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Does the Application Leverage the Strengths of the New Mode and Avoid Its Weaknesses?

The following text summarizes how users manipulate content using three popular input modes:

  • Voice. The user speaks into a microphone.

  • Pen. The user manipulates a pen to write, draw, or point.

  • Key. The user manipulates a keyboard or keypad by pressing a key.

Developers should choose the input mode that best enables the user to enter the desired information. Users perform various tasks—including entering text, selecting words or objects, sketching simple illustrations and maps, and entering symbols such as mathematical equations. Each of these input modes can be used for text entry—the user speaks words into a microphone, writes the words using a pen, or presses keys on a keypad to spell the words. Most users easily speak and write. Training and practice may be necessary to use a keyboard efficiently.

Users frequently need to edit previously entered text by first selecting the word or phrase to be corrected and then entering the modified word or phrase. To select the word or phrase to be corrected, the user may speak the word, point to the word, or press keys to position a cursor to select the word or phrase.

Each task should dictate the input method. Menu selection is easy with a pen—just point to or circle the desired option. Menu selection with a keyboard is more difficult—press keys to position the cursor to the desired option and then press a select key. When using speech, just say the name of the desired option. Using a mouse is very much like using a pen, except that handwriting is much easier with a pen than with a mouse.

Entering a sketch—drawing simple illustrations and maps—is easy with a pen, but it is awkward with a mouse, and impossible with speech. When speaking, users must instead verbally describe the illustration or map. Entering symbols—mathematical equations, special characters, and signatures—is also easy with a pen, awkward with a mouse, and very awkward with speech.

The following table summarizes tasks and input modes. Developers should choose the input modes that best enable users to perform each task supported by a multimodal application. For example, if the application supports editing, then a pen or keypad should be used to enable the user to point to the object to be modified.

Content-Manipulation Task





Enter text

Speak the text

Handwrite the text

Press keys to spell each word in the text

Select a word to edit

Speak the selection

Point to or circle the selection

Press keys to position the cursor into the selection

Select a menu option

Speak the option

Point to or circle the option

Press keys to position the cursor to the option and then press the selected key

Enter a sketch or illustration

Describe verbally

Draw the illustration


Enter a symbol


Draw the symbol

Select from a menu

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