Typing techniques & the Model 01

Reading the discussions here has got me thinking more and more about how I type on “standard” keyboards like my IBM Model M(s), and how that differs from how other people type.

When I started reading the discussions about various layouts, I was surprised to read comments about “stretching” to reach keys that are not in easy reach of the home position. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, I almost never do this; I move my whole hand to reach keys like `backspacè. I was never formally taught touch-typing (or “keyboarding”, which seems to be the pedantically correct term), so I went in search of the commonly-accepted wisdom, and was again surprised, both by the number of sources saying that one should keep fingers on the home keys and stretch the pinky, and also by statements that it is okay to let one’s wrists rest on the desktop while typing (though that latter advice is certainly not universal among the experts).

My impression is that the Model 01 is designed to minimize the amount of finger-stretching required while typing with stationary (or nearly stationary) wrists. Even though that’s not the way I type (with free-floating hands, I’d probably like it even better if it had another column or two on each side), I expect it to be a huge improvement for me once I’ve trained myself to use it. My one concern so far is the thumb keys. As great as I expect them to be for individual modifiers, I’m not sure how well I’m going to like them for modifier groups (ctrl+alt+shift+X?), especially if a palm key is also required. One-shot and sticky modifiers might do the trick, of course, and I’ll certainly give them a try, but I’m doubtful about wanting to use them frequently. I think I might shift my fingers to the thumb arc to chord multiple modifiers (that’s basically what I do now — ctrl + shift with left pinky + ring finger, ctrl + alt + shift with my left index finger on alt and two other fingers on the other modifiers, and my right hand on whatever other key needs to be pressed). For a triple modifier on the Model 01, though, it might mean two with one hand and one with the opposite. Probably not too bad?

Anyway, I thought other people may have some thoughts on how they expect the Model 01 to affect their typing habits, and that we might learn a bit from each other. For me, it’s going to be a radical change from any keyboard I’ve ever used before, but for some people it’s a much smaller step from an ErgoDox or similar. What are you guys thinking?

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I am also very much looking forward to seeing what sort of changes it instills in me, having always used a normal keyboard.

I am hoping that the thumb keys will make it easier to hit key chords, since I can use the thumbs of one hand to hold the modifier while using the other hand to press the other key, something that can be very annoying on normal keyboards (the control key especially is very annoying to hold with the right hand - on OS X, I was able to make return act like a control key when chorded, but I haven’t been able to do the same on Linux). In any case, I doubt having the modifiers grouped together on the thumb arc could possibly be worse than how they’re laid out on a standard keyboard!

The palm key, as you mention, is the biggest unknown for me right now. I am concerned that using it would feel very awkward while pressing other keys, but I suppose having the keyboard in a tilted configuration would alleviate contorted hand angles (and I don’t think that J&K would be shipping this thing if it is awkward to use, in any case!).

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Feedback from folks who tried it during the kickstarter roadshow was that started off feeling strange, but that one acclimated to it within a few minutes.

That said, keyboards are a very personal thing. We’re looking forward to seeing what you think.

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I’m one of those who has used that word. Perhaps it doesn’t adequately describe what I do.

Firstly, my wrists float. And my hands are big. I tend to rest a bit of my forearms on the desk near my elbows, but the rest of the arm and hand is floating, other than fingertips which lightly rest on the keys.

For really out-of-reach keys like the cursors or page up and down, obviously I move my whole hand.

For most other keys I still move my hand to use them if I’m going to use them a lot (non-precision bunch of backspaces, that sort of thing), but if it’s only going to be a press or two I “stretch” to hit them. Usually what that means is that my thumb and wrist stay exactly where they are (thumb on the spacebar, I think for homing maybe) but I splay my hand out, and some finger or other can then reach the key. There’s nothing uncomfortable or awkward about it, but there would be if, say, I tried to leave my index finger in place on its home position. But I don’t do that. Splaying my hand out like this I can comfortably reach backspace, backtick, and even escape (which on my old Cherry keyboard is very far away).

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One thing that I’ve learned from this forum is that, when it comes to keyboards, one man’s comfortable is another man’s awkward.

My main concern about the palm keys is that I’ll be using them fairly frequently, and that’s likely to involve dropping my wrists, especially the left one, from the position where they would normally be (for me, that’s fairly high above the keyboard. It would be terribly ironic if using this keyboard caused an RSI in someone who never had any pain from typing before…


Interesting. My hands are rather small, making those stretches considerably less comfortable than they would be if they were bigger – probably the reason I move my hands as much as I do. I tried stretching to tap backspace and found that I need to move my wrist to do it, which involves moving my elbow out away from my side. That’s a much bigger motion for the bulk of my arm than what I normally do to reach it, which just involves swinging the forearm while barely moving the elbow (and upper arm) at all. I think I normally use my ring fingers for both delete and backtick, but I can’t tell now that I’m paying attention. =P

In most of the advice that I found on keyboard technique, the emphasis was on speed, and that was the reason for the pinky stretch to enter and backspace (while keeping the right index finger on J), but then I found a video of Sean Wrona (someone mentioned him in another thread) winning a speed-typing contest, in which he clearly doesn’t keep his fingers on the home keys, while using his ring finger to type backspace. So, it’s hard to imagine that it would be that big a difference unless the typist had trouble returning to the home keys accurately. And that’s something that I think the Model 01’s sculpted keycaps will probably help with substantially (not that this is a problem for me, even on Apple’s awful aluminum slab keyboards).

