have decent key travel. The secret is that all of the keys are actually depressed when it's folded up. Very clever engineering indeed.
  • But you can't have one because I have the only one in the world! Ha ha ha!

    Dongleberry for the Blackberry [sourceforge.net]

    Plans & software on my site. Chopped up a few connectors, wrote a little code, and now I can use GoType, Stowaway, and Happy Hacking Cradle on the RIM pager. Lasts forever on a single AA, do networking simultaneously with keyboard. The works!

    Oh, and before you ask about the PalmPix, I gave up on that piece o crap.
  • by Lish ( 95509 ) on Thursday December 07, 2000 @10:32AM (#574685)
    If she's a real geek girl, she'll have her own PDA, and you can beam each other your business cards. No need for keyboard. ;-)

  • Isnt one point of having a PDA that you dont NEED a keyboard?

    Well, sure, but the point of a separate keyboard for a PDA is that for a long enough note, typing is faster than tapping, accounting for the setup time. Sure, a quick note on the bus isn't the place for one of these.

    There's a company that makes a replacement Palm III cover that has a digital voice recorder in it. I think the combination of that, the normal grafitti, and the keyboard gives one a wide range of input modes. If you're driving, for example, tapping out grafitti is probably more than you want to get involved with, but recording a voice note that you might transcribe later isn't.

    I find that my Palm and keyboard makes a fine substitute for a laptop for tasks such as composing email or keeping notes. Even ignoring the mistakes I make with grafitti, the keyboard is faster.

    In fact, it's better than a laptop for those tasks, since it doesn't use much power, has no appreciable startup time, and is a lot smaller. Also, I can separate the two. If I just want to read stuff on the train, I just need the Palm, but not the keyboard.

  • Yeah, that would be nice. As a goof, I ran emacs this way over PalmTelnet. Luckily this program has a way to enter Control keys, or I'd have been screwed.
  • If the Newton's handwriting recognition works for you, then great. But one of the reasons the Newton didn't do so well is that for most people (such as me) the recognition was flaky at best. That's why when I owned a Newton I used Grafitti on it -- it was a software product for the Newton long before Palm organizers existed.
  • I hate my Newt's keyboard. It's very sticky in it's action, and makes touch-typing pretty hard. I've got a hardware hacking friend who is going to make me a rollup Newt keyboard at some point.

    I'm still pissed at Steve Jobs, too.

  • The Stowaway rocks for typing. The only problem is I have a Visor and a Palm IIIc which have different connectors...But they don't make a keyboard that allows me to change the connector on it to suit my PDA which sucks. Considering the connector is the only difference in them it makes sense for the consumer to be able to swap them.
  • So? It only cost about $2 to make the pizza I ate last night, but I paid $14.

    No. It definitely cost more than that, unless it was some truly crappy pizza

    Actually I know someone who works for the chain (and it is a major one) and the numbers are correct.

  • by mr ( 88570 )
    The 2X00 was 2.1 version of the Newton OS.

    And, yes, the 2.0 version of Newton Intelligence was the start of workable handwriting (120/130) on the Newton line.

  • The days of the laptop are numbered. My travel gear is now:

    Handpsring Prism
    CardAccess Thinmodem module (hacked - see below)
    Stowaway keyboard
    Handspring backup module
    Phone cable/adaptor
    LED button-cell lamp

    This does IMAP or POP email, and lets me work or write on long boring flights. The built-in Memo application has a 4K size limit for documents, so some third-party software is important. I can even telnet around, and play Nethack while I'm connected!

    I chose the Stowaway because I'm used to it - it's almost exactly like my Thinkpad. I think it's cool too, and bundled software is useless unless it's the software that you happen to want. It fits in a pocket. That's worth the extra $30.

    A third option is the Apple Newton keyboard - there is an adaptor for Palm devices at least that will let you use one of these. But they're not better than the GoType in any way I can see.

    Unfortunately nobody is making a Springboard modem yet that does not require a dongle AND does not stick out beyond the dimensions of the Handspring. The Xircom you mentioned is one of the "fat" modems - the Thinmodem can stay in the Prism all the time and you don't notice it is there. Further advantages are that it is flash upgradable (v.90 upgrade due soon) and has about 500K of user-accessible flash. You can store important stuff on the module using the included software, so in the event of running out of batteries you won't lose anything really important. Something to keep in mind if you outfit all your reporters.

