Matchbox Keyboard Raspberry Pi

Virtual Keyboard for the Raspberry Pi

Matchbox-keyboard is an on screen ‘virtual’ or ‘software’ keyboard which works well for small touchscreen TFTs connected to a Raspberry Pi.


Matchbox-keyboard also uses XML files to specify the layout of the keys, which makes it highly customizable.

The touchscreen used in the above video is a PiScreen.

1. Install prerequisite development files

pi@raspberrypi ~ $ sudo apt-get install libfakekey-dev libpng-dev libxft-dev autoconf libtool -y

2. Install and compile matchbox-keyboard

pi@raspberrypi ~ $ git clone https://github.com/mwilliams03/matchbox-keyboard.git
pi@raspberrypi ~ $ cd matchbox-keyboard
pi@raspberrypi ~/matchbox-keyboard $ ./autogen.sh
pi@raspberrypi ~/matchbox-keyboard  $ make
pi@raspberrypi ~/matchbox-keyboard  $ sudo make install

Installation of the shared matchbox libraries needs to be done after the installation of matchbox-keyboard.

pi@raspberrypi ~ $ sudo apt-get install libmatchbox1 -y

3. Create toggle script to start or stop matchbox-keyboard
We will now create a script to toggle the keyboard on and off. And then add a menu item to access the script as well as add an icon to the task bar for easy access.

mbk-icons

Create a new file;

pi@raspberrypi ~ $ sudo nano /usr/bin/toggle-matchbox-keyboard.sh

And copy in the text below;

#!/bin/bash
#This script toggle the virtual keyboard

PID=`pidof matchbox-keyboard`
if [ ! -e $PID ]; then
  killall matchbox-keyboard
else
 matchbox-keyboard&
fi

Now make it executable;

pi@raspberrypi ~ $ sudo chmod +x /usr/bin/toggle-matchbox-keyboard.sh

We will now add an item to the start menu;
For older images;

pi@raspberrypi ~ $ sudo nano /usr/local/share/applications/toggle-matchbox-keyboard.desktop

For newer images, including Jessie

pi@raspberrypi ~ $ sudo nano /usr/share/applications/toggle-matchbox-keyboard.desktopp

Copy in this text;

[Desktop Entry]
Name=Toggle Matchbox Keyboard
Comment=Toggle Matchbox Keyboard
Exec=toggle-matchbox-keyboard.sh
Type=Application
Icon=matchbox-keyboard.png
Categories=Panel;Utility;MB
X-MB-INPUT-MECHANSIM=True

To create an icon on the task bar, open up the LXDE panel config;

pi@raspberrypi ~ $ nano ~/.config/lxpanel/LXDE/panels/panel

If the above file is empty, then it is most likely that you have a newer version of Raspbian, especially if you are using a Pi 2. You then would need to edit the panel config at this location;

If using RASPBIAN WHEEZY:

pi@raspberrypi ~ $ nano ~/.config/lxpanel-pi/LXDE/panels/panel

If using RASPBIAN JESSIE:

pi@raspberrypi ~ $ nano ~/.config/lxpanel/LXDE-pi/panels/panel

 

PiScreen TFT Raspberry Pi

 

Find this section of config (it is near the bottom);

Plugin {
    type = launchbar
    Config {
        Button {
            id=lxde-screenlock.desktop
        }
        Button {
            id=lxde-logout.desktop
        }
    }

and change it to;

Plugin {
    type = launchbar
    Config {
        Button {
            id=toggle-matchbox-keyboard.desktop
        }
        Button {
            id=lxde-screenlock.desktop
        }
        Button {
            id=lxde-logout.desktop
        }
    }

More Information

Matchbox-keyboard can be started from the command line with the below statement. This needs to be run from a command prompt within X which is running on the touch screen;

pi@raspberrypi ~ $ matchbox-keyboard

Alternately, if you have SSH’d in from another PC, use;

pi@raspberrypi ~ $ DISPLAY=:0.0 matchbox-keyboard

This will load the default keyboard layout, seen here;
mbk-default

Matchbox-keyboard can also resize the window with the -s integer argument. Integer is a value between 30%-100% of the screen width.
Here is the defualt keyboard layout loaded at 50% of screen width;

pi@raspberrypi ~ $ matchbox-keyboard -s 50

mbk-50percentdefault

Matchbox-keyboard also supports custom keyboards, and there are a few loaded with the install into /usr/local/share/matchbox-keyboard/. It is very easy to build your own.

