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Friday, July 27, 2012

UPDATED! Fleksy: Changing the Way We Type

 August 10th Update (from Syntellia news release seen on AppleVis):
  • Fleksy is now free to try. The free version will not allow you to copy or use the text, but will give everyone the ability to try out Fleksy before purchasing the full version. If you have already purchased the full version previously, you will automatically be upgraded to the full version.
  • You no longer have to switch VoiceOver off to type. Please note, you have to first tap once anywhere on the screen before typing, in order to activate the keyboard. This is the way Direct Touch works.
  • When you launch Fleksy, it is now already in typing mode. You can use the keyboard area to type. To bring up the Fleksy menu, press and hold at the top of the screen, above the keyboard area.
  • We have re-ordered the app menus based on popular feedback.
  • You can now remove words from the dictionary. You remove words the same way you add them: type them in manual entry mode, and then, after swiping right, swipe up to remove from the dictionary.
  • The previous version of Fleksy prevented you from adding certain words in the dictionary – this has now been fixed.
  • There is now an easy way to add apostrophes to nouns. After writing a word, swipe right for period and you will find the (apostrophe s) shortcut in the suggestions.
  • We have reorganized how Fleksy formats emails. The word “Fleksy” is not added to the subject line any more. We have also included an option for using the first line of your text as the subject of outgoing e-mails. We know that a lot of participants of this forum had asked for this feature.
  • Fleksy now supports the Screen Curtain feature when enabled.
  • Fleksy now speaks in the same language locale as your iPhone if you use the UK or Australian English voice.
  • Your user dictionary is now stored in iCloud on enabled devices. This means it will automatically be updated across your devices and stay in sync.
  • The instructions are now stored within Fleksy, so you can access them when you are offline or outside a network cover area.
  • There is now a “spell words” setting. This spells the last word entered after you have typed it.
  • We have updated the Twitter button to point to our new Twitter handle: @fleksy.
  • We have added the underscore to the list of symbols.
  • And, finally, Fleksy now notifies you it is ready when loading is completed.

  • According to the Fleksy website, Fleksy is a "state of the art text input system for touch-screen devices." Fleksy has the potential to be groundbreaking technology for people who are blind or visually impaired who wish to use touch-screen technology such as iPhones, iPads, and iPods. Gone are the days of having to scroll through one letter at a time or have to use a Bluetooth keyboard to write a text or email on your phone. The makers of Fleksy claim that, with practice, you will be typing as fast, if not faster, than your sighted peers can.

    This app by Syntellia uses innovative technology that allows you to tap letters without worrying about accuracy. The app uses the standard QWERTY keyboard setup, but you only have to tap near the letter you're trying to find. The app recognizes what word you are trying to type, and it will correct any mistakes you make. The typing area is 114% larger than the default iPhone keyboard, which means more space for typing.

    You must turn VoiceOver off to begin using the app, but that only takes just a second. On the iPad, the keyboard is in the center of the screen with a lot of blank space around it. I imagine that it would be even easier to use on a phone because there would be no empty space around the keyboard. To begin, just tap where you think the keys are. After you finish a word, the app will read what it thinks you wrote. If it is incorrect, swipe down or up for more options. To insert a space, swipe right.

    You can swipe right to insert punctuation, and up or down for different types of punctuation marks. Some proper names do not register. My fiancé tried to write "Nathan loves Marissa" and it appeared "Nathan loves Barbara." To avoid getting your significant other angry, tap and hold the letters you want to write one at a time, which will disable the autocorrect function for the time being. To export your text, triple-click the home button to bring up menu options. Fleksy can send text as a tweet, a SMS message, or an email message.

    Fleksy operates in tandem with VoiceOver. It is available on iPhones that use iOS 5.0 or later. It is available on iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad. The app is 2.0 MB. Currently, it only supports US English, but the developers are planning to integrate other languages in the near future.

    The Good

    This app (at least on the iPad) seems to work very well. It does require a little practice, but my fiancé watched as I typed and saw how crazy the words looked at first, but Fleksy caught everything and almost always picked the right word. It certainly increases typing speed for many, although some have said that they cannot get the hang of it and spend more time erasing than typing. It is fully accessible and very user-friendly.

    The Bad

    The app is $15, which is considerably less than many assistive devices that blind people have to buy, but it is pricey for an iOS app. On the other hand, there is some disagreement by reviewers on whether the app is worth that much money.

    The biggest problem with Fleksy is that it is not integrated into the native iOS. If it could be integrated, then you would be able to use it with any app with no problems. Currently, Fleksy's scope is a bit limited, but they seem like they want to branch out to make Fleksy work with other apps in the near future. The integration problem is not their fault, but Apple's.

    All in all…

    It is a very good, useful app. It needs a little work to make it usable with more apps and available in more languages, and it is a bit expensive. However, it has great potential to make typing on touchscreens much easier and faster for people who are blind and visually impaired.

    July 26th Update: According to the AppleVis discussion board, the new version of Fleksy updated:
    - Loading time reduced by 50%.
    -Improved word recognition engine.
    - Manual capitalization is now possible - swipe up after you type a letter in manual entry mode.
    - Improved stability - we have fixed most frequently reported crashes and bugs.
    - Import and export custom dictionary functions.
    - New way to enter symbols - press and hold the keyboard, then move your finger to the top of the keyboard for different groups of symbols. Swipe down in each group to get more symbols in the group.
    - Same gesture inputs new line if you move your finger to the bottom right of the screen, or brings up the number keyboard at the bottom left of the screen.
    - Improved swipe recognition engine.

    See Also:

    YouTube tutorial video
    AppleVis reviews

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