Morse code can be an effective way to type using only one or two switches. For some people who need switch-based access due to physical impairments, Morse might work as well or better than methods such as switch scanning. Reports of typing speed with Morse in the literature are encouraging but sparse. And in the end, what matters most is how well it works for a given individual. To address that, we need to measure typing performance with Morse.
How do we do that, in a way that’s accurate, straightforward, and time-efficient? We’re going to use KPR’s Compass software for access assessment to measure our Morse typing speed and accuracy. This post describes how to do this and shows you how it went the first time I used Morse code.
To provide our Morse code access, we’re going to use the Morse keyboard within Google’s Gboard app. This is handy because it provides a no-cost way to get started with Morse and see whether it fits your needs. (Check out Jim Lubin’s page for other Morse options.)
To measure our typing performance, we want to use KPR’s Compass software, since it is designed specifically for computer access assessments. One advantage is that Compass will store all of our typing data, and create reports of performance across time or across different access methods.
OK, Gboard and Compass provide two nice pieces as a foundation to our setup, but there’s one notable problem. Morse Gboard only works on iOS or Android, and Compass software only works on Windows or Mac OS. How will we send our Morse keystrokes to the Compass typing test? Here’s where an app like Remote Mouse comes in; this allows you to type on the iPad and have the keystroke show up on your Mac or Windows PC. The free version will work fine for what we need.
So we need to set up three components: Morse Gboard, Compass, and Remote Mouse. Here’s how:
- Follow the steps to set up Morse on the iPad, from a previous post. If you don’t want to use external switches, just stop after setting up the Morse keyboard within Gboard.
- Open the Compass application on your Mac or PC. You can request a free trial at KPR’s Compass page.
- Setup your iOS device to send keystrokes to your Mac or PC, as shown in this video. Once you’ve downloaded and opened the Remote Mouse apps for the iPad and the Mac/PC device, it should automatically connect. If not, tap on Not Connected in the iPad app, and choose your Mac/PC computer by name.
This worked well for me using an iPad and a Macbook Pro. Make sure you test it by seeing if you can type a word, like “hello”, using Morse on the iPad, and have the keystrokes show up in a Notes app on your Mac or PC.
Measure Morse typing speed
Now you’re ready to measure typing performance. For this post, I measured my own performance. As a brand new Morse user, I chose the Compass Word test to start with, to give me just one word at a time to worry about. I’m planning to track my performance over time as I learn the letter codes and practice. (And if you’re looking for a fun and effective way to learn Morse code, see our recent post about the Morse Typing Trainer.)
Once you have things set up so that you can type on your Mac or PC using Morse code, here are the steps to measure Morse typing speed and store the data in Compass:
- Open Compass.
- Create a new client in Compass: at the Welcome Screen, click Start Compass, then click Create New Client. Enter a name for the client data file, then Save & Continue.
- Select the Word test to add to the Test List.
- Run the Word test. Type each word using Morse code on the iPad. At the end of a word, you can hit Enter on the Mac/PC keyboard or use the Morse code for Enter (the time for typing Enter does not count in the performance metrics).
- View the report after completing the test.
The video below shows my first Word test using Morse. I have the test set up to present 4 words; you can do this at the Compass Test List using Configure Test before running the test.
In my first test, I typed 2.3 words per minute. I spent a lot of time looking at my cheatsheet to know what codes to enter, so that’s the main reason for my slow speed. After doing one 30-minute session with the Morse Typing Trainer, I improved to 4.2 wpm. I’m going to try to keep working on it and track my performance over time.
Other ways to measure typing speed
This setup is complicated a bit by the use of 2 devices: an iPad for the Morse typing and a Mac/PC computer to run Compass. You could simplify the setup by using an online typing test on the iPad, but those tests have some disadvantages, including a lot of visual distractions, a one-size-fits-all presentation, insufficient precision, limited reporting and storage for review at a later date, and inability to directly compare access methods.
Give this Compass-iPad setup a try and please share your experiences in the comments below.