MAME’s User Interface

Introduction

MAME provides a simple user interface for selecting a system and software to run and changing settings while running an emulated system. MAME’s user interface is designed to be usable with a keyboard, game controller, or pointing device, but will require a keyboard for initial configuration.

The default settings for the most important controls to know when running an emulated system, and the settings they correspond to in case you want to change them, are as follows:

Scroll Lock, or Forward Delete on macOS (UI Toggle)

For emulated systems with keyboard inputs, enable or disable UI controls. (MAME starts with UI controls disabled for systems with keyboard inputs unless the ui_active option is on.)

Tab (Config Menu)

Show or hide the menu during emulation.

Escape (UI Cancel)

Return to the system selection menu, or exit if MAME was started with a system specified (from the command line or using an external front-end).

Configuring inputs

MAME needs a flexible input system to support the control schemes of the vast array of systems it emulates. In MAME, inputs that only have two distinct states, on and off or active and inactive, are called digital inputs, and all other inputs are called analog inputs, even if this is not strictly true.

To assign MAME’s user interface controls or the default inputs for all systems, select Input (general) from the main menu during emulation, or select Configure Options from the system selection menu and then select General Inputs. From there, select a category.

To assign inputs for the currently running machine, select Input (this Machine) from the main menu during emulation. Inputs are grouped by device and sorted by type. You can move between devices with the next group and previous group keys/buttons ([ and ] on the keyboard by default).

The input assignment menus show the name of the emulated input or user interface control on the left, and the input (or combination of inputs) assigned to it on the right.

To adjust the sensitivity, auto-centre speed and inversion settings, or to see how emulated analog controls react to your inputs, select Analog Controls from the main menu during emulation. (This item only appears on the main menu for systems with analog controls.)

Digital input settings

Each emulated digital input has a single assignment setting. For flexibility, MAME can combine host inputs (keys, buttons and joystick axes) using logical and, not and or operations. This is best illustrated with some examples:

Kbd 1

In this simple case, pressing the 1 key on the keyboard activates the emulated input or user interface control.

Kbd Down or Joy 1 Down

Pressing the down arrow on the keyboard or moving the first joystick down activates the emulated input or user interface control.

Kbd P not Kbd Shift not Kbd Right Shift

Pressing the P key on the keyboard while not pressing either Shift key activates the emulated input or user interface control. MAME does not show the implicit and operations.

Kbd P Kbd Shift or Kbd P Kbd Right Shift

Pressing the P key while also pressing either of the Shift keys activates the emulated input or user interface control. Once again, the implicit and operations are not shown.

(In technical terms, MAME uses Boolean sum of products logic to combine inputs.)

When a digital input setting is highlighted, the prompt below the menu shows whether selecting it will set the assignment or append an or operation to it. Press UI Left/Right before selecting the setting to switch between setting or appending an or operation. Press UI Clear (Delete or Forward Delete by default) to clear the setting or restore the default assignment.

When you select a digital input setting, MAME will wait for you to enter an input or a combination of inputs for a logical and operation:

  • Press a key or button or move an analog control once to add it to the and operation.

  • Press a key or button or move an analog control twice to add a not item to the and operation. Pressing the same key or button or moving the same analog control additional times toggles the not on and off.

  • Pressing UI Cancel (Escape by default) before activating any other controls clears the setting or restores the default assignment.

  • Pressing UI Cancel after activating another control leaves the setting unchanged.

  • The new setting is shown below the menu. Wait one second after activating an input to accept the new setting.

Here’s how to produce some example settings:

Kbd 1

Press the 1 key on the keyboard once, then wait one second to accept the setting.

Kbd F12 Kbd Shift Keyboard Alt

Press the F12 key on the keyboard once, press the left Shift key once, press the left Alt key once, then wait one second to accept the setting.

Kbd P not Kbd Shift not Kbd Right Shift

Press the P key on the keyboard once, press the left Shift key twice, press the right Shift key twice, then wait one second to accept the setting.

Analog input settings

Each emulated analog input has three assignment settings:

  • Use the axis setting to assign an analog axis to control the emulated analog input. The axis setting uses the name of the input with the suffix “Analog”. For example the axis setting for the steering wheel in Ridge Racer is called Steering Wheel Analog.

  • Use the increment setting assign an input (or combination of inputs) to increase the value of the emulated analog input. The increment setting uses the name of the input with the suffix “Analog Inc”. For example the increment setting for the steering wheel in Ridge Racer is called Steering Wheel Analog Inc. This is a digital input setting – if an analog axis is assigned to it, MAME will not increase the emulated input value at a proportional speed.

