A popular requested feature on the todo list is a virtual keyboard.

I'm not entirely sure if customers need a virtual keyboard for systems with a touch screen interface, or meant for simpler kiosk configurations without a keyboard.

Thanks to a discussion with an old friend Teemu Hukkanen, I have some findings to share.

Lets start with the Debian packaged xvkbd. I tried this with mine and Webc's light window manager dwm and it simply wasn't able to send keyboard events to the next tiled window. I'm not sure how the keyboard is supposed to slide in and out either from the browser pane.

kvkbd is the (sic) KDE version of this tool and since I hate KDE and Gnome and it's bloatware dependencies... that's not going in Webconverger no matter how great it is.

Maemo is interesting as Maemo should get a GSM stack soon with Fremantle and er... it has and onscreen keyboard called Hildon Input Method. I think this may have been incorporated into Ubuntu... I'm not sure. Still the Hildon framework seems pretty complicated!

Some Brasilian dude cooked up a touch screen keyboard which looks good and fast. I think he calls it vkbd. On first glances it looks far too hildon maemo specific.

matchbox keyboard

The matchbox keyboard looks terrible in Debian (and didn't work in dwm like xvkbd above), though functioned great in Ubuntu. In Ubuntu it seems to be confused with moblin keyboard manager.I need to look into Ubuntu MID for Netbooks.

Florence Virtual Keyboard looks great, but sadly once again a crap load of crazy dependencies:

  • gtk >= 2.10
  • cspi >= 1.0
  • libgconf >= 2.0
  • libglade >= 2.0
  • libxml >= 2.0
  • cairo
  • librsvg
  • (optional) libgnome >=2.0

Finally there is some talk of an Android virtual keyboard or Input method framework (IMF) as Google call it on their roadmap. I guess this will be implemented as a Dalvik and/or as a non-X application so I don't think this will be of any use for Webconverger.

I think the best solution is to implement the keyboard as a Firefox addon in Javascript. I swear there was such a onscreen keyboard addon project in the past. So like kiosk I might write another Firefox addon to implement this feature sanely. Teemu also pointed me out to Javascript VirtualKeyboard which may prove handy.

Conclusion: Lets try accomplish stuff with Web technologies, not Gnome bloatware.