    The Thinmodem is close to perfect but I don't like dongles. I found a PCMCIA card with XJACK on eBay for 50 cents, and managed to modify the Thinmodem to have an XJACK instead. This involved moving the analog section of the surface mount components around, and a lot of careful dremel and scalpel work. But it works like a bought one and meets the design goals. CardAccess say the XJACK license fee is just way too high to enable them to go into production that way.

    All this fits on two packages. The Prism/backup module/lamp in a small zip-up camera case, and the keyboard by itself. The Prism charger travels separately, in checked luggage.

    And about the Prism - there is no doubt that this is the finest PDA you can get right now. There's not a single thing I don't like about it. A real internet browser would be good, but that's just a matter of time and software.

  • Steve Mann just posted [about.com] mega Twiddler2 pictures taken from his head-cam.
  • Got 'em both - the palm/targus branded stowaway is the runaway winner. With the neoprene case I can acttually use it as a case for my IIIe or m100 just by slipping it in before completely zipping the case. Plus it;s a dead ringer for my Powerbook keyboard. The gotype is gathering dust.
  • I have the Stowaway keyboard (called "Palm Portable Keyboard" or somesuch by Palm) for my Palm VII. I don't use it very much daily, but it's indispensable when traveling, because it allows me to keep up with my email and even do web browsing without having to carry a laptop. Just unfold the keyboard, plug the VII in, and read and reply to email as usual. Incredibly handy. The best thing is that you can do it almost anywhere, so it's good for escaping boring talks at conferences :-)
  • I can understand that it makes sense to use a Palm computer because it is so small without a keyboard. A good device for reading stuff and doing some data entry using graffiti.

    But connecting a keyboard to a Palm!??!?. I mean, get real!

    If you need data input, choose a PDA with built-in keyboard; it will be smaller and more comfortable (how can you use a "stowaway" while walking??). Get a Psion Revo plus [psion.com] with 16Mb memory, built-in Word, Excel, web browsing, etc. Fits easily in a pocket.

    Also see:

    Revo Introduction [revoworld.com]

    Palm vs Revo [revoworld.com]

  • The Revo looked like it had a workable keyboard, but I've yet to see one in real life. The fact that they are hard to find is a big black mark against it in my book.

    The HP 200LX has a "keyboard" that's even sorrier than any of the Wince clamshells were. If anyone can type on that I'd be truly impressed. I can easily write graffiti faster than I can thumb in information to the 200 LX. There's a reason that the tiny, crappy keyboard form factor has been abandoned by the vast majority of Handheld device manufacturers.
  • Check out http://www.electrotextiles.com

    Unfortunately they are about six months away from the shops.

    These were on display at a trade show in Europe. It's a tough protective cover that opens into a tactile keyboard.

    They were easy to type with, not as fast as the Targus perhaps, but they were smaller, lighter, more durable and it acts as a cover.

  • Fitaly. If you want to use your PDA as a laptop, it's not gonna work, but if you just want to be able to write down phone numbers, addresses, and so forth as people are telling them to you, this is the way to go. It's been reported on Slashdot before (too lazy to look up right now). The company homepage is here [fitaly.com].
  • When I had a Palm, I decided to try out some keyboards. First I got the GoType, but only tried it out for five minutes before I realized it simply wouldn't do. Way too tiny for my 100wpm typing speed. Whenever I tried typing fast, I'd end up hitting the wrong keys.

    Next I tried the Happy Hacker Cradle. It worked well enough for what it did, save that even the quietest keyboard I could find for it was just too loud (as well as a bit bulky). I wrote an article about my experiences with it [themestream.com].

    After I sold the Palm and cradle to a friend, I finally got my first Stowaway. I accidentally boogered up the latch on it on the first one I got, and had to send it in for an RMA, but the one I got since then works great! It's full-sized, portable, just the neatest little thing . . . and it was actually designed by a media major, like myself. I wrote an article about the Stowaway [themestream.com], too.

  • I know that for a fact. I think that the Targus keyboard is $59.99, while it has an average cost of $42. The same thing follows for cabling; serial, parallel, Cat-5, everything. Belkin's profit margin is about 65%-70%. $20 printer cables? $5 cost. $85 crimping tool? $30.

    Sure, stores have to make a profit somewhere, but come on! It doesn't take a moron to figure out that these things are cheaper than ever to manufacture!

    Regarding quality control, the companies know if a shipment of cables are defective: one time, Belkin reported that an entire shipment of printer cables was soldered wrong. That shipment was promptly field-destroyed (cut the heads off of each end).

