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Thread: The state of keyboard modding in FW 3.x

  1. #1
    Default The state of keyboard modding in FW 3.x
    This post is designed to clear up the confusion that is going on in several threads and I hope this can be made a sticky for all to see and understand the issues we are facing.

    In FW 2.x, we were able to skin keyboards by replacing Apple's bitmapped keyboard images with our own. These bitmapped keyboards and some additional images were packed in Keyboard-Common.artwork and Keyboard-Latin.artwork files. We had two options to skin them:

    1. unpack and repack images into .artwork files and replace those artwork files on the device.
    2. place all keyboard images into a WinterBoard theme.

    Both options no longer work, since as of FW 3.0, Apple has essentially abandoned bitmapped keyboards in favor of a programmatic approach that uses vector instructions. For details on this see networkpx Project Blog: Text input on 3.0, Part 4 — UIKBKeylistReference

    Let me restate that neither .artwork mods nor WinterBoard themes will skin keyboards in FW 3.0.

    So what about these various keyboard hacks that can be enabled through alternative keyboards when tapping on the globe key?

    Currently I am aware of two solutions that will change the keyboard appearance using alternate bitmapped keyboards (both require commercial licenses and both have issues):

    1. iAccess: this solution relies on a Chinese system modification. It uses bitmapped keyboards that are located inside the application bundle. There are QWERTY keyboards included both in portrait and landscape format. While this covers most text input, some special keyboards remain unskinned. One option is to replace these bitmaps in the iAcces application itself. It is also possible to skin iAcces in WinterBoard using a bundle approach, enabling the use of various WinterBoard themes. This is one example of the iAcces keyboard that was skinned through WinterBoard:

    -

    For details on how to install iAcces and additional keyboards, see the following thread: Theme Keyboard on 3.0!!!

    Note, however, that several users have reported significant problems after installing iAccess. One problem appears to be that after installation of iAcces, Cydia simply hangs and you need to reboot. You may have to keep home and power buttons pressed for very long times to actually cause the reboot, but after that iAcces is functional. Unfortunately, the UI of this application is in Chinese, so make sure to follow the instructions in the above thread if you want to try this. The major problem with this solution is that you will lose your dictionary and auto-correction.

    But there is one aspect that I find particularly appealing with iAcces and that is how the numeric keyboard and the special character keyboard are fused (see the second screenshot above). So you get dual-function keys where a normal tap will type the letter/character of the numeric keyboard and tap followed by a slight sliding up of your finger will type the alternative character. It takes some practice to get this feature, but once you have mastered it, it's really very convenient.

    2. iTypeFastR: this solution uses a similar strategy and includes several keyboards that can be skinned. The problem with this is that you will have to stick to the particular keyboard layouts provided by the app. These are non-standard in that more frequently used character keys have larger shapes (this is intentional and the selling point of the app). This is what the iTypeFastr keyboard looks like when installed:



    So if you like that layout, you can skin away. Unfortunately, just like iAcces, the app will not replace all keyboards (search fields and mail to fields will revert to default keyboards). There are also reports that auto-correct is lost (I have not verified this). For more info on iTypeFastR see iTypeFastR - type faster and with less typos on your iPhone

    As it turns out (and pointed out by bandit_kaine in this thread), iTypeFastR and iAcces use the same approach to define keyboards. The keyboard layouts of iAcces and iTypeFastR are both stored in the ini folders in 4 files: kb_define_base.dat, kb_define_base.ini, kb_define_base_landscape.dat, and kb_define_base_landscape.ini. Therefore, you can change the iTypeFastR keyboard layout by replacing the above 4 files in iTypefastR with those of iAcces and the iTypeFastR keyboard layout will revert to the standard layout.

    There is an emerging third solution:

    3. iKeyEx: This solution is in its infancy and currently not a viable option for full keyboard skinning. If and when implement fully, this will enable skinning of the vector keyboards. To illustrate the possibilities (and limitations) of this approach, check the following image (note that this image is not within the capabilities of the released iKeyEx versions, but may be possible in future versions):



    As you can see, pretty much all aspects of the keys and labels can theoretically be styled (rectangle roundness, gradient, text style/color). While this will not give us fancy bitmapped keyboards, at least one might be able to alter the appearance somewhat. This feature was introduced with iKeyEx 0.1-99g.

