The Misadventures of Quinxy truths, lies, and everything in between!

28Nov/109

Twiddler 2.1 + TabSpace + Twidor

I'm well on my way to learning to type with the Twiddler one-handed chording keyboard. The beauty of the keyboard is that it isn't a board, and that it fits all traditional 104 keys onto just 16 keys, and it includes a mouse replacement. The secret to doing so much with so little is chording, or pressing multiple keys simultaneously and having the device recognize the combination as a new single and distinct letter. The advantage of a one-handed keyboard that you operate by gripping it like you might a ski pole (though at any angle) is primarily in the area of wearable computer applications, but it also helps reduce repetitive strain injury (RSI) or at least create a different kind of RSI (instead of carpal tunnel syndrome).

The first thing I did when I got the Twiddler was to realize I needed a new keymap. The included keymap arranges the letters in A, B, C, D, ... order which clearly was not optimized in any way to aid in typing faster or reducing finger strain. Clearly you want a keymap which has been created based on letter frequencies to ensure that the most frequently used letters (and letter combinations) require no chording and minimal strain (the buttons closes to your palm being harder to reach than the ones farther away). A few minutes of searching led me to the TabSpace keymap for Twiddler 2.1, which has been so optimized. The problem then became actually learning to use the keymap. A brilliant piece of training software called Twidor helps you do that, but the problem was, it is set up to use the default, un-optimized keymap. Twidor can use alternative keymaps by simpling placing it as "keymap.txt" in the same folder where the Twidor .jar or .exe is, but it expects a Twiddler 1.0 format file, NOT a Twiddler 2.1 file (which is what the above TabSpace keymap is). After a bit of digging and some trial and error I modified a copy of the original TabSpace (from which the above updated one was made) and made it compatible with Twidor and the current version of TabSpace 2.1.  And now I am well on my way to learning to type, I'm surprised at how easy it is.  Within an hour or so I've already memorized a handful of letters and I can easily see how in a week or two with lots of little training sessions I'll be up to a pretty good speed.

Download

You'll need the following to use Twiddler 2.1 with Twidor and TabSpace, so download them if you haven't.

Download TabSpace, a Twidler 2.1 compatible keymap for optimized chording

Download Twidor, the training software

Download Quinxy's modified keymap.txt, allowing Twidor to train you on the new TabSpace keymap

Installing

Install TabSpace on Twiddler 2.1

To install the TabSpace keymap onto Twiddler you need to put Twiddler into a special mode where it will expose its configuration as a mounted drive.  Disconnect the Twiddler USB cable, then reconnect it while holding down one of the front keys.  Open the new drive that will appear and rename the original keymap (so you can revert if you want).  Now copy the new keymap onto this drive, using the original name you just changed.  Disconnect the USB cable and reconnect it.  Voila, new keymap installed.

Make Twidor Teach You TabSpace

Now place my keymap file (above) in the same folder as your Twidor exe or jar.  Twidor will now teach you how to use the TabSpace keymap.  Note: One oddity I noticed is that in Twidor backspace does not behave as you would expect.  To backspace in Twidor you actually need to do a delete (which is NUM + R000, in Twiddler-speak).  It doesn't appear to be anything wrong with the keymap file, but I'm not 100% sure.

Hope this saves someone else a bit of the hassle it caused me.  Happy Twiddling...

^Quinxy

Comments (9) Trackbacks (0)
  1. Hi
    Have you found a way to get the Twidor program to teach the function key assignments?

    Under Linux I use the alt-ctrl-function key combinations a lot.

    Thanks for your time.

  2. Hmm, function keys? Do you mean like the F1 – F12 or the FN modifier keys? I had thought (and I could be totally wrong) that the FN key had no scan code itself, that pressing it didn’t actually send anything until the other key was pressed and then the keyboard controller sent the altered other key scan code… the point being that you can’t programmaticly (sp) watch for it being pressed and can’t fake it, since it isn’t an actual key unto itself. I’m pretty sure I’m right, if that’s what you’re talking about. But I’m not sure that is what you’re talking about, since it wouldn’t make sense in the context you’re talking about with programmable keys… So let me know and maybe I can offer a suggestion.

  3. Thanks for the response … yes, that’s exactly what I meant – the F1 to F12 keys.

    I believe on the Twiddler2 the Alt and Ctrl keys make a scancode for keydown and keyup but the numlock and shift do not.

    It’s been a long time since I programmed, but I was going to get the Twidor source and see if it’s easy to modify to somehow show

  4. Thanks quinxy for your tip and the modified keymap!
    Twidor works like a charm, and really boosts learning.
    One post of possible interest to you from my personal blog might be:
    http://flipthatbit.net/2011/04/inside-twiddler-2-1/

  5. The Twiddler looks like the best chorded entry device, mainly because it incorporates a mouse — but Handykey is a very difficult company with which to do business. They only sell through Tek-Gear, who charge CAD170 for shipping — choke ! They have no email or contact page on their website, and they ignore @handykey twitter messages. Pity.

  6. That’s a pity. I know what you mean, regarding the shipping. Fortunately, or unfortunately, FedEx mis-delivered my package from Tek-Gear by several thousand miles and ended up refunding my shipping to them who refunded it to me.

    It is a great chording entry device, but the price is hard to justify, when you can get a good smart phone, a good 7″ tablet, or a week’s worth of Chinese take-out for the same price…

  7. Looking for a cheap, unused Twiddler with free shipping? Look no further: http://www.ebay.com/itm/221271356633?ssPageName=STRK:MESELX:IT&_trksid=p3984.m1555.l2649
    I bought it, but quickly realized it wouldn’t be practical to write on deadline (a 40 inch football game story in two hours) with a one-handed keyboard.
    It’s 75 percent off, and brand new (I used it for five minutes before my epiphany that I’d made a mistake).
    Unfortunately, as stated by others online, the guys who run this company aren’t very helpful; shipping is outrageous (for the size of the device) and there are no returns. Which is why I’m selling mine on eBay.
    If you’re interested, or have questions, feel free to email me: bedelman@lmtribune.com.
    Thanks.

  8. Hi Quinxy,

    I’m considering purchasing one of these, what’s your three year review? Are you still using it regularly? Has your RSI improved? Would you say it’s worth shelling out $200+ ?

  9. Nice! I just started learning the twiddler (I lucked out and got a 2.0 for free) and was feeling that the original keymap was a bit crap. Good thing I haven’t wasted too much time learning the old keymap!


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