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Maliit Status Update

We’ve been busy! The result is our latest release, Maliit 0.99, with a massive amount of changes. While the framework has mostly seen code cleanups (:~/source/maliit/fw$ git diff 0.94.0..0.99.0 --stat: 389 files changed, 3612 insertions(+), 30081 deletions(-)), we’ve been adding tons of features to the reference plugins (:~/source/maliit/plugins$ git diff 0.94.0..0.99.0 --stat: 324 files changed, 32499 insertions(+), 12799 deletions(-)).

After (finally!) getting official Debian and Ubuntu packages, the next big step is our Maliit 1.0 release, which we expect sometime later this year.

Maliit 0.99 works with applications using GTK+2/3 or Qt4/5, though Qt4 still works best. Maliit’s framework and reference plugins strictly require Qt5 as build dependency, allowing us to get rid of Qt4 and Xlib legacy code. Maliit can run on Wayland but at this point only EFL applications support Wayland input methods. For Qt5 applications wanting to use Maliit together with Wayland, a Qt5 platform plugin for Wayland input methods would be needed.

Who is using Maliit?

The best Maliit showcase is still the Nokia N9. No other device got anywhere near to the demonstrated input method integration level. The haptic feedback of its virtual keyboard remains unchallenged. I think it’s a major success for our old Harmattan text input method team that we see Maliit being used in other projects. It was hard work to get to this point and yet it feels as if this was only the beginning of Maliit as an open-source project.

We have the friendly folks beind the OLPC project who were one of the first to go with Maliit. Few of us will probably make the new XO their primary device and therefore, won’t see the results of the collaboration. But from the very beginning, they worked with us in the open, provided official Fedora packages and helped us test-driving the then-new styling engine of Maliit Keyboard. The XO is one of the use-cases where Maliit has to run without a compositing window manager, which made them an early adopter of our windowed mode.

Plasma Active is another project that — for its size — invested significant development time improving and testing Maliit’s reference plugins. They’ve been (and hopefully remain!) a huge help whenever we faced problems with QML. I wish we could find a sponsor however to work on improving their input method integration, which is the “invisible” and challenging part that easily gets forgotten.

Ubuntu Touch is choosing Maliit as well. Canonical sponsored significant work in Maliit Keyboard, especially in terms of Qt5 support and replacing QGraphicsView with QtQuick2.

SailfishOS is happy user of Maliit, too. They are the main consumers of our 0.80 branches that still offer full support for Qt4 and X11. We always considered 0.80 our latest “stable” release branch, so it’s good to know that at least someone is also using it.

OpenEmbedded has integrated Maliit into their meta layer. This makes it easier to build custom Linux distros for embedded with Maliit on board. My understanding of OpenEmbedded is still limited at this point so I cannot explain all the real benefits this collaboration provides. Luckily there’s the always friendly Samuel Stritzel who’s following our official mailing list, waiting to answer all your OpenEmbedded related questions.

Gnome3. Just kidding. But once Gnome3 properly integrates with Wayland input methods, we can just plug in Maliit, too. Of course to be of any interest for Gnome3, we need to demonstrate working CJK input methods too. Luckily, we got the opportunity to just do that: IBus working with Wayland input methods. If things pan out I’ll be talking about this at GNOME.Asia.

I would like to get the chance to improve input method support for Firefox and Chrome/Chromium. There is one nasty bug around password fields that’s been quite a blocker for us. Some day, we’ll hopefully be able to convince the browser guys to just “do the right thing”.

And then there’s yours project of course. You just didn’t tell me about it yet ;–)


There is an influx of new developers showing interest in Maliit which is why I feel that reiterating the basic architecture behind Maliit doesn’t hurt.

Maliit is split into three parts: framework, reference plugins and input method modules (GTK+, Qt4, Qt5).

The framework provides maliit-server, a process that can load reference plugins (such as VKBs) and allows applications to connect to it through input method modules. The input method modules are UI toolkit specific and are loaded dynamically by the applications. For each UI toolkit Maliit wishes to support, a separate input method module is required.

Input method modules and framework are designed as client-server architecture, with applications behaving as clients. The default IPC is QDBus but it can be replaced by other mechanisms, for instance the Wayland IPC.

In a follow-up blog post I will provide an outlook of where Maliit goes next and which parts of it we might have to rethink, now that the leviathan of Linux DEs is quickly moving towards Wayland.


Those are the people who have contributed to Maliit, but you wouldn’t know if you only checked commit messages:

  • Łukasz Zemczak, Thomas Möricke and Kevin Wright: You guys have been great. Would work together again.
  • Iain Lane, Michał Zajac, Peter Robinson: Without you, we still wouldn’t have proper Debian/(K)Ubuntu/Fedora packaging. Thanks!
  • Samuel Stritzel: Thanks for bringing Maliit to OpenEmbedded! Hopefully we’ll see more use of your work soon.
  • Simon Schampijer, Daniel Drake, Gary Martin, Jennifer Amaya and Martin Langhoff: Thanks for the opportunity to work on OLPC. I know most of us are not in the target audience which makes it hard for you guys to motivate others to help you. Your work is important, please never give up.
  • Pekka Vuorela: I am just glad to have you back in the team. Maliit just isn’t the same without you.
  • Aaron Seigo, Marco Martin: Thanks for all your enthusiasm about Maliit and Plasma Active. Your motivation is infectious.
  • Jan Arne Petersen, Krzesimir Nowak: I am impressed by your motivation and dedication that you still have for input methods, even though none of us ever planned to become an “input method expert”.

Posted April 2, 2013