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#1 14-Jan-2011 17:45:10

symphonic
Member
Registered: 26-Dec-2010
Posts: 10

Optimizing the Maltron layout - please help me!

Hey guys!

I have begun modifying my keyboards to have thumb keys and want to choose the best layout possible with this in mind. Essentially, I'm making my keyboards similar to the Maltron and Kinesis. Our thumbs should have more work load and I'm determined to give it to them.

With a button under both the left and right thumbs, it becomes sensible to put 'e' under the thumb, as Lillian Malt did in her design:
http://www.maltron.com/keyboard-info/ge … ayout.html

This opens up wonderful possibilities for the rest of the layout. The Maltron layout already looks very good and performs well in simulations, but I can't help but believe that it isn't fully optimized. The placement of 'l' seems to be a major problem, and 'z' seems to get too prominent a position.

I'm looking for help in designing an improved layout with space under one thumb and 'e' under the other. You only need to add 1 button to your keyboard, or, depending on the keyboard, shift you hand position to the right to use 'space' and 'alt'. For me, the effort for hardware modifications is minor compared to the many hours spent learning a new layout.

I've contacted Martin Krzywinski from Carpalx, who doesn't have time to work on this actively but would like to be informed of the progress. I've also emailed Michael Capewell. I'm waiting to hear back from A Radley, who made the analysis tool at http://www.codesharp.co.uk/dvorak/ that allows for thumb keys.

I also opened up a thread about this at Geekhack, although I think that will focus more on the hardware side of things.

I'm a little unsure of whether to start from scratch, to change the Maltron layout slightly, or to remove 'e' from Dvorak and Colemak type layouts and mutate them into something new. I would be unhappy, however, to be stuck in a local minimum of keying 'effort' rather than to find the optimal layout. I suppose that that could happen if we didn't start from scratch.

So far I've used the analysers at http://www.codesharp.co.uk/dvorak/ and http://patorjk.com/keyboard-layout-analyzer/ and simply made minor modifications to Maltron (like swapping p and l). For the latter analyzer, which doesn't allow for thumb keys, I remove 'e' from the corpus used. It's a hack but should be useful. It's interesting that Maltron is then very close to what it considers the ideal layout for minimum distance. Given the other factors that Malt considered, this is a rather good sign.

I'm serious about this project and would really like some assistance! Please let me know what you think.

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#2 16-Jan-2011 13:39:49

symphonic
Member
Registered: 26-Dec-2010
Posts: 10

Re: Optimizing the Maltron layout - please help me!

Sorry for the bump, but I'm a little bit surpised that there haven't been any bites. Can I at least get some opinions as to which of the vowel arrangements people think are best?

1/ All vowels on left hand, 1 vowel per finger, e on thumb
2/ All vowels on left hand,  like the following, low digraph frequency where they share a finger. Put a consonant on the index finger home row
        *
    ***
3/ All vowels on left hand, the four besides 'e' in a square shape like Michael Dicken's fully optimized standard keyboard layout.
http://mathematicalmulticore.wordpress. … keyboards/
4/ The four vowels besides 'e' split evenly between left and right hand.

Part of Lillian Malt's philosophy was that the vowels should be spread out to reduce typing errors. What are your opinions on this?

Last edited by symphonic (16-Jan-2011 13:40:36)

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#3 17-Jan-2011 00:29:02

cevgar
Member
Registered: 04-Feb-2010
Posts: 105

Re: Optimizing the Maltron layout - please help me!

About lack of 'bites'. Few people have Maltron keyboards, or have an interest in something that involves hardware modifications such as 'adding keys'. If you are interested in thumb functionality, you might want to look at my Toss the spacebar layout, and then continue work from there. Beyond that, considering this is the COLEMAK forum, most people here will probably advocate using a layout similar to colemak and as such will not, under most circumstances, jump at any sort of dvorakisms like left hand vowels. But hey, we are all for alternate layouts. Give us something to work with though.

Last edited by cevgar (17-Jan-2011 00:33:21)

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#4 17-Jan-2011 18:18:07

pinkyache
Member
Registered: 21-Apr-2010
Posts: 641

Re: Optimizing the Maltron layout - please help me!

Perhaps there were no bites as you posted during the Christian holiday!

