Improve GNOME’s On-Screen Keyboard with this Extension

Got a touch-enabled or convertible laptop and use the GNOME Shell desktop?

Here’s an extension recommended you’ll be grateful to get to grips with.

It’s called Improved OSK GNOME extension and it does just that: it makes GNOME’s onscreen keyboard more featured and more user-friendly to use.

Don’t get me wrong; the standard OSK? It’s perfectly serviceable. It pops up (mostly) when you need it, lets you punch in regular text, numbers, and special characters, has a tab key (important when running terminal commands) and an excellent emoji picker.

screenshot of gnome shell's onscreen keyboard in ubuntu 22.04 LTS
GNOME Shell’s OOTB OSK FYI

But it has downsides.

Sometimes the standard OSK doesn’t appear when you tap inside non-GTK app text fields; you’re unable enter multi-key shortcuts (like alt + tab), access function (FN) keys at all, or “sticky” the shift key to, for example, type in angry all-caps!

Thankfully, those are things that the Improved OSK GNOME extension can do.

screenshot of improved OSK in Ubuntu 22.04 LTS
Improved OSK in action – you can even ‘sticky’ keys

When installed it replaces GNOME’s vanilla OSK with a more feature-filled alternative. You don’t need to do anything to set it up either: just install the extension, enable it, log out, back in, and away you go.

It offers:

  • More keys including arrow, Esc, Tab, Ctrl, Alt, F1-12, etc
  • Supports multi-key entry (e.g., ctrl + v, alt + F2, etc)
  • Keyboard size and layout customization
  • Panel icon to manually toggle keyboard

It works pretty much everywhere it should (including password modals) and most of its features are easy to find. The layout is a little different (it needs to be to accommodate more keys), and I do miss a keyboard “press” state so I can tell I’ve smudged a key.

screenshot showing the improved OSK gnome extension against the standard gnome shell on screen keyboard
Improved OSK (top) has more keys than the standard OSK (bottom)

Improved OSK can be used on the GDM login screen but this is not an “out-of-the-box” behavior. See the project GitHub page for information on how to enable this.

Also, on Ubuntu 22.04 LTS (where I tested it) the super (aka windows) key is a diamond. I’m not sure if this something related to Ubuntu’s Yaru theming rather than what the devs intended – either way, if you see a diamond and wonder what it’s for, it’s for super!

• Get Improved OSK on GNOME Extensions

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