Custom Keyboard Layout for Arabic, Persian, and Turkish (Mac)

In 2015, when I was still using Linux, I posted my template for a custom keyboard layout that gave easy access to some of the special characters that scholars working in Arabic, Persian, and Turkish tend to require. Not long after, however, I transitioned (back) to Mac, and found myself needing to create a similar custom keyboard. After some experimentation, I’ve settled on a layout I like; here it is for you to use or modify as you like.

The Layout

This layout is called IJMESv3 (the third version of my IJMES-friendly layout), and it is based on the ABC - Extended layout that comes with MacOS. The basic layout is the same as a standard Mac keyboard, but when you hold the option key, this is what you’ll have access to:

The keys outlined in orange are modifier keys, meaning that you first hit the diacritic you want, then the key to apply it to. For example, option+v is the modifier key for the caron / háček, so typing option+v, s will give you š, and so on for č, ž, etc. Similarly, option+w adds (or removes) an overdot, so you can use it to type glyphs like ż, , or ı. The other modifiers are pretty self-evident—option+e for acute (é, etc), option+y for umlaut (ü, etc.), and so on—though if you want to see some very unusual symbols, type option+shift+semicolon and let ’er rip! You can watch your options unfold in real time by clicking on the keyboard icon in the menu bar and selecting Show Keyboard Viewer (you might have to enable this in your Keyboard system preferences). Some features of particular interest for the field:

  • The common macrons Ā, Ī, and Ū are immediately available by pressing the option key (Ē and Ō can be accessed with option+j)
  • The common underdotted glyphs Ṣ, Ṭ, Ḍ, Ẓ, and Ḥ are accessed with the option key (less common glyphs, such as Ḳ, can be typed with option+x)
  • Turkish Ğ is immediately accessible as option+g
  • The signs for hamza (ʾ) and ʿayn (ʿ) are option+2 and option+3, respectively (Arabeezi style)
  • Quotation marks—double, single, and guillemet—are found at [, ], and \ respectively; hit option to open and option+shift to close
  • I have over-lines, through-lines, and under-lines mapped to option+j, option+k, and option+l respectively (note that the underlined s̱, commonly used to transliterate Persian ث, is not an actual Unicode character, so you have to type s and then the Combining Macron Below character: s, option+shift+l)
  • For those interested in metrics, you can find the characters ⏑ , ⏒ , and ⏔ on the numbers 6 and 7; use option+- for the long syllable (–)


  1. Download and unzip it
  2. Go to the Finder, click on Go in the Menu Bar, select Go to Folder…, and type /Library/Keyboard Layouts/
  3. Drag and drop IJMESv3.bundle into that folder
  4. Logout or restart
  5. Open System Preferences… in the  menu, select Keyboard, click on Input Sources, hit +, and you should be able to find IJMESv3 among the English layouts

You’ll know you’ve got the right one if you see a bright red-and-yellow square with the Derafsh Kaviani on it (I wanted something that looked good in both Light and Dark modes).

That’s all you need to do on your end! If you’re interested in knowing more about how I made this file, or how you might modify it, read on.

Creation, Manipulation, and Other Links

I used the useful program Ukelele to create this layout. If you want to make any tweaks to this file, download Ukelele and open IJMESv3.bundle with it. There, you’ll be able to change output, terminals, modifier keys, names, icons, you name it. You can also create your own layout by selecting the input source that most closely matches your ideal, then going to Ukelele and selecting New From Current Input Source from the File menu. This will create a copy of the layout that you can fiddle with, and when you are done, drop it into your Keyboard Layouts folder as detailed above and you should be able to type with it!

Another helpful resource to consult is the website Computing in ME Languages, hosted at the University of Chicago Library. It’s a little old, but as far as I know its Alt-Latin keyboard layout still works on modern machines.

Hope this helps you all!

Using Steingass: A Tutorial

One of the most useful Persian-English dictionaries for classical and literary Persian is by Francis Joseph Steingass (Routledge, 1892), which has been converted to text and placed in a searchable database at the University of Chicago. With its rich array of meanings, idioms, and compound verbs, Steingass is a good first stop when looking up a new word. However, the search engine has a number of quirks you need to know about.

Persian script

  • If you are searching for a word with ی and it’s not coming up, try using the Arabic ي.
  • Any word that ends with ک (e.g. سنگک) must be written with the Arabic ك (e.g. سنگك).
  • Words that end with tā marbuta (ة) in Arabic must usually be written so in Persian as well (e.g. ولایة instead of ولایت).


