TouchChat and Custom Keyguards
One of the more popular AAC apps is TouchChat. It is also one of the AAC apps with the most user options that affect the design of the keyguard. In addition to the number of cells in each row and column, you have many options for controlling what appears in the speech display, how big it is, and so on. Each of these decisions affects the size of objects on the screen, and changes the requirements of the keyguard.
There's a brief description of the settings on the TouchChat page, but in this post we're going to go into more detail to help you choose the settings that will give your end user the best experience possible.
TouchChat works great on iPad, Mini or Pro. On the Mini, once you get above about 80 cells, the cell openings are getting pretty small. For users without fine motor skills, you should probably try to use a full size iPad for more than 80 cells.
TouchChat keyguards work for any iPad case. The only limitation imposed by the case is the opening for the speech display. Cases with openings that are barely taller than the screen in landscape mode usually require us to put a reinforcement bar in the middle of the speech display. Such cases include the AMDI iAdapter, GoNow Rugged, Griffin Survivor, Otterbox Defender, and Unicorn Beetle. Cases with a lot of headroom that usually don't require a reinforcement bar include the Big Grips Frame/Lift, Gripcase, Gumdrop Foam Tech, and Silver Kite ChatWrap.
There are a few cases that have different amounts of headroom depending on the iPad model. For instance, the Armorbox Kido has lots of headroom on the iPad, zero headroom on the iPad Air, and a decent amount of headroom on the iPad Air 2. Measuring the opening is the only way to tell if the case will require a reinforcement bar. On an iPad, we need about 6-3/16", on a Mini, about 5", and on a Pro 12.9 about 8.25" to avoid a reinforcement bar. Cases with different openings on different models include the Armorbox Kido, Fintie Kiddie, Gumdrop Drop Tech, Gumdrop Hideaway, KaysCase KidBox, and RJ Cooper Ultimate II.
All our different mounting options work for TouchChat, depending on the iPad case. The limitations are related more to the case than to the app, so we'll cover these issues in a later blog. The only area of concern that is TouchChat specific is that when using suction cups or straps with a large number of cells, some of the cells on the right and left edges may be partially obscured.
TouchChat works in either landscape or portrait mode. Landscape is by far the more popular, and allows for the largest number of mounting options, but portrait mode is just fine if it helps the end user.
There are some specialty layouts that have their own ordering page on our website, but for the most popular vocabularies like WordPower, MultiChat and VocabPC, just choose the basic TouchChat keyguard. Use this keyguard for any vocabulary that has a grid of uniform rows and columns.
Rows and Columns
If you're not using one of the vocabularies listed in the Version pulldown menu, just specify the number of rows and columns you need.
The most confusing of all TouchChat settings! Keyguard Inset is in the Page View settings, near the top of the Settings screen. When on, it causes a little white space to be reserved at the top and bottom of the screen. This feature was designed to accommodate the ChatWrap keyguards, which are not available on the Pro 12.9, so neither is the setting. If you don't have the Keyguard Inset setting, choose "No".
Keyguard Inset is optional for Lasered Pics keyguards. However, if you set it to "Yes", in all but a few cases it eliminates the need for a reinforcement bar in the speech display, as describe in the Case section above. For cases with lots of vertical space, you can leave it at "No".
The speech display is the area at the top of the screen that shows what the user types. The Speech Display Bar section contains all the settings that control the speech display. The first is the "Hide Speech Display" setting. The double-negative of this setting always confuses people. If it's on (hidden), choose "Closed (Hidden)", and if it's not, choose "Open (Visible)". Whew! It's open by default, but you might want to close the speech display if the user is distracted by it or is pre-literate.
The next three settings only matter if the speech display is open.
This setting controls whether picture communication symbols are displayed above the text the user types. Note that if the number of lines in the speech display is greater than 1, the show icons setting is hidden. Don't worry if you can't find it!
The font size setting controls the size of the text in the speech display, not the cells. Note that different fonts of the same size can appear larger or smaller depending on how much they fill the available space. Choose a font and font size that is the most readable to the user.
Number of Lines
This setting controls the number of lines of text that will be visible in the speech display. It defaults to one line. For users who can compose longer sentences, you might want to set it to 2 or 3 lines. If you set the number of lines greater than 1, you cannot show icons in the speech display.
Openings for Vocab and Menu Buttons
If you want the user to have access to the buttons just below the speech display, choose one or both of them. If you choose "Neither", you may need to remove the keyguard to access those buttons yourself. Here's a little trick: Rotate the iPad between landscape and portrait mode to get access to buttons that are otherwise unavailable.
These buttons are not very tall, so in most cases there's not enough room to isolate them from the speech display. They are usually open as an extension to the speech display. When the speech display is off, the Vocab and Menu buttons are presented as individual openings.
By default, Lasered Pics creates openings as large as the cell allows. An option with clear acrylic is to use square or circular openings to isolate them by distance and help the user differentiate. Note that for nearly-square cells, there's no difference between square and rectangular openings. When using square or circular openings, the user will be required to view the covered parts of the cells through the clear plastic.
Because TouchChat provides no space between the cells, the edges of the cells have to be partially obscured by the separator bars. For that reason, clear acrylic is always recommended. Never choose colored acrylic with square or round openings.