Building an Arabic transliteration system or virtual keyboard using Angular.js

In this tutorial we are going to build a virtual keyboard,in my case ,i'm buidling an arabic keyboard for a project i'm working on right now but you can easilly adapt it to build a virtual keyboard or a transliteartion system for any language .The framework we are going to use is Angular.js so lets get started.

What's transliteration ?

Transliteration simply means converting one language alphabet to another phonetically equivalent alphabet .In this case we will write Arabic with latin/english letters .The virtual keyboard will take care of tranliterating our input to Arabic alphabet.

For example salam (hello) will be transliterated to سلام.

For a demo example of this check this online virtual arabic keyboard

So how we can create this virtual keyboard using Angular.js .When I first wanted to create this tool I thought that creating it in Angular.js would be difficult but it turns out that's even simpler to build it using the Google great framework.

How to use the virtual keyboard

The virtual keyboard can be used in two ways :

Either via mouse in this case there is no tranliteration just simple text concatenation

Or via physical keyboard in this case we type in English so our system needs to transliterate and convert the English alphabet to Arabic and put it on the textarea for the user to copy.

Getting started

To get started we need to configure our local developement machine with the necessary tools so start by installing the Node.js platform if it's not already installed.Here is a tutorial on how to install Node.js under Ubuntu using NVM.Or just grab the installer from the official Nods.js website and install it by yourself.

Next we need to install http-server a local http server for serving static files so we can test our Angular.js app locally.

So just open your terminal if you are under Linux/MAC or your command prompt if you are under Windows and enter

npm install http-server -g

Next after installing http-server create your development folder,lets name it virtual-keyboard and just create a bunch of files and folders.

mkdir virtual-keyboard  && cd virtual-keyboard
touch index.html  
mkdir scripts styles images

Building and styling the keyboard layout

<!DOCTYPE html>
<meta charset="utf-8">
<meta http-equiv="X-UA-Compatible" content="IE=edge">
<title>Virtual Keyboard</title>
<meta name="viewport" content="width=device-width,initial-scale=1">
<link rel="stylesheet" href="styles/bootstrap.min.css">
<link rel="stylesheet" href="styles/style.css">
<body >
    <div class="section">
        <div style="width:100%;margin: auto">
            <div class="txtWrapper">
                <textarea dir="rtl" placeholder="..." ng-model="text" ng-change="trans()" auto-focus="autoFocus">
                <div class="keysWrapper">
                    <div style="width:100%;margin:auto">
                        <div class="keyWrapper">
                        <div class="clearfix">
                            <a ng-repeat="obj in shema" ng-click="putc(obj.arabic)">
                                <div class="arabicKey"><span>{[{ obj.arabic }]}</span></div>
<script src="scripts/angular.js"></script>
<script src="scripts/app.js"></script>

Then under the styles folder download and put bootstrap then create a style.css file ,open it and copy the following styles

.txtWrapper {
    background: #A52121;
    border: 1px solid #213143;
    padding: 0px;
    margin: 0px;
.txtWrapper textarea {
  background: #fff;
    border: 1px solid #000;
    box-sizing: border-box;
    height: 200px;
    padding: 20px;
    text-align: right;
    width: 100%;

.keyboardArea {
  text-align: right;
  direction: ltr;
    position: relative;
    padding: 5px;
    margin: 0 0 10px;
  background: #000;      
  z-index: 999;

.keyWrapper a{
  background: rgba(255, 255, 255, 0.04);
  border: 1px solid #000;
  color: #fff;
  cursor: pointer;
  display: inline-block;
  float: right;
  font-size: 25px;
  height: 40px;
  margin: 0 1px 2px;
  position: relative;
  text-align: center;
  text-decoration: none;
  width: 50px;
  transition: 0.25s;
.arabicKey {
    position: absolute;
    right: 5px;
    top: 0;
.keyWrapper a:hover .arabicKey{
  color: blue;
  font-size: 26px;

Building the Angular.js app

Under scripts folder create an app.js file then add the code as we add it on the following steps

First we will start by creating our app

var app = angular.module('myKeyboard',[]);

