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Palette - Use all the colours on your Series 7 / netBook / netPad...!

Page Created: 23rd July, 2003

Last update: 15th January, 2005


images/PaletteIcon.gif (32Kb, v1.01)

Compatible with: Psion netBookPsion Series 7  (& netPad)

Palette - Use all the colours on your Series 7 / netBook / netPad...!

What is Palette?:

Use all the colours on your Series7, netBook or netPad...!

The EPOC ER5 Operating System on these machines supports 256 colours. However, the built-in graphics app, Sketch, only offers a very modest 16 colours. By modern PDA standards, 8-bit (256 colour) colour depth is pretty humble, but compared to just sixteen colours, it opens up the potential for a great deal more subtlety in colouring images.

Sadly, Sketch's apparently very limited capability in this regard, restricts the quality of the colour graphics that can be produced with it to the sophistication of a rudimentary child's crayon set! The irony is that it could easily have been made capable of much more when the original built-in ER5 Psion apps were rewritten for the new colour machines. Palette was conceived & developed to compensate for this deficiency, as far as possible.

First of all, let us state what Palette is not! It isn't a standalone 256-colour graphics application or, strictly, a plug-in for Sketch which upgrades it into a 256-colour version. It is a separate app. but, once launched, this utility integrates so seamlessly with Sketch (we hope!) that it gives the appearance of being part of it. This is essential in making the 'hidden' colour capability of Sketch not just accessible, but usable for practical purposes, i.e. without requiring excessive user effort/time with stylus or keyboard.

What is Sketch?!:

Within the graphics limitations of a Psion, Sketch is actually a highly capable drawing and image manipulation program and already has the ability to handle the full ER5 colour palette. It is directly accessing & using the extra 240 colours which has not been implemented! In using Sketch to generate its own drawings, this would never become apparent to the casual user - it seems to be a little known fact that Sketch can manipulate ER5's 256-colour palette. All the extra colours are displayed by Sketch and are handled by its image editing functions in just the same way as the 16 'built-in' colours. The difficulty lies in generating these colours from scratch, within Sketch.

How does Palette work?:

Critically, as well as being able to import 256-colour MBM images into Sketch, its clipboard can handle the full ER5 colour palette, in exactly the same way as any of its 'natural' sixteen colours. This was demonstrated by the earliest testing of the concept behind Palette; a 256-colour palette was generated on a PC and converted into a read-only Sketch image. Selecting an area within one of its colour swatches, copying it, and then opening another Sketch file and keying Ctrl+V, successfully pasted the same non-native colour, thus enabling any of EPOC's 256 colours to be introduced into a working Sketch drawing. In this simplest form, using such an extended palette (EP), 'manually', enables Sketch to be used to generate 256-colour graphics.

The advantage of Palette is that it replaces the use of this separate Sketch file and develops it into a more integrated, efficient & powerful tool. It condenses the full EPOC palette into a window that can be easily brought up over a working Sketch and provides a user-friendly interface and quicker means of copy & pasting desired EP colours into the underlying drawing. The fundamental 'trick' to doing this is 'reverse engineering' the structure of Sketch's clipboard and manipulating it directly from Palette. Palette has been designed to be as simple & quick (and, hopefully, intuitive) as possible; not only as a virtue, in itself, but to make its use in parallel with Sketch as minimalistic as possible. This is important since, when colouring a complex or large image, it will probably be called up many times.

Quick Start Guide:

If you read nothing else, read this! Most users (including myself!) tend to just install a new app, and start to 'play' with it straight away; they only refer to the Help file if & when they experience a difficulty in using some feature! Hopefully, Palette is user friendly enough to use 'straight out of the box' and its slightly more subtle & advanced features should become self-explanatory by just trying them out. However, there are some features of Sketch which are not widely known (and not all explicitly documented in Psion's own onboard Help) and which you may not be familiar with. They are not only very useful features for use within Sketch, generally; they are also crucial to making the most efficient & productive use of Palette's ability to enhance the power of Sketch. These techniques are described in detail, elsewhere in the Help file, but the essential features are outlined below.

