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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  • http://twitter.com/rickyrescue Ricky

    I’m a fan of the oil slick keyboard. ^^

  • http://sweeterhomeskins.blogspot.com Puny Weakling

    Oil Slick for the win. Great skin!

    • http://clarklab.net Clark Wimberly

      Glad y’all enjoy it, Oil Slick is my favorite too. Its become my default skin now (which is a big step for me, I usually end up hating the stuff I work on, haha).

      • http://www.nexsoftware.net nEx.Software

        That’s usually the case with me too Clark.

      • http://Website Boomer

        I loaded “better keyboard settings” on my Droid Eris since I got the 2.1 update and only get talk to text on my TEXTING end only. Is there and APP for both TEXT and EMAIL?


  • http://www.andrudes.com Todd A

    If I buy BetterKeyboard, will I be able to use Oil Slick for ANY application, or just for texting and emails ?


    • http://androidandme.com Taylor Wimberly

      Better Keyboard works anywhere the normal soft keyboard works. It is system wide.

  • Linda

    I just downloaded the BetterKeyboard app. I really love the Oil and Ice Skins. Thanks. Also can you make tutorial for making skins?

    • http://clarklab.net Clark Wimberly

      Its really not too tricky. The only twist is knowing how to package and sign APK’s for the market (which I do not). I just make the images and xml then send it off to nEx for packaging.

  • http://android-dls.com DarkriftX

    So I am not the only one who takes advantage of nEx?

  • koa

    hey how about making one that look like the iphone one ;D pppllllzzzzz btw i luv oil slick and ice….gum is nice but its not really me ..lol

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  • Giulio

    Is possibile to simply edit png inside the apk file?
    or do i have to do something more complex?

  • travis klein

    ok but where is the download link to download these skins i’m so confused

  • ché

    Have installed it severall times (better keyboard) each time telling me it stopped (crashes)

  • travis klein

    im’ so lost, how do we install this you dont give a link or anything????

  • hookerpuncher

    Can you just put up QR codes so people can just barcode scan them and that will get them directly to the market place?

  • Milly

    I have a harder time using Better Keyboard because it forecloses when I try to calibrate it

  • http://Website Justin

    I have installed Better Keyboard on my HTC Eris but the keyboard does not show up after i activate it in the locale/text section.. any suggestions???

  • http://Website rje

    Okay. Where in Settings is Settings > Locale & Text >

    I don’t see Locale & Text. I’m on the verge of uninstalling.

  • http://Website me

    Long pressing the ?123 key doesn’t work for a lot of people, because sometimes their is no ?123 key. To switch keyboards long press on an input box, choose “select input method”, & choose the keyboard you want to use. You also occasionally have to get out of the application & reopen it to refresh keyboard settings.

  • http://Website Boomer

    The MICROPHONE ICON on the “Better Keyboard” APP I installed does NOT show up on my email. Only on my Texting. Is it supposed to be in my email too? If so, how do i get it in there?


  • http://Website Hripsimeh

    Ice is the best! Lovely colors, bigger keys,much easyer to write with this kind of stuff.

  • AnnaMaria

    i want to download better keyboard from the market but its not coming up when i search it??

  • Corey

    I bought the keyboard and the unlock key about a year ago . But after i upgraded my phone i can’t find it anywhere in the market. I need one of the devs to email me at tenaciousC1991@gmail.com