Pros and Cons for different layouts

(tiltowaitt) #32

I’m not sure that makes much of a difference. AFAIK, none of the layouts discussed (save for one Colemak variant, which moves backspace) touches modifiers, etc.

(Jan Warchoł) #33

I am using a custom layout, and I think it may be interesting to you because you seem to be from Poland :wink: and I am, too. Here’s the alphanumeric part:

(Compared with QWERTY, keys marked in red use different hand, and keys marked in yellow are moved to a different place within the same hand.)

It’s based on Norman layout, with some tweaks:

  • K and J are very infrequent in English but considerably more frequent in Polish. Their position in Norman (middle of top row) is very uncomfortable for me to reach, because I have short fingers, so I moved them to better places (I’m particularly happy with K, because it landed just next to its original QWERTY location).
  • I kept O and I in their original QWERTY location - for me these locations are not that bad, and this made it easier to learn.

As for learning this layout, I don’t remember how long did it take me, but I remember one thing: relearning the 2 letters that changed hands caused me as much trouble as relearning all the other 11 letters that changed keys without changing hands. Now, in Dvorak 22 letters change hands…

(Michael Richters) #34

Good point, except that this topic is not limited solely to those layouts, since we’re discussing custom layouts as well. Furthermore, when a typist makes corrections, it’s not just the backspaces that are lost in the text, but anything else typed, as well. That could lead to significant differences in the frequency of certain letters. For example, t probably gets typed and erased more often than most other letters.

I’m interested in the actual frequency (and pattern) of characters typed, which is a much trickier problem than analyzing finished text samples; it requires a real keylogger, and even that isn’t quite right, because the keyboard could be sending multiple events with a single keystroke, and if the goal is to make a better keymap, both the input stream that the host sees and the keys pressed on the keyboard are interesting (and not necessarily identical).

(Jan Warchoł) #35

Indeed, that’s an important point.
I started playing with keyboard layouts a long time ago (10 years?) but didn’t get serious until I got RSI. And, from what I can tell, it was moving the modifiers that made most difference for me in terms of reducing discomfort. So, let me update the diagram with what I did to modifiers:

As you can see, Shifts are closer (moving them upwards really makes a difference, especially in case of right shift), Ctrl is under thumb. I couldn’t find a good spot for backspace, because there is not enough thumb keys on a typical keyboard, so I put it under B - this required me to move B and make some changes in punctuation (I access most of it using right alt). This part is not optimal and subject to change when I get my keyboardio.

Going back to the benefits: for me, changing alphanumerics was mostly about making typing less difficult. It probably improved my speed somehow, but what’s more important is that my fingers can move more fluidly, and it’s just more pleasant.

I suppose this depends a lot on finger length. People with long fingers can easily reach all letters so for them it’s not much of a problem. My index finger is 66 mm long, and middle 77 mm long (even though I’m 6 feet tall), and reaching QWERTY’s T (and especially Y) is a big stretch - my whole hand has to change shape (flatten) to reach that key, making all other fingers move from their positions. That’s why I put punctuation there.

(Jan Warchoł) #36

This is a very interesting approach, and I’ll be very curious to see how it develops. It lines up with my observations as well: I think the best way to judge a layout is to assign scores to ngrams instead of just keys. I guess 3-grams should be enough for good results.

(Craig Disselkoen) #37

Indeed, the carpalx tool which Jesse linked above, analyzes typing effort in terms of 3-grams. However, it uses much different criteria than AmigoNico does. (AmigoNico - excellent writeup, by the way.)

(Christopher Browne) #38

I am pretty expressly planning to do some remappings of the non-QWERTY keys, that is, i intend to retain the ‘official’ portions of QWERTY, but i anticipate attuning the others (e.g. - ctrl, bksp, cmd, space, alt, and so forth) to my own intentions.

Enter is already swapped onto the butterfly key; I use it plenty enough that it needs to be that bit more direct.

i have a planck mapping where i shifted almost everything but the “official QWERTY bits” hither and thither. i’d suggest looking at it except that the Planck is sufficiently smaller that it is guaranteed that it seems unlikely to provide any wisdom.

i’m starting by remapping the things that are bugging me… So far…

  • Enter’s gotta improve…
  • Space isn’t right…
  • i think I need shift to be elsewhere
  • NUM controlled at top right? Nope, nope, nope… maybe backspace instead…
  • Left pinky shouldn’t be pageup/down…

The one unfortunate thing is that with keys being pretty unique in shape, they can’t be readily swapped as I could do with “regular” caps. in the long run, i suppose i want runic caps :wink:

(Donald Curtis) #39

i have tried dvorak, colemak, and now norman.

in between i’ve always gone back to qwerty then to the new layout.

i didn’t like dvorak for the alternating keys. once i got really comfortable it seemed like i was switching common pairs that i would type really fast.

i like colemak but it was starting to get where i was really fast with it and then i didn’t like it anymore. i guess i don’t know why i switched away.

norman is actually my least favorite. i think that it’s so close to qwerty that i make a lot more mistakes. i cannot explain it but i am thinking about switching away to maybe workman or to colemak-dh.