  • Use the decrement setting assign an input (or combination of inputs) to decrease the value of the emulated analog input. The decrement setting uses the name of the input with the suffix “Analog Dec”. For example the decrement setting for the steering wheel in Ridge Racer is called Steering Wheel Analog Dec. This is a digital input setting – if an analog axis is assigned to it, MAME will not decrease the emulated input value at a proportional speed.

The increment and decrement settings are most useful for controlling an emulated analog input using digital controls (for example keyboard keys, joystick buttons, or a directional pad). They are configured in the same way as emulated digital inputs (see above). It’s important that you don’t assign the same control to the axis setting as well as the increment and/or decrement settings for the same emulated input at the same time. For example if you assign Ridge Racer’s Steering Wheel Analog setting to the X axis of the left analog stick on your controller, you should not assign either the Steering Wheel Analog Inc or Steering Wheel Analog Dec setting to the X axis of the same analog stick.

You can assign one or more analog axes to the axis setting for an emulated analog input. When multiple axes are assigned to an axis setting, they will be added together, but absolute position controls will override relative position controls. For example suppose for Arkanoid you assign the Dial Analog axis setting to Mouse X or Joy 1 LSX or Joy 1 RSX on a mouse Xbox-style controller. You will be able to control the paddle with the mouse or either analog stick, but the mouse will only take effect if both analog sticks are in the neutral position (centred) on the X axis. If either analog stick is not centred on the X axis, the mouse will have no effect, because a mouse is a relative position control while a joystick is an absolute position control.

For absolute position controls like joysticks and pedals, MAME allows you to assign either the full range of an axis or the range on one side of the neutral position (a half axis) to an axis setting. Assigning a half axis is usually used for pedals or other absolute inputs where the neutral position is at one end of the input range. For example suppose for Ridge Racer you assign the Brake Pedal Analog setting to the portion of a vertical joystick axis below the neutral position. If the joystick is at or above the neutral position vertically, the brake pedal will be released; if the joystick is below the neutral position vertically, the brake pedal will be applied proportionally. Half axes are displayed as the name of the axis followed by a plus or minus sign (+ or -). Plus refers to the portion of the axis below or to the right of the neutral position; minus refers to the portion of the axis above or to the left of the neutral position. For pedal or analog trigger controls, the active range is treated as being above the neutral position (the half axis indicated by a minus sign).

When keys or buttons are assigned to an axis setting, they conditionally enable analog controls assigned to the setting. This can be used in conjunction with an absolute position control to create a “sticky” control.

Here are some examples of some possible axis setting assignments, assuming an Xbox-style controller and a mouse are used:

Joy 1 RSY

Use vertical movement of the right analog stick to control the emulated input.

Mouse X or Joy 1 LT or Joy 1 RT Reverse

Use horizontal mouse movement, or the left and right triggers to control the emulated input. The right trigger is reversed so it acts in the opposite direction to the left trigger.

Joy 1 LB Joy 1 LSX

Use horizontal movement of the left analog stick to control the emulated input, but only while holding the left shoulder button. If the right shoulder button is released while the left analog stick is not centred horizontally, the emulated input will hold its value until the right shoulder button is pressed again (a “sticky” control).

not Joy 1 RB Joy 1 RSX or Joy 1 RB Joy 1 RSX Reverse

Use horizontal movement of the right analog stick to control the emulated input, but invert the control if the right shoulder button is held.

When you select an axis setting, MAME will wait for you to enter an input:

  • Move an analog control to assign it to the axis setting.

  • Press a key or button (or a combination of keys or buttons) before moving an analog control to conditionally enable the analog control.

  • When appending to a setting, if the last assigned control is an absolute position control, move the same control again to cycle between the full range of the axis, the portion of the axis on either side of the neutral position, and the full range of the axis reversed.

  • When appending to a setting, if the last assigned control is a relative position control, move the same control again to toggle reversing the direction of the control on or off.

  • When appending to a setting, move an analog control other than the last assigned control or press a key or button to add an or operation.

  • Pressing UI Cancel (Escape by default) before activating any other controls clears the setting or restores the default assignment.

  • Pressing UI Cancel after activating another control leaves the setting unchanged.

  • The new setting is shown below the menu. Wait one second after moving an analog control to accept the new setting.

