Since the introduction of custom keyboards in iOS 8 at this year’s WWDC, we’ve seen a few implementations come from developers preparing solutions aiming to make the typing experience more convenient on the iPhone. Taphive’s ThemeBoard is something else — it’s a keyboard that mostly acts like Apple’s, but you can customize it with designs from the community.
When Apple releases iOS 8 this fall, users will be able to download the ThemeBoard app from the App Store like any other app. After choosing ThemeBoard as their keyboard in Settings, you’ll be able to go into the app and choose between a variety of keyboard designs submitted from the community.
Designers won’t just be submitting designs for “exposure.” ThemeBoard will let designers set prices for their submissions, which will then become available as in-app purchases, with a cut going to the designer. Though the Taphive team doesn’t expect the keyboard to be available until late next month, they’ve already accepted designs from prominent designers in the Apple developer community, including Christain Billings, one of the Apple Design Award winners behind Hours.
In a chat with Taphive co-founder Asem Hassan, he explained that the studio wants to enable designers to release their own keyboards without having to do all of the coding work that goes into them behind the scenes. Apple doesn’t provide many common features — Taphive had to build its own autocorrect, word suggestions, and behavior for things like having the shift key automatically enabled when you correct a word that was already capitalized.
To that end, it’s making it as easy as possible for designers to get their work into ThemeBoard. While the data for each custom design is saved in a .plist file, designers don’t have to mess with that at all — ThemeBoard provides them a template, they put their design on top of it in whatever illustration program they like, and Taphive does all of the conversion on their end. Eventually, the startup plans to release a native keyboard designer for the Mac that will cut out other software from the process and maybe even let designers have an impact on the functionality of the keyboard as well.
In addition to searching for individual designs, users will be able to install packs of designs focused on themes, like “holidays.” In addition, app developers will be able to create ThemeBoard designs that can be unlocked when their app is installed.
Here’s an early look at the keyboard selection screen as well as a few designs that will be available: