Thumb keys - awkward for small hands?

One thing I notice from pictures of the is that there is empty space next to the Ctrl thumb keys. This seems strange because the missing slot is a premium thumb position, at least for my hands. For example, on a standard keyboard both the Space and Alt/Cmd keys are extremely comfortable to hit; looking at my hand from above, when hitting Space my thumb lies right outside my index finger (corresponding to the Ctrl on keyboard io), and when hitting Cmd my thumb lies between my index and middle fingers (corresponding to the empty space next to Ctrl). Another keyboard I was looking at, the Esrille, also has thumb keys that extend farther inwards rather than outwards - the position of its Fn key right between the index/middle fingers roughly corresponds to the Alt/Cmd on normal keyboards. In general, extending the thumb too much feels like it strains the wrist whereas flexing it slightly is a small and natural motion.

So it seems more natural to shift the 4 thumb keys one space inwards, or just add an extra key in that empty slot. I do know that I have somewhat smaller hands (for reference, can just barely hit octaves on a piano), so maybe it’s just me. But I’ve also seen pictures of people typing on it and it seems hard to hit the outermost key (Shift by default, I think) without moving the whole hand.

I imagine leaving out this particular thumb key was a deliberate design choice, so I’m curious about other people’s opinions and experiences with this.

In our experience, most folks have had more trouble reaching the interior position in the arc you’re describing than reaching our where our Shift is. But indeed, every set of hands is different.

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I have very small hands (women’s small or extra small gloves, and yes, I also can barely reach an octave) and have limited mobility in my thumbs. I can’t comfortably reach the outer two keys, but can reach the two inner ones.

I think it’s hard to understand how the Model 01 fits your hand without feeling it. I expected as you that the inner buttons would be a reach and the outers would be natural, but that is not the case.

If you imagine the tip of your thumb between the two inner buttons and the base joint of your thumb on the palm key, that aligns the arc of your finger tips with the home row. Hitting the outer two keys feels like crossing over on a piano, requiring pinching your thumb under your palm, or lifting off the home row and palm key.

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I think it really comes down to hand size. I’ve got extra-extra large hands (men’s XL barely fits, and it’s hard to find XXL gloves) and I can’t comfortably reach the inner CTRL key, and another interior key would go completely unused by me (just to throw another data point out there). By that same token, I could very reasonably take another key outside of where the shift keys are right now and it would be perfectly comfortable. Of course, with a programmable keyboard we can reasonably reconfigure the keys to work for us. I’d happily take another interior AND another exterior key. I do think that the current layout is the best for reasonable use across all hand sizes, though.

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I also belong to the minority that would prefer the thumb keys to be closer inward. I have actually conducted a short survey about this among my colleagues, using printed 1:1 keyboardio key layout - the result was that 9 people preferred the outer key (where shift is currently located) to an additional inward key, while 2 would like more to have an additional key.

I even talked to @jesse about it, and he mentioned that he may consider adding an extra key for Model 02 - I’m counting on it! :wink:


I agree regarding the difficulty for small hands. With the Shift keys where they come installed, I have to fully extend my thumb, possibly forcing my fingers off of the home keys. Our plan will be to download Kaleidoscope and switch the Shift and Control keys because with my non-specialized typing needs, I rarely use Control.

I’m late to this conversation, but now that I’ve been using the Model 01 for a week or so, I wanted to chime in as I’ve been thinking about this a lot.

I have average sized hands, I think (I’m 5’9", wear medium/large gloves), and find it a real stretch to hit the outer keys. I moved the shift keys one position in, which is better, and put the relatively less-used windows and alt keys on the outside. I also wish there were additional inner keys. It feels a bit like a wasted opportunity to not have any keys there when typical keyboard layouts have an entire row there. I think some extra keys there would be great for chording…

If nothing else, then I could try layouts like having space and backspace on both hands, or having alt/windows on both hands, which would make certain shortcuts I frequently use much more easy when one hand is on the mouse and such.

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It may not be what you’re looking for, but you might want to try Kaleidoscope-Qukeys. With that plugin, you can add modifier keys on your home row (at least on one layer), coexisting with the letter keys. If that works well enough, you could free up the thumb keys for whatever you like.

[End shameless plug of my own work]

That sounds interesting… how, specifically, do you use Qukeys?

I’d be worried about causing false key presses all the time… or is that just something you get used to?

Qukeys work by tracking the order of presses and releases. For example, if there’s a qukey that’s configured as F / shift, when that key is pressed, nothing happens right away. If it is released before any subsequently-pressed key is released, it will send the keycode for f, but if another key is pressed while it’s still down – let’s say A – and that key is released before the qukey, the qukey will become shift instead.

There’s also a configurable timeout, so if you hold that F / shift key long enough (200ms seems to work pretty well), it becomes shift anyway. This lets you use the modifiers with another device (i.e. a mouse).

This system seems to work quite well at avoiding unintended input, though you might notice a slight delay when typing qukeys. I don’t think a lot of people are using it so far, but I’ve only had one report of unintended input, and that was due to simultaneous key releases when the desired input was to have a qukey be a modifier, and a printable character was input instead. That’s not as bad (in general) as an unintended modifier.

For me, it works very well, but I’m still not really using my Model01 for typing yet, and I’m also very slow and deliberate compared to many people here.

That’s really interesting… perhaps I’ll give it a shot some time. Thanks for the heads up.

I’m spoiled when it comes to M01, I have bigger than medium, smaller than large hands (according to dish washing glove sizing) and the thumb keys + function keys fit perfectly. I can reach inner keys as easily as outer keys.

I have no complaints, I would be happy with 5 thumb keys, add another one to the inner side, but I realize that many folks may no be able to utilize an extra key that is uncomfortable to reach.

I think my hands must be on the large side, as I find the outer keys very comfortable and the two inner thumb keys slightly uncomfortable to reach…The current set up does seem like a pretty reasonable compromise for the most people’s hands though.

The shift keys are awkward for me, but the tab/enter key columns are impossible for me without moving my entire hand.

It’d be nice if someone, someday, made a keyboard that’s specifically designed for smaller hands.

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I know the Esrille New has different sizes for small vs large hands, but it is quite expensive…

Small hands here too with what I believe are somewhat short pinkies, and if I put my fingers on the home row my thumbs rest more on the ctrl keys than on the bksp/space ones. I would definitely have liked an extra modifier key slot next to Ctrl, it would’ve been an easy way to make the keyboard more universal for all hand sizes.

I think the palm keys could’ve extended a bit more outwards too for the same reason.

That Esrille New smaller-sized keyboard sounds interesting, but yeah, no kidding about the price especially if you compare features with the Model 01.


Is that layout something you could share? I have small hands and this is my only concern for the Keyboardio.