Update #3: Loki is coming

It’s been quite some time since I wrote here, but we haven’t stopped working at all, in fact I have now a lot of new ideas of how to improve input methods on elementary OS. The good news is Loki will be here and we have some new cool features, the probably bad but really not so bad news is that since Loki beta is already out, Loki stable will be released any time now, so addition of new big features is not really an option. This will not let us add a lot of the most interesting ideas, instead we should start planning to get them on Loki+1.

After trying to make loading of .xkb files on Gala and discovering that was an unsuccessful approach (I still want to do this, if anyone knows how please contact me) I decided to get the most stuff working on Loki as I could. The first one was the Compose key, it had been broken in a while on Loki because this functionality was removed from gnome-settings-deamon and moved to Gnome Shell, we then needed to move this to elementary’s window manager, Gala.

After fixing this, I wanted to get modifier-only shortcuts to switch keyboard layouts working again (the problem is described in bug #1357895), the issue is the normal API to handle keybindings is not really designed to handle those of this type, although they are the most widely used in almost all operating systems. In the bug report Maxim Taranov suggested a work around on comment #52, so I started to make an update to the keyboard settings panel that used this, by the time I was doing so I was surprised to see a merge proposal by Kirill Antonik to Gala that would allow us to get this working in a less hacky way, and supporting much more keybindings, I immediately updated my work to use this instead. By this time I thought we just needed to wait for this branch to get merged on Gala, so we could update the keyboard plug with mine. Gala’s branch got merged but we decided the keyboard plug needed some work still so we got that a bit late, and some people trying the beta experienced a minor breakage, luckily this is all fine now as the keyboard plug has been merged too.

So, what’s new in the keyboard plug?, basically we finally got rid of the Options tab, and have replaced it by options that appear and disappear for layouts that actually need them (I bet most people won’t even know which these are without reading the code, but that’s exactly the point), while still leaving what we think are the most useful options available to users. Maxim and I spent a lot of time discussing which options to provide and I think we managed to get a very nice compromise between user friendliness and flexibility, some of this required some careful parsing of the xkb_config database but I really like the end result.

So that’s all for Loki, but I am much more excited by what will come next, it seems this series of blogs got some attention and since I’ve been able to learn about other languages. For instance I’ve spent some time talking to Jung-Kyu about Korean support, and that’s what I want to work on next, I have some new ideas about adding Korean-specific options to the keyboard plug. We also have contacted a lot of translators to know what their experience has been typing on their language on elementary and we’ve received feedback about CKJV and several other languages. I would really like to speak directly to people with problematic layouts so I can better understand the problem and figure out how to solve it (this is mainly the reason why Korean will be the first, Jung-Kyu is providing a lot of feedback as we go along), so if you have some ideas please don’t hesitate to contact me.