Afterword

ThimphuTech was the first technology blog in Bhutan. We started writing it in 2009, just as broadband and mobile internet started to take off. (Although internet in Bhutan was launched in 1999, it was either super-slow or super-expensive, and was only used by a selected few).

In the blog, we wrote about technology and food, but also about plenty of other stuff. The blog became popular and influential in Bhutan. A companion bi-weekly column -- Ask Boaz -- was published for many years in the Kuensel, Bhutan's national newspaper. (The complete Kuensel columns are available as an ebook, Blogging with Dragons).

We stopped updating the blog when we left Bhutan in 2014, but the information within the posts can still prove useful, and thus we decided to keep it online.

We thank all our readers.
Tashi Delek,
Boaz & Galit.

Monday, April 14, 2014

The benefits of a Dzongkha Typing Tutor: DzType 2.0 (Beta) released

With the growing reliance on computers for authoring documents, filling forms, writing essays, articles, books, etc., knowing how to type has become an essential skill. How does one learn how to type? You can take a course (IT classes at schools or courses at IT training institutes), or you can teach yourself.

Typing software (also called typing tutors or typing trainers) are a useful tool to self-learn using a keyboard for typing. There are plenty of options (free and paid, online and offline) for learning to type in English. In contrast, to the best of our knowledge, for Dzongkha there is only one: DzType, developed by our Rigsum Research Lab. DzType 1.0 was released in 2010 and DzType 2.0 (Beta) was released this week. DzType is a free, lightweight tool that can help complete beginners gain proficiency in a short time. It has a simple interface and takes the user gradually from simple to more complex (from single characters to words to sentences; from single-key pressing to key combinations). Color and audio cues are used to reinforce correct and incorrect typing.

Type the letter in gold; on-screen keyboard image shows which keys to press. Available at dztype.rigsum-it.com

Page used in classes
The need for a typing tutor in Dzongkha is especially dire, since it is more difficult to get started compared to, say, English: you can't simply look at the keyboard and hit the right key, because most keyboards in Bhutan do not have the Dzongkha letters etched on the keys. In most typing classes, students are given a printout with an image of a keyboard with the Dzongkha and English letters (with four keyboards, each with different symbols - see image), and they need to map each of the image keys to their keyboard. This means that to type some text you have to look at the text to be typed, then refer to the page with the keyboard image, then look at the keyboard, and finally at the screen to check your typing. Four sources! Not only is this slow, but it also requires space for all the extra paper. One workaround that avoids the extra keyboard image page is sticking small stickers with the Dzongkha Alphabet on the keyboard. However, because each key is used for multiple symbols, it requires multiple stickers per key, and stickers tend to wear off quickly.

Another aspect in which typing in Dzongkha is more complicated than typing in English is the prevalence of key combinations in Dzongkha typing. To type most text in English, one needs to press a single key. For capital letters, we hold the SHIFT key and press another key. In contrast, to type most text in Dzongkha, one needs to learn not only single-key pressing (called "normal keyboard") but also combinations while holding the SHIFT key ("Shift keyboard"), while holding the left-ALT key, and even holding both the SHIFT and the left-ALT keys while pressing other keys.

DzType 2.0 can be used by perfect beginners as well as by those who want to upgrade from two-finger typing to "touch typing" where you use all fingers and don't stare at the keyboard.

DzType 2.0 (Beta) is available online for free. The offline version will be packaged with the forthcoming Rigsum Sherig Collection 3.0. We welcome your feedback on the DzType Facebook page.