I'm still relatively new to touch typing, about 9 months with a new layout.  My jaw dropped when I first saw the maltron, it looks like a nice idea, but the cost is prohibitive.

I think it odd that people are more obsessed with an optimised layout on the standard keyboard rather than creating an optimised ergonomic keyboard.

It seems that I'm getting to the point where touch typing is becoming almost comfortable.  And I'd be hard pushed to give up the huge investment of time that I've put in.  I worry about the risks of swapping physical device - and as such my cravings for alternative keyboards are diminishing.

For some of us we like sticking to the familiar.  We can fear the unknown.  And don't like the idea of wasted investments (time and practice with layout on keyboard.)

My love for the keyboard has waned considerably - oddly enough - since I started to learn how to touch type.  There is a kind of elegance to these dumb devices with switches - but I can't help but think there are better alternatives.  If touch panels were to become cheap enough - it would be easier to prototype systems on these than creating physical devices.  I'm not thinking of emulated touch keyboards here.

If I were to want anything - I'd like to have less buttons on the keyboard.  The Onion had a video where they introduced the new mac with one button.  It's an aspirational design goal! 

I'm thinking along the lines of less buttons, and more modifiers.  Somewhere between 1 and 8 buttons would probably be good.  Work with modifiers - like the guy who does developers Dvorak.  Some elements of 'INSERT FAVOURITE LAYOUT HERE' might be able to be worked into a new device.

Although I like the benefits of two hand typing - being able to use just one hand would be quite nice.

Thanks for listening...

Last edited by pinkyache (17-Jan-2011 18:33:07)


--
Physicians deafen our ears with the Honorificabilitudinitatibus of their heavenly Panacaea, their sovereign Guiacum.

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#5 17-Jan-2011 23:41:04

symphonic
Member
Registered: 26-Dec-2010
Posts: 10

Re: Optimizing the Maltron layout - please help me!

It's certainly true that few people are interested in going beyond the limitations of the keyboard design that is given to us.
@cevgar - I've read all about your toss the spacebar mod! I think it's a great idea. The only real thing holding me back there is that my Cherry keyboards have the standard (annoying) row stagger for the numbers. I considered turning the keyboard upside down, but the F keys weren't quite where I would want them. Actually, my Logitech Illuminated would be great for this mod, since the number row has the same stagger as QWERTY and is more symmetrical than is usual. I would just want to add some extra material to the keycaps for the thumbs.

@pinkyache - have you seen the frogpad? This kind of chording with modifiers could be pretty cool I guess.

RE: Design goals. I've been thinking about which keys on the keyboard I like and also the kind of motions that I like. I would alternations + rolls from index to middle, middle to index, or ring to middle, for the most part. My idea is to roll towards and away from the keys for the middle finger. So put e.g. vowels like

**o* ** *u**

**a* ** *i**

where those are the top two rows of the keyboard. Perhaps I'd move u because that's too good a spot for it. For digraphs that are common in both directions I'd make them alternating or on middle-index. For others I'd try and make them rolls. If I go to the central columns I want to be typing a digraph.

So many possibilities...

Last edited by symphonic (17-Jan-2011 23:41:32)

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#6 18-Jan-2011 01:15:18

pinkyache
Member
Registered: 21-Apr-2010
Posts: 641

Re: Optimizing the Maltron layout - please help me!

Interesting idea turning the keyboard upside down.

How about transposing all the keys up a row and ripping out the space bar.
You've got the numbers on the numpad anyway, and it would make the function keys more accessible (well at least on my keyboard where I have a 1cm channel between the number row and function keys.)

The frogpad is interesting.  It uses chording with two digits according to wikipedia.  I'll have to have a think if I could adapt a standard numpad as a cheaper solution.  Note the company can't supply at the moment.

I was thinking about using a scroll wheel instead of a button as a modifier.  Or using wheels instead of keys.  Something like that.  Have you ever heard anyone suffer from scroll wheel RSI?

Having said that, I'd want to incorporate my slavishly learnt layout into a design I'd come up with.  Which could be useful for touch typists (your audience?), but perhaps not so for normal typists.


--
Physicians deafen our ears with the Honorificabilitudinitatibus of their heavenly Panacaea, their sovereign Guiacum.

