IssieBoard: A Virtual Keyboard with customizable options. A Collaboration between Beit Issie Shapiro and SAP Labs Israel

By: Noa Nitzan and Dana Cappel

We have been using the app IssieBoard for almost a year now, and we have received a lot of great feedback from users (thanks to all those who shared their experiences) telling us that the app is helping children and adults type successfully on their iDevices.  We are excited to share that IssieBoard is now also available in English! None of this success would be possible without the collaboration of the incredible team at SAP Labs, Israel. The developers and designers at SAP continue to devote their time to the development of this app…so, a big Thank You to them!

Typing on a virtual keyboard can be challenging for many people so when the opportunity arose, we decided to develop a virtual keyboard app that allows the user to customize a variety of visual aspects of the keyboard. Our keyboard can be very useful for children and adults with learning difficulties, visual impairments, motor impairments, cognitive impairments, and even users who are just beginning to learn to type.  There are a variety of colors and options to choose from maximizing the customization for each user. We found that the visual cues of the different colors give hints as to letter location making the typing process more efficient.

We’ve also found that kids love to be included in the keyboard design process. Just the fact that they are choosing their own colors can have a positive effect on their motivation to type. Of course therapeutic considerations need to come into play, but knowing client preferences is also important.

After setting up the keyboard it can be used in any app on the iPad or iPhone that requires typing, by switching between keyboards using the globe key located next to the Space Bar.

The keyboard is available in either English or Hebrew, or both.  It will download in the default language of your device, but the alphabet can be changed in the app settings.

Once you’ve downloaded the app, make sure to add the keyboard to the device’s keyboards in Settings. (Settings – General – Keyboards – Add New Keyboard – IssieBoard)

Please note: Recently there have been a few updates to IssieBoard.  In order for installation to go smoothly we recommend that you update your iOS before downloading the app.   For those of you that have downloaded IssieBoard in the past, you may need to erase your old version and download again.  Update your iOS then check to see if IssieBoard works.  If it does not, erase the app, erase it from keyboards in keyboard settings, then download it again and add it again to your keyboards. You should be fine from here.  If you have any trouble, please feel free to contact us.

Language and settings are customized though the app.  Below are examples of the available settings and detailed descriptions of how to manage each of them. Note that settings can be “reset” at any time by pressing on the “Reset” button at the top of the Settings menu.

  • Language

Under the Language tab you can choose which language you would like your keyboard to be in.

Under the Language tab you can choose which language you would like your keyboard to be in

 the keyboard

Notice the “ABC” button on the left side.  It is here where you can toggle between upper and lower case letters. Numbers and symbols can be accessed directly underneath it with the “123” button.

 

  • Key Color, Letter Color, Keyboard Background Color

The first section after language on the settings bar on the left allows you to choose your colors.  The first three tabs are as follows:

  • Keyboard background color
  • Key color
  • Letter color

Key Color, Letter Color, Keyboard Background Color

You may press Show Keyboard on the preview screen, at any time, to see what your keyboard looks like. Press on Hide Keyboard to hide it again and keep working.

Here is what a sample keyboard may look like:

sample keyboard

 

  • Key Color, Letter Color, Keyboard background Color by Section (Left-Middle-Right) or by Row

You can also decide to divide the keyboard up into sections or rows, giving each a different color.

Press on the settings tab Columns/Rows and you will see this screen

Key Color, Letter Color, Keyboard background Color by Section (Left-Middle-Right) or by Row

There are now two new buttons on the preview screen. The left button allows you to set colors by rows and the right button by sections. Back on the tool bar you can now choose the color of the keys and of the text of each row or section.  Here are examples of what that may look like.

examples of what that may look like.examples of what that may look like.

 

  • Special Keys DefinitionColoring specific letters

Moving down the tool bar, the next settings tab is Special Keys Definition. This setting allows you to have certain letters on the keyboard to be a different color, to stand out from the rest of the letters.  When you press on this tab a window appears in the preview screen.  Type the letters you want highlighted in this window, then choose the color of the keys and the text.

Special Keys Definition

 

This could be helpful, for example, when learning to type new words, or to highlight vowels. Using the example above, the keyboard will look like this:highlight vowels

 

  • Visible Keys – Choosing specific letters to appear on the keyboard (All others will disappear. Useful for practicing typing of target words)

This may be the most unique feature of the IssieBoard keyboard. This tab can be found up near the top of the settings menu just under the main color settings. This setting allows you to choose only specific letters to appear on the keyboard.  Simply type the letters you want in the window under the Show Keyboard button. This feature can be especially useful when practicing the typing of specific words.

bbbbbbbbbb

In order to return to the full keyboard return to this window and erase the letters. Now when you press “Show Keyboard” you will see all your keys. You can also press “Reset” at the top of the settings menu, but this will return you to the default keyboard.

Here is how your keyboard will look:

Here is how your keyboard will look

 

  • Templates

IssieBoard comes with pre-made templates which can be found in the Templates tab in the settings tool bar. Press on “New Template” to access them.

You can also create new Templates and save them.  This can be very useful when working with more than one student on a single iPad. Simply create a new keyboard, scroll down to Templates, press on ” New Template”, press the + sign in the top right corner, name the template, and it will be saved in your templates list.

To use a specific IssieBoard template on your iPad, you must enter the IssieBoard app, choose the template you would like to use and press the “Select current keyboard” button highlighted in green. Now when you are in an app such as Pages, and you choose your IssieBoard keyboard using the globe button, this is the template you will be using. To change the keyboard template you must return to the Issieboard app and repeat this process. (The globe key next to the space bar is just to toggle between keyboards apps or languages that you have installed on your device.)

*Please note that if you choose a pre-made template and want to change its language setting, you must choose the keyboard language after tapping “Select current keyboard”.

Select current keyboard

 

  • Additional Definitions

The next tab down in the settings tool bar is Additional Definitions which allows for additional settings such as choosing specific colors for the backspace, enter and space bar keys.

Additional Definitions

 

Once you have customized your keyboard, leave the app and go to any app on the iPad that requires typing.  To choose your customized IssieBoard press on the globe key beside the space bar to toggle between keyboards and choose IssieBoard.

Be sure to tell us of your experiences and of course contact us with any questions you may have!

good luck

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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