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ATPM 10.11
November 2004



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Review: FrogPad USB

by Wes Meltzer,


Developer: FrogPad

Price: $169

Requirements: Mac with USB, Mac OS 9 or Mac OS X

Trial: None

Its manufacturers bill the FrogPad as the keyboard of the future. Classrooms will be filled with students happily typing away on one, and PDA users who need an effective method of text entry, versus a stylus or thumb pad, would choose one, too.

That’s a lot of hype for one device to live up to. Unfortunately, it fails, however admirably, on all counts.


It’s really quite a simple device, at first glance: a small, cute, green pad roughly the size of my Visor Edge, with 15 keyboard-sized keys, a space key, and four command keys. But the FrogPad grows more complicated when one tries to do the obvious and, well, use it. The keys you will most frequently use are immediately available for access, and the keys you’ll use less frequently require hitting Fn. In addition, punctuation marks are all accessible via another meta key, and a variety of keyboard functions (Home, End, Delete, etc.) by hitting a third. One of the function keys doubles as a Shift key, another as the Space key.

When the FrogPad arrived in the mail, I immediately plugged it in and started running through a few of the exercises listed in the manual. The training CD is Windows-only, and I no longer own an IBM-compatible PC at all, so proper training was out of the question. At the same time, I taught myself QWERTY typing in the second grade with only part-time assistance of software, and I know a lot more about computers 12 years later, so it seemed like I ought to be able to pull all of this off.

Not true.

As I said, I’m a quite experienced QWERTY typist, and I can transcribe at roughly 100 words per minute. I did not expect a speed increase, and it is not possible, the manual insists, for me to exceed about 40 WPM.

What they don’t tell you is that if you’re lucky you might reach 40 WPM, but either my pinkies and thumbs are not sufficiently developed despite all these years of typing…or the layout just doesn’t make sense. I found that after a week and a half of typing exclusively with the FrogPad, I was reaching at best 15 words per minute, and much of that involved looking at the keyboard while I was typing. (For comparison’s sake, I reached 15 WPM typing in Dvorak layout in three days, without relabeling my key caps.)

Now, in the FrogPad’s defense, I might have spent more time mastering it if I hadn’t needed to return the unit to Corporateville, USA, but in my own defense, I might also have lost my sanity had I continued using it for another week or two. Not to mention that I might never have been able to type again on a QWERTY keyboard.

I’m not sure what kind of market the FrogPad seeks. If I, an experienced computer user and writer (i.e., routine typist) who has learned to type at reasonable proficiency in two different keyboard layouts, struggle with 15 WPM after a pretty substantial incubation period, then how do they expect third-graders to learn to use it? And the PDA user who uses one—why use it and not T9 predictive input or Graffiti?

I just can’t see any significant advantages to using the FrogPad over any other keyboard or text-input system. RH or LH Dvorak layouts seem like a better and faster way of entering text into a computer, if someone needs to use one hand. The PDA example still strikes me as pretty artificial, as the FrogPad seems a bit larger than a keyboard-less PDA like the HP iPAQ 4150.

There were several snafus with the execution as well: it’s a significant hassle to produce the chord for the command key, and that information is not even included in the manual; the training CD, as I said, was Windows-only; occasionally, the keyboard would stop responding, something I’ve never caught my USB keyboard doing.

I’ll admit that I enjoyed the novelty of something like the FrogPad, but at the price they want for the USB model—much less the Bluetooth model, at $195—I’ll pass, and try one-handed Dvorak again, thank you very much. It reminded me a little too much of one of my favorite songs, Donald Fagen’s sarcastic indictment of techno-idealism:

On that train,
All graphite and glitter,
Undersea by rail,
Ninety minutes from New York to Paris,
Well, by ’76 we’ll be A-OK.

What a glorious world it would be,
What a wonderful time to be free
What a glorious world it could be
What a wonderful time to be free.

Donald Fagen, “IGY,” The Nightfly

Reader Comments (8)

Linda Marroquin · December 7, 2004 - 13:03 EST #1
Ahhhh, the beauty of blogging and the opportunity to respond.