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#7 19-Jan-2011 14:14:17

symphonic
Member
Registered: 26-Dec-2010
Posts: 10

Re: Optimizing the Maltron layout - please help me!

pinkyache

Have you ever heard anyone suffer from scroll wheel RSI?

I have to say, my finger does occasionally get crampy from the scroll wheel. I then use page up/down instead. How about a trackball? might feel very holistic since you would flow to the modifier direction.  Or a full arm joystick.

I have a couple of layouts here for assessment! I decided to see how Colemak could be changed if 'e' was on the thumb. This let me get H on the home row and also put D on the bottom row index, which is one of my favourite spots to roll to. I can also roll from C to H now.

qwfp b    j luy;[]\
arst g    m nhio'
*zxd k    v c,./

Enter e  Space

Enter and e are on one thumb. Space on the other. This already scores better than the Maltron layout at http://www.codesharp.co.uk/dvorak/. Actually, I would put left and right shift on the thumbs and make shift+space enter. That helps even more.

I took a few minutes to try and improve the score. I moved zx back to pinky-ring and put b under the middle finger

qwfp j        luy;[]\
arst g    m nhio'
zxbd k    v c,./

Shift e  Space Shift

I would go one step further and make 2 A keys (moving Q) and O keys (moving ;) to give the pinkies an easier time of hitting these vowels. On my cherry boards I can easily mod 2 keys -> 1 bigger key, and adjust the force required to press it. But this is an experiment for later.


Here are some stats using A Radley's code and the first part of Huck. Finn. For now just call the first layout Cole-e and the second Cole-e-shift

Total effort
         Rank - Improvement Over worst - Effort
qwerty    7    0.0 %    145,706   
Dvorak    6    18.7 %    118,401   
Colemak    5    19.5 %    117,338   
Maltron    4    24.6 %    109,875   
cole-e    2    25.6 %    108,401   
cole-e-shift    1    32.2 %    98,729   


Distance
Layout    Thumbs    Left hand    Right hand    Total   
Qwerty    0.0 %    46.2 %    53.8 %    1,195 m   
Dvorak    0.0 %    38.3 %    61.7 %    685 m   
Colemak    0.0 %    49.7 %    50.3 %    629 m   
Maltron    1.6 %    41.0 %    57.4 %    570 m   
cole-be    1.6 %    49.8 %    48.6 %    561 m   
cole-e-shift    11.9 %    43.9 %    44.2 %    518 m   

Same finger
Qwerty    3.8 %   
Dvorak    2.0 %   
Colemak    1.3 %   
Maltron    1.3 %   
cole-be    0.8 %   
cole-e-shift    0.6 %
The worst same finger is 'cl' since it has a home row jump.

Same hand - 18-19%
Same hand + row jump - 0.9%
Outward rolls - 11%

I'm at work so I can't do much more for now, but let me know what you think of the layouts, and where there could be improvements. Do you think they are better than Maltron?

Last edited by symphonic (19-Jan-2011 14:15:51)

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#8 19-Jan-2011 22:49:49

juice43
Member
From: New York, New York
Registered: 22-Nov-2008
Posts: 78

Re: Optimizing the Maltron layout - please help me!

This is genius, because it preserves much of Colemak, but makes use of the strongest and underused fingers by moving E and splitting space: the thumbs!! I wonder what optimal layout could be made as similar to colemak as possible that would move the E to the left thumb that way. I'm not sure if it is your layout, but it would be fun to do the research using some kind of algorithm or genetic layout generator that analyzes all of this.

Great idea, and now I want one of these things.

Only disadvantage to this is that it is generally unsupported and basically messes you up for normal keyboards ;)


I like Colemak's finger rolls. Though I'd switch in a heartbeat to the layout with more finger bagels ;)
Hi-games profile: http://hi-games.net/profile/1746

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#9 20-Jan-2011 09:10:39

DreymaR
Member
From: Bærum, Norway
Registered: 13-Dec-2006
Posts: 2,699

Re: Optimizing the Maltron layout - please help me!

Try writing "Huckleberry's human" with that.  ;) [Then again, writing "Europe's euphoria" in Colemak is equally amusing"]

Last edited by DreymaR (20-Jan-2011 09:11:34)

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#10 21-Jan-2011 18:52:16

symphonic
Member
Registered: 26-Dec-2010
Posts: 10

Re: Optimizing the Maltron layout - please help me!

