Graffiti: Almost perfect, but has glaring issues


Well-Known Member
I've been using a Palm Pilot almost since before the word "Palm" was added to the description. I got one as a gift in the 90s, and immediately ditched my Day-Timer. The most awesome part of the deal was Graffiti, the input method that was almost (but not quite) like handwriting recognition.

Jump forward to 2011, and my Palm V is showing its age. After a rather painful process of extracting data from the not-readily-exportable databases, I put it in the drawer with my old Day-Timer refills, and switched to a combination of cloud and Android. So I was happy when I discovered that Graffiti had been ported to the Android platform! Hooray!

The thing is, it's a direct port... warts and all. It's my primary input method, EXCEPT when the text is important. :(

The biggest problem is the carriage return. A single right-to-left downward stroke sends an end-of-line message to the calling function. In a text editor context, that's not a problem. In an SMS, it SENDS THE MESSAGE. This is especially irritating because the backspace is a single right-to-left *horizontal* stroke. Correcting a typo often results in me sending the message (with typo). More often, though, I send a half-finished message when entering a character that includes a right-to-left downward stroke, such as "S". My low-end phone sometimes hiccups, and the top part of the "S" gets separated from the bottom. Poof, right-to-left and down and Send!

That's just a symptom of how the app has not been truly adapted for the Android platform. It should know that it's in the SMS app, like other keyboards, and either disable CRLF or have it generate a popup.

The most glaring example of how the app is not at all Android-optimized? The help screen, accessed by a single upward off-the-top stroke. It's a low-quality *scan* of the sticker included with the Palm Pilot, showing the strokes. The most telling part: it includes the "Shortcut" glyph (a loop starting at bottom left), which was like a CMD/CTRL in Palm OS, but has no function at all in the Android system.

Also, the app includes a rudimentary predictive text function... but I turned it off because it took up space while providing no help. Comments in the Market indicate that it's using a standard keyboard-based prediction system, where A is next to S on the keyboard. That helps if you type "spple" when you meant "apple", but it doesn't apply to the Graffiti text entry system at all. It would need something that could tell that T is a lot like Z, and would suggest "zebra" for "tebra".

Nonetheless, I still use Graffiti as my primary text entry method! I guess it's partially the 10+ years of practice... also the fact that I can enter text with reasonable accuracy without looking at the device. I just wish the application's new owners would give it some love. With the downward spiral of Palm, and the assistance of the lawsuit in the '90s, the app now belongs to an outfit called ACCESS Systems. They make a bunch of applications called NetFront Life. I don't know how they ended up with Graffiti, but it's clearly a stepchild in their product family.

If they'd just put some effort into the app, I'd be happy to pay the $3 (or even a bit more) for the no-Internet, ad-free version. (The ads are annoying and pointless anyway: the text entry area becomes an ad for NetFront Life). But I just can't see rewarding the company for doing nothing more than buying the source code and recompiling it.

(Whew! Glad I finally got *that* rant off my chest!)


Android Expert
I was the same as you: missed Graffiti. Then I got Swype and never, ever looked back. Swype lets you input at least twice as fast as Graffiti.

After 2 years with Swype, I can't imagine writing "letter by letter" any more.


Well-Known Member
I like Graffiti too, and can write a lot faster with it than with Swype, which I just hate, but I'm afraid the train has left the station. Too many users have moved on to their favorite keyboards. And who carries a stylus with them these days?

But we can dream! If I were re-doing Graffiti for Android, I'd add a third entry block (besides letters and numbers) to do punctuation. Those are the symbols I always have to look up. And I'd figure out symbols for .com, .net, .org, and .gov.


Well-Known Member
Thread starter
But we can dream! If I were re-doing Graffiti for Android, I'd add a third entry block (besides letters and numbers) to do punctuation. Those are the symbols I always have to look up. And I'd figure out symbols for .com, .net, .org, and .gov.

That's an awesome idea. It would work especially well in landscape mode, which just looks dumb the way it is now -- the entry area is stretched across the entire screen. I can't imagine how that looks on a tablet! Split that into three and add some tablet-specific optimizations, and it wouldn't be so bad.

@(G), I agree that Swype/SlideIT seem like they would be faster, but only if you don't use big words! I lose my place swiping something like anticonstitutionalism or supercalifragilisticexpialidocious -- or anything with more than five letters. Of course, there was a learning curve for Graffiti, too, so I guess I just need to enter "arachnophobia" often enough to commit the swirl to muscle memory!


Well-Known Member
I'm also a former Palm user and I've switched to Swiftkey X. It's prediction of what word you're going to type next is very good. Some sentences I mostly just pick the word it has selected as the next word in the sentence. But I still use Graffiti for some things. I also played for a while with Message Ease which uses a 3x3 grid - there's a game also for practice. I quit using it because it is so different from anything else but I think it could be an approach which allows touch typing on a touch screen.