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#1 22-May-2007 22:43:41

DreymaR
Member
From: Bærum, Norway
Registered: 13-Dec-2006
Posts: 2,621

Make your own physical Colemak board!

KEYBOARD MODDING: GET YOUR OWN PHYSICAL COLEMAK KEYBOARD


For many users of these forums, leaving the old QWERTY keycaps in place may be the most rational option (a completely blank DAS, Bzerk or TypeMatrix board being a stylish hardcore alternative). There may be the issue of compliance with QWERTY-using household members, or the fact that you use multiple boards through the day so you'd better get used to ignoring QWERTY markings anyway. But to be honest, by now I want my own keys to be "properly" labeled; if for nothing else, then so my kids will grow up with Colemak! They look at the keyboard and type what they see there of course. For less hardcore converts and beginners, a physical Colemak keyboard can be a great boon.

   das_keyboard_2.jpg
      DAS may be too much!

A good physical Colemak board solution will maybe make the casual keyboard users take Colemak more seriously. This effect should not be underestimated I think. To many users, the hardware is more than just a means to accessing the software. We who live "inside the box" must not forget that many users aren't quite there, and must see the "box" to trust its existence.

However, if you want a good solution care must be taken. Moving the key caps around works fine on most laptops and some flat keyboards but not on the majority of stationary boards where the keys aren't of equal elevation and not even on all flat boards. If you want to "mod" a keyboard by moving the caps, make sure it's a "slim" board with caps that can actually be swapped around.

Even getting someone to put together and sell a physical Colemak board (great as that would be!) might not suit my needs for instance: I need a national (Norwegian) board where the symbol/punctuation characters are in different places from the US layout, and which has special national characters (in my case, ÆØÅ). I'm even quite picky and generally prefer black boards to grey/latte ones. And a board from a special provider might easily get expensive. Tricky. The big plus of such a board would be that its scan codes could be Colemak right off the board, eliminating the need for installing and setting a layout (or running a program) in software. You could plug it in at your friends' computer and type Colemak immediately. But I don't think this matters a lot: After all, the software options are strong and flexible, and easier to carry around on a USB stick than a physical keyboard anyway.

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Stickers to put on the keycaps can be bought quite inexpensively; transparent ones can even show both the original QWERTY markings and new Colemak ones at once. But stickers may not give the right feel and look for the discerning user. I'm worried they may wear off or something, but this may not be a problem. Searching the net for examples, I found Hooleon (http://www.hooleon.com/) which offers a plethora of options including build-your-own-keyboard, standard or custom-made robust stickers and a clear protective cover that would protect the stickers as well as the keyboard from wear and tear (and spillage!). Not sure how typing on a keyboard with such a cover feels. If someone tries, let us know!

   ov-0647-thum.jpg   ov-0657-thum.jpg   ov-0628-thum.jpg   ov-0461-thum.jpg
      Just a few of the many(!) label options available

Hooleon even sells blank labels: These could be used to blank out a board you like so you don't have to see the QWERTY.  Some users have a particular board they love because of special keys, ergonomy or whatever; maybe labels are the way to go then - but if the keycaps have a special ergonomic shape (like the Microsoft Natural keyboard) stickers might not work well.

Hooleon also has relegendable keys that have a hard plastic transparent cover to click over each key after labeling it to your desire. Looks nice, but expensive ($2.75 for a single key; there's a quantum rebate but still). You'll need to use the right kind of keys for a particular board brand/type.

[Update Jan 2010: You can now get stickers made especially for the Colemak layout, from 4keyboard.com. Basically, that's just a sheet of stickers like any other but it has the letters prearranged so that it's easy to apply in the Colemak layout. Your board will get a neat default-markings-to-the-left, Colemak-markings-to-the-right look available in at least yellow and blue colors. Useful for newcomers especially - but if you consider buying a set of stickers then why not help out the people who dared to produce this?]

   colemak-bl.jpg      colemak-wh.jpg

[Update April 2010: At ThinkGeek they sell super-reflective stickers that'll lend your keys a 'glow-in-the-dark' quality (as long as it isn't actually totally dark but then your screen will be off and you won't really be typing anymore I guess?). Looks nice.

   d77d_glowing_keyboard_stickers_sheet.jpg
http://www.thinkgeek.com/computing/keyboards-mice/d77d/

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I have to mention a board that nobody here will likely buy because of the small production line (200-400 per year) and high price tag (starting at 1,490 $US!). But the Optimus Maximus (http://www.artlebedev.com/everything/optimus/ or http://community.livejournal.com/optimus_project/) is so cool it just demands attention.