Next we declare a constant which holds the schema of our keyboard i.e the mapping between arabic and english letters

            { "arabic": "\u0627", "latin": ["a"]},
            { "arabic": "\u0628", "latin": ["b", "B"]},
            { "arabic": "\u062A", "latin": ["t"]},
            { "arabic": "\u062B", "latin": ["c"]},
            { "arabic": "\u062C", "latin": ["j"]},
            { "arabic": "\u062D", "latin": ["h"]},
            { "arabic": "\u062E", "latin": ["h'","kh="]},
            { "arabic": "\u062F", "latin": ["d"]},
            { "arabic": "\u0630", "latin": ["z"]},
            { "arabic": "\u0631", "latin": ["r", "R"]},
            { "arabic": "\u0632", "latin": ["Z"]},
            { "arabic": "\u0633", "latin": ["s"]},
            { "arabic": "\u0634", "latin": ["C"]},
            { "arabic": "\u0635", "latin": ["S"]},
            { "arabic": "\u0636", "latin": ["D"]},
            /* .... */
            /* values omitted */

Next we create the auto focus directive

app.directive('autoFocus',[ function() {
    return {
        restrict: 'A',
        scope: {
            value: "=autoFocus"
        link: function($scope, $element, attrs) {
            $scope.$watch("value", function(currentValue, previousValue) {

Then we use it

<textarea auto-focus="autoFocus"></textarea>

This directive is very important to our keyboard but only when using the keyboard through the mouse because when we click on the virtual keyboard keys the textarea loses focus so we need to give it the focus back so instead of doing that manually each time we press a key we set it via code with the help of this directive.

Finally we write the controller

app.controller('KeyboardController',["$scope","SHEMA",function($scope,SHEMA) {
    $scope.text = "";
    $scope.shema = SHEMA;

    $scope.putc = function(letter){
        $scope.text += letter;
        $scope.autoFocus = true;
    $scope.trans = function(){
            var txt = $scope.text;
            angular.forEach($scope.shema, function(obj, k){
                    angular.forEach(obj.latin, function(c, kk){

                        var re = new RegExp(c);
                        txt = txt.replace(re,obj.arabic);

            $scope.text = txt;
            return ;



In the controller we inject the $scope and the SHEMA constant

The $scope.text model is bound to the textarea via ng-model so whatever exists in $scope.text exists on the textarea.

The $scope.puts is activated when we use the keyboard via mouse,it"s bound to each virtual keyboard key through ng-click which's fired when we click on our keyboard keys.In this case we don't need transliteration we just need to concatenate the pressed arabic letter with textarea $scope.text which's initialized with an empty string in the first place.

<textarea dir="rtl" ng-model="text"  auto-focus="autoFocus"></textarea>

the $scope.trans() method gets everytime the textarea changes the change event is fired when we type on our actual keyboad

<textarea dir="rtl" ng-model="text" ng-change="trans()" auto-focus="autoFocus"></textarea>

$scope.trans() takes care of transliterating what we type (in English ) on the fly and change $scope.text to contain the arabic text equivalent of what we've typed.

The essential part of trans() method is this

var re = new RegExp(c);
txt = txt.replace(re,obj.arabic);

Which simply uses a JavaScript regular expression function to replace the latin letters in our text by their equivalents in Arabic.

To test the virtual keyboard

First clone the GitHub repository

git clone
cd virtual-arabic-keyboard

On your terminal/command prompt and then navigate to with your web browser

You should see


So that's the end of this tutorial .You can find the complete code of this virtual arabic keyboard on this GitHub repository.A live demo is availabe also on this online arabic keyboard website

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About the author

Ahmed Bouchefra
is a web developer with 5+ years of experience and technical author with an engineering degree on software development. You can hire him with a click on the link above or contact him via his LinkedIn account. He authored technical content for the industry-leading websites such as SitePoint, Smashing, DigitalOcean, RealPython, freeCodeCamp, JScrambler, Pusher, and Auth0. He also co-authored various books about modern web development that you can find from Amazon or Leanpub

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