A QTADS port to the BlackBerry PlayBook tablet
The BlackBerry PlayBook tablet is not a natural platform for
interactive fiction. Nevertheless, it is possible to play TADS
games, including those with graphics, using this port of Nikos
Chantziaras' QTADS to the PlayBook. QTADS is an interpreter for
TADS2 and TADS3 games, which supports graphics and hyperlinks.
The playbook version has many limitations
compared to the desktop version of QTADS, and the program is not
entirely stable. Nevertheless, it uses exactly the same interpreter
as QTADS, which is implemented in C, so it's complete and
This is a 'thin port', which is to say, I've modified the original
program as little as I had to, to make it run on the PlayBook.
The user interface is desktop-like — same menus, same scrollbars,
same dialog boxes — and all user input comes from the (virtual)
keyboard. I've adjusted the sizes of the user interface elements,
where practicable, to make them a better fit for finger-poking
operation. But, on the whole, it's the same program as the
desktop version of QTADS.
Changes from desktop version
- As far as possible, there are no double-click operations. For example,
to select a new folder in the file-open dialog box, a single click is all
that is necessary. The PlayBook screen is not very sensitive to
- The file-open and file-save dialog boxes fill the whole screen, and
do not attempt to display a tree. The usual Qt tree view does not work
very well on small screens.
- The 'home' directory — where the file dialog boxes look in the
absence of any other information — is the PlayBook shared media directory,
not the current working directory. On the PlayBook, current directory is
an unhelpful concept, so far as the end user is concerned.
- By default, the open-file dialog box is displayed when the
program starts. This behaviour can be turned off in the settings menu.
- There is no audio support, and there is unlikely ever to be.
Sorry, but the way QTADS handles audio is not really compatible
with mobile devices, and
the entire implementation would need to be rewritten. It's just too
much work for little gain.
- The Settings dialog box is very fiddly to use on a small screen, particularly the little arrows for altering numeric values. It does work, but you might
have to poke at it with the edge of a fingernail.
- The biggest useability problem is that no line editing is possible.
If you make a typing mistake at the beginning of a line, you get to
rub it out (character by character) and start again. This is because
the BlackBerry virtual keyboard simply doesn't have any editing keys, and
there is no way to change the keyboard layout. The impoverished keyboard
is a frequent complaint of BlackBerry owners, so maybe things will improve
with a later version of the firmware.
- QTADS occasionally hangs or crashes. It's hard to debug problems like
this on a mobile device. Save your progress regularly.
Here are some more screenshots of the program in action.
The virtual keyboard is more useable with the tablet in landscape
mode, but less of the screen is available for text.
QTADS can even play 'big' TADS games, like Macrocosm, on the PlayBook.
small screen of the PlayBook means that grapics-intensive games can be
awkward to use.
QTADS is based on the Qt user interface library, which has been ported
to the BlackBerry PlayBook. Most of the work of this port has been in
packaging the code in BlackBerry format, providing new file-open/file-save
dialog boxes, removing program features that either don't work or
make no sense on the PlayBook,
and tweaking the user interface element sizes and positions.
There were many fairly trivial changes, such as modifying the code to use
application-provided icons for the menu items, rather than system icons
(since there are none on the PlayBook). However, the TADS interpreted
code compiled cleanly with no modifications necessary. Which was nice.
I won't be making my QTADS port available on the BlackBerry AppWorld site,
because the administrators require far more personal information than I'm
prepared to supply, just to give away my software for free. Anybody who
is interested can download the application (click here). And side-load it using the DDPB utilities. A link to
DDPB, and instructions for using it, are available