To adjust sensitivity, auto-centring speed and inversion settings for emulated analog inputs, or to see how they respond to your settings, select Analog Controls from the main menu during emulation. Settings for emulated analog inputs are grouped by device and sorted by type. You can move between devices with the next group and previous group keys/buttons ([ and ] on the keyboard by default). The state of the emulated analog inputs is shown below the menu, and reacts in real time. Press the On Screen Display key or button (the backtick/tilde key by default on a US ANSI QWERTY keyboard) to hide the menu to make it easier to test without changing settings. Press the same key or button to show the menu again.

Each emulated input has four settings on the Analog Controls menu:

  • The increment/decrement speed setting controls how fast the input value increases or decreases in response to the controls assigned to the increment/decrement settings.

  • The auto-centering speed setting controls how fast the input value returns to the neutral state when the controls assigned to the increment/decrement settings are released. Setting it to zero (0) will result in the value not automatically returning to the neutral position.

  • The reverse setting allows the direction of the emulated input’s response to controls to be inverted. This applies to controls assigned to the axis setting and the increment/decrement settings.

  • The sensitivity setting adjusts the input value’s response to the control assigned to the axis setting.

Use the UI left/right keys or buttons to adjust the highlighted setting. Selecting a setting or pressing the UI clear key/button (Forward Delete by default) restores its default value.

The units for the increment/decrement speed, auto-centering speed and sensitivity settings are tied to the driver/device implementation. The increment/decrement speed and auto-centering speed settings are also tied to the frame rate of the first emulated screen in the system. The response to controls assigned to the increment/decrement settings will change if the system changes the frame rate of this screen.

The system and software selection menus

If you start MAME without specifying a system on the command line, the system selection menu will be shown (assuming the ui option is set to cabinet). The system selection menu is also shown if you select Select New Machine from the main menu during emulation. Selecting a system that uses software lists shows the similar software selection menu.

The system and software selection menus have the following parts:

  • The heading area at the top, showing the emulator name and version, the number of systems or software items in the menu, and the current search text. The software selection menu also shows the name of the selected system.

  • The toolbar immediately below the heading area. The exact toolbar buttons shown depend on the menu. Hover the mouse pointer over a button to see a description. Click a button to select it.

    Toolbar buttons are add/remove highlighted system/software from favourites (star), export displayed list to file (diskette), audit media (magnifying glass), show info viewer (“i” emblazoned on blue circle), return to previous menu (bent arrow on blue), and exit (cross on red).

  • The list of systems or software in the centre. For the system selection menu, there are configuration options below the list of systems. Clones are shown with a different text colour (grey by default). You can right-click a system name as a shortcut to show the machine configuration options for the system.

    Systems or software items are sorted by full name or description, keeping clones immediately below their parents. This may appear confusing if your filter settings cause a parent system or software item to be hidden while one or more of its clones are visible.

  • The info panel at the bottom, showing summary information about the highlighted system or software. The background colour changes depending on the emulation status: green for working, amber for imperfectly emulated features or known issues, or red for more serious issues.

    A yellow star is show at the top left of the info panel if the highlighted system or software is in your favourites list.

  • The collapsible list of filter options on the left. Click a filter to apply it to the list of systems/software. Some filters show a menu with additional options (e.g. specifying the manufacturer for the Manufacturer filter, or specifying a file and group for the Category filter).

    Click Unfiltered to display all items. Click Custom Filter to combine multiple filters. Click the strip between the list of filters and the list of systems/software to show or hide the list of filters. Be aware that filters still apply when the list of filters is hidden.

  • The collapsible info viewer on the right. This has two tabs for showing images and information. Click a tab to switch tabs; click the left- or right-facing triangles next to the image/info title to switch between images or information sources.

    Emulation information is automatically shown for systems, and information from the software list is shown for software items. Additional information from external files can be shown using the Data plugin.

You can type to search the displayed list of systems or software. Systems are searched by full name, manufacturer and full name, and short name. If you are using localised system names, phonetic names will also be searched if present. Software items are searched by description, alternate titles (alt_title info elements in the software lists), and short name. UI Cancel (Escape by default) will clear the search if currently searching.

The simple system selection menu

If you start MAME without specifying a system on the command line (or choose Select New Machine from the main menu during emulation) with the ui option set to simple, the simple system selection menu will be shown. The simple system selection menu shows fifteen randomly selected systems that have ROM sets present in your configured ROM folder(s). You can type to search for a system. Clearing the search causes fifteen systems to be randomly selected again.

The info panel below the menu shows summary information about the highlighted system. The background colour changes depending on the emulation status: green for working, amber for imperfectly emulated features or known issues, or red for more serious issues.