Under each of the 114 translucent key caps sits a small OLED screen that can be programmed to show just about anything in vivid colors. On-the-fly display of AltGr modes, different layouts, special shortcuts and customized application icons are the bread and butter of this futuristic marvel. No wonder it's expensive, then.

   configurator_screenshot.jpg
      ArtLebedev's magical Optimus Maximus. A glimpse of the future?

Typing on such a board must be an interesting experience indeed. I feel confident that they're making it good on the fingers since they're putting so much effort into this, although it does seem very flat and has that bad old key row staggering intact. At least they made index finger bumps.

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I've also thought about a system like the DX1 Input System (http://www.thinkgeek.com/computing/input/77ba/) that lets you put the keys exactly where you want them exactly when you want them there. Again there's a price tag hurdle, this time set at $140. For gaming it sounds like great fun to modify your setup exactly as you want it without remapping a single key in the software, and it looks like it's got nice clicky keys. But I strongly suspect that once you've set this bad boy up a few times you tire of shuffling keys and leave it at your standard setup. You'd get your Colemak all right, but you can after all get that cheaper elsewhere if you won't be moving keys anymore after all. For the typist in need of something special (a non-staggered, localized, control-key-swapped, ergonomically-spaced, experimental dream creation of yours begging for testing maybe?) it might be interesting indeed. You could make it a TypeMatrix-oid, Kinesis-oid or vaguely Maltron-oid (a flat version of course) test board on the fly to find out what's best for you. An exciting board for developers. To get national glyphs I suppose you'd have to use stickers on some keys.

   dx1.jpg
      Where do you want to type today?

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The TypeMatrix 2030 (or the wider 2020) is a board that some may find attractive - although it does cost $110. The TypeMatrix has a non-staggered ergonomic layout, compact design and some other special keys and features (http://www.typematrix.com/features/?key … 6n9SZ1sq7H). The caps seem readily movable judging from the description, although one problem with moving the caps from a QWERTY TypeMatrix around is that some letter keys double up as NumPad or other keys (using the Function key) and those would be garbled. If you prefer not to do this and don't want a completely blank board either, there's another approach: Buying a clear, unlabeled cover for it and using sticker labels (see above) on the keycaps. With the clear cover over the stickers, they won't get worn as easily and hopefully will hardly be felt. One could also use stickers for different nationales as mentioned above. But I'm still a bit skeptical for my own part because:
    a) I use all the keys on my standard board for games and apps which puts me off a compact design that hasn't got all keys available on one click
    b) I'm quite picky about looks and those boards don't strike me as very beautiful in their unskinned grey (this is of course entirely subjective!)
    c) The many special keys and function keys would make a blank option very hardcore, even with stickers for the normal key functions
    d) As mentioned, the thing is expensive
    e) I don't like the Dvorak key on it; it should've been a programmable "Your Layout" key!  ;)

   qwerty_keyboard_dvorak_skin_black_half_on_480x313.jpg
      The TypeMatrix 2030, shown with a Dvorak labeled skin in stylish black.
      (No luck getting a Colemak labeled skin thus far...)

I guess one could try writing emails to TypeMatrix and other companies asking for a Colemak layout, but it won't happen soon I'm afraid. With TypeMatrix it wouldn't be so hard to do since all they would have to do would be printing a new softcover which would be inexpensive. But I'm a little afraid that they're Dvorak aficionados over there, since they even have a physical Dvorak key on their board. That might put them off promoting Colemak with a special product such as a Colemak skin. Or maybe they can be turned?  :)

[Update Jan 2010: In this topic by Rajagra, Liquid_Turbo says that the TypeMatrix 2030 now comes with Colemak programming (so you could get Colemak on a system using the US QWERTY mapping simply by hitting Fn+F5)! They're still considering whether to make a labeled skin to go with it.]

