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We've seen the demo videos and the glossy photos of the Palm Pre's keyboard. And Dieter has actually seen the Pre in person twice. Lucky guy! I haven't seen it in person yet, but I think that the Pre and its keyboard look awesome!

I've mentioned many times in Round Robin articles at TreoCentral how much I love slider keyboards. Like I said, I just think it's neat having a keyboard hidden away. To me, there's just a coolness factor about it. And besides, with the upcoming Palm Pre, having the keyboard hidden away means that the screen gets all that big real estate on front of the device. I'd much rather have a larger screen than have a physical keyboard at the bottom, under the screen.

I've never had the pleasure of using a vertical slider, but I would imagine that I would like it even better than a horizontal slider. My only concern with the vertical vs. a horizontal slider would be when viewing the Pre in landscape mode and needing to type something while there. I've seen videos demoed on the Pre in landscape mode and remember someone at the Palm keynote showing a web page in landscape mode. But you'd have to have an onscreen keyboard in order to type in landscape mode. And we know that the Pre doesn't ship with such software, though there will probably be 3rd party apps for that. I hope anyway. I tend to read web pages in portrait mode on my iPhone though so I have no problem with viewing stuff on the Pre in the same mode. And I think that even if there were to be a 3rd party app for an onscreen keyboard in the future, I'd still stick to using the Pre in portrait mode with my keyboard slid out. One reason is because I still can't type very well on the iPhone's keyboard without making mistakes. I know that I'd make fewer mistakes by typing on the Pre's hardware keyboard. And wouldn't an onscreen keyboard take up part of the screen? I want to be able to see the entire gorgeous screen and type, and surf the web at the same time.

The Pre's slider is a banana slider so that means that it will curve the microphone towards your face.  Oops! Actually, the microphone is on the front of the Pre so it wouldn't move closer to your face.  Thanks Mark for pointing that out! 

 

Even though the Pre is smaller than the Centro, the Pre's keyboard is said to be larger than the Centro's. I know that many Centro users have had problems with the small keyboard. The folks with larger hands mostly. I have small hands, and I have no problem typing on the Centro's keyboard. The main reason is likely because I mostly use the tips of my fingernails to press each key. I'm sure those people with larger hands/fingers are happy to know that the Pre's keyboard is larger.

As you can see in this photo from PalmInfocenter, there is more spacing between the Pre's keys. The Pre doesn't use the single sheet that the Centro uses either. I've also noticed in all the Pre keyboard photos that the Pre's keyboard has that smiley design (though not as pronounced) like the Treo 650, 680, 755p, and the Treo 800W. I like the smiley type keyboards as they feel more natural when moving your fingers upwards to the upper keys.

In Dieter's "Palm Pre: Your Questions Answered! (Part 1 of 3)",  he's asked by LupeValenz if there is a Menu key on the Pre's keyboard. Dieter replied:

"There is not. However - the menu area on the upper-left of the screen is much larger than what it is on the PalmOS -- at least in terms of "touchable zone." So reaching up there is a hassle, but at least the zone is bigger. Also, from what I can tell, you might not have to reach up there as often."

PIC noted in the above referenced article that Palm explained to them that some of the buttons have been remapped:

  • The @ symbol has been being relocated to share space with the 0 key. A Palm rep explained that this was due to @ being a much more frequently used symbol than it was even a few years ago.
  • The "menu" drop down button on the bottom right has been replaced with a SYM symbol button.
  • ALT, next to the spacebar, is now a dedicated period (.) key

In Dieter's "Your Palm Pre Questions Answered (Part 3 of 3)", cavingjan brought up something that I've been thinking about myself lately. I've noticed that most of the people seen demonstrating the Pre have been using both hands when typing. Below is a screenshot from Dieter and Kevin's excellent CES Pre video in which Peter Skillman gave a demonstration. Note he was using both hands to type.

Anyway, cavingjan asked:

"How one handed is this phone? Everybody demonstrating it seemed to be using two hands and I'm not sure if that was for stability and filming vs the phone not being something that could be operated completed and totaly one handed. Can all of the swooshes, zooms, etc be done one handed?"

And Dieter replied:

"One-handed use is great, though you'll need two hands when the keyboard is open and you want to reach the upper-parts of the screen (unless you have sasquatch-hands and/or Nosferatu-hands. I'm in the latter camp, so I'm set)."

I'm sure you've all noticed that outside rim on the Pre's keyboard. I've wondered if the rim affects one's typing. Some forum members wondered about it too and asked Dieter about it. Dieter said that the keys next to the edge aren't bad at all. And he said that the rim on the bottom is definitely more pronounced than it is on the sides, so it can be deceptive. He also notes that the keys are more widely spaced, taller, and perhaps slightly bigger than those on the Treo Pro. Plus the keys are tackier, making them easier to hit. I'm glad to know that. I really appreciate that tackiness on my Centro's keyboard. I never have to worry about my fingernails slipping off the keys while typing.

So, what do you think about the Pre's keyboard? Do you think it's too "Treo Pro-esque"? Would you prefer a horizontal slider? Do you think the keyboard will be large enough for your hands and fingers? Are you hoping for an onscreen keyboard via 3rd party apps?