Example plugins for Maliit available

In Maliit input methods are implemented as plugins. This flexibility is important because it allows the same framework to provide very different text input methods, without us having to implement them all. Different virtual keyboards, hardware keyboard input, handwriting, speech-to-text, input methods for accessibility, et.c. are all possible with the Maliit framework. This makes the input method plugin API the most important extension point.

To make it simple to start developing an input method for Maliit, we have written a set of example plugins that can be used as a skeleton* for a new input method. There is one “Hello World” example showing the C++ interface, and one showing the newly added QML interface. The latest documentation for the framework in HTML format is also included, along with a simple test application. How to get started is documented on our wiki page: Go!

A very conventional example: An input method that allows you to input "Hello World"

A nice thing is that these examples are in our framework repository: built as part of the standard build, with simple tests run as part of our test-suite. This ensures that the examples stay up-to-date and working, something I find that step-by-step, code-and-talk tutorials in some documentation repository/directory typically do not.

If you want to look at real-life examples of plugins, check out the Meego Keyboard code (C++), the Meego Keyboard Quick code (QML), or foolegg from maemo.org’s cute-input-method code (QML with Pinjyin support!). Also make sure to check out Michael Hasselmanns talk at the Meego Spring 2011 Conference: Developing custom input methods for Meego.

If you hit any issues, contact us through one of our communication channels.

* Note that currently the license of the examples is LGPLv2 like the rest of the framework.

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Introducing; Maliit on-screen keyboard in Gnome 3

Maliit (also known as Meego Input Methods) has the following overall goal: “to be the input method project for MeeGo and other GNU/Linux-based embedded/mobile platforms”.

This initial video shows Maliit running in Gnome 3, and demonstrates some of the very basic features provided by Maliit and the standard keyboard shipped with it. The demo is done on a WeTab tablet running a standard Fedora 15 Beta, with the latest Maliit software installed. Jan Arne Petersen is working a bit on  Fedora packages, so hopefully it will soon be easy to install for those who are interested.

Some more info about the features shown in above video:

0. Theming. Using the theming support in the standard Maliit keyboard, it is easy to go from a mockup to ready implemented theming. This theme was based on the mockup from live.gnome.org (by Jakub Steiner I believe?) and done by Michael Hasselmann in a couple of hours. He also has a blogpost on how the theming system works.

1. Typing text.This is of course the number one feature of an on-screen keyboard. There are some essential best-practice and some tricks used in Maliit to be able to get really good reponse time and typing speeds. I hope we will have some blogposts about that soon.

Typing speed can be further enchanced by enabling multitouch support (not working out-of-the-box in Fedora due to missing support further down the stack), or by installing a prediction/correction engine. User feedback can be enchanced with audatory and tactile feedback (requires hardware and driver support obviously).

2. Different languages/layouts, and switching between them. Maliit comes with layouts for over 20 languages, tested and tweaked by usability experts. Latin, Cyrillic, Arabic and Chinese based scripts are covered. The layouts are defined by XML files, so one can easily change them if wanted.

Chinese ZhuyinRussian

Arabic

For more of the features offered by Maliit framework and standard keyboard, see the wiki page. If you are interested in improving Maliit, or its integration in Gnome 3 or other GNU/Linux environment, join the irc channel or mailing list.

Next up; the importance and difficulties of input method integration on touch enabled devices.

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Want to integrate with the Meego Netbook UX panel?

It is not well communicated, but you can apparently write your own “tabs”/”panes” for the panel/toolbar found in the Meego Netbook UX. Hopefully this blogpost helps a tiny bit*.

As stated by the libmeego-panel/docs/README in the source tree of mutter-meego there are convenience APIs for GTK+ and Clutter based implementations. But it seems you can also just use the DBUS API, in case you prefer Qt or something else. I found this out by searching though meego.gitorious.org after someone asked on #meego

*Since this should be documented in the platform API, I’ve of course filed a bugreport.

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MyPaint on Meego?

When I got back from the Meego conference, I tried building MyPaint on the Ideapad I got (which runs Meego Netbook 1.1).

I was pleasantly surprised to find pygtk in the core repositories.  numpy on the other hand was missing but that was easy to build from source. Buut, it seems that pygtk is built without numeric support, making MyPaint unusable; numeric support is used to get access to the pixels in pygtk pixbufs, which we need for several central things.
I have of course filed a bug for this so hopefully it will be resolved soon. If not I will have to provide alternative pygtk packages using the community OBS. In any case, expect it to be working soon.

I also hope to adapt MyPaint’s UI to the handset and netbook/tablet form factor, but this is only talk so far.

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Meego Conference 2010

Like most of my colleagues at Openismus I was present at the first Meego conference in Dublin. As usual, I’m probably the last to blog about it. See for instance Friedrich’s post, Andre’s post or Chris’ very detailed post.

The conference was held at the Aviva stadium, a huge sports stadium just outside Dublin center. Untraditional venue choice, but it was quite nice and the organization was very good.

The conference schedule was packed; 2 days with 5 parallel tracks and the third day done unconference style with some 7 parallel sessions (btw, all the talks are available online). Many of the technical talks I went to were a bit on the light side in my opinion, which is forgivable considering how new the whole Meego thing is (or maybe I just chose badly). However, the keynotes and some less-technical talks (and some discussions in the “hallway track”) gave me much better understanding of what Meego actually is and aims to be.  Which is arguably just as important.

The schedule was fairly packed in the evenings as well, with opening reception and  “Openismus conference dinner” at the closest pub the first day, party at the Guinness Storehouse the second and a Ireland-Norway friendly in football (which Norway won!) the third. In addition, the official conference hotel had a “hacking area” available 24-7, which was pretty popular.

To give Meego a little boost,  all the participants were given a Lenovo Ideapad S10-t3 tablet netbook/laptop. In exchange we had to install Meego Netbook Edition 1.1 on and promise to develop cool applications for. Lucky me also got a Nokia N900 so I can do development for that form-factor as well. 😀

What is Meego? (my interpretation and some musing)

At least Intel seems to have a very clear vision of  Meego as an open operating system and software platform that will make it easy for people to deliver new and innovative products in the embedded/mobile/space.

Meego explicitly targets a broad range of device classes, from set-top boxes to in-vehicle-infotainment to handsets to netbooks, a very bold move. Personally, I think the key to succeeding in that aspect is to attract the vendors with expertise in each device class and have them drive development. The project has done a decent job at that so far with Intel, Linpus, et.c. for netbook, Nokia for handset, the GENIVI consortium for IVI and so on.

Another thing the Meego project explicitly supports is for vendors shipping devices to do customization. This is basically a prerequisite to be able to attract them at all (as they naturally want to differentiate their products), but brings additional challenges in delivering a consistent platform and brand. The compliance specification work presented at the conference leads me to believe that the project is on the right path here though.

As an application platform Meego is based around Qt (with Qt Quick). This is a decent platform, but what is most lacking in order to attract application developers is probably shiny, attractive devices, and people using them. Hopefully they will be here soon…

All in all, I like what I see. Time will show how well the project succeeds, there are certainly exciting times ahead!

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