The touchscreen hardware is, of course, only as good as its software support. Fortunately,Â the XOâ€™s Sugar user interface is naturally well suited for touchscreen use, with large, clearlyÂ designed icons that users instinctively want to touch.
The changes that the team is undertaking to Sugar are simple and subtle, and designed to feelÂ natural to both experienced Sugar users and newcomers.
Icons are moving for better spacing, they are getting enlarged and rearranged to make thingsÂ work better for touch. The team is adding adding swipe-to-scroll gestures (also known as kineticÂ scrolling) to show the frame, pinch to zoom and touchscreen-style text selection.
Internally, Sugar has seen a major overhaul that will benefit users of all XOs and unlock modernÂ touchscreen features. This work is intended to provide a solid foundation for the coming years ofÂ Sugar development.
The magic in these modern touches relies on heavy engineering, and to perform it OLPC hasÂ joined forces with a team from Open Source software consultancy called Lanedo to make SugarÂ work smoothly with multitouch.
To make the user interface ready for the XO-4’s multitouch capabilities the team has fixed andÂ improved the graphical subsystem (X.org) and the UI toolkit (GTK+)â€”enhancements includeÂ support for gestures and better control over the look-and-feel of the UI, so that icons appear justÂ so on screen.
One of the most exciting features is the new intuitive text selector. Thanks to the newlyÂ introduced handles that allow exact positioning, selecting text on the touchscreen now feelsÂ like a natural task. The on-screen keyboard is also tightly integrated, preventing applicationsÂ from taking away the keyboardâ€™s focus when scrolling. Furthermore, several commonly knownÂ gestures like zoom, rotate and swipe have been added to the Sugar environment.
A â€œlittleâ€ keyboard to go along with Sugar
Sometimes you need to type something in eBook mode, or want to type in a language that isÂ different from the keyboard layout that you have. Sugar now includes an outstanding on-screen-keyboard called â€œMaliitâ€ (â€œlittleâ€ in Tagalog). Just as any other tablet, the XO-4 can be put inÂ eBook mode and still offer the option to open a web browser and type in a URL or a searchÂ term.
The team behind Maliitâ€”OpenIsmusâ€”has been working with OLPC to bring this best-of-breedÂ on-screen-keyboard to the XO laptop and to integrate it with user experience. A lot of work goesÂ into making sure that the keyboard appears at the right time, behaves and looks the right way.
This little keyboard opens a window for people working with multiple languages andÂ accessibility. Some multicultural regions need 3 different scripts on the key caps; but only oneÂ can be put on the actual keys. Using the on-screen-keyboard, you can type in your language inÂ any XO-4 Touch that you get your hands on.
For users that cannot type easily, but can drive a pointer of any kind, the on-screen-keyboard isÂ an accessibility feature that can be enabled on any XO, even those without touchscreen.