RockBox UI Improvements

version 0.3 - incomplete

What follows is a collection of improvements that I would like to see made to the RockBox UI. They are grouped into logical categories. Some of the suggestions may however depend on each other to work properly.


I hope to improve on the rockbox UI in the following areas:

New Button Mapping

The following new mapping of the rockbox buttons is designed to allow faster navigation to common views such as the main menu, the player view, the playlist view and the file explorer. It also provides a cleaner division of navigating between views and navigating within a view.

Global Keys

A single tap of one of the four view button will switch to that view. If that view is already active, it will simply reactivate the blacklight (a useful feature by itself).

The following image highlights the four View buttons (and the back button) and shows which button is associated with each view.

Local Navigation Keys

The remaining keys are free for navigation. (Navigation is loosely defined; and includes navigation within a user interface (such as the file explorer), navigating within a song or collection of songs (the player view) or changing settings in a QuickPreferences Overlay (discussed later)

QuickPreferences overlays

QuickPreferences overlays allow you to set common system preferences quickly. This is an extension of the preferences panels that appear when pressing f2 or f3 in rockbox 1.4

There is a quickpreferences overlay associated with each of the 4 view buttons. (Main Menu, Player View, Playlist View and Explorer View)

Activating the Overlays

There are 2 ways to bring up a quickPreferences overlay:

press and hold (2 handed operation)

When you press and hold a view button, the associated QuickPreferences overlay will appear until you release it. While it is depressed, you can use the Local navigation keys to change the (up to 5) preferences provided on that overlay.

This is identical to the way the pitch control works in Rockbox 1.4.


If you doubleclick on a view button in rapid succesion, the overlay will stay open until you use a Global Navigation Key to go to a view.

...While the overlay is open you can use the local navigation keys to change preferences.

You can return to the view you came from by tapping the "back" button (hardware off button). You may also go to any other view by pressing the associated view button.

Overlay keymappings

These are a rough draft, and are simply grouped rather than worrying which property goes with each of the five local navigation keys.

Main Menu QuickPreferences (on)

Player View QuickPreferences (F1)

Playlist View QuickPreferences (F2)

Explorer View QuickPreferences (F3)

The Player Hardware

This is the only time I refer to the player; I don't have one so this is just an outline. The player has less buttons and less screen real-estate so the interface is not as rich; although we are going to make it capable of doing the same things with a few extra keystrokes.

warning: the off button is a long press of the stop button (which we are using for down); thus it can only be tapped.

note: because of the smaller screen and less buttons; the player has no quickmenus at all. (You must use the preferences option of the main menu to set these settings.)

notice that all the buttons are used for local navigation except the menu key; which, when tapped, will ALWAYS bring the user back to the main menu.

menu key

Like I said, the menu key will always brign the user to the main menu. When the menu key is held in combination we go directly to the player view, the playlist view and the explorer view. This is to make up for the lack of f1-f3 keys on the player.

menu keymappings

combo key

the on key is used as a shift key on the player. We use it to pretend that the player has more buttons. I call it the combo key to prevent confusion with the Pc keyboard.

this allows the user to continue using on+left/on+right to change the volume in the player view. The combo key would be used in other places as appropriate.

Q and A

Q) explain how this is more consistent and improves navigation.

A) well a couple things.

For one example; consider this situation; you do not know what state the jukebox is in and you want to go to the next track. In 1.4 recorder, there is no keystroke combination that can get you to the player view no matter where you are located within the menus; With this system; you can get to the player view at any time by tapping f1; and proceed to the next track with the right arrow key. (in the player model it also works; just replace "f1" with "menu+left" or you can always navigate the main menu with "menu, right" to get to the player view.)

Q) what about future stuff like a recording feature?

A) 2 things.

Ideally; we would make F1-F3 user selectable. In my document I map: F1=player view, F2=playlist view, F3=explorer view.

(If we were to use f2 for a recording view, this would also change the f2 overlay menus to show recording preferences instead of playlist ones.)

Don't forget, all views will still be available in the updated main menu.

Q) How would I do something basic like change shuffle settings while in the player view.

A) Because of support for both the hold and tap menu or the doubletap menu, there are two ways to do this.

(in this sample I am mapping the shuffle setting toggle to the left navigation key)

The faster solution (which requires both hands or nimble fingers): Press and hold f1, tap the left key, release f1.

The solution when it's buried in your backpack... Doubleclick F1, tap left, tap either: f1 or back (off).

You can use either because the back button closes the overlay, returning them to the view they were in, and the f1 key simply takes them to the player view (where they just so happen to be; they could just as easily go to the playlist instead by pressing f2.)