Thanks for the interest! I've been away for 2 days without internet so I couldn't respond sooner.

I certainly wouldn't expect this particular layout to be super close to ideal, but I'm happy with how much can be gained from moving E and then doing a few swaps. I did this mock up when I should have been working so I didn't spend very long on it... Colemak gives such a good basis though, that it was easy to get great statistics.

Between the Colemak and Maltron layouts you can get a very good idea of what letters go well together on the same column to minimise same finger. I'm sure that there are more glitchy words but I hope that the gain that is possible by moving E has been demonstrated. I still need to compare directly against Maltron with shift on the thumbs - that should close the gap significantly. I second guess myself as to whether the Maltron layout can be significantly bettered, since Malt spent a long time developing it. Perhaps there is a good reason for the L-Z placement. Yet 'LL' is a common digraph and I would HATE to type it with my pinky. I have emailed for information but haven't received a response so far.

I'm not a big fan of putting h and d on the middle columns, since then you need to move your hand for the two most common words. In this layout, both 'the' and 'and' are very easy to type. You have to move from the home row for 'and' but to a very nice spot. Note that I have QWERTY C position in mind for D.

I am able to run Carpalx and just tell it to ignore E. That should give some more candidates. First I need to adjust the penalty system though, because it wants to put S on a middle column! I want high penalties for these spots.


RE: Hardware. Even with a standard ISO keyboard layout, you can get a key under the right thumb by letting the pinky have ENTER. I actually like the idea of this key being large because it becomes easier to hit and gives the pinky more flexibility for movement when doing  combinations of 'iou'. I think that Colemak needs a wide layout to be comfortable, since it keeps you on the home row. Even without an E change I'd move to this kind of alternate home row on my keyboards and make ALT either SHIFT or SPACE. When I have a PKL file for such a Colemak, I'll be sure to make it available

Last edited by symphonic (21-Jan-2011 18:59:24)

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#11 22-Jan-2011 13:53:51

cevgar
Member
Registered: 04-Feb-2010
Posts: 105

Re: Optimizing the Maltron layout - please help me!

This is a bit of a off topic, but I feel that someone should point out that the codesharp layout analysis tool isn't completely reliable for nonstandard layouts. Example:

Layout        Thumbs  L. Hand    R. Hand    Total
Qwerty        16.7 %    45.2 %    38.1 %    51,178 keys   
Dvorak        16.7 %    37.7 %    45.5 %    51,178 keys   
SDDvorak    16.7 %    39.2 %    44.1 %    51,193 keys   
Colemak        16.7 %    37.5 %    45.7 %    51,178 keys   
Workman        16.7 %    41.1 %    42.2 %    51,178 keys   
Maltron        26.5 %    34.0 %    39.5 %    51,134 keys

Last edited by cevgar (22-Jan-2011 14:00:44)

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#12 22-Jan-2011 18:28:24

Tony_VN
Member
Registered: 08-Dec-2010
Posts: 636

Re: Optimizing the Maltron layout - please help me!

Your layout is a great optimization. Putting the most used E and perhaps T keys into left and right thumbs would make the total effort decrease, but now the thumbs do most of the work. Are your hands ready for this?

As reseaches pointed out, the index finger is the best finger, next is the middle finger. Our thumbs are best used for sucking while waiting for something sweeter.

Last edited by Tony_VN (22-Jan-2011 18:33:55)

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#13 22-Jan-2011 19:33:22

symphonic
Member
Registered: 26-Dec-2010
Posts: 10

Re: Optimizing the Maltron layout - please help me!

RE:Codesharp. Unfortunately, it's the only analysis program that allows me to put keys on the thumbs. With the others I need to hack it so that 'e' is excluded. I think that you can only optimize with code to a point, though, and that the last tweaks require a human to really see what is awkward. The analysis program says that this Colemak mod improves upon Maltron. But does it really?

As for whether the thumbs can handle the load. I use space on my right thumb, usually, but play games with jump on the left. I think that both are ready to handle 1 key. As for others - you have a point. I was thinking of building up slowly. Eventually I will make my own keyboard, but at first I will probably just assign 1-2 keys to each. In total the thumbs will still do less than the index fingers and I would consider keeping it that way. I don't think that the arm is able to help them as much.  I would expect them to, at the very least, be able to handle more load than the pinkies. As it stands they do less.

