Turbo Type review: good word prediction, low cost

NOTE: Please see comments 10 and 11 for an explanation of how Turbo Type orders and learns suggestions. It may not be what you’re used to. SEE ALSO: How to edit the TurboType dictionary.

I think I have a new favorite program. I was looking for an alternative to Typing Assistant because the USB version is conflicting badly with some network setting or other. I could contact IT, but the point of a portable program is to avoid that. So, I went looking for something a little more compatible and found TurboType, which borders on a true word prediction program, not just a completion program. At any rate, it has shades of one, and for $20. (I recommend the paid version for work as well as home use because it learns word frequency and enables new words, starts at bootup if you choose, and has no session timer; you don’t need to restart after 2 hours.) You can install to a flash drive, though it will want to create a start menu folder anyway.

The dictionary is composed of core words (and phrases!) only, with a maximum of three choices per guess. Since the dictionary is so small, there is a greater chance the right word will be on it. If it isn’t, you can keep typing until it shows up, then accept automatically or choose with arrows or numbers. When the word you want is highlighted, you can press Space, Enter or Tab (you can select all of those options at one time, enabling completion from any area of the keyboard) and the program will insert it instantly, along with a space if you choose. The suggestion window is transparent and even the Normal font setting is large by default, which is WONDERFUL. I didn’t like peering at the Typing Assistant list all the time; even its large font is kind of small.

So, for example, I type “so” (the prediction requires at least 2 letters) and am offered “so,” “some,” and “something.” All very likely candidates, and no extraneous suggestions. On my keyboard it is easiest to accept the first choice with Space. If none of the choices work, press Escape.

You can add words or phrases either individually or in bulk. To add a single entry, click the taskbar icon (there is unfortunately no keyboard shortcut yet, so either use Mouse Keys or Windows Key — Escape — Tab — Tab to get the tray focus, then press the arrows until the icon is focused and press Enter. On the menu, choose Add New Word and follow the prompt. To add a list, enter it in Notepad or a similar text editor and copy it. Then go to where you installed the program and open Custom Words. Paste the list and put commas after the words, immediately followed by a “frequency of use” number from 1 to 3 — rarely, sometimes and often respectively. Choose carefully because this will affect how your suggestions are ordered.

If you don’t want TurboType to suggest words in certain programs, there IS a filter — the PC World reviewer was mistaken. Choose Customize from the menu, and a checkbox saying “Do NOT suggest” is right there. Just add the process you want it to ignore, e.g. _firefox.exe. Simple.

You can create abbreviations, but you need to press Control Space to expand them. Therefore, I would save abbreviations for sentences or very specific information, instead of for shortening single words — the prediction works so well that you don’t need to do that.

In sum, this program has promise — so much, in fact, that it could rival big names like Soothsayer and Penfriend, which are more expensive but, ironically, much slower and potentially more bloated. Please support the developer so that Turbo Type can keep improving — $20 beats $100+.

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13 Responses to Turbo Type review: good word prediction, low cost

  1. Boris says:

    Hi!

    Potentially a good program. However, I don’t quite see the use for it in English, where words are rather short. In German that would be a different matter.

    If you want to reduce the amount of typing, you should check out PhraseExpress. You can use it to expand text with autotext or hotkeys and it learns your phrases rather than your words. It even has a macro function to further reduce the use of mouse and keyboard.

    It’s free to try and for non-personal use.

    Disclosure: I’m a vendor of this software in Switzerland. I hope you don’t consider my comment too intrusive.

    Boris

  2. hand2mouth says:

    Hi,

    No worries — your comment wasn’t intrusive.
    Keep in mind, though, that “short” is a relative term. For someone with good fine motor skills and quick reflexes, typing those short English words may not be a problem. But for people who have difficulties with motion for whatever reason, it may be that any keystroke saved is a good one. It’s certainly that way for me. Therefore, it’s useful when a program comes with a good core dictionary preloaded, besides allowing users to add their own words and phrases as well.

    The fact that you do have certain topic dictionaries on your site would be helpful for people like HTML programmers, but for general use I don’t know. I’d be happy to post a summary once I’ve looked at it more.

  3. Boris says:

    After having read your answer I realise that it may be indeed good to have a word prediction even for short words. I suffer from RSI, but I certainly cannot imagine how it is to even have a more limited use of my hands.

    As for PhraseExpress, here are a few examples of what it can do for you:
    – type bb and get “Best regards, Boris”
    – type pex and you get “PhraseExpress”
    – type h2m (anywhere ) and the Hand2Mouth blog opens in the browser.

  4. hand2mouth says:

    Hi,
    Thanks for your comment and example of what Phrase Express can do.

