The “garage” has a special connotation in technology as the place where brilliant tinkering launched groundbreaking new technology.
That’s both the name and the spirit behind Microsoft’s outlet for small but creative ideas that pop up within the company.
The MS Garage (site) was once a resource for the Windows geek. I looked at it from time to time, but found most of the “projects” somewhat over my head. The only app I downloaded and kept was Mouse Without Boarders, a free app (as are all Garage projects) that lets me switch one keyboard and mouse between two systems — my work Windows 7 notebook and my Windows 10 test system.
But somewhat like Windows, the Garage has gone through its own evolution. The site is far more attractive and easier to use. More importantly, the focus of the projects has undergone a significant change. Given the direction of today’s technology toward mobility, it really should be no surprise that many of the Garage efforts have migrated to portable devices and cross-platform applications.
For example, the newest offering from the Garage is the Word Flow Keyboard for — iPhone! It’s designed to make it significantly faster to enter text with one hand. The app’s site states that it’s “coming soon,” but you can get it now in the Apple Store. I would have tried it on my iPhone 4, but the app requires iOS 9.0. (The five-year-old phone refuses to die, and I can’t justify upgrading to a newer phone until it does. But I’m going to have to rethink that policy.)
I tried the keyboard on an iPad Air, but it didn’t seem to work correctly, even after I spent some time learning how to add third-party keyboards to the tablet. (There are, surprisingly, dozens of non-Apple, optional keyboards available for iOS.)