Features, Features, Features!

Bluetooth keyboards, snipping, image saving, and more.

Hello everybody,

We released a big update to Softspace today, containing awesome new tools that we've been working hard on for the past six weeks. These tools make Softspace a more productive virtual workspace. They mainly have to do with built-in browser, because the web is such a powerful window into all the other productivity tools that we rely on in our workflows. With full bluetooth keyboard support, working in web apps like Notion is getting very close to the desktop experience. We've added two new tools for getting information from the web into your Softspace workspace—snipping and image saving. There are also a whole bunch of tweaks and fixes that continue to improve Softspace's Fingerspitzengefühl.

Working with these new features has only gotten us more excited for the future of Softspace—and more impatient build everything else on our roadmap! As we implement features, new possibilities emerge for how Softspace can be used, which then highlights those tools that are still missing. We know that many of you feel the same, because we get emails all the time along the lines of, "This is awesome, but when will I be able to do [X]??" We hear you! Good work takes time, but please continue reaching with your feedback and feature ideas. You're helping us to prioritize among the many things we could build at any given time. Reach us here → hi@soft.space

Finally, a word on something much, much bigger than Softspace: In many places around the world, strict limits on public life have been reimposed to stem the second coronavirus wave. Unlike the first time around, the days are getting darker (in the northern hemisphere), government support has been slow to arrive, and social-distancing fatigue is stretching us thin. We've all seen sunnier days, and despite knowing that we'll see them again: it's tough. I sincerely wish you and yours good health and good cheer heading into this strangest of holiday seasons. Let's keep being as kind to each other and ourselves as we can.

All my best from Berlin,

—Yiliu


Read all about the new features we're releasing with Softspace 2020.1.21, and get the updated Softspace on SideQuest or Steam to try them out for yourself!

Better Typing

Text input is a critical part of any workflow. Unlike your laptop or smartphone, virtual and augmented reality headsets don't come with a built-in keyboard. Current virtual reality systems don't have a great way of showing you the physical world and the virtual one at the same time. These factors can make it tricky to work with text in Softspace.

Our approach here has been two-pronged: give you an intuitive "drumstick"-style virtual keyboard (we're using the really great CutieKeys asset by NormalVR), but also provide full support for physical keyboards. These are interchangeable in the UI.

The Steam version of Softspace will work with whichever keyboard your computer is using. The Quest version will work with any bluetooth or USB keyboard connected to your Quest.

I'm pretty lousy at touch-typing, but I've improved a lot by typing in Softspace!

Great for:

  • Web browsing

  • Writing longer notes

Known issues:

  • Keyboard + controllers = cumbersome — hand tracking needed

  • Quest/Quest 2 bluetooth keyboard support can be finicky

  • Forward delete doesn't work in the web browser

Better Browsing

We're not building a VR web browser, but having a fully-functional web browser in Softspace makes it a much more powerful and flexible tool. The tasks that people tell us they use the browser for are as varied as the web itself: playing music videos on YouTube, searching for image on Google, working on Notion documents, and more.

Our goal is to make using the web in Softspace feel as good as using the web on an iPad. Note that we're not setting the standard as high as a desktop computer, because 1) we don't think that is realistic, and 2) even we would prefer to use a laptop for hardcore web-based work. Instead, web browsing should feel good, and not block your workflow.

The Softspace web browser is an implementation of the excellent Vuplex 3D Webview package, with the Mozilla Gecko engine running under the hood (used by Firefox).

Great for:

  • Accessing web apps of other productivity tools, like Notion

  • Searching for stuff on e.g. Google image search and Pinterest

  • Playing media, like music and videos

Known issues:

  • Resolution is currently limited to 1300x975 pixels

  • Only one browser instance can be active at a time

  • Browser ergonomics could be improved

  • Websites that rely on popups or redirects for authentication don't work (e.g. Pinterest)

Flexible Snipping

Softspace gives you the unique ability to see a ton of digital information at once. This is great for e.g. the research phase of a design process. But previously, the only way to get stuff into Softspace was via the Dropbox integration. Today, we're introducing a tool that lets you create snippets from image files, PDFs, and any website. We call this snipping.

To make a snip, push the thumbstick on your controller left or right. The cursor icon will change to a green, rectangular snipping icon. When you are touching an item that can be snipped, a dot appears in the middle of the icon. Press the trigger, draw a rectangle around the area you want to snip, and release.

Behind the scene, snipped items are image files we save to your Softspace workspace. They also contain metadata about the file or website they were snipped from, which we will use in the future for other useful features, like displaying item relations and generating dynamic workspace arrangements.

Great for:

  • Saving text and images from websites

  • Extracting sections or diagrams from PDFs

  • Cropping images

Known issues:

  • Snips of websites are limited by the resolution of our browser implementation

Web Image Saving

In scenarios where having the highest-resolution images is important—e.g. gathering images for design research, working with finely detailed images like architectural drawings—it's better to save an image from a website, rather than snipping.

To save an image from a website, keep the cursor in the default Select mode, and hover over the image you would like to save. If the image is savable, the cursor icon will turn into a rectangular duplication icon. Press the trigger and "pull" the image from the browser. You will now be holding onto a new image item created from the source image file.

Similarly to snipping, this is actually an image file that is independently saved to your Softspace workspace and stored in our cloud server, with metadata relating it back to the website that you saved it from.

Great for:

  • Moodboarding

  • Design references research

  • Importing images from non-Dropbox sources

Known issues:

  • Depending on how a website is coded, not all images can be saved

  • Images requiring an authenticated HTTP request will fail (e.g. images in Notion)