A key point here is the ergonomics of the buttons. We normally hit spacebar perpendicular to our thumb joint. That's not helpful. I really would prefer a more natural angle. If buttons hurt me, the first thing that I will do is make more ergonomic ones and try again.

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#14 22-Jan-2011 22:03:26

SpeedMorph
Member
Registered: 08-Mar-2008
Posts: 303
Website

Re: Optimizing the Maltron layout - please help me!

Thumb pads are useful because they give your thumbs something to do, and if you put modifier keys on the thumbs it makes it easier to use them. But I wouldn't put too much weight on the thumbs. They aren't as strong as you might thing; sure, they're strong when you're grasping something, but the angle they're at while typing doesn't utilize those strong thumb muscles. For a little while I tried a modified layout where backspace and shift were under my left thumb, but it was too much stress.

I would put space and enter under the right thumb, and (either shift or backspace) and tab under the left thumb. ctrl, option, and other modifier keys would also go under the thumbs. This keeps the thumbs' workload at a moderate level and I find it to be aesthetically pleasing.

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#15 23-Jan-2011 23:51:09

symphonic
Member
Registered: 26-Dec-2010
Posts: 10

Re: Optimizing the Maltron layout - please help me!

I was hoping that you would post, Speedmorph! I have visited your website a few times and read your posts about optimizing for an ergonomic keyboard. Is your code also able to evaluate the Maltron layout or similar?

I fear that you are correct regarding the way that we use our thumbs to hit keys on a flat keyboard. I am still wondering whether I will mod my existing keyboard with thumb keys or start from scratch. Unless the angle is right then I wouldn't want to load them with more than your suggestions either.

I had another idea for a layout. The posts here and at geekhack about chorded keyboards and dead keys made me think that the limitation of low same finger could be eliminated if the thumb were to act as a dead key. Put e.g. t and h above one another. If I have to hit 'th' then type 't' and then the thumb, or chord them. Similarly for 'ht'. The thumb would be a wildcard key.

You could put all your favourite letters in prime locations and not worry about the most common digraphs, since they would be rolls towards the thumb. This would have a learning overhead, but may have a high top speed ceiling.

Potential advantages:
1/ All keys still physically there - you don't HAVE to chord. Easier to learn than e.g. Frogpad
2/ Possibility for fast rolly typing
3/ May be possible to avoid central columns - make use of the numpad?

Assuming that it is possible to implement such a setup, can anyone see a fatal flaw here?

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#16 27-Jan-2011 14:25:15

SpeedMorph
Member
Registered: 08-Mar-2008
Posts: 303
Website

Re: Optimizing the Maltron layout - please help me!

symphonic

Is your code also able to evaluate the Maltron layout or similar?

Right now there are no thumb pads. It's possible for it to be able to evaluate something like Maltron but it can't right now. Part of the additional difficulty with evaluating some of the extra keys is that it's difficult to gauge their frequency. Shift is probably the easiest, and it's still harder to measure than any normal character. Backspace is virtually impossible. Tab is harder than you might think because it's used in so many weird ways and it's impossible to measure how many tabs were used by looking at programming text because a lot of text editors do automatic indenting.

symphonic

I had another idea for a layout. The posts here and at geekhack about chorded keyboards and dead keys made me think that the limitation of low same finger could be eliminated if the thumb were to act as a dead key. Put e.g. t and h above one another. If I have to hit 'th' then type 't' and then the thumb, or chord them. Similarly for 'ht'. The thumb would be a wildcard key.

You could put all your favourite letters in prime locations and not worry about the most common digraphs, since they would be rolls towards the thumb. This would have a learning overhead, but may have a high top speed ceiling.

If you overdid it you'd end up putting too much load on the thumb. You'd have to find a balance between using the thumb for digraphs and just putting the digraphs in good places. Plus I think the digraph of (any finger/thumb) or (thumb/any finger) is not as comfortable as an inward roll.

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#17 02-Mar-2011 15:44:37

proword
Member
Registered: 02-Mar-2011
Posts: 26

Re: Optimizing the Maltron layout - please help me!

