HowTo: n900 Browser: Selecting Text

The mul­ti-but­ton mouse and key­board com­bi­na­tion has become so ubiq­ui­tous that some­times we can’t imag­ine how to accom­plish some­thing on a sim­i­lar but dif­fer­ent inter­face.  Select­ing text in the n900 brows­er was one such prob­lem for me.  It’s not that the “ges­ture” lan­guage of new­er tablets is com­plete­ly new.  Palm (again I refer back to the spir­i­tu­al grand­fa­ther) had a whole lan­guage of ges­tures to enter text.

The prob­lem seems sim­ple, yet frus­trat­ing.  In the n900’s brows­er, the touch of the screen is either going to select a link or scroll the web page.  In oth­er n900 appli­ca­tions, a dou­ble touch can some­times select text — this seems to very occai­sion­al­ly work on the brows­er, but more often, the dou­ble touch per­forms a zoom func­tion.  Also, shift + left or shift + right can extend or short­en the exist­ing selec­tion — but this is only use­ful once you have a selection.

After read­ing sev­er­al web pages on the sub­ject … which added unhelp­ful infor­ma­tion (such as CTRL-I being a sub­sti­tute for TAB), I final­ly got a hint as to the ges­ture.  Going from off screen to on screen with your fin­ger from the left brings up the brows­er his­to­ry (as lit­tle ren­dered shrunk win­dows).  This is very slick.  It was only slight­ly after­ward that I tried off screen to on screen from the right.  This enables a mode where you can select (rather than scroll) with the finger/stylus.

Ges­tures seem under­uti­lized on the n900.  Shak­ing the device appar­ent­ly pro­duces an event, but it’s not used any­where that I can see.  Also, only a few appli­ca­tions tilt (main­ly the phone/camera/picture viewer).

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