pi@raspberrypi ~ $ matchbox-keyboard -s 50 extended

mbk-70percentextended

76 thoughts on “Virtual Keyboard for the Raspberry Pi”

  1. Pingback: <CONTENT /> v.6
  2. Remember to install libxft-dev if not done befor (sudo apt-get -y install libxft-dev).
    Otherwise the error:
    configure: error: *** Required Xft Library not found ***
    will occur.
    rgds,
    -ds-

      1. DISPLAY=:0.0 matchbox-keyboard
        matchbox-keyboard: error while loading shared libraries: libmatchbox-keyboard.so.0: cannot open shared object file: No such file or directory

        i see nothing

      2. Got a similar problem with frans and solved it forcing an reinstall
        apt-get –reinstall install libmatchbox1 -y

  3. I’m using Rasbian Jessie with Kernel 3.12.26 and I can’t install matchbox-keyboard. I used the following commands:
    git clone https://github.com/mwilliams03/matchbox-keyboard.git
    cd matchbox-keyboard
    ./autogen.sh
    make

    the results:
    base-fragment-et_EE.xml.in > base-fragment-et_EE.xml.tmp
    cp base-fragment-et_EE.xml.tmp base-fragment-et_EE.xml
    make[2]: *** No rule to make target ‘keyboard-extended.xml.in’, needed by ‘keyboard-extended.xml.tmp’. Schluss.
    rm base-fragment-da_DK.xml.tmp base-fragment-et_EE.xml.tmp
    make[2]: Leaving directory ‘/home/pi/matchbox-keyboard/layouts’
    Makefile:486: recipe for target ‘all-recursive’ failed
    make[1]: *** [all-recursive] Error 1
    make[1]: Leaving directory ‘/home/pi/matchbox-keyboard’
    Makefile:375: recipe for target ‘all’ failed
    make: *** [all] Error 2

    1. in ~/matchbox-keyboard/layouts/, “keyboard-extended.xml.in” file is missing.

      cd ~/matchbox-keyboard/layouts/
      cp keyboard-extended.xml keyboard-extended.xml.in

      then retry.

    2. Hello, I got the same problem. Unfortunately, everyone seemed to ignore this. Is there a solution?

      Thanks.

  4. First of all thanks for the awesome PiScreen. I am a beginner with Raspberry Pi. I was wondering if it is possible to support multiple PiScreens simultaneously with a single Raspberry Pi or Banana Pi or any of its high-end variants? Can I connect PiScreen using USB port and what can I do to achieve this?

    I shall be grateful for the response and any helpful details/insights into this.

    Thanks

    S

    1. first try loading the extended keyboard and see if that gives you what you want
      matchbox-keyboard extended

      Otherwise, read the README in the source directory. It has a section titled “Making your own keyboard layouts”

  5. I could not get the toggle script to work properly until I changed the line:
    PID=’pidof matchbox-keyboard’
    To this:
    PID=$(pidof matchbox-keyboard)

    It would only keep launching additional keyboards before making this change.

    I can’t tell you exactly why… I just kept looking at examples of scripts and looking for other ways to write it until I got it to work.

  6. Hello,

    I have change

    matchbox-keyboard -s 75 extended&

    In:

    sudo nano /usr/bin/toggle-matchbox-keyboard.sh

    But, when i launch the matchbox on the menu, it alway launch the “Standart” non extended keyboard. what’s wrong?

    Alors after changer text in ~/.config/lxpanel/LXDE/panels/panel and rebboted the device, the line i have editer have diseapear, now , POWER and LOCK icon has diseaper from the taskbar, i dont know why

    1. Hello,

      It’s now working, i have erase all space or “tab” space and now it’s working (on your example, have space and Tab and i have delete it and woking great now)

      I have just a question, it is possible to have a “more extended” keyboard (like with Up,Down,Right,Left, inser, home, delete, etc… Key)?

      Best regards.

      Etienne

  7. I have followed the installation instructions and the standard matchbox keyboard works fine. When I try to get the extended version to work:

    matchbox-keyboard extended

    I get “Segmentation fault”. Can you help me troubleshoot this?