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Forum user Korivak mentioned the Apple/Mac keyboard as a good alternative:

Korivak

The Apple keyboard has identical keycaps in all three rows, so it's easy to swap the keycaps on.  It's also widely available, well built and works with both Windows and OS X.

http://korivak.org/images/colemak2.jpg
(Note that Korivak uses his own layout variant that differs slightly from Colemak)

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Now about my own projects: I've bought and converted a Saitek Slimline Multimedia board. It's dirt cheap, slimline, keycaps are easy to move, it's black and red and passes my critical eye, it comes in national variants and it has a bunch of extra keys some of which are readily customizable in Windows. I've befriended the left-hand scroll wheel and left/right scroll keys (rarely in use but every now and then they're good to have there), and the speaker volume wheel, as well as the back/forward/close/switch keys; the Copy/Cut/Paste keys would've been great if I were still on Dvorak but they don't see very frequent use unless I do a lot of copy-pasting all at once. The board has special functions for F keys, but fortunately not the "F-Lock illness" that Logitech invented (the F keys weren't the default state and after every restart you'd have to push that damn F-Lock key to get your function keys back). One minus is the lack of LEDs to show the Lock key states. There are small icons in the system tray if you use the Windows driver, but these can't be seen if the task bar is hidden (e.g., all full-screen apps). I've found that a bit annoying.

   ColemakNo_Saitek-SL-MM.jpg
      My own home keyboard; nice and shiny
      http://www.saitek.com/uk/prod/slimlinekey.htm

This is not a board for people who need an adamant microswitch feel to their typing. But I like it so far, and I don't personally need that "heavy feel". One aber is that if you use the stands to angle the typing surface towards you, the row of multimedia keys at the top will give way just a little which feels awkward. I tried keeping the stand down for a while but I like having it up so I decided to live with the slight sway and now I don't notice it anymore.

One word of warning if you're swapping keys on this board: Each key has a small conelike rubber thingy under it, that provides spring. I managed to topple one of those, resulting in a key that felt wrong. I had to pick the "cone" up with a pair of pliers and carefully put it back (it's not attached in any way). After I had done that, the key was perfect. Just don't lose any of the little guys while moving keys around!

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Chance would have that I also found a "slim" board in the electronics garbage bin at the hospital where I work (the things people throw away, pfft!). I converted that and made new home row bumps, and it works very well. It's of the Siemens KBPC type which I've seen marked Siemens Fujitsu Electronics or only Siemens. They're much sturdier and more "no-nonsense" than the Saitek board. Gray, German and high quality judging from appearances. They have good sturdy stands, and come in national variants.

The Siemens KBPC S ("S" for "Slim"?) board I converted had readily movable keys, except for the "bump keys" F and J that had an extra ridge on the stem, ostensibly to aid montage. I got it off easily enough using a sharp knife, and the keys worked without any trouble.

   ColemakNo_Siemens-KBPC-S.jpg
      My secondary home keyboard, now redeemed from its dirty QWERTY past

The Siemens Fujitsu KBPC XP board looks very professional indeed, and there are a number of them used on the viewing workstations at my hospital. I hope to get my hands on one eventually. From inspection, the keys are moveable except that there are stems at two opposing corners of each key and the bottom row has these placed differently from the middle and upper rows. Luckily, this only affects the J and K keys. I think one could simply remove the stems with no adverse effects, except the risk of the two keycaps falling off if the board were to be held upside down. That would be a minor problem indeed. A more elegant solution would be to make new holes in the keyboard for the J and K keys' corner stems. A soldering iron would be too thick for that unless you have a special tip, but maybe one could heat a wire to melt a hole with? I don't really think it'd be worth doing though.

   65585393.jpg
      http://www.fujitsu-siemens.com/products … bpcPX.html

There are other KBPC boards from Siemens Fujitsu that also seem to share the flat-key design and probably support conversion to Colemak. The SLIM MF looks very classy. Of particular interest is the hinged KBPC E. I saw a web page saying that it's practically identical to the Kinesis Maxim board but substantially cheaper. Looking closely at the image of it, I couldn't see any contraindications to its moddability. Very interesting.

   Fujitsu_Siemens_KBPC_Keyboard__6511302.jpg
      http://www.fujitsu-siemens.com/products … bpc_e.html

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One easily noticeable hurdle to moving your keys around, is the loss of the index finger bumps (the F and J keys on QWERTY). Those are surprisingly useful for touch typing!

