Review: Vito Technology ZoomBoard

Update April 9th 2008 – This review is of an older version of Vito Technology ZoomBoard, and in the meantime version 2.0 has been released. For thoughts on this new version I recommend the review of Zoomboard 2.0 on My Today Screen.

ZBZoomLately lots of Windows Mobile users have been looking for iPhone lookalike applications to install on their WM devices. One of those nice things that the iPhone has, is an on-screen keyboard that can be used with the fingers. Quite some WM devices af a hardware keyboard, but for those without such an input method there is a market for applications that provide an alternative. Recently, Vito Technology (known from AudioNotes, AstroNavigator, FunContact, etc.) released such an alternative: ZoomBoard. ZoomBoard is a keyboard with bigger letters than the built-in keyboard, while not coming close to using 50% of the screen so you will have enough space left to see the application you’re typing in. Also, the currently selected letter is shown enlarged in the middle of the screen to make it easier for you to enter a letter if you just missed the letter you were looking for.

Quickly read on after the break!

Activation

The trial of ZoomBoard is full functional, and works for 14 days. At least, that is what the website says, the User Manual speaks of 7 days. Anyway, you will have seen the benefits of this application only a five minutes after installing, so you can use the remaining days to see if ZoomBoard really makes typing easier for you.

Activating (unlocking) can be done in two ways. Online activation is really fast and highly recommended: just enter the activation key and press Activate. Activating this way had ZoomBoard registered in just two seconds with the WiFi connection that was activated. The alternative will require more time, and you will still need to use the internet. If you check the “I have no internet” box before pressing Activate, a file will be placed on your device that you will have to send to Vito Technology. They will then send you the license. This can of course take a while, although I found that Vito responded very quickly to my e-mail regarding this review.

Activate 1 Activate 2 Activate 3

ZBZoomThe keyboard 

The keyboard has a relaxing appearance, with various shades of blue which are comfortable to the eye. Three rows of 11 keys are displayed, which form the main part of the keyboard. This layout can be customized, we will discuss that later. For now, it is important to know that there is also a bottom row with just six static buttons. The first can be used to toggle the language layouts that are currently enabled in the Settings. The default layouts are English and German (but if German doesn’t work for you right away, you will need to enable it in the Settings first). The User Manual also speaks of Russian, but this was not included with the installer. You can add layouts yourself, though. The second button provides access to the caps: all small letters will be replaced by capitals, and all symbols will be replaced with other symbols. Pressing the third button will display numbers on the top bar, and various symbols. Finally, if you are in Symbol mode and press Shift (the Up arrow, the second button on the bottom bar) you will presented with the final Symbol set. You can see all these layouts (which are not customizable, customization only lets you tweak the letters) in the screenshots below. The last three buttons on the bottom bar are the Space, Backspace, and Enter buttons.

ZB small ZB Caps ZB Symbols 1 Symbols 2

The feature that sets this keyboard apart from many others, is the circle that will show up in the middle of the screen if you press a button longer than a fraction of a second. If you press keys quickly you can let go of a key before the zoom circle is displayed, but if you keep your finger on a key the circle will show you the letter that is currently selected. You can then slide your finger a bit to the letter you want to pick, so this is a very easy method for you to correct your letter selection.

One final remark – the keyboard also works well in Landscape orientation, but the format isn’t automatically adjusted. There are some white spaces on the side and there is not much room left at the top so it is best to type in Portrait orientation.

ZB Landscape

ZB SettingsSettings

If you press the SIP icon (the icon which makes the input keyboard visible/hidden, between the softkeys), the keyboard will show up. Then, you can tap the small arrow next to the SIP icon and a menu will show up – it’s the menu where ZoomBoard can initially be selected :). Here you can tap Options, and after pressing Options again (if ZoomBoard is selected as input method) you will be displayed the Settings page. The Input Method settings screen is also available on the Start – Settings – Personal page. The actual Settings page isn’t really worth spending a lot of time with. You can change the Menu language and enable/disable layouts, that’s all. For example, if you have ten language layouts on your device but currently only want to toggle between two layouts, simply disable the other eight. ZoomBoard will then only toggle between the other two languages when pressing the Layout button in the bottom left of ZoomBoard. The About page of the settings can be accessed to register your copy of ZoomBoard, so you will want to spend a couple seconds here though!

Keyboard localization

One of the folders in the installation path of ZoomBoard (Program Files\Vito\Zoomboard\Resources\Layouts\) contains the files required for the letters on the keyboard. Various countries use a keyboard that is different from the QWERTYUIOP layout, so people who prefer to use an alternative layout will want to take some time to read this section. English and German (Deutsch) are included, others will have to be custom-made. It’s not hard, though!

