TouchChat and Custom Keyguards

Revised December 29, 2017

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.

The Device

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.

The Case

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, little 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 attachment 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.


If you're using a standard TouchChat layout like WordPower without alteration, select the layout here. If your layout is not listed, or if you've changed the number of rows or columns, choose "Other Grid".

Rows and Columns

If you chose "Other Grid" as your version, specify the rows and columns here.

Status Bar

Page Size In the Page Size section, near the top of the Settings screen. You'll only have this option in TouchChat version 2.10.3 or later. If you have an earlier version, answer "Off". 

Keyguard Inset

The most confusing of all TouchChat settings!  Keyguard Inset is in the Page Size section, near the top of the Settings screen. Your version of the app may not have this setting, like when running on an older iPad. In that case only, answer "No", and the rest of this paragraph no longer applies. When on, this setting causes extra whitespace at the top and bottom of the screen. It was designed for use with the ChatWrap keyguards, but it also makes the keyguard stronger if you have a case that exposes only the viewable part of the screen. For those cases, such as the AMDI iAdapter, GoNow Rugged, Griffin Survivor, Otterbox Defender, or any of the rigid foam cases with little room above and below, we recommend turning Keyguard Inset on. Failure to provide enough room means we will have to put a vertical reinforcing bar (or two) in the middle of the speech display.

Speech Display

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.

Speech Display Bar The next three settings only matter if the speech display is open.

Show Icons

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!

Font Size

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.  Note that if you close the Vocab button, it also closes the Back button when the user is off the home page.  Only close the Vocab button if the user never needs the Back button.  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.

Cell 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.

Maximum Opening Size

If you have chosen Squares or Circles for the cell openings, the openings will be reduced to the width or diameter you specify, providing even more space between the cells. If you chose the default rectangular cell openings, this setting will be ignored. 


In general, the colored acrylics aren't great because TouchChat doesn't provide space between the cells. The acrylic styrene is more flexible than standard acrylics and is much less likely to crack when bent. It features a non-glare surface, a choice of several colors, and comes with a 2-year guarantee against breakage. The high-impact PMMA is denser than standard acrylics and as clear as glass, and will sustain much higher impacts without breaking, though it is still able to be broken by bending. 3/16" and 1/4" acrylics are standard PMMA acrylics like Plexiglass and Perspex. They are more rigid than the 1/8" due to their extra thickness, and they provide more depth to help the user avoid accidental touches. Polycarbonate is the strongest material, being virtually unbreakable, and comes with a lifetime guarantee against breakage. Allow one extra week for polycarbonate. Learn about materials in more detail in our Keyguard Materials blog.

Acrylic styrene or polycarbonate is highly recommended on TouchChat layouts of less than 9 cells due to the length and thinness of the bars separating the cells.

User ID

An optional HIPAA-compliant identifier to be engraved on the keyguard. Do not use full names. ID's may be up to 25 characters long.

Special Instructions

Use this field to communicate any other information we need to know about the keyguard. For example, if you've specified "Other" for an unlisted case, you can give us a link to the case online. On large orders, you can add the student's ID to help keep the keyguards straight (nothing will be added to the keyguard, only the documentation).