Text Input

How are key events sent from the keyboard?

  • SystemChannels.keyEvent exposes a messaging channel that receives raw key data whenever the platform produces keyboard events.

  • RawKeyboard subscribes to this channel and forwards incoming messages as RawKeyEvent instances (which encapsulate RawKeyEventData). Physical and logical interpretations of the event are exposed via RawKeyEvent.physicalKey and RawKeyEvent.logicalKey, respectively. The character produced is available as RawKeyEvent.character but only for RawKeyDownEvent events. This field accounts for modifier keys / past keystrokes producing null for invalid combinations or a dart string, otherwise.

  • The physical key identifies the actual position of the key that was struck, expressed as the equivalent key on a standard QWERTY keyboard. The logical key ignores position, taking into account any mappings or layout changes to produce the actual key the user intended.

  • Subclasses of RawKeyEventData interpret platform-specific data to categorize the keystroke in a portable way (RawKeyEventDataAndroid, RawKeyEventDataMacOs)

What is an IME?

  • IME stands for “input method editor,” which corresponds to any sort of on-screen text editing interface, such as the software keyboard. There can only be one active IME at a time.

How does Flutter interact with IMEs?

  • SystemChannels.textInput exposes a method channel that implements a transactional interface for interacting with an IME. Operations are scoped to a given transaction (client), which is implicit once created. Outbound methods support configuring the IME, showing/hiding UI, and update editing state (including selections); inbound methods handle IME actions and editing changes. Convenient wrappers for this protocol make much of this seamless.

What are the building blocks for interacting with an IME?

  • TextInput.attach federates access to the IME, setting the current client (transaction) that can interact with the keyboard.

  • TextInputClient is an interface to receive information from the IME. Once attached, clients are notified via method invocation when actions are invoked, the editing value is updated, or the cursor is moved.

  • TextInputConnection is returned by TextInput.attach and allows the IME to be altered. In particular, the editing state can be changed, the IME shown, and the connection closed. Once closed, if no other client attaches within the current animation frame, the IME will also be hidden.

  • TextInputConfiguration encapsulates configuration data sent to the IME when a client attaches. This includes the desired input type (e.g., “datetime”, “emailAddress”, “phone”) for which to optimize the IME, whether to enable autocorrect, whether to obscure input, the default action, capitalization mode (TextCapitalization), and more.

  • TextInputAction enumerates the set of special actions supported on all platforms (e.g., “emergencyCall”, “done”, “next”). Actions may only be used on platforms that support them. Actions have no intrinsic meaning; developers determine how to respond to actions themselves.

  • TextEditingValue represents the current text, selection, and composing state (range being edited) for a run of text.

  • RawFloatingCursorPoint represents the position of the “floating cursor” on iOS, a special cursor that appears when the user force presses the keyboard. Its position is reported via the client, including state changes (RawFloatingCursorDragState).