NickelMenu on the Kobo Libra 2

I recently bought a Kobo Libra 2 ereader to replace an aging Kindle Paperwhite from 2014. The Paperwhite was still holding up okay, but it was becoming quite slow and I was keen to try the Kobo’s Pocket integration.1 I’ve been using Pocket for years to save articles to read later. I banished my phone and tablet from the bedroom about a year ago to prevent looking at the news and/or social media until I actively get my phone from the other room — highly recommended. But I did miss the ability to read an article or two in bed after waking up or before going to sleep. The Kobo could solve that issue without having to bring a doomscrolling machine back into bed.

Kobo Libra 2

Having now read a few books and articles on the Kobo, I’m really happy with the device. It’s quick, has a great screen and a good light for reading in the dark. Its build quality is good enough. And the Pocket integration does what it’s supposed to. Sometimes — rarely — articles don’t show up on the Kobo. I think that happens when they can’t be converted into a compatible format. I don’t blame them, converting every random, JavaScript-laden website seems like a hard problem. It works most of the time, and when it does, articles are formatted nicely and are very readable.

Compared to the Kindle, the Kobo is a very open and hackable device. It’s easy to gain root access and there’s a number of homebrew apps for it. I found one of them particularly handy to customise the device a little: NickelMenu.

The Kobo has physical page turn buttons, which I like a lot. Never missed them on the Kindle, but now that I have them… When reading in bed, I sometimes like to lie on my side, placing the reader on the mattress in front of my face, with the page turn button side in my hand. This works great in principle, but the Kobo also has an auto-rotate feature. And that will often switch to a landscape mode when I hold the device the way I like to hold it. You can lock the rotation to portrait, but not to “inverted portrait”, which is what I’d need.

That’s where NickelMenu comes in. NickelMenu can add new menu entries to a variety of screens on the Kobo, and make those entries do a variety of things — navigate the UI, change system settings, even start other programs and run scripts.

One such setting happens to be the screen orientation. With a very easy installation and a small configuration file, I can add new entries that switch to portrait mode and inverted portrait mode.

menu_item   :reader     :Portrait R   :nickel_orientation   :portrait
menu_item   :reader     :Portrait L   :nickel_orientation   :inverted_portrait

Works flawlessly. It even remaps the buttons depending on the orientation, so the top page turn button always goes to the next page. I’m also using NickelMenu to quickly toggle dark mode on and off. And it came in handy to quickly enable screenshot mode to get the image below. Adding new menu entries is as easy as connecting the Kobo to a computer and editing the config file.

Menu entries to choose portrait mode

  1. I’ll repurpose the Kindle in some way — maybe try to reuse the display using EPDiy