I had already done a bit of research about proper posture and hand placement and followed those guidelines for a few years prior to switching. I only switched to colemak because I could think of nothing else that would allow me to keep using a keyboard without experiencing pain.

Colemak was great for a few years, the old pain went away but after a while I started feeling discomfort on my right hand’s index finger. After doing some more research on colemak I figured it was the placement of the letter H. I then switched to workman.

Workman has been working great so far for the past couple of years, the only issue I ever had with it was when I needed to work on a terminal outside of X on linux and it wasn’t that easy to get it working as with other more popular layouts.

To me it seems minimizing lateral movement to be the most important thing about a layout. I know both colemak and workman aim to do this to some extent but all their testing was done with the old key placement of most keyboards. But now with the M01 I’m wondering if the difference in having straight rows for each finger has an impact on the formulas that were used to come with the optimal layout for english with the least amount of lateral movement.

(Noseglasses) #41

I am using Norman as well. I find it very interesting that you state that you have better experience with other layouts that differ more from QWERTY concerning typing mistakes. How long have you been using Norman? For me it took half a year until I exceeded my QWERTY performance.

(Jennifer Leigh) #42

Does anyone on this thread feel up to writing a concise summary of the advantages and considerations for the various different layouts that would be appropriate for the wiki? I don’t have the knowledge, but I’m curious. I could research and write something, but if one of you folks who have done that work would be up for writing something up for folks who are considering switching layouts, that would be awesome. :slight_smile:

Another nice guide to have would be something about keyboarding ergonomics and design. I know a lot of thought and research has gone into the design of the Model 01, and it would be nice to understand it more. What are the advantages of ortho-linear layouts? For those of us who are self taught typists, what keys are we supposed to hit with each finger? Why?

I’m adding both of these to my wiki wishlist, and would be delighted if someone feels like tackling the topics before I get there.

(James Cash) #43

I’d be concerned that such a write-up would lead to more controversy than value…I think the layouts the people prefer vary greatly with personal preference and it is my understanding that the thing that actually makes a difference in accuracy or RSI prevention is the hardware configuration.

(JP) #44

There is the potential for “misuse” and “division” but I doubt that’s Jennifer’s intention. I would venture a guess that her intentions are to illustrate the whys of doing things and design considerations so that it may provide insight for the user. They are of course free to adhere to or implement said design, or formulate their own. Ultimately its additional knowledge, neither good nor bad, neither boring or controversial. What you do with it is a different matter.

That being said, I do understand your concern(s).

(Jennifer Leigh) #45

Of course there are pros and cons and personal preferences here. It’s like computer languages, I expect. There are languages and layouts best suited for one set of constraints or another.

For example, in teaching myself to touch type “correctly” over the past couple weeks, I’ve found I have a strong preference against using the same finger for two adjacent letters in the same word. For example, my old finger pattern for typing “fred” on qwerty was index-middle-ring-middle. My occasional glances at the keys are to visually reorient after a weird n-gram like that. So if I’m going to actually assign certain keys to certain fingers, I would prefer to find a layout that will tend to break up characters so it was unlikely I would have to hit two keys in a row with the same finger. This has everything to do with a personal quirk and nothing to do with any objective measure of “best.”

(James Cash) #46

Oh, absolutely. My concern is just this is exactly the sort of thing that is fertile ground for endless arguments…no real objective way to determine which is better, people are very invested in their choices (since learning a new layout is usually a significant endeavour). That being said, this community has proven to be very nice & friendly, so I think we have good odds of not having nastiness.

(Noseglasses) #47

Xah Lee has a lot of links and info about different keyboard layouts on his page - which is worth a visit anytime, btw.

(Jennifer Leigh) #48

Yup! This is not a request I would make of every community, but from what I’ve seen here to date I think it’s entirely possible someone could write a relatively objective description of each of the common layouts (I think that’s Dvorak, Colemak, Workman, and Norman? am I missing something?) that would serve as a summary and stepping off place for someone new to the topic. It seems like many of you folks have tried multiple layouts and can explain what did and didn’t work for you in each.

It would also be nice to have non-English docs available.

(Donald Curtis) #49

huh, yeah i have been using it for almost a year now and i just have never
really felt comfortable with it. i guess i should say that i’m pretty
proficient with it now but i just don’t feel as comfortable typing on it as
i did on colemak. i’m very interested in the dh mod of colemak and still
have an inkling to try workman because i haven’t tried it yet.

i just think that straight up colemak feels the nicest i have tried and it
may be due to the rolls that it’s designed for.

although the more i use this keyboard the more i’m tempted to just pickup
whatever layout jesse tells me to :slight_smile:

(JP) #50

shut up and take my money… oh wait, we did that too.

(Michael Richters) #51

That’s a very interesting statement. I’m interested in the type of lateral movement you’re referring to, since I find lateral movement to be very easy (easier than longitudinal movement, anyway). I don’t rest my arms or wrists on anything when I type (unless something is in the way), and I don’t “stretch” or splay my fingers. Moving forward and back is a motion that includes my upper arm, but side-to-side (and slightly back-and-forth) is a pivot at the elbow, which takes less energy.

There are far more ways that people type that I imagined a year or two ago.