New keyboard layout promises to
increase tablet typing speed


KALQ split-screen keyboard

News: researchers at the University of St Andrews in Scotland have rearranged the letters on a split-screen keyboard to almost double users' typing speed on a tablet.

The KALQ keyboard for touchscreen devices rejects the usual QWERTY layout in favour of placing vowels on the right side of the keyboard and most consonants and most first letters of words on the left.

The key to optimising a keyboard for two thumbs is to minimise long typing sequences that only involve a single thumb, say the researchers. Experienced KALQ users learn to keep both digits moving so that while one is tapping a key, the other is moving towards its next target.

After only 10 hours of training with the KALQ keyboard, researchers found that testers were able to type 37 words a minute compared with the average 20 words a minute on a QWERTY touchscreen device.

KALQ split-screen keyboard

Project leader Dr Per Ola Kristensson, a lecturer in human computer interaction at St Andrews, said: "The legacy of QWERTY has trapped users with suboptimal text entry interfaces on mobile devices.

"However, before abandoning QWERTY, users rightfully demand a compelling alternative. We believe KALQ provides a large enough performance improvement to incentivise users to switch and benefit from faster and more comfortable typing."

The St Andrews team plans to release KALQ as a free app for Android-based smartphones and tablets next month, and users will be encouraged to tweak the layout of the patent-free keyboard however they like.

Earlier this year, BlackBerry's head of design Todd Wood told Dezeen that the smartphone maker's latest touchscreen keyboard will eradicate the "embarrassing" mistakes common on rival devices – see all technology news on Dezeen.

We recently reported on a transparent computer that allows users to reach inside the screen and manipulate content with their hands – see all computer design.

  • I like the idea for a mobile phone for texts and quick emails but it would drive me crazy for longer written work.

  • bill

    New idea? iPad has had the ability to split the keyboard since day one! Just use two fingers to pull the single keyboard apart.

    • amsam

      It's not about the split keyboard, it's about the non-QWERTY "KALQ" layout. It's helpful to read the text!

  • Richard

    Shame the iPad already has split keyboard functionality. Not really a design invention, more of an intuitive take on keyboard layout.

    • jed

      It is not all about the split keyboard type, it is about the arrangement of the letters.

  • pascal

    There have been many keyboards in the past that tried to change the order. But they all should have done research into why we are using the qwerty today. (I won’t explain here) That’s also an important but an often neglected part of design.

    And now you can’t change people’s habits and many companies have become penniless trying to introduce new keyboard systems, although they might be better/ faster.

  • careaboutthistory

    That guy needs to cut his fingernails and hire a better photographer.

  • Guy

    Pascal is right and in any case if you were going to spend the time needed to learn a new keyboard layout, as I presume stenographers and some programmers do, then you would learn the layouts specialised for this, like maybe Dvorak or whatever stenographers use. Why learn an ‘optimised’ layout for typing with thumbs which is already sub-optimised by the need to hold the tablet with the rest of the fingers? Doesn’t make sense, especially when the future of keyboards will be soft or air projected.

  • amsam

    Ten hours of training is longer than I’m going to spend to learn how to input text into my new device. Voice recognition is the way it’s going, I mostly talk to my computer instead of typing. (I spoke this.)