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WayTools TextBlade - Keyboard For Productivity & Power Users

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Posted · Original PosterOP

Before I start, quick note here: This product is a Kickstarter that started several years ago and raised well over its target amount. However, the product is still in development but is very close to general release. Some customers who backed the Kickstarter campaign have been selected to be part of the TREG group (Test Release Engineering Group) and receive engineering samples of the product to test before general release. This review is based on a TREG sample, and may not fully reflect the finished product, but only very minor changes are expected to be made before general release.


So, now that's over a quick overview of what a TextBlade is: The WayTools TextBlade is a small, compact Bluetooth keyboard aimed towards power users, typists and people who do productivity work (you can't really game on it). It has 5 Bluetooth 'jumps' (meaning 5 devices can be paired to it) and a wireless USB dongle. It is not like your typical keyboard as it separates into 3 pieces and collapses down into something very easily pocketable. This is something I am sure LTT's king of macros and their writing team and @jakkuh_t may be keen to look into I think. Anyway, the story and full review are as follows if that has whetted your appetite... 


So when I received my unit, opening up the TextBlade was like digging into some a birthday present you know the latest phone of your dreams is inside. First, the FedEx envelope, then the bubble mailer, the WayTools box and 3D printed plastic trusses that help stop the box from getting crushed, getting smaller and smaller until you finally reach the little package inside that is the TextBlade itself (I forgot to take pictures unboxing my unit, so here is one from another TREG user and I have attached them).

Nothing can really hammer home the size of this thing until you see it right there in front of you, lift it off that steel plate in the box that helps keep it in place, and realize that this is a keyboard. 

Ten minutes after first using the TextBlade I was ready to commit. The sound and feel of typing on the TextBlade are delightful. It’s quieter than rubber dome and laptop keyboards. The keys have a nice soft tactile bump. Playing with the KeyBlades is kind of like popping bubble wrap, though with much less effort. And typing itself is effortless. I thought about writing a review right then but decided to wait a week to make sure my evaluation was not based on the excitement of receiving the thing I had waited nearly 4 years to get.

The term layout is often used to refer to both the physical arrangement of keys on a keyboard and the logical assignment of alphanumeric and modifier functions to the keys. I will be discussing both so, in order to prevent confusion, I will use the term "layout" to refer to the physical layout and the term "keymap" to refer to the logical key arrangement (e.g. QWERTY, Dvorak, etc.).

I use Colemak keymap. It took me about 10 minutes to acclimate to the TextBlade. I occasionally make mistakes due to improper hand positioning but I have not needed to adjust key boundaries. The two most common mistakes I make (maybe once or twice a day) relate to trying to strike the “o” key. Either I overextend my pinky and hit the return key or I misposition my right hand and hit the slash key that is below the “o” key.

If you have a Windows computer and want to get a feel for the functionality that the TextBlade offers or get a headstart on the transition to replacing your keyboard with the TextBlade, try an application named TouchCursor. It maps nav cluster keys around your right-hand home row. This secondary layer is activated by pressing and holding the spacebar down, just like with the TextBlade. You can customize the key mappings to make it more like the TextBlade’s green layer. Or, you can create a keymap that is more suitable to your needs and, later on, edit the TextBlade’s green layer to match your preferred keymap.

If you're reading this on your desktop or laptop monitor, put your hands on the home row of your keyboard. Look at how many keys your pinkies are responsible for. Look at how many keys your thumbs are responsible for. The pinkies are overloaded and both thumbs are squandered on a single key. Assigning more work to the thumbs is just smart design. Doing it in a manner that doubles the amount of work you can do without moving your hands away from home row is a great design. That is what the TextBlade accomplishes.

Using the nav keys without having to take your hand off home row is an amazing time saver. Some keyboard manufacturers map the arrow keys to an alternate layer on the home row, but the fact that most manufacturers do not indicate to me how stagnant and lazy the industry is. Many of the few manufacturers who do provide home row navigation place with the layer switching key in a location that requires you to move your hand away from its natural position on the keyboard, thus negating most of the benefits of having the home row nav cluster in the first place. WayTools absolutely nailed this feature. They put the layer switching key in a location that does not require you to move your hands away from their natural position. Even better, numbers and symbols are on the same layer, so you don't have to use your pinkies to activate symbols with the shift key. The symbols are mapped to the same fingers as they are on a standard keyboard, but one row lower than numbers, so there is no additional cognitive load to typing an asterisk on the TextBlade, compared to typing on a standard keyboard.

With the TextBlade, your hand is occupied only as long as it takes to tap the shift key. Even better, there are no dedicated caps lock key taking up space on the TextBlade. Caps lock is activated by double-tapping a shift key and deactivated by tapping a shift key one more time.

The TextBlade gives you every feature that a full-size keyboard gives you in a fraction of the space and then gives you more (I know I sound like a commercial). Hand and finger travel is vastly reduced. Features that require you to move your hands to the far ends of a full-size keyboard can be activated without moving your hands on the TextBlade. Even better, the TextBlade gives you a consistent experience across all devices. The commands to cut, copy, and paste text; or adjust the media player volume, or navigate to the next page, or switch focus to another open application will be the same, regardless of which OS your device has.

Switching between devices is quick and effortless with jumps. And the TextBlade’s uniform function keymaps eliminate the reduction of productivity caused by the need to acclimate to another OS’s keymap. But you always have the option to customize your maps to suit specific use cases on specific devices. I haven’t even begun to explore creating my own chords on the function layer to give me extra time and work saving functions. Are you a Linux admin? Imagine carrying some diagnostic scripts on your TextBlade. Plug the dongle into a machine, open vim, then execute a macro to automatically write the entire script into the text editor. Then, save and execute the script. Or execute a macro to automatically type out a call to the package manager to install commonly missing programs/commands you need to do your work. That is the sort of thing I said when I was referring to this thing is great for power users.

Anyway, if you are now wondering what I was meaning by layers and jumps, I would recommend looking at the following website which explains how to use the TextBlade and explains all of its functions: http://waytools.rocks/keyboards/start   as well as looking at WayTools own website and forum: https://forum.waytools.com/




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Reminds me of those Bluetooth pocket keyboards from 2009

I still have mine 

CPU:R5 1600x@4.23Ghz RAM:Vengeance Pro LPX @ 3200mhz MOBO:MSI Tomohawk B350 GPU:PNY GTX 1080 XLR8

DRIVES:500GB Samsung 970 Pro + Patriot Blast 480GB + 12tb RAID10 NAS

MONITORS:Pixio PX329 32inch 1440p 165hz, LG 34UM68-p 1080p 75hz

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