A useful on-screen keyboard

19 Dec

If you don’t have a lot of space on your desktop (the one that holds your computer and peripherals) and you can’t have both your keyboard and Wacom tablet next to each other, using a virtual keyboard seems like a sensible solution.

I tried Apple’s built-in Keyboard Viewer, which has the big drawback that it doesn’t behave like a real keyboard. Things like Command-Q to quit a Mac OS X program don’t work. In fact, Keyboard Viewer is nothing more than an alternative to the Character Palette application. Because of it’s very limited use, I will not go into how to make it possible to launch Keyboard Viewer as a menu item (in the menu bar).

Searching for an alternative on VersionTracker, I found this neat application of an Italian software developer called VirtualKeyboard. It costs $19.95 for use on a single user account, and $49,95 if you want to use it up to 7 Macs. There is a 14 day trial period to test it out. It is meant for people with a disability, but you don’t  have to be disabled to use it.

To find out if VirtualKeyboard is actually useful, I tried it on this piece of text. It’s not as intuitive as typing ten fingers blind (touch typing), but, if you don’t have to type massive amounts of text, it works quite well. (Mind you, I’m editing this piece of text using a real keyboard.)

The application has a limited option for text expansion, good for casual use. For power users among you I suggest reading an excellent blog post by Crass Pip: Text Expansion: Wasting time trying to save time. Even if you don’t care for his review, he does mention the three text expansion applications available on Mac OS X. One of those will probably serve your needs better than what VirtualKeyboard has to offer.

That is all.

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