KDE’s onscreen keyboard

A big hello to all planetkde readers and authors. This is my first post here and it’s about my main current KDE project. Since KDE 4.4 the kdeplasma-addons package contains an onscreen keyboard. I decided to write one after I didn’t find a really useable keyboard for text input for a touchscreen-umpc. Well, I gave the umpc back. But the next time I buy a touchscreen device I want to have a nice keyboard for text input – that’s why I’m working on this. I never used the keyboard in 4.4 on a touchscreen – and I never got much feedback before its release.

Onscreen keyboard in KDE 4.4

Now I have to admit that the 4.4 version is not much useful for several reasons – but the good news is that this will all change in 4.5. This is the list of improvements I have already in place:

  • The speed and memory usage of the keyboard has been greatly enhanced. I completly rewrote all painting code for that. Marco Martin describes the difference between before and after like “between day and night”
  • You can press a button and drag your finger to another button after that. The key is acutally pressed when you lift your finger. That’s a feature you may know from mobile phones.
  • The key layout is not hardcoded anymore but provided by editable xml files. This means you can adjust the default layouts if you don’t like them
  • There are key layouts designed for small screens now. (Although they may need some polishing)

You may even call this KDE’s “new” onscreen keyboard. Marco made a screencast with it, see here: www.notmart.org/index.php/Software/On_screen_keyboard

Onscreen keyboard of KDE 4.5 with full key layout

As many people will probably ask, I mention a feature the current keyboard already has. It does automatically adapt to the keyboard layout you are using. If you have activated a QWERTY-layout, it will show a QWERTY-keyboard. If you use DVORAK, it shows DVORAK. Quite neat, I think.

I ask all touchscreen users to try the new keyboard out. You can compile it from trunk, it will run inside of KDE 4.4. I may also provide a tar ball of the current source. I’m depending on your feedback for providing a rocking keyboard for KDE 4.5.

Especially the tablet- and mid-layouts need some attention. I don’t know whether I have included all needed keys or placed them logically. This is hard because with every language the keyboards look different. So my small layouts may be good for german users, but garbish for french ones. So try it out and if you have proposals for enhancements, tell me, I’ll try my best.

Keyboard for 4.5 showing the key layout for mids and phones

I better mention one problem the keyboard has. It will only work if you add the applet to the panel and open the keyboard as a popup. It will not work when you place it on your desktop. The simple reason is that it steals the keyboard focus when you click on it and have it on your desktop – so the keys are not send to the place you want it but to the applet itself. We don’t have a solution for this currently.


  1. Please,

    Whatever you do, include the option of setting the keyboard keys/background transparency. Most of the time when you go to use an onscreen keyboard, you need to make it large to work with touch, but then it ends up covering what you’re typing and you can’t see if you’ve made mistakes or not. For me this renders the onscreen keyboards I’ve tried near useless.

  2. Some example from mobile platform. i do appreciate the HTC sense on-screen keyboard with 3 different layouts :

  3. How do you turn the damn thing off? I have dual screen setup, with a much loved IBM TrackPoint keyboard right in front of it. I DON’T NEED AN ONSCREEN KEYBOARD STEALING THE FOCUS WHEN I TRY TO USE KONSOLE!

    Where is this thing configured, and why isn’t it in the same place everything else is?!?

  4. Hi, I have a problem with kde-plasma onscreen. My language is pt and the symbols like ´ ` from á or à are appearing as strange symbol. All of them. What could this be?

    1. I never found out. There are mechanisms of the X-Server used and I never found an usable documentation.

    1. The configuration file of the onscreen keyboard does only control the buttons, not size or position of the widget itself. That you can find in the plasma-config files in your .kde folder.
      You can however resize the keyboard with you mouse (grab the corners, it works as with every window or plasma-popup).

  5. Thanks for this nice piece of software. I would like to know where to find the source code? I would like to contribute, for adding keyboard layout configuration for example.

    1. Well, it is a long time ago. Back in KDE 4 times it was placed in the plasma-addons package. Where it is now I do not now. Have not checked the KDE sources in years.

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