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[Review] Decuma on a Tungsten T3 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Mohd Nazley Mohd Fadhley   
Feb 29, 2004 at 12:36 PM

Software Name: Decuma On Spot
Description: Text Input System
Type: Commercial
Developer: Decuma
Price: US$ 29.99
Notes: 30 day free trial period

I now have DECUMA ON SPOT installed on my Tungsten|T3 ...

I was first introduced to DECUMA text input when I first laid hand on the Sony Clie NX80V, and I was impressed with this input system. Decuma is an alternative text input system for PDAs, on both PalmOS and Microsoft Pocket PC platform. Initially, for PalmOS devices, Decuma is only available on the Sony Clies, starting with the Clie PEG-NX80V, if I recall correctly.

Now, that this software is available for other PalmOne devices, I decided to take Decuma On Spot for a "test drive" on my Tungsten|T3. For some practice session. I'm going to write this small review using Decuma On Spot character recognition software. Here we go ....

First impression ... GREAT!! Decuma is easy to master. Within minutes, I was able to master the strokes. I just write text like I normally do ... as simple as that! Writing symbols and some punctuation marks however, needs a little bit practice, I would say. since you need to use a separate area to write them. (I'll write more on the text and symbols entry into this later on)

For someone who write a little different from the others and finds that Decuma is not interpreting your character strokes correctly, Decuma has a built-in ability 'learn' the way you write things. In the settings, there is an option to 'teach' Decuma how you write different characters. A good solution to improve Decuma accuracy.


When I chose Decuma as my default text input, all the shortcuts I set in Graffiti doesn't work. Decuma offers a different way of doing 'shortcuts'. I need to set the a special stroke to define a word or phrase. Just like the Graffiti shortcuts, this helps you write faster when you set shortcuts for the frequently used words or phrases. One comment here. my mostly used shortcuts, 'dts' for date and time stamp, 'ts' for time stamp are not available.

I have to say here that Decuma is great for people who just got their first PalmOS handheld. It is easy to learn, easy to use for the novice users. The help tutorial built into the software is sufficient to guide you to using Decuma on spot. Going through the user manual does help you grasp the workings of the software better.

Having mentioned the good stuffs about Decuma, I do however have a few gripes. The main reason is the speed of text input.

For me, the excitement using Decuma only lasted a few minutes. While I am very impressed with the ability to enter text like a normal handwriting, in the end, the speed you enter data is more important. I find Decuma slows me down. The way I see it, the speed Decuma interpret the character stroke is rather slow. I can go roughly forty words per minute using both Graffiti 1 and 2, but using Decuma, the speed falls below that ... approximately twenty to twenty five words per minute (well, at least that's better than me using the keyboard at less than 20wpm, two finger hunt and peck). There is an option to increase the recognition speed, but with speed, you lose accuracy. You will find Decuma speed improve but you spend more time correcting the "mis-recognised" (is there such a word?) character.

My opinion here could be a little skewed, since I have been Graffiti writing since 1998, and on got my hand on Decuma for only about 10 days now. Still, here are my observations.

The Decuma input area is divided into 2 tabs. You use one tab "Aa" to write regular text and another tab "1@*" is dedicated for numbers and symbol. The first tab, although is dedicated to alphabets, can also recognize common symbols like, '&','@','!', '?' and a few others. However, you need to write the symbols carefully and slowly. Otherwise, from my own experience trying out Decuma, entering '@' could be read as 'O', and more commonly, '!' becomes 'i' ... Having mastered Graffiti 2, this slows me down. More common punctuation like (){}*%+- and lots more, has to be entered in the numeric/symbols tab. This slows me down even more.

Other than the slow "reading" speed, Decuma on Spot on Tungsten T3, does not make use of the full 320 x 480 screen available on the T3. Launching Decuma, makes you lose about 60 percent of your screen area. The Dynamic Input Area (DIA) takes up roughly 30% of the display screen, the Decuma uses up another 30% of the display real estate, which leaves a very small area to view what you are writing. On a 320 x 320 pixels display, this is not an issue at all since the Graffiti area is fixed.

I read in Decuma's website, something about not having the API for the T3 DIA. Well, Fitaly Virtual Keyboard managed to find a way to make use the DIA for their virtual keyboard. Perhaps we could see Decuma occupying the DIA in future releases.


And my final gripe is the writing area restriction. I write big ... or should I say my handwriting use a big font. Entering the word "handwriting" does not fit the text input area provided by Decuma. I need to 'accept' the first part of the word first then only continue with the rest of the word. Not really a big problem, but it does give a sudden halt to what it is you are writing.

To close, I am not saying that Decuma is no good ... it's quite the contrary. After writing this short review using solely Decuma as text input,I think it is a great alternative to text input on a PDA, very intuitive and easy to master. My wife likes it a lot. She is trying it out on her Palm Zire71. It's just that all these years using Graffiti and now Graffiti2, I am more inclined to the old school way of writing on my PDA ... old habits die hard. Looks like I won't be registering this application once the trial period ends.

Tapping off

Mohd Nazley Fadhley
Last Updated ( Oct 30, 2005 at 02:18 AM )