    1. Default and extended work for me, but any of the others gives me a segfault. I can only assume that the older layouts are duffed. I’m running on Raspberry Pi 3 and a 7″ touchscreen wit Jessie

  8. This edit location has changed for the Pi2
    pi@raspberrypi ~ $ nano ~/.config/lxpanel/LXDE/panels/panel
    it is now
    pi@raspberrypi ~ $ nano ~/.config/lxpanel/LXDE-pi/panels/panel
    Will this affect any of the coding?
    It seems to work.

  9. I executed all steps in the tuturial, but same as frans (AUGUST 29, 2014 AT 1:20 AM) I get the following error message:

    matchbox-keyboard: error while loading shared libraries: libmatchbox-keyboard.so.0: cannot open shared object file: No such file or directory

    uname -a
    Linux raspberrypi 3.18.9-v7+ #767 SMP PREEMPT Sat Mar 7 21:52:35 GMT 2015 armv7l GNU/Linux

    Can you please advise? Thanks

      1. Hi Fernando, I appreciate your reply. However:

        “libmatchbox1 is already the newest version.”

        Any other advise?

        Thanks,
        Guus

  10. Hi all, first of all Mark I appreciate all the work that has gone in to this. Very useful tool for the pi with the small touchscreen. First of all the tutorial is well written and concise which I appreciate. In the line “X-MB-INPUT-MECHANSIM=True” is it supposed to be MECHANISM or how its typed? I also have run through this two times. The first time I felt that I had missed installing libmatchbox1 in the appropriate sequence so I reimaged and tried the script again installing libmatchbox at an earlier time. I still receive the
    matchbox-keyboard: error while loading shared libraries: libmatchbox-keyboard.so.0: cannot open shared object file: No such file or directory
    I am using the raspian pitft image PiTFT28R_raspbian140620_2014_08_25. I’ve checked the error logs and no error seems to be logged.

    Any and all advice is appreciated this tool would cure a number of remote uses I have in mind for this unit. thanks Jim

  11. Hi.
    I’ve installed the keyboard as per instructions but after running it I can’t open File Manager without a reboot and then if I run matchbox-keyboard File Manager will not open.

    Anyone else having this problem? How can I fix it?
    Thanks

    1. Hi,

      I also got the same problem as Matthew Grant, I just installed the virtual keyboard and cannot access the file manager.
      Has anybody found the fix for this?

      thanks

    2. I had the same pb.
      I have change the toggle script to load the extended keyboard with 50 % size
      I have also set the keyboard to be always on top. (top left corner menu)
      And now it is ok.
      It is strange but I suspect something with the default full size !

  12. Should the keybord disappear when I touch the launchbar’s icon? Because I get a second keyboard…
    Any suggestions?

  13. Hello!
    I already installed matchbox-keyboard with described steps and everything works fine. But this is quite old version, and I need options to control position and size of keyboard.
    I found new version and I had try to build matchbox-keyboard 1.5 from site: https://github.com/xlab/matchbox-keyboard

    I had git cloned project and run following commands:
    git clone https://github.com/xlab/matchbox-keyboard.git
    cd machbox-keyboard
    ./autogen.sh

    and when run make, I got following errors:

    make all-recursive
    make[1]: Entering directory ‘/home/pi/matchbox-keyboard_/matchbox-keyboard’
    Making all in src
    make[2]: Entering directory ‘/home/pi/matchbox-keyboard_/matchbox-keyboard/src’
    /bin/bash ../libtool –tag=CC –mode=link gcc -g -O2 -o matchbox-keyboard matchbox-keyboard.o matchbox-keyboard-image.o matchbox-keyboard-layout.o matchbox-keyboard-row.o matchbox-keyboard-key.o matchbox-keyboard-ui.o matchbox-keyboard-xembed.o matchbox-keyboard-remote.o config-parser.o util-list.o util.o matchbox-keyboard-ui-xft-backend.o -lX11 -lXtst -lfakekey -lXft -lexpat -lpng12
    libtool: link: gcc -g -O2 -o matchbox-keyboard matchbox-keyboard.o matchbox-keyboard-image.o matchbox-keyboard-layout.o matchbox-keyboard-row.o matchbox-keyboard-key.o matchbox-keyboard-ui.o matchbox-keyboard-xembed.o matchbox-keyboard-remote.o config-parser.o util-list.o util.o matchbox-keyboard-ui-xft-backend.o -lX11 -lXtst -lfakekey -lXft /usr/lib/arm-linux-gnueabihf/libexpat.so -lpng12
    /usr/bin/ld: matchbox-keyboard-ui-xft-backend.o: undefined reference to symbol ‘XRenderComposite’
    //usr/lib/arm-linux-gnueabihf/libXrender.so.1: error adding symbols: DSO missing from command line
    collect2: ld returned 1 exit status
    Makefile:361: recipe for target ‘matchbox-keyboard’ failed
    make[2]: *** [matchbox-keyboard] Error 1
    make[2]: Leaving directory ‘/home/pi/matchbox-keyboard_/matchbox-keyboard/src’
    Makefile:416: recipe for target ‘all-recursive’ failed
    make[1]: *** [all-recursive] Error 1
    make[1]: Leaving directory ‘/home/pi/matchbox-keyboard_/matchbox-keyboard’
    Makefile:305: recipe for target ‘all’ failed
    make: *** [all] Error 2