  • If you don't see a reason to pick up a keyboard, don't. Your choice. I got a keyboard because I find it much more convenient for taking notes in meetings rather than carrying around a bulky laptop. The rest of the time, though, I just use the stylus.
  • Well, I like the Newton keyboard that I use with my MessagePad 2100. It's nearly full-sized and quite touch-typeable.

    (There's a photo if one in use on this page [umd.edu].)

    Sigh. I'm still mad at Steve Jobs. Geoff

  • by Lothsahn ( 221388 ) <Lothsahn@@@SPAM_ ... u_bastardsyahocm> on Thursday December 07, 2000 @09:50AM (#574705)
    I currently own a Palm IIIc and the standard palm portable keyboard. The portable keyboard's keys are slightly bigger than a laptop computer, and I have yet to find anyone who does not like typing on it.

    No, you don't whip out the keyboard to type in an a name or address. A good use of it is, however, to write a long e-mail at lunch, or to take notes in class (or write a long e-mail in class).

    The keyboard (when folded) is just slightly larger than the palm, and each easily fit in a pocket. Quite easier than lugging a laptop into class to take notes.
  • First a niggling technicality: Graffiti is not handwriting recognition, it is character recognition. Big difference.

    That said my Newton 2100 has an awesome keyboard (still a choice for Palm users, as there is a converter) which is fully supported by the OS. Most (and all Apple-written) Newton apps have full keyboard support for menus and other functions. My Newt came out of the box with a great, fully-featured word processor (NewtonWorks) that can print via network, serial, and IRdA printers. Or, if I want, I can simply output a .rtf file for my dekstop. Or I can email the file.

    Plus, if I want, I can hook up my keyboard to my newt, plug it into my ethernet network to handle mail and browsing, and pull files from a whole stack of 16mb memory cards.

    I keep looking at one of those sexy Palms, but I haven't found anything yet to replace my green brick.

  • This is possible, I believe, with the TrgPro [trgpro.com] version of the Palm. It uses a Compact Flash port for various accessories, leaving the serial port available for use with the keyboard. Using the CF modem or network adaptor with a keyboard should fit your bill.

  • by spood ( 256582 ) on Thursday December 07, 2000 @10:35AM (#574708) Homepage Journal
    If you're holding out for voice you're gonna have to wait for it to be acceptable to use it in public, too. It's bad enough with cell phones these days. If I ever get stuck next to someone on my redeye who insists on using his voice-enabled Palm XII while I'm trying to sleep, I'll listen just long enough to hear him dictate his password and then bitch-slap him unconscious.
  • Those of you jesting about big keyboards and little PDAs and cumbersomeness, etc, you're not getting the point.

    I have a Palm IIIxe, and a Palm Portable Keyboard (rebranded Stowaway). I do a lot of writing, and the PPK makes that infinitely easier. I'm a deft hand with graffiti; when someone gives me their phone nunmber, I jot it down with the stylus. Likewise for quick notes, reminders, etc. But when I'm on a long car journey, in the library, sitting on the porch, and i want to write, all I need is my palm (always with me), my PPK(usually with me), and a firm surface (easy to find). I can even lie on my stomach and use the floor.

    A Palm user I know with too much disposable income bought a GoType (and later a PPK). I dislike the GoType, because a) it is small (ppk is the size of a Mac laptop) and b)it destroys the portability factor utterly. I can wear jeans and have the IIIxe and wallet in one pocket and PPK in another. Whereas the GoType requires a separate bag. For my life, a PPK is infinitely better.

    I've seen some jokes about impressing girls with such geek toys.. all I know is that my girlfriend goes into hysterics whenever I take out the PPK and start typing... *sigh*

    I'm in the middle of one piece that is now 33k and growing... latest draft at http://pearwood.webprovider.com [webprovider.com] (shameless plug!). I wrote an A-essay for English class on my PPK+IIIxe in the car. It's like a laptop, but without all the extra stuff that I wouldn't use.

    The foldable keyboard is a brilliant idea. It has its flaws (somewhat flimsy, occsaionally buggy drivers), but they are far outweighed by its benefits.

  • I love the Stowaway for it's convenience, but when I'm out and about, I usually don't want more than my phone and my Visor. To that end, I've been using the fitaly [fitaly.com] on-screen keyboard and I love it. It's designed based on letter frequency, and they've done a remarkably good job) I find that I can type almost as fast on that using my stylus as I can with a regular keyboard (admittedly, I'm not the fastest typist to begin with). They've also got an overlay for the graffiti area which I may have to get. Between Fitaly and the Stowaway, I can avoid Graffiti for all but the briefest of notes. I highly recommend taking a look at it if you don't like Graffiti.
  • The Twiddler2, from HandyKey [handykey.com] combined with the Happy Hacking Cradle [pfuca.com] makes for a one-handed, chording Palm keyboard.

