The Musa Keyboard

I have described the Musa script as a universal writing system, but of course it's actually a reading system. But Musa also has a universal writing system, a standard keyboard so that you can enter text wherever you go. If you've ever tried to write French or German using an English keyboard, for instance, you understand the advantage.

The Single Keyboard

The Musa keyboard has only 20 keys, about the same as the keyboard on your (dumb) cellphone or a calculator :

Obviously, if we're going to enter all the Musa letters, we need more than 20 keys. There is a simple trick: we spell each letter using two keys: a keypair. To enter a character, first you press the key for the top of the letter, then the key for the bottom of the letter.

There are two "twin" keys, whose symbol is repeated rotated 180°. The twins depict what that shape looks like as the top or bottom of a consonant, but the key can also be used to type a vowel (or digit):

The key could also be a twin, since the bottom is rotated. But since is a major vowel, we show it on the keyboard.

The minor vowels don't appear on the keyboard. How do you type them? You hold down the corresponding major vowel for a little longer:

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In fact, ALL the keys have a second meaning when held down for a long keypress:

Here's a recap of what all the long keypresses do:

The keys are marked with the vowels, and sometimes it isn't obvious what the corresponding consonants are, so here's a cheat sheet :

Not all of the bottoms are used for Musa letters, and several more are only used for one semivowel. Notice that the bottoms in the middle row are reflected: the shapes that open to the side should be considered to open on either side.

The Dot is used when the top or bottom is missing:

So for example, if you wanted to type the name Musa, which is spelled , on a keyboard, you'd enter these keys :

If you want to try a Musa keyboard right now, you can play around with the Web Keypad.

The ultimate in Musa text entry is a dedicated mechanical Musa Keyboard. One is available from MAX Keyboard: a customized Falcon-20 for $100. It only works on Windows. Here's what it looks like:

For more info, check out the Falcon Keypad page.

The Double Keyboard

The single keyboard above is great for mobile phones, where you're only using one hand. But Musa keyboards for computers - where both hands are free - usually use a double keyboard. The lefthand keyboard is simply the mirror image of the righthand keyboard, so you use the same fingers for each shape. It looks like this:

To use the double keyboard, you press the the key for the top of the letter on the left with your left hand and the key for the bottom of the letter on the right with your right hand. The two keys can be pressed in either order, or one can be held down while the other is pressed, so it's faster than the single version.

To type the word  on the double keyboard, you'd enter these keys :

Overlay Keyboard

Not every Musa keyboard confirms to this standard. For example, we also support overlay keyboards with stickers you can put on your keys. They map your normal keyboard keys to Musa shapes, and allow you to type like that. With so many keys, there's no need for long keypresses, it's nicer to use than a virtual keyboard, and cheaper than a Falcon. Here's what that looks like:

For more info, check out the Overlay Keyboard page.

Transliteration Keyboard

Another way to use your normal keyboard to type Musa is via transliteration. The basic idea is to spell the sounds of the Musa letters with English letters. For instance, to write the Musa letter , you'd type the m key. For many Musa letters, you have to type two or more keys; for instance, to write the Musa letter , you'd type ch.

Transliteration works well, but only for one language: if you want to type Spanish in Musa, you have to switch keyboards. It can also be tricky to spell the differences in Musa that the current orthography doesn't capture, so you may end up having to edit your work. But for what it is, it's great.

Virtual Keyboard

Most of you will use a Musa virtual keyboard, which pops up on your screen (or your phone) when you need to enter Musa. One big advantage is that the key legends reflect the current mode and state. So, for instance, if you have already typed the key to indicate the top of a letter, the keyboard would look like this :

Control Keys

The Musa keyboard is often augmented by some of the following Control keys:

The Backspace erases the letter to the left of the cursor (usually the last one you typed).

The Escape key deletes the top you just typed. It usually replaces the Backspace key when you've typed a top, thus also reminding you where you are in your typing.

The Shift key is a way to type a long keypress without waiting: just press Shift and then the key you want. It's a dead key, like accents on a European keyboard: it just affects the next key. You don't have to hold it down like a normal Shift key, nor do you have to press it again to shift back down like Caps Lock.

The Enter key says you're finished typing, at least this bit, and now it's the turn of your application or correspondent to react.


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