Most popular user interface projects for Linux phones are designed to be finger-friendly in the same way that Android and iOS are. So while phosh, Plasma Mobile, Lomiri, and other user interfaces are all distinctive, most feature things like big app icons, status bars, and other navigation elements.
And then there’s Sxmo. Described as a “collection of simple and suckless X programs and scripts,” this made-for-Pinephone software lets you navigate using the phone’s power and volume keys. For example, you can open an application-specific context menu by tapping the volume up key, then use the up and down arrows to navigate and the power button to select your choice.
It’s… honestly kind of tedious.
Fortunately Sxmo also supports touch input. So you can, for example, tap the power button once to bring up an on-screen keyboard and then type out a search or command.
And now, starting with Sxmo version 1.2.0, you can also use gesture-based navigation for a bunch of actions.
Don’t want to press the power button to bring up the keyboard? Now you can just swipe up from the bottom of the screen, and then swipe down to hide the keyboard when you’re done typing.
You can also swipe down from the top of the display to open menus, swipe left to right atop the top of the screen to adjust the display brightness, or up and down the left edge to adjust the audio volume.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Here’s a graphic from the Sxmo user manual that shows the gestures. Note that most gestures are performed with a single finger, but if you see a “2f,” that means swipe in the indicated direction with two fingers.
In some ways, it’s a lot easier than navigating through a series of nested menus to perform these actions. But it’s also not exactly the most intuitive set of gesture controls. This is not the sort of UI that you’ll figure out on your own by fiddling with your phone for a few minutes. I’d definitely recommend checking out the user manual, or perhaps watching a useful video overview like the one that proycon published recently.
If you want to give Sxmo a try, you can find installation instructions at the project’s sourcehut page. Or just check out proycon’s video to see the software in action: