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rubiks cube notation - rotation letters explained

Rubik’s Cube Notation – All Cube Rotation Letters Explained

Cubers use letter notations in order to represent the algorithms to solve the cube. These universal notations allow cubers to speak in the same language thereby creating tutorials and multiple methodologies for solving the cube. Cubers use letters to describe the direction in which to spin the cube. For beginners, it is sufficient to learn the 6 basic letters, but for more advanced speedcubers it is better to learn more advanced notations.

Face rotations

There are six faces on a cube. A single clockwise face rotation of 90 degrees will be referred to by its letter F (front), B (back), R (right), L (left), D (down), U (up):

A counterclockwise 90 degrees turn will be referred to with a letter followed by an apostrophe:  F‘ (front), B’ (back), R’ (right), L’ (left), D’ (down), U’ (up):

A double turn of 180 degrees will be referred to by a letter with the number two:

F2 (front), B2 (back), R2 (right), L2 (left), D2 (down), U2 (up):

For the beginner’s method of solving layer by layer, this is all you need to know. Next, we will go through advanced notations for speedcubers using more advanced methods and for solving larger cubes.

Slice turns

Slice turns are rotations of the middle layer. 

M – Middle layer turn – between R and L and in the same direction as an L turn

E – Equatorial layer – between U and D and in the same direction as a D turn

S – Standing layer – between F and B and in the same direction as an F turn

Double turns

Turning two adjacent layers simultaneously is called a double turn. You will need this move when learning to solve cubes with more than 3 layers, such as the 4x4x4 Rubik’s Revenge. This is marked with a lowercase letter of the corresponding face: f,u,r,b,l,d. For example, you would use f to mean clockwise rotation of the top two layers. Some cubers may use the notation 2F (not to be confused with F2 which would mean a 180-degree turn of F). 

Note: In some cases, you might find Rubik’s Cube algorithms where lowercase letters are noting the counterclockwise rotation of a face but this is not standard.

Whole cube reorientation

Some algorithms may involve the reorientation of the entire puzzle. This may be performed in both directions, and double turns are possible. This may be marked with either lowercase or uppercase letters. 

x – rotate the entire cube as you would the R face but without holding the other 2 layers in place

y – rotate the entire cube as you would the U face but without holding the other 2 layers in place

x – rotate the entire cube as you would the F face but without holding the other 2 layers in place

Big cube notation

The notation of the Rubik’s Cube applies other twisty cubes but there are additional notations because of the deep turns and inner slice turns.

2F – second interior front layer (inner slice)

F2 – the two outer front layers turn together (deep turn) 

3Fw – The three front layers together on a big cube (min 7x7x7)

3Fw2 – 180-degree turn of the three front layers on a big cube

Piece notation

On a 3×3 Rubik’s Cube, there are 3 types of pieces. Centerpieces are single tiles fixed to the internal core. The front centerpiece would be marked as F. Edge pieces tie two faces together. The front-up edge would be marked as FU. Corner pieces tie three faces together. The front-right-up corner would be marked as FRU.

Finger trick notations

Finger tricks save valuable time for speed solvers. Repositioning the handgrip takes more time when trying to execute multiple operations, so overlapping moves and avoiding regrips streamlines solves while shaving off precious seconds. These algorithms use three types of notations: the finger, the puzzle piece, and the position of the fingers on the cube.

The fingers will be marked as: T(thumb) I(index), M (middle), R(ring), P (pinkie), W (wrist move). The right hand is marked with capital letters and the left hand is marked with lowercase letters.

The piece notation will be marked as in the previous paragraph.

Grip notation describes how to position your fingers on the cube. The first letter is the finger and the second letter is the piece notation. 

Ex. TF – right thumb on F, other fingers on the opposite side. TU – right thumb on up, the rest of the fingers on down. 

An example: {M-R4, T-R3} R2 U S'(I2) U2′ S(I1) U R2

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