Checking out the Galaxy Nexus Open webOS port virtual keyboard [video]
Having successfully completed the build process for the Open webOS alpha on the Galaxy Nexus, I knew that the next time it came around I'd have a better idea of what to do. Mostly because I'd already failed a dozen times before. This time around, armed with a modicum of knowledge, I was able to complete the build process for the latest version of WebOS Ports' alpha without running into any bumps.
The reason for running the latest version of the build was to check out the latest modifications made. While behind-the-scenes bits have been improved, what we were most interested in checking out the user interface improvements and the the virtual keyboard discovered and implemented by Josh Palmer (known around the webOS sphere as ShiftyAxel).
Palmer's modifications have brought back some of the classic bits of the webOS smartphone user interface, including rounded corners and the bottom-aligned notifications bar. He's also tweaked it so app icons appear at a size more appropriate for the Galaxy Nexus's screen (it's worth restating that the Open webOS released to open source was designed for TouchPad-size screens). But the new virtual keyboard was what we really wanted to check out, especially after tooling around with the practically fun-sized keyboard shrunken down from the TouchPad.
The made-for-smartphones keyboard is notably taller than the shrunken TouchPad keyboard. It's also been rearranged, losing the top row of numbers to a more traditional spot hidden behind a '123' key with other special characters. The layout has a lot in common with other smartphone virtual keyboards on the market, including the iOS and Android keyboards. A lot of the old TouchPad functionality is there, including pressing and holding on keys to bring up alternate versions of that character.
There's also a significant visual change to the layout, dropping the faux gray keys of the TouchPad, in fact, dropping most of the keys altogether. The dominant color of the keyboard is black, with white characters set in rows across that inky blackness (with the Galaxy Nexus' AMOLED screen the it's really quite the contrast). The shift and backspace keys (bookending the second-from-the-bottom-row) and the 123/ABC, forward slash/comma, space bar, question mark/period, and Enter keys (the entire bottom row) have lighter outlines with dark gray fill, but they're the only keys that stand out.
Overall, the keyboard's not half bad. It's worth repeating that this is alpha testing level stuff right now, so the fact that it's not perfect shouldn't be held against anybody. The letters are nicely spaced and sized, though it takes some getting used to typing without a grid, there's something subliminally disconcerting about the lack of key outlines, but it's easy enough to get used to. Plus it's just so damn sexy.
With these interface modifications it's a lot easier to see using Open webOS on the Galaxy Nexus as a full time operating system. There's still a lot of work to be done, though, as the Galaxy Nexus port is still lacking a lot of hardware integration and still needs serious optimizations in some parts. Oh, and there's that little matter of it needing to be booted from and tethered to an Ubuntu computer to work in any fashion. But progress is progress.