One might get used to homing in by finding the left-hand "F" bump on the top row with the middle finger, and then spacing out the hands which should be possible with some practice. The better option in my opinion is making bumps for the new index finger home keys T and N.

For the boards I've converted, I made new bumps for the T and N with an electronics soldering iron. Very carefully does the trick, as you only want the tiniest bump (the index fingers are very sensitive so you need less than you may think). Practise on the back of the board or some other piece of hard plastic first. I merely nudged the right spot on each keycap with the hot iron, thus pushing up a tiny ridge of plastic. The ridge pointing away from me was whittled off with a knife.

The old F and J bumps were left in place as I don't think they cause any trouble at all. If they annoy you, you could whittle them away carefully; don't overdo it though or you'll make an unseemly depression even if you only took a little too much. Easy does it.

   ColemakNo_Siemens-KBPC-S_bumps.jpg
      One of my modified keyboards showing the new index finger anchors

If you don't have a soldering iron (I had to borrow one) you might try heating up some suitable implement. But be warned that I don't think a candle can heat up a screwdriver enough to melt even this easily meltable plastic with. Maybe a gas torch could, but don't sue me if that doesn't work.

Obviously the board needs to be made of a moldable plastic, but almost all stationary keyboards are. Again: Try it out on the back of the board first. If for some reason you cannot use this method then maybe cutting a small notch in the keycaps will make a recognizable anchor; I have my doubts as to its efficiency though.

I noticed that Hooleon sells home row bump stickers (http://hooleon.com/miva/merchant.mvc?Sc … Code=OV-HR). One cheap set of these contains spares and they'd be very easy to use, but I still prefer my soldering iron method as a more permanent and satisfying solution. If you use stickers on your keycaps though (see below), you should probably get sticker bumps as well.

A word of warning: Laptop keys can sometimes be rubbery and may not take well to melting nor cutting attempts! Sticker bumps should work on such keys, unless they have a too rough and porous surface. However, the forum user Kalixiri has made me aware of the fact that most laptops have a much shorter space bar! (See below for an image of Kalixiri's "ColeMacBook"!) On these machines it will therefore be quite simple to home in using your thumbs on the space bar, if you're willing to get used to this technique. Sounds useful to me. Incidentially, a variation of this method ought to work well on moddable split keyboards too. If I do get hold of that Siemens KBPC-E I'll try it out.

I think this is well worth doing for a touch typist! I tried without for a few days, but was quite frustrated and kept feeling around for the right position. With the index finger anchors back in place, that good safe feeling for the home position has returned.

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Before someone asks: Moving the keycaps will of course not change the board's scan codes. Unless you change the system setup the computer will still think you're typing in QWERTY. That's okay with me; I can change the setup in software. I did speak with a fellow who is in the process of designing a cheap little converter to put between the keyboard cable and the computer though; if anyone want to recode the scan codes of a standard QWERTY-wired keyboard there may be options for that in the near future with a little luck. (This guy was planning a Dvorak converter, but he seemed open enough to the idea of helping me make it a Colemak converter instead if he succeeds with his project.)

I'm not convinced it's such a great idea to use recoding for all purposes though, as I've mostly seen games bypassing the system layout and those are concerned with key placements more than their letter value. In such situations, you'll want to keep the keys producing the scan codes for, say, the WASD movement block (with surrounding keys) in their QWERTY positions so you can still control the game without twisting your hand. Of course, many modern apps/games also have a remap function so you could for instance change the default WASD block to an aptly named WARS block if your game sees your Colemak setup!

In some cases though, like the poorly implemented but sometimes needed Microsoft Word for Mac, a rewired or recoded keyboard would be an advantage as the application doesn't use the virtual keycodes from the operating system as it ought to and tweaking system files (registry remappings in Windows) can be a bit drastic and unsafe. On a computer that you're not the sole user of, you might plug in a removable converter and type Colemak as needed but not get away with system tweaks that render the machine incompatible with QWERTY altogether.

