Kategoriarkiv: keyboard layout

Chuvash Keyboard Layout for Mac

I’ve got a Mac and one of my first questions was: How can I write in Chuvash on my Mac, obviously :) In this post I am going to tell how I created Chuvash Keyboard Layout. The solution and installation instructions are on Github:

Chuvash Keyboard Layout for Mac

cv-kbd-mac-000

What the heck is Chuvash?

For those who don’t know yet: Chuvash are people who live in Chuvash Republic in Russian Federation, and abroad, as me. We are 1.5 million. Chuvash is also a language, an official language of the Republic, a minority language, that is completely different from the second official language Russian. Chuvash uses Cyrillic letters, all 33 Russian letters plus 4 additional letters: A breve (Ӑ), E breve (Ӗ), C cedilla (Ҫ) and U with double acute (Ӳ).

Keyboard Layout

There is no official Chuvash keyboard layout. What we have is a de facto standard – a very humble layout. It is “humble” because it does not dare to put Chuvash letters on the buttons directly, they are accessible through modifiers: AltGr in Windows and Linux, Option on a Mac. To get A breve you press AltGr and A in the same time. That is not a good input method for Chuvash where additional letters with diacritics (breve, double acute and cedilla) are more common than some Russian letters. In fact, many Russian letters are just part of the Chuvash alphabet because the loan words are just imported in the original spelling.

The reason why this humble keyboard layout was introduced and became a de facto standard was a will to provide a fully functional Russian keyboard layout with a bonus – being able to write in Chuvash, although a hard way. It is hard to write, but it is very simple to have (you don’t need to switch input sources), it is easy to explain: want a diacritic, just press AltGr and the corresponding plain letter. I created the same layout for Mac, too. In future a better, more Chuvash, keyboard layout must be designed and agreed upon.

Keyboard Layouts on Mac

AFAIK, there is no keyboard layout (“input source”) for any minority language in Russia. On the other hand the process of creating and installing a custom keyboard layout is easiest on a Mac. I followed the steps described on Salvatore Testa’s blog: I installed Ukulele and created a new keyboard layout based on Russian PC. That bundle that is saved from Ukulele needs to be copied to ~/Library/Keyboard Layouts/ folder. Then (presumably after a computer restart), Chuvash can be added as an input source. Custom keyboard layouts are just files (bundles) in a user’s home folder. No need for Administrator rights (as in Windows for installing a custom keyboard layout as an exe file), no sudo access to X11 folder (as in Linux).

What I would like to wish is the presence of Chuvash and other minority languages’ keyboard layouts directly Out-of-the-Box on Mac OS, iOS, Android and Windows. Linux is the only OS family that natively supports Chuvash keyboard layout.

Other minority languages

I am just curious: what languages have already had custom keyboard layouts ready for install. I found those ones:

Some words in Chuvash and Russian

I want this text to be searchable and findable, so here come summary of this blog post in Chuvash and Russian.

Макинтош валли чӑваш сарӑмӗ

Чӑваш сарӑмӗ Линукс, Виндовс, татат Андроид оператив системисенче пуррине халӑх пӗлет-ҫкӗ. Паян эпӗ Маккинтош (Mac OS) валли чӑваш сарӑмне турӑм. Вӑл виндовсри тата линуксри пекех, мӑйракаллисене ҫырас тесен Option (Alt) пускӑчне пусса мӑйракасӑррине пӗрле пусмалла. Option + А – Ӑ пулать. Ку ҫӗнни мар. Сарӑмӗ тата мӗнле лартмалли ку вырӑнта тупӑнать (хальлӗх акӑлчанла, анчах вӗҫ ӑнлантарнине ӳкерчӗклентертӗм).

Чувашская раскладка на Макинтош

Теперь есть чувашская раскладка для Mac OS, она такая же как и на Виндовс и Линукс. Чтобы написать Ӑ нужно нажать на Option (Alt) и на букву А. Раскладку и инструкцию по установке можно найти на этой странице (инструкция на английском пока, но все шаги проиллюстрированы картинками).

Working with Ukulele

I won’t go into details about how to work with Ukulele. But I was very surprised how easy it was to update the keyboard layout.

cv-kbd-mac-006

And more surprised I became when I saw that Chuvash was present in the list of available languages. cv-kbd-mac-007

Just to compare, Chuvash exists as a language in many systems in the Open Source world and close to it: Linux, Firefox, Wikipedia… For Microsoft Chuvash does not exist. No LCID, no locale, no way of referencing cv and cv-RU. There is one exception – Skype, but it was added before Skype was bought by Microsoft. I really hope it can be changed in future.

cv-kbd-mac-008

The last step was to rename to Chuvash – PC and generate an ID within the range for Cyrillic keyboards.