Hi everyone,

Sorry to drop in unannounced like this, but as the old saying goes, I was just passing by and I heard some interesting things being talked about.

My name's Joe and I'm a court reporter in Perth, Western Australia, and because of my work, audio transcription at the speed of spoken word (120-180 words per minute), ergonomics and "keyboard efficiency" are pretty high on my list of desirable Christmas presents and I like to follow up every possible avenue to see if there's something I've missed.

I'll say up front that I use neither Dvorak nor Colemak, but have used a Maltron (using the Malt layout) since about 1986.  One reason I never used these two layouts is because at the time I was learning Maltron (I'd learned QWERTY in 1967) I was working as a "temp" legal secretary and found myself going into various offices, sometimes at an hour's notice, to help out with word processing.  I was thus changing keyboards almost on a daily basis, and, as you probably realise, even when only using one layout, not all keyboards are the same.  Because Maltron was such a different type of keyboard, I found absolutely no clashing of "mental gears" between Maltron and QWERTY, but I thought that with learning Dvorak (I hadn't met Colemak until late last year, 2010, when I started researching more deeply) on the same "flat" keyboard, it could cause difficulty, with no tactile feedback.  However, even after 25 years, I can still use QWERTY, but choose not to, as I'm now self employed, and if other people do wish to employ me, it's on my terms, ie, using Maltron, and my own software, more of which anon.

As noted in a previous post, the Maltron website

http://www.maltron.com/keyboard-info.html

has a couple of interesting pages to read, including the academic papers by Lillian Malt and Stephen Hobday (for those of an inquiring mind), and also a couple of word lists, which give interesting data such as the number of different words that can be typed using only the "home row" keys on both Maltron

http://www.maltron.com/keyboard-info/word-lists.html

and QWERTY.

http://www.maltron.com/keyboard-info/wo … ayout.html


It seemed to me that the greater the number of words that could be typed, the lesser amount of travel by hands and arms, with reduced fatigue and chance of injury.

However, the Maltron website did not perform the same analysis for either Dvorak or Colemak, so in order to obtain a more balanced picture, I performed the "home row test" for all four keyboards, using the one word list.

As observed previously, on the Maltron keyboard the E is considered a home key because it is activated by the left thumb, with the right thumb hitting the space bar.

Based upon an international Scrabble word list of 172,807 words, the following figures were derived.

QWERTY - 198 words can be typed without taking the fingers from the home keys.

DVORAK - 3126 words can be typed without taking the fingers from the home keys.

COLEMAK - 5963 words can be typed without taking the fingers from the home keys.

MALTRON - 7639 words can be typed without taking the fingers from the home keys.

The actual word lists for each keyboard are available on this link:

http://mostergonomickeyboard.blogspot.com/

A couple of points which perhaps I may be able to clarify for you.  The OP's comment re the Z and L (and the Q and P?) Keys and the difficulty in using the pinky finger.  Many years ago I decided that that was possibly going to be a minor problem, so instead of using the pinky, I use the ring finger(s) for those four keys, since it's very unusual to have digraphs of "ZL", "LZ", "QP" or "PQ".  I believe this also will address the comment about typing a double "L".  It is a moderately common digraph, but in fact the "L" is not on the home row, so in order to type it, the hand must leave the home row in any case, so to move the ring finger into position is no great difficulty.

I would submit that the many subtleties of Stephen Hobday's execution of Lillian Malt's idea are not truly grasped until, like almost any keyboard layout, one has become very familiar with it.  These subtle features include angle of each individual key as it meets with the digit.  For example modifying a standard keyboard to make use of the thumb to strike "E" won't necessarily replicate "Maltronic" motion of the key, since on the "flat" keyboard the space bar merely moves up and down, in the one plane, which could possibly result in a suboptimal performance.  Further, as well the angle of individual keys in relation to the fingers, each key is at a different depth within the 3D matrix, catering for the differing lengths of each finger.

I found pinkyache's comments pretty well spot on

I think it odd that people are more obsessed with an optimised layout on the standard keyboard rather than creating an optimised ergonomic keyboard.