    Note, however, that at present, only the text styles of the key labels are theme-able, but hopefully the key shapes and colors will be in future updates of iKeyEx. You can follow the progress of iKeyEx at http://networkpx.blogspot.com and at the projects code wiki at http://code.google.com/p/networkpx/

    =====================

    I will try and update this first post with new information. Please leave your comments or alternative approaches and I will try and gather them if they are useful for this initial post.
    Last edited by armadillo; 12-13-2009 at 06:58 PM.
    Come visit AlohaSoft

  2. The Following 5 Users Say Thank You to armadillo For This Useful Post:

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  3. #2
    Super Duper Moderator blkcadi's Avatar
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    This gives us hope.

    This should clear it up for most but I kinda feel we will still see several new threads every week on "how can I".

    thread has been stickied at your request.

  4. #3
    Livin the iPhone Life ALL DAY's Avatar
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    Nice explanation; definitely learned a bit from reading it. Hopefully this problem will get solved eventually so we can rock keyboards like the conceptual one you posted with similar modifications...
    Respect your elders.

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    iPhoneaholic soto806's Avatar
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    Hope is all we have left.
    Currently addicted to Modern Warfare 2! add me on PSN: A_Mexican_guy

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    Retired Moderator StealthBravo's Avatar
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    ^ Very true.

    All of the old keyboard themes are dead. Time to start all over on replacements.

  7. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by ALL DAY View Post
    Nice explanation; definitely learned a bit from reading it. Hopefully this problem will get solved eventually so we can rock keyboards like the conceptual one you posted with similar modifications...
    This is not a conceptual one. It was actually generated by UIKit framework with modified parameters. So this is an actual keyboard rendered by the iPhone with a patched UIKit. Obviously, the keyboard looks awful, but it was just meant to demonstrate what can be done once the parameters are exposed to themers.
    Come visit AlohaSoft

  8. #7
    Retired Moderator StealthBravo's Avatar
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    nice write up btw armadillo

  9. #8
    That's some good info,thanks.Only thing I'm considering is..if we use the iAcces method,wouldn't it be possible to then download another dictionary from Cydia,and regain your auto-correct?

  10. #9
    Well, there's your challenge. Try it and let us know how it goes.
    Come visit AlohaSoft

  11. #10
    I really wish I could try it.Using iAcces' method of keyboard changing is too complicated for me.The image names are all mixed up and some of the proper looking files are missing buttons. =S

  12. #11
    Retired Moderator Zwayne's Avatar
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    I would donate to help keep this work going forward.

  13. #12
    Retired Moderator StealthBravo's Avatar
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    I guess people haven't given up on winterboard yet. They need to and help work on this project

  14. #13
    K the Cydia dictionary thing doesn't work.Turns out they're actual dictionary apps.Nothing can be done really unless someone knows how to code a dictionary to work with the keyboard and also has an idea on where to put it.

  15. #14
    This just in:

    iKeyEx 0.1-99g is released

    Changelog:
    - “Text with traits” is now supported, that means your can add color, change font and text size for each key. However, you still cannot use key with image.

    - Native control keys support. (Left, right, home, page down, etc.)
    Come visit AlohaSoft

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  17. #15
    Retired Moderator StealthBravo's Avatar
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    ^ I installed that earlier. It works really well

  18. #16
    Have you made modifications to the key appearance? Which file contains the settings?
    Come visit AlohaSoft

  19. #17
    I can confirm that the Winterboard keyboard theming idea does NOT work.I made the file,put the images in Bundles/com.iAcces.iAcces3x/images,put it into the themes folder,and turned it on in Winterboard.It did NOT work.Though I can't garuntee that this is how it'll be for everyone.I couldn't find a way to turn off my iAcces keyboard,and turning on the stock english didn't end up with it themed.

  20. #18
    How does one change the colors using ikeyEX?

  21. #19
    As for now, it's just the text style that is exposed. I assume the key gradients and rectangle roundness will come later.
    Come visit AlohaSoft

  22. #20
    Green Apple
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    Has anyone figured out how to replace the solid gray keyboard with the transparent keyboard already installed on the iphone that certain apps use?

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