    Since I’m new in RPI and linux, can anyone help to resolve this issue and install this version ?

    Thank you !

  14. Hi.
    when I run this keyboard program any files or folders on my desktop disappear and cannot be seen until a restart, has anyone else had this issue? anyone know a fix?

    1. As a workaround to fix this issue, I’ve edited my /usr/bin/toggle-matchbox-keyboard.sh to show extended layout at 75% width as follows (note the change in ‘else’ statement):

      #!/bin/bash
      #This script toggle the virtual keyboard

      PID=`pidof matchbox-keyboard`
      if [ ! -e $PID ]; then
      killall matchbox-keyboard
      else
      matchbox-keyboard -s 75 extended &
      fi

      This is based on Joe’s observation that 75% screen with extended layout is working good.

  15. Note: the command for configuring the taskbar on Raspbian Jesse (R-Pi 2) should be
    “pi@raspberrypi ~ $ nano ~/.config/lxpanel/LXDE-pi/panels/panel”
    not
    “pi@raspberrypi ~ $ nano ~/.config/lxpanel-pi/LXDE/panels/panel”

  16. +Mark Williams: I am a total newbie to linux. On Step3 I pasted the code Create a new file and a terminal window pops up. Then I copied the next code window and pasted it into the termina window. THEN WHAT do I press to continue … before [in a new terminal window, I assume] We will now add an item to the start menu. Please add newbie baby-steps to your instructions – THANKS.

      1. +Mark Williams: ok that worked and so did “make it executable”
        Had an error on add item to start menu: it asks File Name to Write:$top
        I pressed <- return and got
        [Error writing /usr/local/share/applications/toggle-matchbox-keyboard.desktop]

        … thanks for the handholding

      2. Mark –
        I can confirm “toggle martchbox keyboard” is NOT in the start menu.
        And i botched-up something and the Menu>Applications>Keyboard does not work any more.

        Also yes to SUDO as I cut/pasted exactly per your instructions.

        QUESTION: is there any Pi equivalent to TeamViewer so your could “see” what I’m seeing on my 7: Pi display and with SSH correct the code?

        FYI – George Fetters [met him at the MeetUp this Saturday in St. Charles] will be here tomorrow night so hopefully he can resolve several matters. I’ll also be at the Feb 20 meetup in St. Charles – hope you’ll be there too so we can meet.

        Jim

      3. Mark:
        “toggle martchbox keyboard” is NOT in the start menu
        I copied/ pasted each line from your post so YES on SUDO if it was in your post

        George Fetters coming over here Thursday night – I’m sure he can help.
        I’ll also be at the Feb 20 meetup in St. Charles – hope to see you there

        Jim

      4. “toggle martchbox keyboard” NOT in the start menu
        if SUDO was in your instructions then I cut/pasted it in.
        George Fetters will be at my house Thurs [tomorrow] – I’m sure he can help.
        Jim

  17. … however it DOES now appear in the Menu > Applications > Pop-Out list of choices – and works just fine. Still needing help with above error “adding item to start menu”. Thanks. Jim.