FrogPad is not for the masses yet. It is the opportunity to be fully functional in a portable environment for one who must be mobile and whose demands require that one leave the laptop behind. And considering that it normally takes a semester to learn 40 wpm, you actually did quite well in a week and a half.

The command key, which is most critical to Mac users, is now one simple keystroke on the Bluetooth iFrog. The web-based tutorial will soon be offered for both Mac and PC users.

FrogPad is a one-handed keyboard and cannot easily be compared to the two-handed methodology of Dvorak, yet we honor Dvorak by using his strategy of diagraphs in the letter layout. I thank you for your comments and I too am looking forward to reducing the price. Although we have only been shipping for one year, we have six years of R&D under our belt, and we are finding that, with the demand, our prices are coming down quickly.

Misha (The Goat) Kozlov · January 9, 2008 - 23:36 EST #2
I'm dying to give it a try but I can't afford a keyboard that expensive...
Rick · March 21, 2008 - 19:52 EST #3
The thing is cool but its just too expensive...
Ooo · April 7, 2008 - 11:59 EST #4
works well with logitech mx air, while watching movies on a big widescreen tv...

don't like having a big piece of keyboard lying around either, and just too lazy to walk up to the pc...
diagetus · April 4, 2010 - 00:15 EST #5
Sorry to post so late, but I must post in support of Frogpad in this case. The initial 2-3 months require some faith. I'm a slow learner and after the first semester of trying the system I was still probably around 20-25wpm. However, the next 3 months yielded a decent speed increase and by the end of the year I was quite close to the 40wpm mark. Now I'm closer to 50wpm with casual typing.

At the very least, a user should give this device a try for half the year. The $105 tag on the Frogpad really is not that bad when you consider the high end keyboards like logitech are well above that. We must keep in mind that QWERTY is the standard. The frogpad is new innovative hardware. It isn't being mass produced. So it is with most new avant-gard tech products. The hybrid gas-electric cars didn't exactly come with a competitive price tag either. I've tried the one-handed QWERTY. It's definitely not the perfect system either. Your fingers must travel great distances. IMO the layout does not lend itself to one hand like the frogpad.
Lee Campbell · March 5, 2011 - 17:24 EST #6
I honestly think that at least in an office setting, a keyboard like this would actually be better for something like customs brokerage, or a job were you do a lot of data entry where you are used to using mostly one hand for the number pad in the first place.

Mose of what I type, are number based tariff codes, alpha-numeric part numbers, addresses, short descriptions, short contact notes, etc. This all while having to have several documents spread out in front of me.

I HATE having a full sized keyboard and while I can fly through typing while working on entries for customs, I grudgingly admit, it takes forever for me to type something longer like this blog reply. At work the full sized keyboard gets in the way of my documents and is a menace while typing entries with more then 10 lines of part numbers that are alpha-numeric. When you are getting into 300-500 line entries, where you are shifting back and forth between invoices, NAFTA certificates, bills of lading, etc, a two handed keyboard is very inefficient.

I am really looking forward to giving this frogpad a try.
Giovanny Pulido · April 14, 2011 - 09:55 EST #7
I have been using the iFrog Left hand keyboard for about ten days and with about 10 hours of practice I score 21 to 24 wpm in average. It hasn't affected my QWERTY typing skills at all either and I really enjoy using with my mobile device and specially while driving since now it is easy to type a text message without having to stare at anything.
Keith Morris · December 4, 2012 - 20:57 EST #8
I type exclusively on a right handed FrogPad due to a disability that prevents me from typing with my left. I've been using the FrogPad for about 7 years and have timed myself at 113 words per minute. I can easily average 80 without all that caffeine. If I were suddenly able to type with my left hand, I would continue to use the FrogPad. It is a fantastic mobile keyboard. I pair my bluetooth Froggy with my iPad and iPhone and feel more capable than everyone else who is stuck either lugging around a gigantic external or suffering through the on-screen keyboard. It takes some practice, but you get back what you put into it.

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