A new Chuvash keyboard layout

The Chuvash keyboard layout has been the Russian keyboard layout with 4 Chuvash letters that are typed by pressing the right Alt button plus the base letter. Some of the arguments have been

  1. Users don’t need to switch or learn a new keyboard layout. They can keep on typing Russian texts and sometimes Chuvash texts
  2. It is easy to communicate about how the right Alt button works. The Right-Alt-technique is also used in Esperanto, Polish and other languages.
  3. The letters are placed according the labels

Recently two major events happened that made the question about the Chuvash keyboard layout important:

  1. We are working on a Chuvash keyboard for iOS. There we have less place and we have to remove rare Russian letters from the first keyboard screen. There are no physical labels. So we can rethink the whole keyboard.
  2. chuvash.org finally moved from latin equivalents with diacritic marks to Cyrillic letters (Cyrillic extended script). Therefore we need to update users’ keyboard layouts

I’ll write a separate post about the Chuvash Keyboard for iOS. One of the important things we made during that work was to find the frequency of the Chuvash letters. This was used to design the keyboard layout.

Here is the most recent version of the keyboard layout (first screen):

cv-kbd-ios

These are the principles for placing the letters:

  • The most used letters are in the middle.
  • Consonants and vocals come after each other. We tried to avoid many consonants after each other.
  • The letters are often in the same area as in the Russian keyboard layout (but it is not so important)

 

Now to the physical keyboard

When it is possible on a virtual keyboard, wouldn’t it be worth trying on a physical keyboard? Knowing the “best” layout, we can implement it for a physical keyboard. Let’s do it for xkb. xkb is a keyboard system for Linux. I wrote a few articles on that topic.

Many minority languages in Russian use the Russian keyboard layout plus their Cyrillic letters instead of numbers (Bashkir, Udmurt, Kalmyk) or Right-Alt-combinations (Chuvash, Sakha, Komi…). Two other languages have their own keyboard layouts for primary keys: Tatar and Ossetian. Ossetian language has only one extra letter. The Tatar alphabet contains a few more. Let’s look at the Tatar keyboard layout for xkb:

tatar-xkb-kbd

The Tatar keyboard layout uses their letters on the primary keys and puts the Russian letters in the Right-Alt-combinations. It allows:

  • A quicker typing in Tatar
  • And access to Russian letters, because they are part of the official Tatar alphabet, but they are only used in Russian loanwords. The placement of those rare Russian letters are the same as in the Russian layout (except that they are accessible by pressing the Right-Alt button).

Now the Chuvash keyboard layout for Linux and Windows is as follows:

chuvash-xkb-kbd

When I use it, I always press the Right-Alt, because the ӑӗҫӳ in Chuvash are very common. So the Right-Alt is not an exception, rather that a regular typing behaviour. Some Chuvash frequently used Chuvash letters (х, й, э) are placed too from the middle. Some rare letters (ф, ц, ж, о, г, щ) are too “near”.

So let’s change it. If we just take the keyboard layout designed for iOS and put the rare Russian letters “behind the Right-Alt button”, then we’ll get this:

chuvash-xkb-kbd-2015

This keyboard layout will demand some time to learn, but once learned, it will provide

  • a better and quicker typing in Chuvash,
  • less pain in the right thumb,
  • and, perhaps, less Russian loanwords caused by laziness.

Regarding the learning, it could be facilitated using keyboard stickers, printed for Chuvash keyboards. Here is how Russian stickers look like:

The xkb code for the new Chuvash keyboard layout

Creating a Russian Extended Keyboard Layout

In my spare time I am currently working on a Chuvash-Tatar phrasebook. I have used the Chuvash and Tatar keyboard layout on Linux. They work fine, but switching between them takes time. So I decided to add Tatar letters (right Alt + combinations) to my Chuvash keyboard layout. While adding it I found a combined Russian-Ukranian United keyboard layout and I thought:

  • What if I create a new keyboard layout for Russian that will have almost all additional Cyrillic letters? A Russian Extended keyboard layout could be based on the Russian keyboard layout and have other non-Russian letters.

