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The 1.79/1.80 Releases

The 1.79 release of the My-T-Soft family incorporates 2 main additions - visual Themes and the Touch Panel. Updates also include various settings and capabilities that have been requested by customers or to address installation issues or operational issues that could use more flexibility. Readers should know that we are at the eve of the software's 20 year anniversary, and there are many features & capabilities that only a well established, mature piece of software could contain. There are also a few other important developments, in that the 1.79 release is only for Vista/7, while the 1.80 release is exclusively for Windows 8.

The IMG Product Disc has a 1.78 Release 5 with maintenance updates for 2000/XP, and it is anticipated to be the final release for those platforms. For many years, IMG strove to provide backwards compatibility, all while the regular high-tech industry threw everything out and cared little for adding features & addressing needs for older platforms. At this point, however, we find ourselves in an interesting situation. The industry is splintering into many platforms, so it becomes increasingly difficult to address each and every platform for each new feature, test & verify on each of those platforms, all to find out no one is particularly interested in that feature on a particular platform. The Windows platform now has numerous "flavors", and supporting customers means supporting more and more versions of Windows. In addition to the splintering of the Windows platform, Windows ceases to be the only platform relevant to our customers, and now with the cross-platform Build-A-Board, and future planned enhancements that will eventually encompass, then eclipse the capabilities of the 1.xx software, it is time to realistically look at managing the products in ways that work best for current and future customers. There is also a technical aspect that changes the way development & product releases can be managed, and this forces us to rework our product build and release processes. In the past, a complete DVD build was refined and fine tuned so a signed-off, well tested, and solid release for each product would get built and combined into a single build process, so a single "Make the IMG Product Disc" command was issued, and when you came back in several hours, you'd have the master disc. However, due to the splintered platforms, it now becomes impossible for that single master build machine to compile Windows 32-bit, Windows 64-bit, Windows CE platforms, Windows Server platforms, MacOSX platforms, Linux 32-bit/64-bit platforms, and future platforms - theoretically, it might be possible with virtual machines and some fancy footwork, but it also doesn't fit well with what is sensible, practical, and the best way to address customer wants and needs. Furthermore, as the world becomes more connected, what makes more sense is to drop the retail software requirement of a Product Disc (NOTE: We will still do Product Discs going forward, but they will be handled & managed as snapshots of release software vs. "a master chef bringing everything to the table all at once" type of approach). This frees development to focus on the more in-demand products, the more in-demand platforms, and treat older releases with a maintenance sort of mind-set (rather than another platform with which to test new features and capabilities).

Therefore the 1.79 release makes a break from the history and culmination of over 15 years of getting the Product Disc as the ultimate final result - in fact, the 1.78R4 DVD of 2009 will be the final disc made with that approach. The 1.79 release will incorporate 2 separate builds, 1 for the final 2000/XP 1.78 R5, and 1 for the 1.79 Vista/7 builds. In many ways, this comes as a liberating step, allowing IMG staff to focus on individual products and platforms based on customer demand, roll those updates (per product) into the mix, and then move forward. For example, the final 178R4 DVD had 3 types of install packages per 4 platforms, with a dozen products. Adding the USB installs and versions to the mix, well over 150 different combinations needed verification after the master build. If any update was required, everything needed to be tested and verified again after a new build. By limiting the scope to a single product, and limiting the supported platforms, a more responsive and quicker cycle can be realized for requested features and capabilities.

Now back to the new features in the Windows 7/Vista 1.79 release. The new visual Themes option is a user-friendly approach to the customizable painting options dating back to the 178 Release 2. The general trend in the high-tech world has been to be more visual, and in adding this feature, the effort was made to show-off what customized painting can do to the keyboard display in the My-T-Soft family (and make it easy to change the theme quickly and easily). This allows more "modern" looking on-screen keyboard displays to be created, and gives the user more options over the "look and feel" of the keyboard display. Each Theme is contained in the new THEMES folder, and the cycle within the keyboard is controlled by the ThemeList entry in the Initialization file - more themes can be added, an existing theme can be modified, or a theme can be locked down. The feature is somewhat open ended, and we anticipate addressing any user feedback, and adding more themes going forward.

