With no good standard ways of plugging input methods into Linux desktops, trying to develop an input method used to be difficult. But now there is an actual standard to address this small but important part of Linux, especially for East Asian users.
Last week, I was at the Chinese Electronics Standardization Institute (CESI) in Beijing to chair the Input Method Sub-Working Group meeting for the 13th time over the past three years. The IMSWG is part of the larger Northeast Asia OSS Promotion Forum (NEAOSS), formed by the Chinese, Japanese and Korean governments for pushing open source software.
Over the past few years, literally every detail of how input methods should work were discussed and debated among participants from the three countries. All had strong opinions on the architecture of the system, and at times it seemed impossible for them to agree on the specification.
We solved that by getting them to write software code instead – being programmers, they understood each other better in computer languages than in English. 🙂
Now, not only do we have an agreed specification, but we are also developing a reference implementation called IMBus, thanks to the hard work of all involved. We have both James Su of SCIM fame, and Hideki Hiura, the designer of XIM and IIIMF on board, so IMBus will no doubt be widely adopted. James gave a nice talk about IMBus at last year’s LF Desktop Architects Meeting.
I said “nearly” in the title of this blog post because the specification is not yet actually “published”. NEAOSS being a semi-governmental organisation, they are very keen on adhering to set procedures and there is still some paperwork to be done before the specification gets to the “approval” stage later this year. However, all technical issues have already been addressed. Hopefully this specification will work its way up to ISO and be published as an ISO standard in the future. ISO being ISO, this won’t happen anytime soon – I’ll talk more about that next time.