This is what I have come up to so far. The definition can be found on my project at github: russian-extended-kbd. I will update it more and provide more info about how it is organized and how to install it. I’ll also try to implement it for Windows and maybe for Mac (I doubt it, everything is so locked-down there).

rux-xkb-kbd

This is just a proof-of-concept so far. It only works on Linux (with xkb). Nevertheless, some key characteristics of this layout:

  • It has all the letters of Russian, Erzya, Moksha, Chuvash, Udmurt, Mari (Meadow and Hill Mari), Bashkir, Tatar and other languages of the Russian Federation and other countries.
  • It provides powerful dead keys for (breve, diaeresis, double acute, macron) for composing multiple Cyrillic non-Russian letters
  • It is not as quick as “native” keyboard layouts, but you can type text in many languages without switching the keyboard layout.
  • It has many other characters that are not present in the Russian standard keyboard layout for editing in wiki, markdown and other formats: [ ] { } ~, mathematical symbols: ≈ ÷ ∞ ° ‰ ≤ < > ≥ × •
  • It leaves the numbers. Compared too many other keyboard layouts (see below), this layout does not “steal” the number row. You still can type numbers as usual.

Dead keys

As I mentioned above, dead keys is a powerful feature for composing letters. It is harder to write, but the layout can cover many letters.

These dead keys work

diaeresis ӱ ӥ ӓ ӟ ӝ ӹ ӧ ӵ ӛ ё ї ӫ
double acute ӳ
breve ӑ ӗ ў й
macron ӣ ӯ

These do not work for now (but maybe in future):

cedilla ҫ ҙ
bar ғ ұ
hook ң ҳ қ

So many variants of similar letters

A big challenge in creating a Russian Extended keyboard layout is the fact that languages use different letters for the same sounds (meaning similar sounds).

  • /œ/ is ө (Tatar, Bashkir, Sakha…), and ӧ in (Altay, Udmurt, Mari…)
  • /y/ is ӳ (Chuvash), ӱ (Mari, Altay, Khakas), ү (Tatar, Bashkir, Sakha)
  • /ŋ/ is ҥ (Altay, Sakha, Mari), and ң (Tatar, Bashkir, Khakas, Khanty)

Well, the sounds are not the same, but they are similar. The Swedish Ä is not the same as the German Ä either. If we had a more united Cyrillic script, it would be easier to create a keyboard layout and to read and learn each others’ languages.

The letters from different languages are compare in my Google document.

Some “Native” keyboard layouts of the minority languages of the Russian Federation

chuvash-xkb-kbd

udmurt-xkb-kbd

mari-xkb-kbd

komi-xkb-kbd

kalmyk-xkb-kbd

bashkir-xkb-kbd

ossetian-xkb-kbd

sakha-xkb-kbd

tatar-xkb-kbd

 

 

Other Cyrillic keyboard layouts (outside the Russian Federation)

ukrainian-xkb-kbd

belarusian-xkb-kbd

tajik-xkb-kbd

bulgarian-xkb-kbd

kazakh-xkb-kbd

mongol-xkb-kbd

 

It is time to standardize the Chuvash Keyboard Layout

Proto-Bulgarian Runes. Wonder if they are supported in Unicode :)

Proto-Bulgarian Runes (Chuvash language is the closest language to the Proto-Bulgar language). Wonder if they are supported in Unicode :)

The Chuvash Computer Keyboard layouts have existed since 2001, but due to the lack for Unicode support we were forced to use the look-alike letters  from other latin-based keyboard layouts. On Linux The Chuvash keyboard layout was added in 2007 and Linux is still the only operating system that has a native keyboard layout for Chuvash language. On Windows we have used the Keyboard Layout Creator and distributed it as an executable file.

Today, when Windows XP is not supported anymore, the majority of users now have full support for the correct Chuvash letters from the Extended Cyrillic table. These four Chuvash letters are “additional” to the Russian alphabet: ӐӖҪ and Ӳ.

Now when new “keyboards” appear on Android, in web browser (they use the standardized letters) and hopefully in Windows and iOS, we have to consider put the correct letters into the keyboard layouts. For Linux the /usr/share/X11/xkb/symbols/ru file has to be updated:

Impact

This switch will have a huge impact on the Chuvash language. Much of content on forums, websites and Chuvash Wikipedia will be hardly searchable. But we have to do it, to standardize and prepare for the future. The Chuvash language Committee is not against it, despite it has not been updated the guidelines for using letters from 2009.

Edit 2014-04-30

The bug in the freedesktop bugzilla was solved very quickly. In fact, in the new Ubuntu 14.04 you’ll find a correct keyboard layout:

chuvash-keyboard-map

Here is the source code:
chuvash-keyboard-xkb