[Update Jan 2010: I've encountered another application where a hardware scan code remapping would've been very handy. My Playstation 3 can use any USB keyboard, but I can't set the keyboard layout to Colemak obviously! I'd also like to have such a board for Solaris machines and suchlike where I don't have a system remapping ready (maybe someone have one but it may be hard to find for a rare OS). Ideally, I'd like a board that could switch back and forth between layouts like the new TypeMatrix 2030 can for instance.]

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In conclusion, getting your own Colemak board isn't hard to do, can be done about as low- or high-cost as you like and it's quite rewarding. My Colemak keyboards put a proud smile on my face and even though I type without looking at the keys they're useful whenever I lose my concentration or have to enter rarely used passwords. Plus, it's a tangible message to the world that Colemak is a reality!


Øystein Bech Gadmar ("DreymaR"), 2007


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NEWSFLASH Jan 2010:

Now you can get a board that's got the key caps already arranged in the Colemak layout! It's sold by Hooleon, under the name Colemak 104 Key J Enter Keyboard for about US$40. From the image, it looks like a decent board that most users could enjoy. Comes with USB or PS/2 connectors (but there's no info on rollover that I could see). The key mechanism is your garden variety rubber domes which may put off key switch aficionados (like myself), but most people won't care about that I guess since other key types are more expensive and some of them are louder. A note though: I've checked with Hooleon and they do use T and N caps with homing bumps and F and J caps without; this is as it should be but it means that their advertised ease of converting to QWERTY or Dvorak isn't quite true. Not that anyone would want to do that, obviously... right?

Note: This isn't a scan code remapped board, which I think is okay because sending out-of-position scan codes is a bit of a hack since scan codes ideally should correspond to physical key position and the system should remap those to the right virtual key codes (using the Colemak layout in this case). In some cases, a reprogrammed board would be very handy of course, but this isn't it apparently.

   kb-385-0116-650.jpg

Last edited by DreymaR (28-Apr-2010 13:38:58)

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#2 03-Jun-2007 07:28:58

Bee
Member
Registered: 02-Jun-2007
Posts: 7

Re: Make your own physical Colemak board!

May i, a humble bee, give a suggestion?

Bumps in some keys... a less permanet solution than using a hot solder iron (other than the plastic transparent bumps that can be bougth in some shops) is a bit of humble GLUE.
I think that can work, (provided is not a very acid and corrosive glue wont damage the keyboard keys).

Has the advantage of beeing very cheap, is everywhere, wont change colours, be discrete, can use bumps higher or lower, and even (with practice) shape it, or place it higher, lower or center at teh key. And provided is the right kind of glue will allow try a lot, or renew it when necessary.

Very good article, too :)

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#3 03-Jun-2007 17:42:39

DreymaR
Member
From: Bærum, Norway
Registered: 13-Dec-2006
Posts: 2,621

Re: Make your own physical Colemak board!

If you try out glue bumps, make sure to let us know how well it works. For my stationary keyboards I don't think anything can beat my melt-bumps as they are almost better than the original ones were. But whenever that method isn't an option alternatives are needed.

Oh, and thanks for the praise! I was beginning to wonder whether people had bothered to read it or not since there were no comments here.  :)

Last edited by DreymaR (03-Jun-2007 17:43:56)

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#4 03-Jun-2007 18:09:54

vilem
Member
From: Köln, Germany
Registered: 01-Apr-2007
Posts: 264

Re: Make your own physical Colemak board!

Wow, dreymar, what an astonishing lot of effort you must have put into research for all of that! It was really interesting, I never knew that these kinds of keyboard all exist. The optimus looks so unbelievably awesome... Too bad it's hell expensive. Also, I wonder how the laser keyboard works, im just not convinced that typing is as fast and accurate on it as on a normal keyboard. I myself will try and get hold of a datadesk smartboard. It doesn't really look very... let's say aesthetic, but it looks pretty fun to type with!

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#5 03-Jun-2007 19:47:06

Bee
Member
Registered: 02-Jun-2007
Posts: 7

Re: Make your own physical Colemak board!

DreymaR, we read what you post and we envy your energy and good sense, too :)

DreymaR

If you try out glue bumps, make sure to let us know how well it works.

DreymaR, i am just a humble bee, have no digital camera, never had.

