Why Choose Virtual Keyboard?
|Hindi Version of Multi-lingual Virtual Keyboard|
To Compare and Contrast Frontype virtual keyboard with standard Windows keyboard.
At the end of the session, fictitious DSC Organization would decide if it needs to buy Frontype license or stick with status quo. You are free to use any tool or technique or pair offline to achieve your mission. As usual, at the end of the investigative period of an hour, the group meets for the debriefing session to discuss how we approached the mission and what learning, mistakes or any other interesting experience we had.
Ajay Balamurugadas (facilitator), Jahira Banu, Vamshi, Sindhu (UAE), Balu and Mohinder
We started with 5 participants excluding Ajay but Vamshi had to drop out because he could not load the application due to antivirus program on his machine found Trojan horse and cancelled his installation.
Participants were using a mixture of Windows XP and Windows 7. They all had some issues with loading but managed to overcome them to continue testing. For me, it took time to find the right unzip program but once the application was installed, I finished the tests very quickly and had some time to spare to go over the finer points.
Frontype is a real-time typing tutor with semitransparent on-screen keyboard. It reflects all your operations with physical keyboard and can be used for simulation of any national keyboard layout. It looks like a grey transparent film over the screen but can be customized by changing size, transparency, color, key sets and configured to appear in certain active programs such as Word (see illustration below)
- Windows XP/ Vista
- Pentium 4 / Athlon XP or higher
- At least 256MB of RAM
- 35 MB free space
It is available in two versions with / or without Microsoft .NET Framework. You can have a number of language layouts but you have to include them into windows. The settings can be changed using regions and languages options from the control panel.
Approach to testing
Planning is probably the important part of any activity even for the smallest or non-trivial task. It helps you focus on the key objectives to achieve your goals in the allocated time. The application at first glance looked simple but you would not know the complexity till you actually tried it. I planned the steps below to learn about the application, apply heuristics as I feel appropriate and repeat the process till I am done.
- Ensure that virtual key board matches the physical keyboard in all respect
- Default presets can be changed using settings options
- Check all settings are saved and permanent (restart the computer if necessary)
- Check for any hidden features not so obvious
- Usability Testing
All keystrokes except those described in the next section worked as expected and the layout matches character by character with QWERTY keyboard. Setting options worked as expected without a glitch. Keyboard looks good from user perspective and can be customised to suit individual requirement. No problem adding programs. Keyboard pops up when these programs are active. I did notice word shortcut character appearing in the menu section underneath each menu option when pressing ALT key which I completely missed in the first instance.
Features not working
The drawback of virtual keyboard is that selection of characters above non-alpha keys is not possible when shift is clicked. If the same key is depressed on the QWERTY keyboard, these characters appear in the virtual image.The keys below are not available. As we found out later, virtual keyboard is designed as a teaching aid to practice typing without looking down on your keyboard. Finding hidden features was a bonus.
Functions keys (F1-F12), Home, End, Page (Up/Down), Insert, Delete, Esc, Arrows (Right, Left, Up and Down) and Prnt Scrn
Benefits of Frontype
1. Teaching Aid: Frontype is not promoted as a virtual keyboard as we led to believe at first thought. The application is designed to train your fingers by not looking down at your Windows keyboard when typing. If you are two finger typists then this would be quite a handy tool for you to improve your speed.
2. This can be used by people of all ages and with multilingual support built-in, it can help you type in other languages if you ever need to do that. The application would be invaluable to those who have migrated to other countries and want to encourage their children to learn their native language.
3. Virtual keyboard can also be used as a normal keyboard in spite of limited support for Control and Function keys. Since the weekend session ended, I learnt a bit more about MS Word shortcuts using this application that I never bothered to look up. In my opinion this is quite a handy feature that you can be invoked with one mouse click. The Illustration below shows shortcut characters appearing underneath each menu command for Word 2007 at the click of ALT key. When P for Page Layout shortcut is clicked you see another set of shortcut characters appearing below to other options. I think this is cool and confirms that the application can be an excellent teaching aid to help you build your confidence in typing.
4. If you are lucky enough to own touch screen monitor in your office or home then you may be able to use it as a keypad just like your iPhone or Blackberry (this function was not tested though).
It is best to leave the keyboard in the float position in order to resize, drag or minimize so that you can happily continue with using the editor at hand. Virtual keyboard does not allow you to click the text or any pop-ups that appear beneath the keyboard therefore you have to drag it out of the way to continue typing. If left in this mode and you navigate away from the editor, it pops up in the other window although the program has not been added to the list of programs where it should be active. There is a work around to force the keyboard not to appear in other windows. For that to happen, it has to be set to a locked mode. That means when you return to the editor, you constantly have to unlock before you can use it effectively.
Before the mission starts do your homework. We were asked to download the application in advance which I did. As soon as the session started, I realised that I was going to need unzip program to uncompress the files before it can be installed. This resulted in me spending 20 min searching the web to find the free download program to unzip the files before finally installing it. Although, I finished the tests very quickly and had time to spare to go over the finer points but lessons have been learnt.
Other participants were using a mixture of Windows XP and Windows 7 and they also were not prepared before the session. They all had some issues with installation but managed to overcome them to continue with the testing.
Had every one was prepared then we would have more time to test and experience the application and write report properly.
Keep an eye on the ball
While I was busy finding a program to unzip RAR file, the facilitator decided to switch the participants from Skype to typewith.me for rest of the discussions. I was expecting everyone to be using Skype but that was not to be the case. You could easily miss key points from the discussion if you are not alert and keep up with the updates from the facilitator.
This is a handy little communication tool but it has its limitations. Only one person was allowed to present his test report at a time to control the flow of discussion unlike Skype where everyone is jumping in and expressing their views constantly. I think by using typewith.me you are limiting the scope of the discussion because while one person is presenting others are just spectators. You may be keen to jump in with your comments but you have to wait for a cue from the facilitator to put your case forward. This results in losing lot of valuable time from the debriefing slot.
On the same Page
If you expect everyone to be productive then make sure everyone is familiar and access to tools used for communication before the start of session. One of the participants was from UAE who did not have access to Skype because it is blocked in his country. On the hand I had no prior experience with typewith.me and had trouble trying to catch up with the discussion and at times not sure where it is taking place in the live document. I was looking at the end of the document whereas the conversation was happening somewhere in the middle. Change of colour in the text made me realised where I should focus my attention to be part of the conversation.
At the end of first hour, I submitted my report via Skype but others did it via dropbox which I was not aware of. Therefore, I did not view reports from other participants report and not sure whether they had seen mine.
In a rush to install the application, I completely forgot to use Rapid Reporter to record the session. This would have very helpful in capturing more information about the test session with screenshots to support various scenarios.
I subconsciously applied comparison with Standards heuristic for testing but did not realise till Ajay pointed out to me during debrief. I guess it becomes a second nature as you get experienced in testing but it is a good idea to remind yourself from time to time as to the approach you are taking and why. The heuristic is explained very well here if you want to follow this up.
Key objective to Compare and Contrast Frontype with standard windows keyboard was met by all with a degree of disappointment due to time constraint. Debriefing notes show that everyone had a reasonably good crack at the application and they all approached testing from different perspective depending on their experience. Those who were first timer had most to gain from more experienced participants. People had good experience from the session and showed enthusiasm to come back for more. Everyone learn from the experience and they were all happy bunny. The session was a success in the end.