  • Familiarize yourself with Steingass’s transliteration system. The short vowels are written a, i, and u (as in Arabic); the ending ـه (e.g. نامه) is written -a (nāma); diphthongs are ai, au, iy, and uy; the majhūl vowels ē and ō are preserved (e.g. شیر sher “lion”, روز roz “day”); and the preposition به / بـ is spelled ba.
  • Note that the order of headwords follows the English alphabet: when you search for گرد you will first find gard and its related verbs and idioms, followed by gird and then gurd.
  • Remember that there are many idioms in Persian, particularly with compound verbs; e.g. گل (gul) by itself is simply “rose”, but gul kardan = “To extinguish, to snuff (a candle); to become apparent, manifest”; gul firistādan, “To send a challenge, to provoke an adversary”. These are often not searchable in Persian script, but only by first pulling up the headword (گل in this case) and then looking through the idioms in transliteration.
  • More on compound verbs and idioms: you’ll usually want to work with the first part of the sequence. Searching in transliteration can help you. Say you find the phrase سر ببال دزدیدن: first go to the headword سر and then search in the browser for duzdīdan (note that Chrome does not care about diacritics, which is helpful); you fill find “sar ba-bāl duzdīdan, To refuse, to disobey, to oppose”.

In Memory of Ostad Moayyad

I just got back from a conference in honor of the late Dr. Heshmat Moayyad, who taught my mentor Frank Lewis and many other of my close colleagues. I had also studied with him for a couple of years before his retirement, and gave a short paper on the Arabic sources of early Persian romances, a topic I hope he would have liked. یادش به خیر.

For the full program, visit

Talk at the Iranian Studies Seminar, Columbia University

I’m excited to be giving this upcoming talk!


Friday November 9, 2018
Faculty House, 5:00-8:00 pm

Salvation Through Sin: How a Queen Rewrote the Rules of Romance
Cameron Cross (University of Michigan)

Dr. Cameron Cross is an Assistant Professor of Iranian Studies at the University of Michigan. His research focuses on the comparative study of narrative in the Middle East within the temporal parameter of Late Antiquity to the Early Modern period (ca. 500–1500 CE).

This talk offers a theoretical reappraisal of the New Persian romance, a genre that experienced a sudden and dynamic efflorescence in the first half of the fifth/eleventh century. In revisiting the question of genre (and “romance” as a viable term) in the Persian context, I hope to reorient our account of this moment in time, from a vertical axis of national literary history to a horizontal view situating these texts within a broad system of literary habits and practices that extended from Ghazni to Paris (and likely beyond). As an example of this approach, I offer the case of Vis & Râmin, a story that demonstrates a clear awareness of this intertextual tradition, which had been developed and circulated in languages like Greek, Latin, and Arabic (and thence into Persian, Georgian, and the European vernaculars) over the longue durée of the first millennium CE. One reason for the poem’s significance is not simply that it knows this tradition, but indeed takes the embedded metaphysics, politics, and ethics of the romance genre as its main object of study. By manipulating romantic conventions into the paradox that its heroine must choose adultery to prove her virtue, Vis & Râmin probes the coherence of its own world-view, opening vistas of individual choice and moral ambivalence hitherto unexplored in romance literature—Persian or otherwise.

Great Lakes Adiban Workshop 2018

We are very excited to announce the program for the 2018 Great Lakes Adiban Workshop, an intercollegiate organization of which the University of Michigan is an important participant, scheduled to take place at the University of Chicago, October 5–6. The program is attached below, and you can visit for more information about the Adiban and their goals.

Time: Saturday–Sunday, October 6–7, 9:30am–5:00pm
Location: 3rd Floor Lecture Hall / Swift Hall, 1025 E 58th St, Chicago, IL 60637

Program Schedule

Saturday, Oct. 6

9:30–10:10 / Kaveh Hemmat (Benedictine U) – China in the Iranian Epic Tradition (1000-1500): Cultural Geography and the Concept of Adab
10:15–10:55 / Aria Fani (U of California, Berkeley) – What is Adabiyat? The Genealogy of a Discourse of Literature (1860-1960)
11:00–11:40 / Paul Losensky (Indiana U) – Why Kings Need Poets: Negotiating Identity and Patronage in the Saqi-nameh of Zohuri Torshizi

Lunch Break

1:00–1:40 / Ali Noori (U of Pennsylvania) – Sabk-i Hindi or Tāza-Gū’ī: Reading Sahābī Astarābādī Today
1:45–2:25 / Shaahin Pishbin (U of Chicago) – Mīrzā Jalāl Asīr and the Poetics of the “Imaginative Style” (Ṭarz-i Khayāl)

