Retype C

Since this seems to be keyboard month, here's another interesting experimental virtual keyboard. Retype C does away with the QWERTY layout, and instead uses a custom arrangement of letters, optimized for the distribution of letters in the German language:

Retype Horizontal

Particularly interesting is the fact that umlauts (which, in German, occur more often than letters such as X or Y) are part of the normal layout and do not require any kind of special treatment.

Each key can be used to type one of three different letters; the specific letter is chosen with a small gesture. This allows for much larger keys than on QWERTY keyboards, while at the same time using less vertical space – especially when using the landscape version, which leaves most of the screen free.

Retype Horizontal

The keyboard does not offer any kind of auto-correction. This means that is is not dependent on a dictionary and can be used to type text in languages that have no official spelling rules (somewhat unsurprisingly, as the two guys who came up with Retype are Swiss).

There's a longer movie showing additional features on Vimeo.

While the user is typing, the text appears directly above the keyboard. This allows the user to focus on the keyboard while at the same time making sure that she actually types the correct letters.

Historically, non-QWERTY keyboard layouts have not been successful. Retype C uses two different (albeit very similar) custom keyboard layouts.

Horizontal to Vertical

However, since "traditional" virtual keyboards are unsuitable for certain languages, a custom keyboard layout such as Retype C may be successful in specific niche markets. Jeremy Stucki, one of the guys behind Retype, says that user acceptance was high, and that little time was required to learn the layout, although only limited, casual user testing was done.

Unfortunately, Retype isn't under active development anymore.

A German translation of this essay has been published on CREATE OR DIE.

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designed for use cover

But wait, there's more!

Want to read more like this? Buy my book's second edition! Designed for Use: Create Usable Interfaces for Applications and the Web is now available DRM-free directly from The Pragmatic Programmers. Or you can get it on Amazon, where it's also available in Chinese and Japanese.