    Of course, to combine the HHC with a Palm V, you need yet another connector thingamabob, but hey, what price consumer geekdom?

    (Sorry if this gets posted twice, /. seems /.'ed)

  • The Stowaway is also sold for the Palm Pilot (as the Palm branded "Palm Portable Keyboard"). It radically changes the character of the Pilot.

    As stock, the Pilot is a mobil data output device, an extension of the desktop computer used to display information (calendar, phone numbers, maps, etc). Yes, you can also use it for some data input, but it is not very well suited for the task.

    With the keyboard, it is an excellent data input as well as output device. I use it to take notes and compose thoughts and messages all the time. It is far superior to a notebook as a text entry device, as a notebook is considerably larger, when both the palm and the keyboard can fit in my pants or jacket pockets.

    The Palm and Keyboard (the keyboard is also available for Wince machines) radically transforms the nature of the PDA, and is definatly worth the $100 price tag.

    Nicholas C Weaver

  • I prefer to use my happy hacking keyboard [pfuca.com] with my palmpilot, because I've found the action on most of the folding keyboards isn't to my likeing. The happy hacking cradle has a ps2 port on it, so you can plug any keyboard into it. Not great for travle, as you have to carry a full size keyboard, but good when you want to enter data quickly.
  • I first used the GoType, but then switched to the StowAway because as a touch-typists the smaller GoType was a little bit frustrating.

    With the Stowaway, the limiting factor is the size of the screen. It's great for capturing thoughts or writing a document that you have in your head already. I have written a few multi-page tech notes for work, and also composed some longer emails.

    But it sucks for editing because you can only see a small part of your document on the screen at one time.
  • First of all, I don't think I saw this mentioned, but the "Targus" Stowaway, was originally developed by a company called ThinkOutside. Targus sells the one for the Visor, and the Palm version is sold by Palm as the Palm Portable Keyboard.

    A few months ago I got to use my friend's GoType on a school field trip, which came in very handy for doing homework. So I began to do some research on keyboards for Palm.

    As has been mentioned, there's the Happy Hacking Cradle by PFUCA, which allows you to plug in any PS/2 keyboard. Originally, I decided I would try to create a small PS/2 keyboard by taking a full sized keyboard and cutting the unnecessary keys off. The way a conventional keyboard works is that under the keys are two sheets of plastic with conducting material running through them so when you press a key it completes the circuit. So it's possible to take the case apart, cut the case down to only the necessary keys, but these two conducting pieces back in (fold the excess over) and have a small keyboard that works with the HHC. But it's still not as cool as having one that folds to fit in your pocket.

    As for the GoType, the keys are very small making it pretty hard to type (I guess you have to get the hang of it). I had some issues with the space bar not registering unless it was pushed hard. It's also large enough to be cumbersome. It can fit in a backpack, but isn't as useful because of its size.

    Then there's the PPK, which is a wonder of engineering. Just like the reviewer said, whenever I take it out, people want to play with it and see how it works. It's a full laptop sized keyboard. It's amazing how it unfolds and then slides together. Originally, I thought the stand was separate, but it also slides out from a hidden crevice in the keyboard. The people at ThinkOutside are amazing to have designed a product like this. As for price, the HHC is $50, the GoType $60-$70, and the PPK $100, so it ends up being worth the extra lawns you have to mow to buy it. :-)

  • You are confused. The GoType keyboard is a rigid piece of plastic with a clamshell lid. The folding keyboard (marketed by Targus and Palm themselves) must be the one you used.
  • Twelve hour battery life? Geez! I'm trying to remember the last time I changed the AAA's in my Palm III, and it's still at half charge. It's been at least three weeks. The first week I had it, I blew through a set of batteries, but since then I've been using one set every four to six weeks. THAT, my friend, is battery life.

    (note...all the handspring visors I come into daily contact with have at least as good battery performance)
  • A few months ago, I was given the opportunity to review the Stowaway keyboard for the website I work for. Feel free to check out my review [winmag.com].

  • Check this out:

    It's half of a regular keyboard that lets you touch type with one hand USING YOUR EXISTING SKILLS. We debuted it at Comdex and expect to ship later this month.