I think i prefer pointy bumps in the middle of the key. The worst are (in my humble bee opinion) horizontal bumps in the very lower part of the key)

Here in Portugal gets cold in winter, but i expect gets worse in Norway. At winter gets so cold gloves are needed to type at the keyboard.

As i said i wont make a bee-mak, but here is a Braille-mak :)

66ll7v8.gif

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#6 03-Jun-2007 20:01:47

vilem
Member
From: Köln, Germany
Registered: 01-Apr-2007
Posts: 264

Re: Make your own physical Colemak board!

Bee, we appreciate your humbleness, but you don't constantly have to be! Don't you have central heating in Portugal? Or is it because you have hardly any isolation in your houses?

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#7 03-Jun-2007 20:30:37

Bee
Member
Registered: 02-Jun-2007
Posts: 7

Re: Make your own physical Colemak board!

Ah Vilem, is because is a old building and that i like to keep the house ventilated to keep the air renovation.

In recent houses is not so bad, despite not near as good as nordic countries and so. And as a whole in my country, the heat insulation and sonic insulation is bad (we are not a very energetic-wise country). At least compared with more evolved countries. I was amazed when once i heard a boy that lived in Switzland said that walked in the house with only a Tshirt... in December, hehehe :)

But summer is here, no problems. I myself never seen the snow fall, or snow acumulated.
Let us know if you liked your new keyboard, Vilem.

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#8 05-Jun-2007 18:21:39

vilem
Member
From: Köln, Germany
Registered: 01-Apr-2007
Posts: 264

Re: Make your own physical Colemak board!

I have asked whether the laser virtual keyboard thingymabob can project different keyboard layouts. Well, no it can't. The keyboard layout is projected using a glass template, so only QWERTY is possible! *sigh* I really can't understand why people are so happy with the QWERTY dictatorship!

Last edited by vilem (05-Jun-2007 18:22:14)

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#9 05-Jun-2007 20:09:21

DreymaR
Member
From: Bærum, Norway
Registered: 13-Dec-2006
Posts: 2,621

Re: Make your own physical Colemak board!

Okay, thanks Vilem! I've removed the part about the laser keyboard from the main article then because it cannot become a Colemak board. It isn't a matter of bowing to QWERTY but merely the technical solution the makers chose. Of course, they should etch new glass plates for Colemak - right.

I'm pretty sure it wouldn't be great for typing as you say, due to a lack of tactile feedback and possibly a chance of misinterpretation. Better than a cramped poor-quality laptop keyboard maybe, and certainly nice if you travel around with one of those pads with nearly inoperable keyboards.

Ah well, at least it's cute.  :)

DreymaR

There are other exciting hi-tech input gadgets. One keyboard (http://www.thinkgeek.com/computing/input/8193/) is merely a laser-drawn image on your desk with optical sensing of what you're typing. Sounds like I'd miss a tactile feedback but with clever use of click sounds from the gadget that might be enough? It'd be a great thing to own if you're on the move a lot, and my guess is that it's modifiable even though the ad says that it has a "full QWERTY layout"? (I'd certainly look into that bit before buying! It could be that they're using some kind of physical mask which would ruin it for us, but I hope and believe it's a software driver that turns the scanning laser on and off rapidly and therefore could in theory draw just about anything, and that this driver uses the system layout.) The $180 price tag cools my blood though.

   virtual_keyboard.jpg
      These are the days of lasers in the (urban) jungle!

Last edited by DreymaR (05-Jun-2007 20:17:07)

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#10 05-Jun-2007 20:22:32

kalixiri
Member
Registered: 05-Jun-2007
Posts: 7

Re: Make your own physical Colemak board!

Thought I'd post my Colemak'd MacBook. I easily removed the keys and switched them around; they look seamless and the only things amiss are bumps on "T" & "N" and the jumbled numeric keypad...
colemacbook.jpg

For working capslock to backspace I used fKeys. The only problems are holding the key down doesn't continue deleting,  and the green light goes on and off. I use the default Colemak keymap from the site...
colemacbook.png

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#11 05-Jun-2007 20:41:43

DreymaR
Member
From: Bærum, Norway
Registered: 13-Dec-2006
Posts: 2,621

Re: Make your own physical Colemak board!

Kalixiri, that looks nice! Thanks. Looks like you could melt yourself some near-perfect T/N bumps on that board if you dare and get hold of an iron.

