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 Standard Keyboard

The standard Musa keyboard has only 26 keys, a few more than a dumb cellphone or a calculator. The keys show Musa shapes, arranged in columns by shape family and in rows by orientation. The keys are colored according to the numeric values of the shapes, and you might notice that all the shapes in the top row have names ending in i, all the shapes in the middle row have names ending in a, and all the shapes in the top row have names ending in u.

Obviously, Musa has many more than 26 letters, so we use 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. Use the Space key (with a dot) when either is missing.

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The shape on each key shows what it looks like as a vowel. Here's a chart showing how each of the shapes look when used as the top or bottom of a consonant:

As you can see above, there are three shapes that turn upside down when they're on the bottom of a consonant. In addition, two of them use only half the shape when they're connected.

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But you don't have to imagine how each keypair will look, because when you type a top, the shapes on the keycaps are replaced with the full letter that you'd get by typing that bottom. For example, if you type the as a top, the keycaps will look like this:

The blank keys are keypairs which don't correspond to any Musa letter.

Overlay Keyboard

The color keyboard above is what you will see on a screen, for example in the Musa Keys app for phones, the Musa Keyboards app for computers, and on the musa.bet website. But most people prefer to press a physical key than to click or tap a virtual key, so they use the Overlay Keyboard.

The Overlay Keyboard is an option within the Musa Keyboards app that remaps your normal keyboard to type Musa. The layout is the same as above, except you can type the Ya shape (the dot) using the I key, the K key, or the Space bar. Here's what the Overlay keyboard looks like:

The digits on the top line also work in overlay mode: they enter low numerals.

If you only use Musa occasionally, it's enough to print out the diagram above and use it as a reference. It helps to notice that the first six keys in the top row are the Musa numerals corresponding to the number keys above them. But if you use Musa more frequently, it's worthwhile printing the colored keycaps below onto sticky paper, cutting them out, and gluing them to the bottom half or the front face of your keycaps.

Shortcut Keypairs

For typing Musa, the keyboard above is all you need. But we often want a few more functions available via the keyboard. The Musa keyboard is able to offer those functions using a small trick: six of the shapes never appear in consonants, and so they never form a valid Musa letter when paired with the 22 colored shapes (including light gray and dark gray , but not ). So we can take advantage and interpret those pairings to implement the shortcuts below.

When you type a top, the available shortcuts should show on the keycaps (as abbreviations).

Numeric Keypad

Musa writes numbers using vowels as numerals, as described on the next page. It's easy to insert a numeral into text you're typing, just like any other Musa letter. But if you're typing lots of numbers - maybe you're doing accounting or calculation - it's convenient not to have to type the Space key every time.

To make that possible, you have to put the keyboard into Numeric Mode by typing . Then the keys you type will each be interpreted as a numeral, one per key. You'll notice that the now shows as - that shows that the digits you type will be low. To select high digits, press , which changes to . Finally, to exit Numeric mode, press .

Separators

In some fonts, when a Musa consonant is followed by a suffix - a letter with a slender top - the two are combined to form a ligature. You can read more about ligatures on the Suffixes page. But sometimes, you don't want that to happen; for example, when the slender letter is a semivowel glide instead of a suffix. To prevent the ligature from forming, we use a special invisible Unicode character called a Zero-Width Non-Joiner, or ZWNJ (Unicode 200C), which is inserted before the slender letter. To type one on a Musa keyboard, press .

Another trick allows you to help your Musa text display correctly in environments which implement soft line breaks in an unsophisticated manner. In some Musa gaits, letters that should show above, below, or left of the preceding letter are sometimes pushed to the next line by line breaks. To prevent that, you can insert an invisible Zero-Width Joiner, or ZWJ (Unicode 200D) between the two letters by typing .

Inserting ASCII

Sometimes, it's convenient to be able to insert ASCII characters in your Musa text without switching out of Overlay mode. To enable that, we've mapped four common ASCII characters to shortcuts:


< Markup Numerals >


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