To start using Palette, just first open a file in Sketch and then launch Palette from the Extras bar (the default preference settings will suffice, initially) - a window will appear over your working Sketch, showing all the colours now available to you in Sketch, using Palette. Simply tap on the desired colour to select it; tap on 'Copy' to send that colour to Sketch's clipboard; tap on 'Min' to minimise the Palette window and key Ctrl+V to paste a 'swatch' of the selected colour onto the underlying Sketch. Just as with any other pasting operation, the pasted pixel(s) will be still be 'floating' at this point and may be dragged around the screen (or moved using the cursor keys), until in the required position; tapping outside the swatch (or keying 'Enter') will 'fix' the swatch in its current location. As with any other drawing, editing, image manipulation or clipboard operation within Sketch, any Palette generated actions can be undone, using Ctrl+Z (5 undo/redo levels are available).

Note, that before it is fixed, a floating swatch can be resized by dragging on one of the 'handles' on its perimeter, either linearly using a side (edge) handle or proportionally using a corner one. Moreover, once fixed, any same-colour block can be extended, homogeneously, by first defining it with the Select Area tool and then extending the colour area in any single (linear) or dual (diagonal) direction. This is, in fact just a specific usage of Sketch's (proportional) resizing function. Given that Sketch cannot directly paint in anything but its basic sixteen colours, this is an essential tool for the realising of Palette's full utility and is also as near a facility as Sketch has to a 'flood-fill' tool.

Palette Preferences:

These comprise six user-selectable options:

(i) AutoSelect: Checking this option allows an EP colour button to be double-tapped to select and copy it to the clipboard. This saves tapping the 'Copy' button (or keying 'Enter').
With only this option enabled, tap once on an EP button to preview/select it; tap a second time to copy it to the clipboard; tap on the Hide/Minimise button to bring Sketch to the foreground (or tap anywhere outside the Palette window to minimise it); key Ctrl+V to paste in the floating swatch.

(ii) AutoPaste: This option automatically pastes a floating EP colour swatch into the underlying Sketch as soon as it is copied to the clipboard. This saves two stylus/keyboard operations (Hide/Minimise and Paste).
With this option enabled only, tap once on an EP button to preview/select it; tap on 'Copy' to send it to the clipboard, hide/minimise Palette and paste into Sketch.
With AutoSelect option enabled, as well, tap once on an EP button to preview/select it; and tap a second time to copy it to the clipboard, hide/minimise Palette and paste into Sketch, i.e. just two pen inputs at the same location - a double tap - required to select any one of Palette's 256 colours and paste it into a drawing.

(iii) AutoMinimise: This option selects whether Palette may be hidden or minimised from its toolbar button. With 'Min' selected, Palette will minimise to the top right corner of the screen from where it may be tapped to restore it; with 'Hide' selected, it will disappear to the background. It may be returned to the foreground by using the Hotkey, the Extras Bar icon or 'Open Files/Programs' dialog box.
The AutoMinimise option selected will also determine whether Palette is sent to background or minimised when AutoPasting is activated.
Whichever option is toggled on, tapping outside Palette's maximised window will always minimise it.

(iv) RGB Codes: Selects whether the Red-Green-Blue colour code for the previewed EP colour is displayed in Hex code or Decimal form. These are the values used by EPOC ER5 to define colours displayed on-screen.

(v) Paste Size: This provides the user with a choice of three swatch sizes to be pasted into the underlying Sketch by Palette - one, two or five pixels square.
Remember that floating swatches may be resized into larger or smaller quadrilateral swatches by dragging their sides/corners, prior to fixing.

(vi) Hotkey: Allows the user to change the key which, combined with 'Ctrl+Fn' returns Palette to the foreground, when hidden or minimised.

Version history:

Support added for German machines

Initial public release

Future plans...:

These are just some of the ideas we've had for future enhancements. But just because they are (or are not) listed here isn't necessarily any indication that they'll definitely happen - they're just ideas for now...!

AutoDrag n'Drop
Drag-able Palette window
Minimise to user selectable toolbar colour button instead of top right corner, reselect obscured button by 'drag & snap to' alternative
User selectable paste size option
Selective colour-themed extended palettes, e.g. reds, blues, greens, with bigger buttons for colour comparison/selection


Undoubtedly, Palette would not exist were it not for the persistence of one man - Mr. Lewis Barton.

If I remember correctly, he and I came to the realisation more or less at the same time that you could cut and paste any of the Psion's 256 available colours into Sketch. However, it was Lewis who mooted the original idea for Palette and it was Lewis who encouraged, cajoled, guided, nagged, managed, etc. me and above all, alpha-tested the heck out've everything! All I did was type in the code in the correct order (usually!). So if you want to thank anyone for Palette, thank Lewis!

I also need to pay some thanks to Kevin Millican. It was his little WebCol application that gave me the idea for the layout of Palette - thanks Kevin.

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