The Touch Panel is actually a separate piece that will be available on systems with touch capability (or brought up by user demand) to allow a handful of touch features and user-interaction options. The Touch Panel will always be on the right or left-hand side of the keyboard display based on screen real estate and keyboard window position. On systems with Multi-Touch capability, the touch panel will be shown when first run, and will default to the Gestures option. There is also a Multi-Touch option, along with a regular touchscreen option. Because each mode offers some different user-interface options, we simply decided to support them all. By selecting the mode, the user can interact with the keyboard window as best matches their needs and desires. When the Touch Panel is available, the user can simply select the mode best suited for the task. We believe in practice, the Gestures seems to be the most useful and aligns more with user expectations, so it was chosen as the default.

There are 4 buttons on the Touch Panel - Change Theme, Multi-Touch select, Gesture Select, and a green Clear/Dismiss/Recall button. The Change Theme button cycles through the available themes, and changes the Keyboard display theme based on the next theme in the list. You can quickly review all themes by stepping through each with the Change Theme button (a button on a rainbow background, the center of the Touch Panel).

The Gesture mode is indicated by a sweeping line over a hand icon - when lit, the Gesture mode is in use, and when darkened, the Gesture mode is off. The gestures are managed by the MultiTouch.DLL (available in the IMG Developer's Kit), and are assigned as followed: Pinch/Zoom - Size-Down/Size-Up Keyboard; Drag/Sweep (Pan) - Move/Fling Keyboard; 2 finger Rotate - Change Theme; 2 finger tap/Press and tap - right-click event. When the keyboard is swept away, the MultiTouch.DLL approach will limit it to the top or bottom of the display, and then let you sweep it off-screen to the right or left. By design, when swept off-screen, the green recall button will be visible, able to recall the keyboard back to the screen.

The Multi-Touch mode is indicated by 3 circles under the fingers of a hand icon (to indicate multiple touches) - when lit, the Multi-Touch mode is in use, and when darkened, the Multi-Touch mode is off. The key aspect of the Multi-Touch mode is to allow multiple touches to interact with the keyboard - this allows you to hold down the Shift or Control key and continue to type. While more in-line with the way a physical keyboard works, it seems better suited to specialty applications, but may also be a function of ergonomics and screen positioning (and user preference).

The green Clear/Dismiss/Recall button is a multi-purpose button. When in the Gestures or Multi-Touch Mode, a green button will clear the mode. In this regular touchscreen mode, flicks are supported, and controlled by options within Windows control panel (for processing flicks within the system), and by the MultiTouch.DLL which reacts to the flick events. By default, a diagonal flick will perform a minimize event, and the horizontal flicks will move the keyboard up/down or off-screen left/right. When the keyboard window is visible, in the regular touchscreen mode, a green button press will dismiss the keyboard window off-screen. When off-screen, another touch will recall the keyboard.

There are various options available with how the touch panel operates configurable via the Initialization file as documented in the User's Guide. Also, by renaming or removing the MultiTouch.DLL, these specialized touchscreen interaction features can simply be disabled. Furthermore, the MultiTouch.DLL source code is available within the IMG Developer's Kit, and customized actions or modified actions are possible for developers/integrators.

Also included with the 1.79 release is the Ctrl+Alt+Delete Touchscreen logon button. For system policy / domain logon situations where a Ctrl+Alt+Delete security option is enforced, this Logon Utility option allows for a large red Ctrl+Alt+Delete button to be displayed and will interact with the system (when properly configured) to bypass the security screen without the need for a physical keyboard and an actual Ctrl+Alt+Delete keystroke combination. This allows a touchscreen/pen interface to easily & quickly dismiss this screen and operate without a physical keyboard.

There are various other updates in the 1.79 release, but less visual, less impactful to many users, but interesting nonetheless. Special options including Parallax settings and KeyBlockTime options allow fine tuning for different types of touchscreen technologies. The parallax settings can handle visual offsets when the touchscreen surface is separated from the display surface, and the key block time allows for more sensitive input devices. The Region options allow different shapes, including the rounded corners on some of the themes. There is now an option for locking latching keys (Shift, Control, and Alt). Other "behind the scenes" updates include the Zip/Unzip library tools, the SetProcessDPIAware call to ensure proper operation on high-DPI (Dots Per Inch) displays, 64-bit accommodation for system interface components, compile preparation for 64-bit builds, and various other maintenance items.

All in all, the 1.79 release continues to build on the ever more stable and ever more popular foundation of the original 1.xx code base. For our customers that find this classic approach to a flexible on-screen keyboard ideal for their needs, this release brings them even more capabilities.

With the release of Windows 8 in late 2012, all while the 1.79 release was being finalized, it became clear that a distinct release for Windows 8 was required, so the 1.80 was established, but primarily focused on additional enhancements to the 1.79 release that made sense for Windows 8. The new Start Screen (ImmersiveLauncher class) (or the new Start Menu (once called Metro) Interface screens) essentially created a new desktop environment (treating the classic desktop as just another tile / option). In order for My-T-Soft to make sense, it needed to appear and be functional in the new environment. As it turns out, a few tricks with the manifest and a digitally code-signed executable allowed this operation, and although we played around with the docking options, we felt the already normal functionality in My-T-Soft was more conducive to operating within this new environment. The code-signing requirement is an interesting because of its pros and cons (Note: IMG has code-signed their releases for many years now). The positive side is the security and the level of trust provided to customers by seeing just who published the software they are running. The negative side is that it adds costs to performing certain types of functionality within the Windows operating system. From the technical standpoint, it does require IMG's software to run from specific locations (i.e. \Program Files).

Some notable updates in the 1.80 release are new Start Screen options in the My-T-Soft Logon Utilities. One can have My-T-Soft start with the Start Screen, and optionally go direct to the classic Desktop (Boot-to-Desktop), and/or start minimized, and/or bypass the opening splash screen. To accommodate various security and implementation scenarios, there are additional executables provided with the requestedExecutionLevel preset - asInvoker, highestAvailable, and requireAdministrator. These can be used to address UIPI (User Interface Privilege Isolation) issues in scenarios where a required application runs at a higher privilege than the actual user. Due to the user interface aspects of an onscreen keyboard, User Account Control options, and scenarios when a launched application is elevated, offering these options can resolve potential problems where the keyboard process (My-T-Soft) cannot type into the elevated program (which is not a desired result). Also, the IMG installer has been updated to operate without using the ZIP format, but rather use the IMG PKG format, which compresses a bit better than the old standard ZIP. This also allows for a bit more flexibility during installs, and brings all functions / options within the installation software. The IMG Smart Download is a small executable that grabs the current download map, then downloads the correct version to match the product selected for the current version of Windows. This streamlines the whole installation process, and allows for more flexibility as the number of customers running various versions of Windows proliferates.

The 1.80 version also updates My-T-Soft TS for Windows Server 2012 - this allows Remote Desktop Users options to run My-T-Soft from a server. Many customers using this have various type of terminals or external systems, and this update brings the most recent release features and capabilities to the Windows Server environment.

For customers, splitting up versions based on operating system support is different than in the past, so being aware of these changes and how they may affect ordering and support options is important. We strongly recommend all customers with any installed base to get on our Annual Maintenance programs so that when rolling out new systems with a different version of Windows, there is no need to go through an upgrade purchase. We anticipate a more dynamic set of options and release updates, and want to provide as seamless an experience as possible, but this is reserved for customers who are on one of these annual programs. This round of releases just continues the 2 decades of milestones, with some of the more interesting things still on the horizon.

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