Fat Finger Shell

I’ve been trying out the Fat Finger Shell which is a terminal emulator for Linux on touch screen devices where the keyboard is overlayed with the terminal output. This means that instead of having a tiny keyboard and a tiny terminal output you have the full screen for both. There is a YouTube video showing how the Fat Finger Shell works [1].

Here is a link to the Github page [2], which hasn’t changed much in the last 11 years.

Currently the shell is hard-coded to a 80*24 terminal and a 640*480 screen which doesn’t match any modern hardware. Some parts of this are easy to change but then there’s the comment “I ran once XGetGeometry and I am harcoded (bad) values for x, y, etc..” which is followed by some magic numbers that are not easy to change which are hacked into the source of xvt.

The configuration of this is almost great. It has a plain text file where each line has 4 numbers representing the X and Y coordinates of opposite corners of a rectangle and additional information on what the key is, which is relatively easy to edit. But then it has an image which has to match that, the obvious improvement would be to not have an image but to just display rectangles for each pair of corner coordinates and display the glyph of the character in question inside it.

I think there is a real need for a terminal like this for use on devices like the PinePhonePro, it won’t be to everyone’s taste but the people who like it will really like it. The features that such a shell needs for modern use are being based on Wayland, supporting a variety of screen resolutions and particularly the commonly used ones like 720*1440 and 1920*1080 (with terminal resolution matching the combination of screen resolution and font), and having code derived from a newer terminal emulator. As a final note it would be good for such a terminal to also take input from a regular keyboard so when you plug your Linux phone into a dock you don’t need to close your existing terminal sessions.

There is a Debian RFP/ITP bug for this [3] which I think should be closed due to nothing happening for 11 years and the fact that so much work is required to make this usable.

The current Fat Finger Shell code is a good demonstration of the concept, but I don’t think it makes sense to move on with this code base. One of the many possible ways of addressing this with modern graphics technology might be to have a semi transparent window overlaying the screen and generating virtual keyboard events for whichever window happens to be below it so instead of being limited to one terminal program by the choice of input method have that input work for any terminal that the user may choose as well as any other text based program (email, IM, etc).

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