That's been pretty much the story of my life since working in public with the Maltron.  Many people express interest, but virtually nobody will even bother to step outside the box!  Oh, I'll stick with what I know, thanks, and they stop complaining about the pain in their wrists (although obviously the pain will still be there.)

I make these comments, having read your thread, to perhaps either (a) save you time in trying to make an unacceptable adaptation or (b) give further inspiration to try something better.

If you are interested, this link

http://mostergonomickeyboard.blogspot.com/

is to my blog where I give a much more detailed analysis of what I consider makes for a truly ergonomic keyboard.

As you probably realise, there's more to an ergonomic keyboard than just the distribution of the letters.

Again, you may or may not be interested in this blog

http://proword-transcription.blogspot.com/

where I address the efficient/ergonomic use of software, in particular word processing and high speed audio transcription.  It probably won't be of any benefit for games or programming, but for many other uses ... well, I'll leave it up to you. 

It's almost the same experience with Maltron, when people see me keying in shorthand.  Once they find out they have to stop using MS Word, the shutters go up, and they go back to pounding the keyboard, virtual manual labour.

One of the unexpected spinoffs I found to using this shorthand style of typing was that if, for example, I was chatting to someone on line, I could do my typing using the wordprocessor and all its functions, then I created a simple macro, which selected the entire text, saved it to the clipboard, and then I pasted it into my chat page. Very speedy way to chat.  ;-) 

Anyway, just dropped by for a brief discussion on a topic which seems to be of mutual interest.  If you have any questions about the Maltron itself (though obviously not in respect of Colemak) please feel free to contact me either via this board, or send me an email.

Ciao,

Joe

PS If you are interested in single handed keyboard, Maltron does a very nice matching pair, for either hand, which I'm currently trying to teach myself how to use with the shorthand described above.

PPS In respect of the question of "cost" of the Maltron, I'd have to say that I bought my first one in 1986, and I'm still using it (without any breakdown) in 2011, so taking the cost over 25 years, I doubt whether you could buy ANY keyboard for such a small price, especially given the amount of work I do on them.

Luckily, I've got four of them, I couldn't survive with out them.

J

Last edited by proword (03-Mar-2011 01:19:38)

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#18 02-Mar-2011 19:18:14

erw
Member
From: Aalborg, Denmark
Registered: 18-Feb-2011
Posts: 163

Re: Optimizing the Maltron layout - please help me!

proword

I think it odd that people are more obsessed with an optimised layout on the standard keyboard rather than creating an optimised ergonomic keyboard.

Weird, I didn't think about this before. But now that I do, I guess it's because laptops and 3D keyboards don't go well together.

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#19 02-Mar-2011 21:52:14

pinkyache
Member
Registered: 21-Apr-2010
Posts: 641

Re: Optimizing the Maltron layout - please help me!

Nice writeup Joe(proword), look forward to exploring your links.

@erw, what's with this obsession with laptops?  Darn things crippled me.  How about pairing a tablet with a Maltron over wireless instead?

If you glance at geekhack, the majority appear to shun their laptop keyboards for something bigger and better.  I wish I had something like a happy hacker ten key less, that I could throw in a bag.

I'm salivating at the idea of one handed Maltron and shorthand.

@proword have you ever tried the Datahand or have you been blissfully happy with your Maltron since 1986?  I take your point about cost, sounds like more of a sound investment than some people's computers.  Right now I'm struggling to put food on the table - but if I get some spare cash...  I bet they aren't built now like they used to...

Last edited by pinkyache (02-Mar-2011 21:53:23)


--
Physicians deafen our ears with the Honorificabilitudinitatibus of their heavenly Panacaea, their sovereign Guiacum.

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#20 03-Mar-2011 01:47:43

proword
Member
Registered: 02-Mar-2011
Posts: 26

Re: Optimizing the Maltron layout - please help me!

Re the Datahand, I did see it being demo'd on TV many years ago (in fact I think I've still got the demo on VHS tape somewhere), but once I thought about the necessity of having to move the fingers to the left and right to get half of the characters, it struck me as being a movement which the fingers are not really designed to do with any great facility, compared to the "opening-closing" moves, so I decided not to pursue it any further.

