Writing a CNET review on a mobile phone is a good way to drive yourself mad. And yet here I am, as there's really no better way to wrap my head around the apparent madness that is Minuum. This $3.99 keyboard replacement for Android devices aims to free your screen by squishing a full QWERTY keyboard into the smallest possible space.
But you know what? It works. With Minuum, I can type comfortably (and accurately) in a space barely taller than my thumbs are wide, leaving the rest of my device's screen clutter-free. Heck, if I were going to ditch my computer for my smartphone full-time, Minuum would be a must-have. But right there is the app's main problem. As great as this keyboard feels, the screen real estate it saves isn't enough to motivate most folks to try something so radically different, especially for $4.
Reinventing the wheel
The most confusing thing about Minuum is that it feels so natural. It is, after all, simply a QWERTY keyboard smushed onto a single line. You have precise control over the pixel height of the keyboard, and while Minuum recommends doing without a space bar, you can add one for a more familiar feel.
Minuum requires that you use gestures. They aren't necessarily intuitive -- swipe right for space, swipe right and up for a paragraph break-- but they're easy to learn, and there aren't very many of them. Tracking down punctuation marks is about as difficult as things get, and best of all, pressing two fingers on the keyboard stretches it out into a normal, full-size keyboard -- handy if a friend is using your phone, or if you're entering passwords.
I also like that the app does the little things that save you time. Selecting a suggested word from the carousel inserts a space after it, so you can keep moving. Swiping to the left deletes the word to the left of your cursor, but adds that word to the suggestions carousel in case you made a mistake. Swipe to the right twice and you'll drop a period after the last word you typed, just like double-tapping a spacebar would.