Config file section

Valid in machine config files YES
Valid in mode config files NO

The keyboard: section of your config is used to configure options for how you map computer keyboard keys to pinball machine switches and events. This is useful for testing your game from your computer when you’re not around your physical machine.

Note that you can also use the MPF Monitor for this, and since the Monitor was released, most people use that instead of the keyboard: section of a config. However the keyboard: section is still nice for down-and-dirty testing and for posting events.

Here’s an example of it in action:

        switch: left_flipper
        switch: right_flipper
        switch: start
        switch: trough1
        toggle: True
        switch: trough2
        toggle: True
        switch: lock_post
        invert: True
        event: machine_reset
        event: advance_reel_test
            reel_name: score_1p_10
            direction: 1

You can also read more about the keyboard: section in the Tutorial step 6: Add keyboard control documentation.

Key & key combination entries

Once you create your keyboard: section, you create subsections for each key or key combination you want to configure. For simple keys (without modifiers), you can just enter the key. (In the sample file above, this is z, s, 1, 2, q, and 4.)

These entries are not case sensitive.

Using special keys

For “special” keys, it’s probably just easiest to enter the keys as words. Here are some examples of words that map to keys:

  • equals
  • minus
  • dash
  • leftbracket
  • rightbracket
  • backslash
  • apostrophe
  • semicolon
  • colon
  • comma
  • period
  • slash
  • question

Note that you can’t use the Escape key because that’s currently hard-coded to exit out of MPF when you hit it.

Note that this keyboard interface focuses on keys, not symbols. In other words the “plus” key is if you have a full size keyboard with a number pad which has a dedicated plus key. If you’re using a laptop with the shared plus & equals key, that is the equals key, or the equals key with a shift modifier.

Adding SHIFT, CTRL, and ALT modifiers

Since there are probably more switches in your machine then there are keys on your keyboard, you can also specify key combinations along with the key entries. These are called “modifier keys,” and MPF supports them in combination with regular keys, like this:

    switch: foo
    switch: tilt
    switch: slam_tilt

Starting in MPF 0.33, you an add debug: true in the keyboard: section to get a printout on the console of the current key and/or modifiers that are pushed down which is helpful in figuring out exactly what the modifier keys are called on your system.

Use it like this:

   debug: yes

This will print out results live as you hit keys and combinations which will look something like this:

KEYS: shift
KEYS: shift+s
KEYS: super
KEYS: meta+c
KEYS: shift
KEYS: shift+d
KEYS: lctrl
KEYS: ctrl+f
KEYS: escape

Options for each key & key combination

Once you enter the key and/or key combination, then you need to create a subsection which defines what this key or key combination does when it’s hit. There are several options:


The switch name of the pinball machine switch you want this key (or key combination) to control.


If True, then the key acts like a “push on / push off” key, where you just have to tap it once to hold the switch active. This is useful for switches in ball devices, since you don’t want to have to hold down the keys on your keyboard forever whenever a ball is locked in a device. Default is False. You might want to create multiple entries for the same switch for different key combinations. For example:

    switch: trough1
    switch: trough1
    toggle: True

In the above code, you can momentarily “tap” the trough1 switch by hitting the 1 key, but if you want to lock that switch on, then you can push Shift+1.


If True, then this key is inverted, meaning the associated switch is active when you’re not pushing the key down, and it’s inactive when you’re holding the key.


You can specify an event name to be posted when this key is pressed. This is useful for testing when you want to test some part of your game code based on an event. For example, you could map a keyboard key to clockwise_orbit_hit event instead of having to hit the left_orbit_enter key quickly followed by the right_orbit_enter key. Events entered here are transmitted posted by the MPF core engine process.


This is similar to the event: entry, except an mc_event is posted as events in the media controller process, rather than in the MPF process.


This section contains subsections which are a list of parameters that are posted along with the event or mc_event specified above. Using the following configuration file snippet as an example:

        event: advance_reel_test
            reel_name: score_1p_10
            direction: 1

This keyboard entry will post the event advance_reel_test when the 4 key is pressed, and it will pass the parameters reel_name=score_1p_10 and direction=1.