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8pen offers new text input for smart phones

Screen shot courtesy of 8pen.com

Screen shot courtesy of 8pen.com

Software: 8pen
Platform: Android 1.6+ smart phones 
Type: Text-input software

8pen is throwing out the old keyboard and offering a new way to type on small devices.

Ever since the invention of the type-writer, QWERTY keyboards have been an essential part of our tech-savvy lives. We use them everywhere: on computers, video games and phones.

Placing a keyboard on a mobile device causes a major problem, the buttons are too small. The keyboard's original design was to allow your hands to spread across the keys. Now keyboards are crammed into a space designed to fit inside your hand. It's difficult and time consuming, and even with auto-complete and spell-check, it still feels labored.

Instead of keeping the outdated layout, 8pen throws out the QWERTY, creating a new system based off of moving your finger in circles and figure-eights. It's supposed to mimmic the motion of handwriting, and from their demo video, it looks like it could work.

You start by placing your finger in the middle, sliding to one of the sectors, then moving clockwise or counter-clockwise to choose a letter before returning to the center. Repeat your motions, always returning to the center, until you finished the word. Once you've entered your word, lift your finger from the screen to put a space. You can also create custom motions for common words and phrases.

This new design isn't for everyone, especially those who mastered texting with mini keyboards. There's also a lot of buzz on the web that 8pen has a high learning curve. But the design seems intuitive and natural, and for only $1.56 for the program, it seems worthwhile to try out. 8pen is currently available for devices running Android 1.6 and up, and there are plans for releasing a version for iPhone in the near future.

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