If you will go to the folder I mentioned above, there will be some files. Just use your file explorer to duplicate the english.lay file. Rename this file to the name of your language and make sure it ends with .lay (Dutch.lay for me). Then open this file in Pocket Word. The .lay filetype is not linked to Pocket Word by default, but opening the file will show you a text file that looks perfectly fine.
First, replace the language code after “short” with the two letters that represent your country. This language code can be anything you want, and it will be displayed on the left-most button of the keyboard.

Then on the next three lines you can customize the letters you want to be displayed on the three lines of ZoomBoard. Remember to use 11 characters. No more, no less! Then simply save the file, and return to the folder which hosts these files. Now you will just have to go into the Settings of ZoomBoard and add your new layout to the enabled layouts (by making sure that the box in front of the language name is checked), and then you can choose it by toggling the Layout button on the bottom left corner of the ZoomBoard.

ZB Layouts ZB CustomLayout

Tip: if you have some symbols you want to be displayed in one easy accessible screen without having to tap Symbol and Shift button, just create a Symbol.lay! I’ve got mine looking like this (and I will probably replace some valuta symbols with other keys in the near future):

symbols1.png ZBSym2

So I can now access my most used symbols even faster than with the built-in Symbol pages!

Conclusion

Zoomboard amazed me with it’s effectiveness and accuracy. It looks really clear and it simply works. There are no gestures, so if you’re used to sliding to the left to Backspace, this won’t work. But this obviously follows from the way this application is designed: sliding will show you the zoom circle with which you can easily find the correct character you want to insert. So there simply is no room for gesture characters. I could think of several feature requests though, like skin support (custom graphics if you use a color scheme which doesn’t look nice with the blue) or wider keys in Landscape mode. I would also like Vito Technology to make sure the manual matches the reality – it speaks of a 7 day trial while it should be 14, and it says that a Russian layout is included while I didn’t see it. However, this ZoomBoard release version works surprisingly well the way it is and fills a gap between typing with a stylus on-screen and typing with (a) thumb(s) on a hardware keyboard. It makes typing more easily and I’ve been using it all the time since it was released.

Name: ZoomBoard 
By: Vito Technology via IWindowsMobile
Version: 1.0
Compatibility: Pocket PC WM2003/WM5/WM6
Price: $9.95
Direct download link

Update April 9th 2008 – This review is of an older version of Vito Technology ZoomBoard, and in the meantime version 2.0 has been released. For thoughts on this new version I recommend the review of Zoomboard 2.0 on My Today Screen.

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7 thoughts on “Review: Vito Technology ZoomBoard

  1. Hey Stefan,

    how did you like Zoomboard compared to PocketCM Keyboard? Iv’e been using PocketCM for a few months now and am pretty happy with it — I just wish I could figure out how to make my keys a bit bigger.

    But how did you find the typing speed was on Zoomboard vs PCM? There’s no predictive text so it looks like you have to be pretty accurate (I tried the demo for a few minutes)

  2. I’m afraid I can’t comment on that, never used CM keyboard… Also I never use the word predictions because my device is in Dutch and I often type in English :p. But the idea seems pretty similar, right? You’ll have to see if ZoomBoard has enough advantages for you to justify purchasing. ;)

  3. oh ok, well I read about PCM Keyboard on the Solsie.com blog which you also post on, so I thought you’d also try it out.

    If you ever want to try out another SIP I’d HIGHLY recommend PCM Keyboard. It’s got an excellent predictive text system so that you don’t really need to look at where you’re typing. You can really get a touch-typing feel down after a little while. And if you have several predictions you can just hold down on the suggestion and a drop-down list appears ^_^

    Anyhow, I realize I might be sounding pushy here — but you seem like you enjoy trying out different pieces of software (like me!) and so I thought I’d make a suggestion.

    Cheers!

  4. Suggestions are always highly appreciated! Since I’ve gotten my new device I stopped testing all kinds of software for a while. It’s like when I got a new Nokia phone a couple years back: the first couple of months I’d be extra careful, and then after a while I started to be more easy with it, throw it from one hand to another when I’m bored, etc. I don’t throw with my PPC’s, but if I have the device a bit longer I’ll probably start trying more software again. But I’ll defenitely remember your recommendation, and of course your suggestion could be very valuable to other readers of this review as well. ;-)

  5. Hi, thanks for the review, i’m looking to have a fourth row having the numbers, because i type lot of numbers in my messages.
    is this possible and how?

  6. Hi :)

    I don’t think this is possible because the graphics are designed for only this layout and this amount of rows.
    So I think the only alternative is to switch to the Symbols layout and pick the number there.
    I’m not sure though, you might try contacting Vito to see if they have a technical solution that I’m not aware of. :)

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