I was thinking a bit after I made my previous post, about whether it would be possible to do a "soft" conversion of a physical Maltron keyboard to the Colemak layout, and if you have a look through my blog on shorthand, you'll see that WordPerfect is ideal for this purpose, as the "keyboard map" function enables every key combination to be remapped to whatever the user wants.  And it would be possible to swap between Malt layout and Colemak with a single mouse click. (Good for experimenting with different layouts "on the cheap".)

Further, if you bought a "multi-layout" Maltron (including Dvorak/Malt) which can be changed by a single keystroke, it would be possible to have a triple-layout keyboard.  When buying a Maltron, you can specify dual-engraved key tops with both layouts (in different colours), so I see no reason why the keen experimenter should not make up some sticky keytop labels with triple letters.  You could then have a single keyboard with access to Malt/Dvorak/Colemak, all attached to the physical keyboard of a Maltron, accessible with either a single keystroke or mouse click.  Hmm.  Sounds like an interesting idea.  ;)

The caveat of course is this would only be available in WordPerfect, and to achieve the same result in MS Word would (I think) be possible, but certainly with no way the same facility of either creation or execution.  I've not used other word processor packages (eg Open Office) so I couldn't comment on the feasibility of such a conversion.


Going one tiny step further, it would be easy to swap the "LZ" digraph to see if it made a difference.

Joe

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#21 03-Mar-2011 02:07:51

proword
Member
Registered: 02-Mar-2011
Posts: 26

Re: Optimizing the Maltron layout - please help me!

pinkyache

  Right now I'm struggling to put food on the table - but if I get some spare cash...  I bet they aren't built now like they used to...


As far as quality goes, the Maltron still uses Cherry keyswitches, the heart and soul of the keyboard.  Secondly, because of the very complex curvature of the shell, it's not possible to have them "robot" assembled, and they are still being assembled (by hand) in the UK where they started out.  Thirdly, each keyboard is built to the individual's requirements re key layout, whether trackball included etc.  Hence the seemingly high price.

Living in Western Australia, it took several weeks for my single handers to arrive from the UK, but it was worth the wait.  I've now got 6 keyboards (including the two single handers) and have never had a problem with any of them.

Initially the soldering and wiring was done by Pam Hobday, in a shed in the back yard.  (My first keyboard is one of hers.) 

Getting slightly off topic I've met both Stephen and Pam Hobday on a couple of occasions when they visited Perth.  He was born in 1916, and his mind still buzzes with all sorts of ideas.  I received a "Christmas letter" last year, and they celebrated their Silver Wedding anniversary by taking a cruise down the Danube!!   An amazing couple.

So in answer to your comment, I think this one case where they're still built "Like they used to ..."  :D

Joe

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#22 03-Mar-2011 08:23:31

Shai
Administrator
Registered: 11-Dec-2005
Posts: 355

Re: Optimizing the Maltron layout - please help me!

The Maltron keyboard layout is excellent ergonomically, and having an extra thumb in use is great. However, it isn't a practical alternative for most people due to the keyboard price (which needs to be multiplied if using several computers, e.g. at home and at work), and because it's only available for desktop computers which are now a shrinking minority of computers.

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#23 03-Mar-2011 11:24:28

proword
Member
Registered: 02-Mar-2011
Posts: 26

Re: Optimizing the Maltron layout - please help me!

Shai

it's only available for desktop computers which are now a shrinking minority of computers.

I'm not sure why you'd think that.  I take it with me everywhere my lappie goes.  ;)



Joe

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#24 03-Mar-2011 14:35:54

pinkyache
Member
Registered: 21-Apr-2010
Posts: 641

Re: Optimizing the Maltron layout - please help me!

I take my brilliantly crappy usb rubber dome keyboard with me on my travels.

Portability is an issue for pedestrians and cyclists.  And dragging around weight on your back might undo some of ergonomic benefits of a good keyboard or layout.

Last edited by pinkyache (03-Mar-2011 14:37:53)


--
Physicians deafen our ears with the Honorificabilitudinitatibus of their heavenly Panacaea, their sovereign Guiacum.

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#25 04-Mar-2011 08:55:44

proword
Member
Registered: 02-Mar-2011
Posts: 26

Re: Optimizing the Maltron layout - please help me!

There was some talk a few years ago about Maltron producing a keyboard with the computer actually built in, and perhaps a flip-up laptop type screen, but I think it died of natural causes. 

Joe

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