SHR - Keyboard

Al Johnson openmoko at
Thu Dec 18 15:49:50 CET 2008

On Thursday 18 December 2008, clare johnstone wrote:
> On Tue, Dec 16, 2008 at 8:28 PM, Paul <paultsai at> wrote:
> > Is there a way to make the keyboard pop up on demand, say for the
> > terminal?
> Or did you just mean: press the tiny little mark at centre top of the
> screen. A curtain 1/3 the size of the screen will wander down. At its top
> right corner is the word "qwerty". if you press that a keyboard will
> appear.
> Later you can repeat to make the keyboard disappear.

Yes, it is now frustratingly longwinded. The keyboard icon on the matchbox 
panel is much better in my opinion. Even better would be a keyboard icon that 
brought up the default keyboard if tapped, but if held would pop up a list of 
available keyboards or layouts.

> The keyboard has a sign in some oriental language at its top right
> which causes changes in it. Basically 3 possibles, of which the third
> can be quite useful if you can get it to respond.

It is "ABC" with the characters overlapping slightly. It needn't be 3 choices 
either - you can add or remove keyboard layouts as you wish. You could remove 
all but the terminal layout if that's the only one you want. People have 
produced alternative layouts better suited to other languages too.

The top left lets you pick the dictionary to be used for the corrective input, 
so you could have multiple languages available.

>  It has the habit of enlarging its characters
> when they are pressed which may be helpful when trying to use fingers
> to type on it but slows it.

It can be a little distracting, but it doesn't seem to compromise performance. 
It seems to keep up with ~4 characters per second - as fast as I can hit 
characters in short bursts anyway. Sometimes I get characters from a long way 
from where I tapped, but I suspect that's the touchscreen driver causing 
problems since I have the same problem with the matchbox keyboard.

> It also at times develops a habit known as predictive.

Corrective would be more accurate, and whether it is enabled depends on the 
keyboard layout. The icon in the top left will give you the full list of 
potentially matching words, with the exact string you entered always at the 

The quality of correction is heavily dependant on the dictionary, at least out 
of the box. The default english dictionary works well, but some have reported 
problems with german for example. To some extent this should be offset if you 
persevere as it adds spellings and word frequencies to your personal 

> I have actually been shown how this can be made to work on a mobile
> phone where it may have some value.

Agreed. With the corrective layout I can enter text reasonably reliably one 
handed while walking. I wouldn't have a hope of doing this with the terminal 
layout, or with the matchbox keyboard.

> Compared with ordinary "tab completion" in linux commands it is not
> even a starter, and again is a distraction..

But for linux commands surely you would use the terminal layout, which doesn't 
have the corrective feature enabled, and use tab completion.

> clare (who really likes the matchbox keyboard - remember that?. It is
> used in the new "hackable";
> and with apologies to Rasterman; but I do feel strongly on these points.)

Input method preferences are highly personal. Happily we have a choice of 
input methods, and Rasterman included the facility to use them. If you 
install the matchbox keyboard, or any other for that matter, it should appear 
in the list of selectable keyboards in the illume config (spanner icon).

I suspect part of the reason people tend to dislike the qtopia and default 
illume keyboards is that by default they don't do what we expect, and it 
isn't obvious what they are doing. The matchbox keyboard is just an onscreen 
representation of a familiar keyboard, and behaves as we expect. It doesn't 
require any extra knowledge to get it to do what we want. The same could be 
said of the illume terminal layout, but that isn't the default.

The qtopia and illume keyboards try to be better, as does the iPhone keyboard, 
but all require a bit of hidden knowledge to get them to work. Once you know 
their secrets they are as good as or better than the matchbox keyboard, but 
if you don't know the secrets then they are incredibly frustrating.

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