The jumbled numeric pad shouldn't be a huge problem since you usually type NumPad blindfold based on position (which won't change)? Getting a bump back on the "1" key (now N) might help too. If the markings themselves annoy you, they might be masked with partial stickers or you could try getting them off - but I'd recommend against it since it'd probably end up looking about as strange or worse.

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#12 05-Jun-2007 20:42:54

AGK
Member
From: NYC
Registered: 02-Feb-2007
Posts: 104
Website

Re: Make your own physical Colemak board!

that colemak'd keyboard loooks hot :D

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#13 05-Jun-2007 20:47:46

vilem
Member
From: Köln, Germany
Registered: 01-Apr-2007
Posts: 264

Re: Make your own physical Colemak board!

Doesn't the abscence of bumps really put you off though?!

btw, what is fushigibana? sounds pretty nonsensical to me! does it actually mean something?? :-O

Last edited by vilem (05-Jun-2007 20:49:17)

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#14 07-Jun-2007 01:57:36

uberstuber
Member
Registered: 10-Dec-2006
Posts: 7

Re: Make your own physical Colemak board!

vilem

Doesn't the abscence of bumps really put you off though?!

btw, what is fushigibana? sounds pretty nonsensical to me! does it actually mean something?? :-O

It's Japanese.

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#15 07-Jun-2007 04:00:25

Golden_Hammer
Member
Registered: 17-Nov-2006
Posts: 64

Re: Make your own physical Colemak board!

@Uberstuber: I'm quite sure he knew it was Japanese as he was able to _correctly_ read what it was in katakana. He was asking about its meaning, if any.

@Vilem: My guess is it's either 不思議花 or 不思議鼻 *shrugs*

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#16 07-Jun-2007 04:49:51

kalixiri
Member
Registered: 05-Jun-2007
Posts: 7

Re: Make your own physical Colemak board!

vilem

Doesn't the abscence of bumps really put you off though?!

btw, what is fushigibana? sounds pretty nonsensical to me! does it actually mean something?? :-O

When I put my hands on the keyboard, my thumbs quickly find the sides of the spacebar; I can easily tell if my fingers are in the wrong position because it's in the center. The staggered key layout is more frustrating: "B" is right down the middle, so my hands get confused and and can't tell which should type it.

As for the kana...

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#17 07-Jun-2007 09:02:03

vilem
Member
From: Köln, Germany
Registered: 01-Apr-2007
Posts: 264

Re: Make your own physical Colemak board!

kalixiri

The staggered key layout is more frustrating: "B" is right down the middle, so my hands get confused and and can't tell which should type it.

I think the MB's keyboard is quite weird, because of the shallowness of the keyboard and the fact that the keys don't make any sound when you press them. I don't like the strange positioning of the keys like on a typewriter on any keyboard, it'd be better if they were all aligned like with the Datadesk SmartBoard, which I will try to get my hands on. Anyone got any experience with it?

kalixiri

As for the kana...

Ahh, so it is one of these little japanese parasites, is it? :P

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#18 07-Jun-2007 09:17:01

DreymaR
Member
From: Bærum, Norway
Registered: 13-Dec-2006
Posts: 2,621

Re: Make your own physical Colemak board!

Kalixiri: Thanks for the tip regarding the short Space bar for homing in. I don't have any keyboards with short spacebars, but most laptops do and this solves the problem with their sometimes unmeltable keys! I'll edit this tip into the article above.

The B and number 6 are usually typed with the left index finger, and the J (QWERTY Y) with the right one. If you want a guide, you could look at where the division line goes on ergonomic split keyboards (like the Siemens KBPC E I mention above). [Update: On the other hand, matrix boards (without stagger) tend to put the number 6 on the right hand - confusing but true.]

Last edited by DreymaR (28-Apr-2010 13:44:47)

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#19 07-Jun-2007 09:36:24

vilem
Member
From: Köln, Germany
Registered: 01-Apr-2007
Posts: 264

Re: Make your own physical Colemak board!

I always use the diagonal division line like at this pic from the colemak learn site
Colemak_fingers.png
so I type the 6 with my right hand. What's the difference between the two types of split? Obviously the "round" split makes the numbers more reachable, but is there any other reason?