Coffee Break

2:45–3:25 / Ayelet Kotler (U of Chicago) – Clear Meaning, Simple Persian: A Philological Inquiry into a Mughal Translator’s Work
3:30–4:10 / Pouye Khoshkhoosani (Northwestern U) – Shi‘ism and Kingship in Safavid Court Poetry
4:15–4:55 / Zahra Sabri (McGill U) – Three Shi‘a Poets: Sect-related Themes in Pre-modern Urdu Poetry

Sunday, Oct. 7

9:30–10:10 / Cameron Cross (U of Michigan, Ann Arbor) – “I Know It When I See It”: Towards a Theory of the Romance Genre
10:15–10:55 / Rachel Schine (U of Chicago) – Nourishing the Noble: A Tale of Breastfeeding and Hero-Making in Arabic Popular Literature
11:00–11:40 / Allison Kanner (U of Chicago) – Majnun’s Animal Kingdom: Desert Wanderings in the Kitāb al-Aghānī and Niẓāmī’s Laylī o Majnūn

Lunch Break

1:00–1:40 / Esraa al-Shammari (U of Pennsylvania) – Images Dispossessed: Tīh of Tropes in Abū Tammām’s Ghazal
1:45–2:25 / Sabeena Shaikh (McGill U) – Selfhood or Seduction: Reading Urdu Poetry as ‘Autobiography’

Coffee Break

2:45–3:25 / Alexandra Hoffmann (U of Chicago) – Cross-dressing in Samak-e ʿAyyār
3:30–3:50 / Samuel Lasman (U of Chicago) – In the Maw of the Nahang: Sea Monsters and Subjectivity in Classical Persian Epic
4:15–4:55 / Open discussion, matters arising, future plans

CfP: Great Lakes Adiban Workshop, Chicago 2018

The Great Lakes Adiban Society (GLAS) invites submissions for its second annual workshop, scheduled to take place at the University of Chicago, October 6–7, 2018. We particularly welcome papers that are works in progress and would benefit from extensive discussion and feedback.

The Society hopes to provide a regional forum for scholars of Islamicate adab, particularly of the medieval and early modern periods, to meet and share their work. We leave our parameters intentionally broad in order to invite as wide a collaboration as can be useful, but we are basically engaged with the literatures of the broad complex of premodern Muslim societies from the Danube to the Deccan. This naturally includes the major Islamicate languages of Arabic, Persian, Turkish, and Urdu, as well as others (Armenian, Georgian, Hebrew, Spanish, etc.) that participate in similar literary conventions. We welcome and encourage scholars working in any of these languages to consider participating!

Those who wish to participate in the workshop should fill out our online application by August 15, 2018. Please note that each accepted paper will be given 45 minutes for presentation and discussion; because of this, we have limited space on our schedule and may have to turn down some submissions if get too many. In such an event, preference will generally be given to scholars in the Great Lakes region, per the mission of this organization.

Graduate students note: we have some funding to help offset at least part of your travel costs! If you would like to apply for this additional aid, there is a space to do so on the application form.

If you have any questions, please feel free to write Cameron Cross at kchalipa [at] We look forward to hearing from you!

The Lives and Afterlives of Vis and Ramin

This is my last article for at least a while: a reception history of the romance Vis & Rāmin, covering the near-millennium since it was written in 1050 CE up to scholarship and criticism on it today. I focus on matters of its circulation, popularity, influence, legacy, and place in the classical canon over the passage of time. I hope you like it! Here is the reference:

Cross, Cameron. “The Lives and Afterlives of Vis and Rāmin.” Iranian Studies 51, no. 4 (2018): 517–56. DOI: 10.1080/00210862.2018.1440967.

And, as it happens, Taylor & Francis has given me 50 copies to share for free. If you want to read the article (and you don’t already have access to Iranian Studies via an institutional subscription), you can get your copy (if any remain) by clicking here.

New Article – A Tree Atop the Mountain

I’m pleased to announce the publication of a new article, part of a special issue in the journal Iran Namag on the topic of Iranian masculinities. It was a great project to be involved with and I’m honored to have been a part of it. To access the article, you can visit its website or download the PDF here.

Cross, Cameron. “A Tree Atop the Mountain: Mobad Manikan and the Elusive Promises of Masculinity.” Iran Namag 3, no. 1 (2018): xxvi–lxiii.