Jun 04 AT 12:20 AM Clark Wimberly 26 Comments

Ice, Oil Slick, and Gum – Three new Better Keyboard Skins from Android and Me

Skip the article, just show me the skins!

When we got our new Ion phones at Google I/O the first thing we noticed (aside from how much cooler a free phone is than one you had to paid for) was the lack of a physical keyboard. Getting used to the soft keyboard was only a slightly painful process, but we found it much easier when using Better Keyboard. Better Keyboard is a paid app ($2.99) from Better Android that enables some really cool features like skinning, gestures, enhanced layout and accuracy, and, most recently, a T9 input method.

I’ve been in love with Android for months now and have wanted to participate a little more actively, but my talents are mostly design and web related. I don’t see myself cranking out a real app anytime soon, so these skins seemed like a perfect chance to play around with 9-patch graphics and the tiny bit of XML the app uses to build the skins. Making the skins seemed simple enough, they provided a sample skin for download and inside you’ll find a bunch of pngs that make up the skin. I made a couple sets of keys, zipped them up, then sent them to our friend Justin at nEx.Software (creator of BarTor and our RSS Widget) for packaging and signing (and answering all my random, stupid questions).

Again, these are FREE skins for the PAID app Better Keyboard. If you do not have the app Better Keyboard installed and activated, these skins will not work. They will just show you a screen saying you need to buy Better Keyboard. Some people in the market seem confused about that point and can’t seem to figure things out, so we put together a small guide for installing and activating Better Keyboard, which you can find below.

Bright shiny white skin with bright blue highlights for a clean, tech feel.
Glossy black and yellow skin with high visibility, great for sunlight or low contrast situations.
Many of you requested a pink skin. Here it is.

Activating Better Keyboard and a new skin

  1. Purchase and install Better Keyboard from the Market.
  2. Under Settings > Locale & Text > Text Settings, activate Better Keyboard (screen).
  3. Next, do something that requires the keyboard to open, like clicking in a text area, pressing the search key, etc. Once the keyboard is on screen, long press on the ‘?123′ key to bring up the input settings. Select ‘Input Method’ (screen) and then select Better Keyboard. Better Keyboard should now be enabled.
  4. To turn on a skin you’ve downloaded, first enter the Better Android settings; either by launching from the app tray or by long pressing ‘?123′ and selecting ‘Better keyboard settings’ (screen). Select ‘Better Keyboard Skin’ (screen) then simply select the skin you want to activate (screen).

For more info about Better Keyboard, visit the publisher’s website, Better Android Apps.

Clark is a developer living in Austin, Texas. He runs ClarkLab, a small web firm with his wife, Angie. He's a big fan of usability, standards, and clean design.

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