I also forgot to add earlier that my biggest challenge and frustration with standard staggered keyboards is the number row. I think I’m fairly accurate with 1-4, and I don’t think I make too many errors when typing parens or hyphens, but in that middle section, I’m pretty bad, often striking two keys instead of just one. That’s probably the single thing I’m most looking forward to with the Model 01 – the ability to hit the correct key on that @#&%! number row!

For F1-12, I just give up and look down at the keyboard, but that’s no big deal; I don’t really use those while I’m typing

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I always used to use the wrong fingers for those, and always had to look. But one day I decided to go cold turkey with using the right fingers for them, and it really didn’t take me long at all to become proficient. I now touchtype them just like any other text. The amount of staggering bothers me a lot, but I use my right index finger on 6 regardless. Very much looking forward to that stagger being gone.

I think you said you have a Model M, which has them split into fours, no? Same on mine, and I use them without looking, by feel. For F10, find the start of the third group, and hit the second one, etc.

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I’m sure I could get better at it, but that 6… I’m pretty sure that I almost always use my right index finger on 8; I type parens and hyphens much more often than numbers (I’m pretty sure), and when I have a lot of numbers to type, I go to the numeric keypad instead of using those keys. And now I’m expecting to switch most of my typing to a Model 01, so it doesn’t seem worth it to try (though I have considered it every now and then).

Yes, that’s right. I just don’t use them often enough to really learn to type them by feel, and I don’t think speed is ever an issue when I’m using them, either. I’d probably spend more time thinking about how to find F10 than it would take to glance down and punch the key. Also because I use them so rarely, I often can’t remember which key I want to press to get the function I’m after, anyway (Is it F11 or F9…?).

Those grapes were sour, anyway! It’s not that I couldn’t reach them with my tiny hands! :wink:


I’ve only become able to hit the F keys reliably without looking recently, as a consequence of playing games that use them fairly frequently; start playing Dota and you’ll be touch typing those function keys in no time! :stuck_out_tongue:


There is a school of touch typing where 6 is on the left index finger. Essentially the same as the model01 but with the number row scrolled one to the left. This is because on a standard row-staggered keyboard the horizontal position of the number row is such that 6 is only a quarter of a key displaced sideways from G, and so on. The original Microsoft Natural keyboard had 6 on the left hand…

This is yet another religious war of course. :wink:

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Kinesis Freestyle (split keyboard) has the 6 on the left half. I’m used to it now, but I had to relearn. I was definitely not touch-typing 6 in the beginning, I kept reaching with the right index and hitting empty space… and I guess I’l be re-relearning once my Model 01 shows up!

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For me, the biggest issue with adapting to a split layout (originally the MS Natural Elite) was “Y” - It turned out that I would use a different hand for Y depending on the word. Not the position of Y within the word, but the word itself. Kinda nuts.

If you really need 6 on the left hand, there’s nothing stopping you from remapping the “LED” key to 6.

Similarly, @Kaia tends to go for “B” with her right index finger, so will likely be mapping the butterfly as a second ‘B’ on her Model 01.

All this is just to say that while I think it’s worth trying the default layout we’ve come up with, we strongly encourage you to make your keyboard your own as you get comfortable with it.


It’s not just the handedness of the 6, but also the finger that’s used for each of the number keys. That is of course a significant change.

I’m testing this idea out on my kinesis at the moment. If anyone is interested in how I get on, I can report back.

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Doing a little research for the BÉPO thread, I came across this, which suggests that 6-on-the-left is common French practice:

(Perhaps @celtic can confirm?)


From my research 10+ years ago when I tried to figure out how much I was getting “right” and how much I wasn’t, I remember seeing roughly equal numbers of typing courses instructing “6” to be used with the left or right hand. The way I saw it, typing it with the left hand was just an artefact of the rows’ skew (which I despise), as this makes it slightly closer to the left hand. So of course I can see why many would type it with the left hand, and if you’re sticking to a staggered keyboard maybe that’s best for you. But I was already hoping to someday find a grid-layout keyboard. I added to that the argument that if “6” was to be typed with the left hand, the left hand would now be in charge of more number keys than the right, which didn’t seem “proper” to me.

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This number row discussion is really making me think about doing the original Dvorak setup, with odds on one side and evens on the other. The trouble is that the function keys will be sharing those same positions, but on a different layer. That’s also my problem with putting 0 where it belongs (below 1, not above 9), since there’s no F0, but there is F10. It’s almost as if computer keyboards weren’t designed by computer programmers…

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Nothing’s stopping you from binding the keys to have the F keys in sequence and the regular numbers shuffled around!


Yeah, I’m still thinking about it, but I’d like to keep them numbered the same, at least for F1-F9, to reduce the memorization burden.

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I found that it is a lot easier to memorize the number row layout if the function keys are reordered too. I originally had only the numbers & symbols reordered, and kept the function keys. I did not manage to learn the new layout that way… the Fx keys kept triggering my muscle memory even for the numbers.

Once I reordered the function keys too, learning became much faster. I just pretend that F10 is really F0, and put it on the same key as 0.


Yes, symmetry is the main argument for keeping 6 on the right hand, and it is a powerful one. The drawback with doing so is that there are a lot of keys crowded into the top-right of a row-staggered keyboard at the best of times, and keeping 6 on the right hand of a symmetrical keyboard means these keys have to take unusual positions. Scrolling the number row to the left alleviates that pressure a little.

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