Last edited by vilem (07-Jun-2007 09:42:09)

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#20 07-Jun-2007 10:00:52

DreymaR
Member
From: Bærum, Norway
Registered: 13-Dec-2006
Posts: 2,621

Re: Make your own physical Colemak board!

Yes, the number 6 is a bit of a puzzle. I've drawn my figures like the one from this site too. So when I saw the ergo boards split always putting the number 6 on the left hand I was a bit worried that getting such a board would have me "diving into open space" each time I wanted to type a 6. To my surprise however, I discovered that unknowingly I did type 6 with my left hand after all!

The difference in distance isn't large, and since it's a rarely used character (assuming that if you do enter a lot of numbers you'll use a NumPad for that anyway!) it shouldn't matter much on the finger/hand loads or any such parameters either. I guess it's just a habit thing really, but most typing schools and all split boards I've encountered have put the number 6 on the left hand. Most figures like the one you show have the more symmetric layout though, and I suppose Shai's and other peoples' anaysis have been based on a right-hand number 6 entry too. But as I said, it shouldn't really matter.

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#21 07-Jun-2007 22:02:07

keyboard samurai
Member
From: Houston, Texas
Registered: 03-Jan-2007
Posts: 354
Website

Re: Make your own physical Colemak board!

DreymaR

Okay, thanks Vilem! I've removed the part about the laser keyboard from the main article then because it cannot become a Colemak board. It isn't a matter of bowing to QWERTY but merely the technical solution the makers chose. Of course, they should etch new glass plates for Colemak - right.

I'm pretty sure it wouldn't be great for typing as you say, due to a lack of tactile feedback and possibly a chance of misinterpretation. Better than a cramped poor-quality laptop keyboard maybe, and certainly nice if you travel around with one of those pads with nearly inoperable keyboards.

Ah well, at least it's cute.  :)

Speaking about the picture in post #9   


   That's not cute!   That's scary!

   I don't think I would want to be using Cylon technology!

;-)

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#22 22-Jun-2007 08:32:47

ethana2
Member
Registered: 09-May-2007
Posts: 79

Re: Make your own physical Colemak board!

Any thoughts for an on-screen keyboard for touchscreen notebooks?  If that worked, then, besides the lack of tactile feedback, you'd have yourself better than an optimus right there.  In just about every way possible.

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#23 22-Jun-2007 10:17:28

DreymaR
Member
From: Bærum, Norway
Registered: 13-Dec-2006
Posts: 2,621

Re: Make your own physical Colemak board!

That belongs in an entirely different topic I think, since it isn't about modding keyboards but about writing software for a different input regime.

You may want to look at for instance David Piepgrass' somewhat unfinished project(s):
http://millikeys.sourceforge.net/
http://millikeys.sourceforge.net/layouts/omelettes.html

I think David's on to something: On a small touchscreen like that, a hex grid and sliding functionality create new possibilities.

An Optimus is bound to have much superior ergonomy and comfort compared to a touchscreen. This is not only due to the cramped conditions on a notebook, but the technological limitations of touchscreen technology itself including as you mentioned, the lack of tactile feedback. In terms of looks it's also hard to beat individual OLEDs for each key. The only way I see the touchscreen notebook crushing the Optimus would be on price.

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#24 29-Jul-2007 02:05:48

kalixiri
Member
Registered: 05-Jun-2007
Posts: 7

Re: Make your own physical Colemak board!

This prototype MacBook-like keyboard looks very nice. The only things bad are the index finger bumps and that same light on the CapsLock key.

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#25 14-Sep-2007 17:35:54

vilem
Member
From: Köln, Germany
Registered: 01-Apr-2007
Posts: 264

Re: Make your own physical Colemak board!

Hey guys, I finally got round to making my own genuine (German) colemak keyboard a few days ago! I used a Genius SlimStar 100 which has really soft but slightly tactile keys. I've actually found that it's quite handy from time to time to actually have colemak as a 'phyical' keyboard. Here are some pictures:
colemak0snx7.jpg
colemak2smm1.jpg
colemak3sxy3.jpg
*Sorry for the bad resolution. I'm lucky to have been able to upload these at all though!

Last edited by vilem (14-Sep-2007 17:37:34)

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