I'm missing something in the Russian course...
Why is there no 'cyrillic keyboard' being displayed to enter special characters? I know you can switch to a latin-written version for it, but I would like to start using the right alphabet from the get-go to learn the letters while I go along. The Spanish course already displays the special characters for when you don't know how to type them, seems like a small stretch..?
If you want ot type as usual, install Russian into your system with a normal ЙЦУКЕН-keyboard or a phonetic keyboard (downloadable here, for example)
I switch between languages using Shift + Alt. You may choose a different shortcut.
Basically, that's what a Russian user has on their PC.
I also heard Google Input Tools have somehting to offer you.
P.S. On Mac it is a bit different. The languages are installed in Keyboard settings in your System Preferences. And the default shortcut is ⌘ + Space. At least, that's what I had.
If you have a regular windows keyboard, there are two shift keys, under Caps Lock and enter. It's the key you use to make uppercase letters ;)
ETA: my own Windows 8 PC uses the default shortcut Windows key + space bar. Although, as I have a German keyboard installed as well, I should try to find the specific shortcuts because it makes switching back to Russian harder and I can't punctuate effectively and keep making specific tzpos with the wrong kezboard. (German is QWERTZ)
That doesn't help a whole lot since I don't have a physical cyrillic keyboard available. To be able to type in Russian I would have to bind them to my latin keys (or using a keyboard like you describe) and memorize where they all went...
No, even though you would need (the better part of) a full on-screen keyboard to do this, I think that would, in the end, work best to do this course.
If you are running Windows OS - you can always add Russian as another input language, and shift it with "alt+shift". I know Linux supports it as well, and it would be very strange if Mac didn't (though haven't validated it myself).
Another option would be using a "russian virtual keyboard" (google these words and pick anything you like) in a separate tab. A bit of a "copy-paste" mess, but does the job.
Since there are so many letters that are different, it would be difficult to put them all on the screen (and would take a while with your mouse).
The phonetic Russian keyboard isn't that hard to learn, although I have the йцукен keyboard installed. It takes a while to learn (and I just found out how to type a question mark today myself) but it's worth learning how to type on one of these. You'll get faster after the first few lessons.
Well one reason that might be construed as being a very legitimate one is that I don't use Windows. ;-)
The advice depends solely on what you use. Any sane modern OS has an option of having a Russian keyboard — it is among the top-10 most spoken native languages in the world, after all. If Duolingo implemented a keyboard... would be even a bit silly, given that it is 2015 now, not 1999.
I know what you should do on Mac, Windows or iPad, however, if you have nothing of these... Err... I'll have to google that same as you. What about Google Input tools, by the way?
I started using a standard "ЙЦУКЕН" keyboard layout for the first time for this Russian course a couple of days ago, without stickers, but with a key map I refer to when I'm lost. By the end of day 1 I stopped referring to the map, having figured out more or less where every letter is, as of now I have a ~80% hit rate, which means writing anything is still a cumbersome backspace-fest, but I expect that in a couple of days I'll be able to hit every time. It's a slight pain but I figure it's worth it to develop "good habits".
I decided to go with the Russian Phonetic ЯВЕРТЫ layout. It's not a bad mapping overall. For words that are similar to the English it's almost but not quite entirely unlike typing in English. ;-) If I want to type медик for example, I switch to the Russian keyboard, and type "medik" There are some oddities of course. My Russian surname ends in в, but the Anglicised version I've grown up with ends in v, so typing it as 'w' feels a bit odd. :-) But with no 1:1 phonetic mapping some oddities like that are to be expected.
That said, I printed out a copy of the layout that I keep propped up beside my monitor though, which makes finding the right character when it's not where I expected it somewhat easier. :-)
I set the cyrillic keyboard as a second keyboard on my PC. If you work with windows you can do this in the taskbar. The shortcut for me is Ctrl + Shift to switch between the english and the russian keyboard. For now I have a picture next to google chrome on which I can see where the cyrillic letters are located on my keyboard. I'm planning on buying a cyrillic sticker set to replace this unpractical picture. For now it works just fine. Just needs some getting used to.
You don't really need the stickers, although they would definitely be cool to have. A picture/ map of the keyboard was all I ever used, and my typing is just fine in Russian. Take Y.D247's advice to use a typing tutor. There are some available with English instructions. klavaro is a good, free one you can download, and there are plenty of others--ask, or just look around at the gazillion posts about it that are popping up this afternoon. :) Or use the method that worked for me, explained here.
this might be useful: http://sense-lang.org/typing/tutor/keyboardingRU.php
it's a bit boring but i find it worth it
For Mac users: I found the Russian Keyboard in system preferences/keyboard. Hit + to add a keyboard, then scroll down to Russian and add it, then the "Russian - Phonetic" is one of the choices. Once that is selected, I noticed that there was a little US flag icon next to my wi-fi strength indicator. I clicked on it, then I was able to select the Russian flag and type with Russian characters. Now I just have to figure out where they are on the keyboard! No worries about getting stuck with the Russian keyboard, just click the flag and select your other keyboard(s).
When i use that command on my mac, it opens the "spotlight" search. I think it can be fixed: https://support.apple.com/kb/PH11327?locale=en_US&viewlocale=en_US
I'm sure someone has commented on here about it, but you can order Cyrillic stickers to place on your keyboard.
http://masterrussian.com/ I thought had a link to but the said item. But try Amazon. It's cheap, the letters will not cover the Latin ones and it comes with instructions as to what keys to place the letters on.