  5. xxx says:

    What about the freely available letmetype? how does it compare with that?

    http://www.clasohm.com/lmt/en/

  6. hand2mouth says:

    Good question. I have tried Letmetype, and I think it would be very promising if only some of the bugs would be worked out and it had a core dictionary — the program is blank until you add to it yourself. It’s been a while, but I think one of my main problems was that it couldn’t track the cursor position and glitched with the clipboard somehow, so that eventually total gibberish appeared on the prediction list. (If I recall, I was using it with the option to predict multiple words.) Another problem was that if you chose to put a space after a word, this option did not work in Word 2007. And as I’ve said before, it would be nice to make some kind of core dictionary a default, especially for those who may have trouble programming a dictionary themselves. (I’ve dabbled with finding common phrases and vocabularies on the Web, so it is doable, but it’s incredibly tedious to strip the formatting and extraneous punctuation that may appear on such webpages. Perhaps I wasn’t looking in the right place.) However, because it can predict multiple words (at least until the gibberish appears), I think if a developer took up the project it would be pretty good. I hope that answers your question! 🙂

  7. xxx says:

    actually, I had some problems with the 1.81 version of letmetype with respect to the clip board. It turns out that you have to go back to the version just before that (1.80) which does more mimicking of typing than relying upon the keyboard.

    I have also looked into core dictionaries for letmetype which you can add in by using the clipboard. This is accomplished by setting the options in letmetype to monitor the clipboard. The problem with the core dictionary idea with letmetype is that it actually makes it perform less effectively. In other words, the smaller dictionary seems to generate more relevant completion based upon your typing frequency than a large pre-loaded dictionary.

    Nonetheless, I am looking into Turbo type, but I don’t know if the pay-version allows you to change the ctrl-space hotkey, which I currently use for findAndRunRobot ( which I also recommend, by the way).

  8. hand2mouth says:

    Ah. Hadn’t thought about the rollback fix — good to know if I ever want to mess with it again. I’ll have to check out FindandRunRobot, too. Thanks.

    I agree on the benefits of a small core over a large core dictionary (which is, too, why I like this one). You’re right that the Control Space expansion trigger can’t be changed in TurboType itself, but do you have AutoHotKey? If you do, you can create your abbreviations right in AHK and make the trigger whatever you want. AHK files are also portable.

  9. xxx says:

    On the basis of your post, I got the pay-version, mainly to try out the learning mode. It turns out that the learning mode is truly horrible compared to letmetype. I typed the word “computing” 3 times in the same sentence and it did not offer me that completion, whereas letmetype would have.

    Nonetheless, even though I could have, I did not return it for a refund. It is definitely worth supporting this software. I’m hoping that they will make improvements in the learning algorithm. The source code of letmetype is available . I think the learning feature of letmetype is truly excellent , even though it does have a few other bugs.

    Anyway, thanks for bringing this to my attention.

  10. hand2mouth says:

    Ach. Sorry about that. It’s not supposed to refresh constantly. I’m not sure, but I think their idea of frequency is the conservative type used by some other programs — that is, the list order changes according to how many letters in you are, but doesn’t displace the more common suggestions. (Some people don’t like a constantly refreshing list after every word.) For example, “computing” is suggested third after typing c-o-m-p-u. After inserting “computing” often, it moves up to second or first ONLY after typing those letters. That might be what’s going on. Some programs do this to preserve muscle memory.

  11. hand2mouth says:

    So, I counted. The learning feature of TurboType does, in fact, work. It just works carefully so as to preserve the efficiency of the dictionary. Because it’s a PREDICTION program, it will keep its core of most generally useful words in English towards the front for a while — it would ruin the purpose if any old word you predicted knocked more essential English words to the bottom.

    But it will work if you spend a bit of time. The best I can describe it is a kind of edging out by erosion. I typed “computing” 10 to 15 times in a row. Each time, the word appeared third after typing c-o-m-p-u. After about the 15th try, “computing” appeared second after typing those 5 letters. I would probably have to type computing another 10 times before it appeared first — still under those 5 letters. That means if you wanted computing to appear, say, as the first choice after typing just c-o, you would need to predict it many more times, because you would need to predict computing ahead of all the other (more common) words that began with those letters.

    Put simply, if you want the list to change order every single time you insert a word or if you don’t use muscle memory, you probably want a word completion program — not a prediction program. Word prediction programs are designed for efficient typing of language as a whole, hence the offering of common words at the forefront. Displacing common words doesn’t make a lot of sense in this scheme.

    Word completion, on the other hand, changes constantly so that you need good hand-eye coordination. Muscle memory is not applicable in word completion, because it’s never fixed.

  12. Polprav says:

    Hello from Russia!
    Can I quote a post in your blog with the link to you?

  13. hand2mouth says:

    Hi,
    Yes, you’re welcome to link/quote.

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