When I first saw the Minuum campaign on Indiegogo, I was sold.
I’ve said for years that the way we type on smartphones doesn’t make sense. Gesture (or trace) typing is a logical step forward, as was predictive and context-aware input. But that doesn’t answer why we’re still using the same keyboard layout which works best for 10-finger typing.
Why do our smartphones use the same keyboard layout that was designed over a century ago to prevent typewriters from jamming? Why do we need a keyboard that takes up nearly half of the display when you’re typing?
Those were the exact questions the brains behind Minuum were asking. Rather than reinventing the wheel, though, they decided to use a layout most of us are already familiar with and dumbing it down for smartphones and … oversized digits. So far, I’d say things of off to a very nice start for the company. Its keyboard is capable of doing things not just any soft keyboard can.
Still, when I tell people my Android keyboard of choice is Minuum, people look at me like I just shot them in the foot. Some look at me with a face of utter disgust, as if I haven’t showered in a week. Others just burst out laughing.
Frankly, I don’t get it. I understand people don’t always like to try new and different things, but that’s what whets my appetite – the unusual, those who dare to be different and break walls down, true innovation. As such, you will find five reasons you should give Minuum a try below.
I want to stop you before you go off and yell, “That’s stupid. It’s different. I don’t like it!” Or “My keyboard works just fine, I’ll stick with [insert popular, generic keyboard here].”
Minuum is different. That’s the point. It’s an experiment. A clever one at that.
That said, it isn’t so different it’s impossible for just anyone to pick up and start using. Looking at it, it looks bizarre and idiotic. But Minuum is nothing more than a QWERTY keyboard squished into a single row. It takes the second dimension out of typing. So instead of moving up, down, left, and right to type different letters, you simply move left and right. You already know where the letters are. It just a matter of wrapping your head around the concept of not moving your thumbs up and down. Once you do that, you can forget about trying to be accurate.
In fact, you can usually be wildly inaccurate and Minuum usually guesses what you wanted to say and fixes it. All it truly needs now is predictive input.
I tried Minuum when it first hit the beta phase for those who backed the Indiegogo project. After about an hour, I was so frustrated, I couldn’t stand it. But a few updates later and after a few months had passed, I installed it again.
After a few days of using Minuum, I became a little irritated. Entering passwords was a chore, manually typing words Minuum didn’t know was cumbersome, and the overall experience wasn’t enough to sell me on the keyboard.
Minuum is now on version 2.8 and it’s great. I’ve been using Minuum for the last two months straight, and I’ve tried switching back to the Google Keyboard, Swype, and SwiftKey. I can’t. I stumble all over myself and can’t type nearly as fast as I used to. And, oddly, I end up missing Minuum, mainly for some of its simple yet unique features.
What unique features could Minuum possibly have? Well, it depends on how you want to set it up. I’ve enabled all the bonus panels – emoji, cursor control, clipboard tools, search and share, and typing speed – except typing speed.
Emoji is a persistent panel below the keyboard for quick insertion of your most used emoji. Cursor control is the four standard arrow buttons. Neither of those panels are wildly impressive, though they’re extremely useful.
However, clipboard tools offers one-click shortcuts for select all, copy, cut, and paste. This has come in handy more than you might think. Sometimes text input fields can be troublesome when it comes to pasting information. Using this panel you can copy and paste without having to long-press on anything.
The search and share panel allows you to search or share any highlighted text at the press of a button. If you want to Google search something, highlight it and tap the search icon. Even better are the thesaurus and dictionary buttons. Highlight a word and tap one of these buttons to get synonyms or a definition right on top of what you’re currently doing. Mind. Blown.
The worst part of any soft keyboard is having to perform several taps to complete a simple task, or to long press too many times to insert the character you want. With Minuum, there is no long pressing. Switching between the standard, miniature keyboard and a fully expanded QWERTY (for passwords and manual entry of new words or email addresses) can be done one of two ways: by dragging up or down on the word suggestion bar or pressing the shift key and dragging over to the expand keyboard button.
To delete a whole word, slide your finger over the keyboard from right to left. To space, drag from left to right. There are also shortcuts to the enter key and voice input. Slide your finger to the right and upwards for return and to the left and up for quick voice input. And to manually select a number, symbol, or letter, press and drag up to the letter you want.
It may sound confusing at first, but after you the hang of it, you’ll be swiping away without a problem.
If you don’t like the color scheme of Minuum (originally, one of the worst things about the keyboard), it comes with three preset themes: dark, light, and blue. But if you don’t like any of those, it also comes with the ability to customize the color scheme to your liking.
There are two color wheels – one for the background, and one for accent – and a slider at the top. The slider switches between bold, saturated colors and pastels.
The one gripe I have with the color wheels is that I don’t have complete control. I can’t set a red background with a black accent. I’m pretty sure this was a decision in favor of visibility of the keyboard. But, hey, if it want a keyboard with low visibility and contrast, let me have it!
It’s coming to Android Wear
Still not convinced you should give Minuum at least a try? The freakin’ keyboard is coming to Android Wear! The Minuum team showed off at least a half dozen unusual use cases in its debut video for Indiegogo – typing with Leap Motion, on televisions, Google Glass, smartphones, and even a piece of conductive paper.
Minuum is scalable. It was designed to be as big or small as you’d like. And I don’t know about you, but being able to type and reply to someone using Android Wear sounds like a fantastic idea to me. Having used Minuum for so long, I can see how it could work … exceptionally well. I can also see some growing pains and a learning curve.
But don’t you want to be ready and fluid at typing with Minuum when it finally comes to Wear?
Before you rush to the comment section to talk about how Minuum has bought me or some other nonsensical quip, I’ve never even spoken to anyone at Minuum. I’ve just used the product and fallen in love. I’m excited for the potential of the keyboard and wish more people would give the most unusual, unlikely keyboard a chance. I did, and I don’t regret it.