    1. Just confirming, if you have “toggle martchbox keyboard” in the start menu and it turns on and off the keybaord, I think you can disregard the error message.
      If it still isnt working, can you confirm you entered ‘sudo’ before nano

      1. “toggle martchbox keyboard” NOT in the start menu
        if SUDO was in your instructions then I cut/pasted it in.
        George Fetters will be at my house Thurs [tomorrow] – I’m sure he can help.
        Jim

  18. Mark
    I restarted from step 1.
    In Step 2 you CD to matchbox-keyboard
    pi@raspberrypi ~ $ git clone https://github.com/mwilliams03/matchbox-keyboard.git
    pi@raspberrypi ~ $ cd matchbox-keyboard
    pi@raspberrypi ~ $ ./autogen.sh
    pi@raspberrypi ~ $ make
    pi@raspberrypi ~ $ sudo make install

    but you never CD back to root ? So I ended up running the last 3 commands as
    ~/matchbox-keyboard $ ./autogen.sh
    ~/matchbox-keyboard $ make
    ~/matchbox-keyboard $ sudo make install

    ~/matchbox-keyboard $ sudo apt-get install libmatchbox1 -y

    and so forth until I realized my error and CD back to root
    then
    pi@nutonePi ~/matchbox-keyboard $ cd
    pi@nutonePi ~ $ sudo nano /usr/bin/toggle-matchbox-keyboard.sh
    pi@nutonePi ~ $ sudo nano /usr/local/share/applications/toggle-matchbox-keyboard.desktop
    pi@nutonePi ~ $ nano ~/.config/lxpanel/LXDE/panels/panel

    I am using RASPBIAN JESSIE so I ran:
    pi@nutonePi ~ $ nano ~/.config/lxpanel/LXDE-pi/panels/panel

    And could NOT find and replace this section of code
    Plugin {
    type = launchbar
    Config {
    Button {
    id=lxde-screenlock.desktop
    }
    Button {
    id=lxde-logout.desktop
    }
    }

    NOW what should i do?

  19. i need to reflash the 8gb chip and start over.
    In trying to get the keyboard to work I’ve messed up so much I just need to start over and WAIT for some experienced people to help me.

    My big question for you, Mark, is in your step 2 instruction set:
    You show:
    pi@raspberrypi ~ $ git clone https://github.com/mwilliams03/matchbox-keyboard.git
    pi@raspberrypi ~ $ cd matchbox-keyboard
    pi@raspberrypi ~ $ ./autogen.sh
    pi@raspberrypi ~ $ make
    pi@raspberrypi ~ $ sudo make install

    shouldn’t it show:
    pi@raspberrypi ~ $ git clone https://github.com/mwilliams03/matchbox-keyboard.git
    pi@raspberrypi ~ $ cd matchbox-keyboard
    pi@raspberrypi ~ /matchbox-keyboard $ ./autogen.sh
    pi@raspberrypi ~ /matchbox-keyboard $ make
    pi@raspberrypi ~ /matchbox-keyboard $ sudo make install

    then
    pi@raspberrypi ~ /matchbox-keyboard $ cd
    pi@raspberrypi ~ $
    [now user is ready for step 3]

    I’m a very ancient DOS user and expect the Linux command line to work the same way.
    THAT is what has me greatly confused.

    Blessings, Jim

    1. Jim, i think I have found the problem. In step 3. when you need to create the .desktop file.. the location for Jessie is different. I will update the instructions above
      /usr/share/applications/toggle-matchbox-keyboard.desktop

  20. Mark, very good job. Like it very much.
    The Install prerequisite development files line is not working for me but doing this in separate steps it works.
    My problem is after reboot the cpu is 0% but after first use of the keyboard it stays at 25%
    What is the pi doing here?
    From that state doing a reboot the screen will get black with a blinking cursor top left.
    And stays there like frozen.
    After cutting the power reboot will take place.

    Oh most important is that after first use of keyboard the file manager is no longer working.
    That needs to be fixed.

    1. OK. I admit. My Fault.
      I should have read the comments more carefully.

      My problems occur only on default compilation / installation.
      After chosen another keyboard (the extended) in 75%
      everything seems to be ok now.
      CPU load is 0%
      File manager is fully usable.
      Reboot is as fast as before (immediate)

      Sorry for confusion.

      Last question:
      Is there a repository one can load and download keyboards?
      so nobody has to invent the same over and over again?

      Regards Joe

  21. I’m not able to execute “make” following message: make: *** No targets specified and no makefile found. Stop.”
    What is my problem?

  22. Hi, I have a problem i can’t install the Matchbox libraries

    So I have icon of Toggle Matchbox Keyboard but I can’t open it
    Anyone else having this problem? How can I solve it?
    Thanks

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