Friday, July 24, 2015

Ideal Yiddish Keyboard for iPhone/iPad and Android

Im my last post (Ideal Yiddish Keyboard), I talked about the Yiddish Pasekh Keyman keyboard layout and how it represented (to my thinking, at least) the ideal keyboard layout for typing Yiddish. Also, since it was supported on Windows, Internet browsers, Linux, iPhone/iPad, Android, and Mac platforms, it was available everywhere. Unfortunately, the iPhone/iPad version of the keyboard had one major limitation: since it was a direct port of the desktop keyboard layout, the keys were a bit small and crowded on the smaller iPhone/iPad devices as the keyboard added a 4th row of keys for the numbers and it attempted to squeeze 52 keys (as is the case on Desktop keyboards) instead of the usual ~33 keys on iOS keyboards. So, in order to make a better Yiddish keyboard for iOS, I created my own Yiddish-ZC layout for iOS devices. The Yiddish-ZC layout retains most of the nice layout choices of the Yiddish Pasekh keyboard but it is optimized for use on small phone/tablet devices.

 As a comparison, here is the Yiddish Pasekh layout:

And, here is my new Yiddish-ZC layout:

One nice additional enhancement is that I've implemented "long-press" functionality so that you can access more keys without switching from the unshifted to the shifted layouts. Any key with a "dot" in the upper-right corner of the key has "long-press" capabilities (e.g. - if you press and hold the key, a popup will appear with alternative keys that you can select):

For the keys on the default (unshifted) layout, most of the "long-press" keys are variations on the base key. So, for example, a long-press on the Yiddish tsadek (צ) character will show the final-form lange tsadek (ץ) character:

Or, pressing the period (.) character will show many of the commonly-used punctuation characters:

This makes typing much faster because you don't have to be switching so frequently between the unshifted and the shifted keyboard layouts. However, the long-press is a "convenience" technique and you can always switch to the other shifted (which contains many of the keys that are available via "long-press" on the unshifted layout) and numeric layouts as well (even though all of the keys you'll need to type Yiddish text will be available to you on the default (unshifted) layout, numbers and some special characters are only on the shifted/numeric layouts):

If you would like to try out my new Yiddish-ZC layout, installation is fairly simple:

  1. Install the Keyman app for iPhone/iPad from the Apple App Store (you can choose either the Free or the Pro version but the Pro version is needed if you want to be able to use the Yiddish-ZC keyboard as a system keyboard which will be available in any other app).
  2. Using the Safari app on your iPhone/iPad, touch this link. That will automatically open the Keyman app that you downloaded in step #1 and ask if you want to install the Yiddish-ZC keyboard. Just touch the Install button and the keyboard will be installed.
If you downloaded the Free version of the Keyman app in step #1, then you will be able to use the Yiddish-ZC keyboard only within the Keyman text editing app. If you downloaded the Pro version of the Keyman app is step #1, then you will be able to use the Yiddish-ZC keyboard in any app.

I would be very interested in getting feedback on the layout and usability of this keyboard. You can send me a twitter direct message (@beresheit) or an email to

Update-25-Jul-2015: I was told by someone with an Android device that my Yiddish-ZC keyboard works well on Android devices as well! I have no way to test it (I don't use Android devices); however, the above 2 installation steps should work fine with one change - download the Keyman App for Android in step #1. Also, in step #2, you should use the Google Chrome browser (some of the Android browsers won't work with the link but the Google Chrome browser does).

Update-3-Sep-2015: The keyboard has now been updated to automatically fill in Yiddish "final form" characters where appropriate. This will automatically convert any of the following characters: "כנפֿצ" to their final form equivalents: "ךןףץ" if the character is not followed by another Yiddish character. In order to use this functionality you must re-download the keyboard as well as install the latest version of the Keyman app. You will also need to power down and restart your device after re-installing the app.

Update-4-Nov-2015: When any of the following 5 vowels/vowel-combinations appear at the beginning of a word, they need to be preceded by a "א" (shtumer alef): י ,ו ,יי ,ײַ ,וי 
This has been implemented as a "long-press" on the "אַ" key:

Update-7-Nov-2015: In order to ensure that users of this keyboard could enter all of the keys defined in the standard Yiddish Orthography, the following additional keys have been added to the "Shift" layer of the keyboard layout: "פ", "בּ", "דזש", "זש", "טש", "וֹ". In addition, they can be accessed through "long-press" on keys in the "Normal" layer. See this revised layout for the "Shift" layer: