Short Typing – Samuel Audet's Research

Quickly Input Text into Mobile Devices with Computer Generated Abbreviations

Inputting text on a cellphone and other small mobile devices with a 12-key pad is still painfully slow. Predictive methods, including the dominant T9, the many variants from other companies, and other innovative methods such as XT9, LetterWise/WordWise and Adaptxt, have all failed to bring massive increase in speed and usability. People currently wishing to input more efficiently are switching to mobile devices featuring small, but full QWERTY keyboards. However, the hardware needs to be bigger, and touch typing with only one hand is almost impossible.

I designed a new input method, which I named short typing, that automatically generates unambiguous abbreviations that are half the length of original words. It is similar in concept to AlphaTap, but for devices based on keys instead of touchscreens. This can help users input text twice as fast on any standard cellphone, no kidding! I also developed a Java ME application, so anyone could experience it and share their thoughts about it since almost any mobile device can run Java ME.


Simply point your mobile device to this (long, my apologies) URL and give it permission to download and install the 310 kilobyte jar package:

Or download the jad file and the jar file manually, and execute it however you need.

Alternatively, you can try the cellphone emulator in the applet below, which is currently executing the application in your browser.


Here is the application of short typing running in MicroEmulator, a Java applet that can run Java ME applications inside a virtual cellphone. If you do not see the applet that is supposed to appear here, make sure your browser is equipped with a Java Runtime Environment (JRE) of version 1.4.2 or later. Such JRE for Windows and Linux can be freely downloaded from Sun Microsystems.

Short User Manual

  1. Press the key corresponding to the letter to type.
  2. If the required letter does not appear, press one or two times the up or down arrows of the navigation keys.
  3. Remember abbreviations in blue that appear under a word. To input the word more quickly next time:
    1. Type this abbreviation, and
    2. press the convert button (the select button in the middle of the navigation keys).

For the sake of portability across all devices, please note that the functionality of the application is currently limited. It can interact with the outside world solely through the "Native TextBox" accessible from the main menu. In this TextBox, some machines allow users to transfer text in and out, for example through a system wide clipboard, but this kind of functionality is not universal.

If a word that you frequently use does not have an associated abbreviation, type the word in long and select "Add Word" from the main menu. The system will then compute an appropriate abbreviation, display it in blue, and add it to its dictionary. Note that some short words, such as "a" and "no", are their own abbreviations. In this case, they are not shown in blue and the convert button should not be used. For reference, the built-in abbreviation dictionary was derived from frequency data freely available at the Web site of the American National Corpus project.

Why is it better?

There are two main reasons: Letter input is faster and abbreviations require less typing than whole words. Based on letter frequency statistics of English and most other Latin-based languages, typing letters as described above requires about 30% less key presses. Moreover, the user can efficiently split these key presses between two alternating fingers, which is not possible using conventional methods. Research by Pavlovych and Stuerzlinger suggests that one can expect to type 30% faster, and possibly slightly more when using two fingers, achieving speeds that rival with predictive methods. More importantly, the automatically generated abbreviations are unambiguous and on average approximately half the length of the original words. A user who has memorized all required abbreviations can expect to input words twice as fast, although probably a bit less.

All in all, with some practice, typing twice as fast using a 12-key cellphone is possible. Learning abbreviations will most likely take a while, but it does not require dedicated training sessions. Once they are learned, the cognitive load practically disappears unlike predictive methods, which make use of ambiguous abbreviations, so one can achieve very fast typing speed approaching 60 words per minute.

Author – Samuel Audet <saudet at>
Last Modified – 2009-05-05