    I'm the inventor. Feel free to post questions, if you have any...


  • How come no company has come out with one of the felxible keyboards for the Palm? Seems like the perfect application of that technology. When your done, just roll up your keyboard and stick it in its pouch.

    I guess we need to start getting Palms with USB ports on them, then we can plug whatever we want into them, keyboards, mice, flash readers, etc. USB is so cool.
  • on your needs.

    I have a Visor Deluxe & a Targus keyboard to match. I personally find a keyboard useful.

    If you plan on doing onboard development with your palm (such as with Quartus Forth [quartus.net]) a keyboard such as this is a good investment. It is also handy if you want to work on term papers on the go.

    As for a keyboard being useful for the purely "Personal Organizer" type PDA, its probably not worth it. But for those who instead use their PDA as a "Palm Computer" with real data entry needs, a keyboard such as these may be a very valid investment.

    So, it depends on your needs...

  • I think that having a range of options is really useful.

    I have a Handspring [handspring.com] Visor [handspring.com] that I use for pretty much everything in my life.

    I use three different ways of getting information into the PDA:

    • Grafitti: The built-in text recognition software that recognizes individual characters written in a special area. I can get about 25 words per minute with this method.
    • Fitaly Stamp [fitaly.com]: A little flexible sheet that sits in the Grafitti area that has little squares to represent letters. (See the picture in the link.) When you tap a letter, the PDA thinks that you wrote it. I can get about 40 wpm with this.
    • The Stowaway keyboard (as mentioned in the article): This keyboard is a fold-up one. It folds up pretty darn small (small enough to fit in my back pocket) and is a full-sized keyboard when unfolded. I can get regular typing speeds (80 wpm or more) with this.
    So, depending on what I'm doing at the time, I'll use one of the three. When I'm trying to keep eye contact with someone while writing or if it's too dark to see the Fitaly letters, I'll use Grafitti. Most of the time I use Fitaly. When I need to enter a lot of text, say, at a meeting where I want to type action items or take down a paragraph or more, I'll whip out the Stowaway and enter to my heart's content.

    The other place that the Stowaway is really useful is when I'm on travel and need to dial into the modem pool at work to log on and check email. There's no way that I'm gonna navigate a shell [zsh.org], mutt [mutt.org], and vile [www.vile.cx] with a stylus!

    So I would suggest to people to think about how they intend to use their PDA. If it's just for occasional text entry, you probably don't need a keyboard. But if you plan on putting lots of information into it, I would definitely recommend getting a keyboard.

  • It won't be too long before keyboards will be an unnecessary peripheral for PDAs because they'll be able to recognize the human voice. I have seen some demonstrations of speech-to-text that blew me away -- I had no idea that the field has come so far along. A recent article [sciam.com] in Scientific American describes some recent advances in the technology.

    Granted, it will take people a while to give up the tactile thrill of typing, and there will always be a need for keyboards (for those who can't or don't want to talk while they work), but I think that for PDAs and similar "portable" devices, it's the most natural choice for an input device.

  • by ables ( 174982 ) on Thursday December 07, 2000 @10:02AM (#574724)

    I recently bought the Targus Stowaway keyboard for my Handspring Visor. (That's the folding one.) I had tried the GoType, but its keys were a bit small and cramped for my taste, while the Stowaway was regular size with better key travel when unfolded. It will move if you try just putting it in your lap, and you by far get the best performance on a book, table, airline tray, etc., but it folds the "right" way so that it doesn't collapse on itself if you don't have it on something solid.

    The other issue, however, is why on earth anyone would want one of these things. Even the Stowaway is too big folded up to carry comfortably in a normal pocket. A coat pocket or cargo pants pocket yes, but I refuse to plan my wardrobe around my PDA. If you have a laptop you probably carry that most places you would use a PDA keyboard, so when are these things any more than just geek toys?

    Well, I don't have a laptop. I had notes I wanted to write, and Graffiti is only good for a quick note or phone number. I've heard there are some decent document editors out there that work quite well with an external keyboard, but I haven't used any. I don't use Palm email, but a keyboard would be nice there. The one thing the GoType has is an external USB port so that you could conceivably stick your PDA in the GoType and use it as a serial terminal for a rackmount server, portable datalogger, or some other such thing.

    For me the Stowaway was a worthwhile purchase. I'll use it enough that I'll be glad I bought it, but it's certainly not necessary for most people yet.

Nondeterminism means never having to say you are wrong.