The QWERTY keyboard layout was designed in the 19th century, predating even the concept of touchtyping. As such, it came with significant flaws: most obviously, the common Y and extremely common T were placed on awkward spots, while the uncommon K and very rare J were given privileged positions. Though the Dvorak Simplified Keyboard layout corrected some of these flaws, its large deviation from the, by then, de facto QWERTY standard made it difficult to adopt.
The Colemak Layout. Changes from QWERTY in bold.
Colemak is a modern alternative to the QWERTY and Dvorak layouts. It is designed for efficient and ergonomic touch typing in English, but in addition, it is designed to provide QWERTY users an easy transition:
Colemak is similar enough that QWERTY touchtypists can learn it 3-5 keys at a time, reducing both the effort and risk normally associated with switching layouts.
Unlike Dvorak, Colemak preserves most of QWERTY's left-side Ctrl- shortcuts, with ZXCV and destructive shortcuts such as Ctrl-Q, Ctrl-W generally unchanged, and some others (Ctrl-R) even improved. For more details, see Shortcuts.
Colemak avoids upper-row pinkie usage: Q (0.11%) and :; (0.29%), compared to Dvorak's " ' (0.48%) and infamous L (3.22%).
The "annoying" QWERTY Y position is assigned the very rare J (0.13%), rather than Dvorak's F (1.71%).
Very low same-finger: Colemak scores 1.72% (once every 58 keys on average) under standard touchtyping, or 1.90% (once every 53 keys) if you hit C with your index finger. For comparison, Dvorak scores 2.36% (once every 42 keys) and QWERTY 4.95% (once every 20 keys).¹
Rare row-jumping: QWERTY requires your hand to jump directly between the top and bottom row once every 14 keys on average. By contrast, Colemak only does so every 155 keys, Dvorak every 156 keys on average.
This was a summary of what I feel to be Colemak's most important points. For more details, see the main website (including downloads). If you are a QWERTY touchtypist and interested in transitioning 3-5 keys at a time, see the post below for a brief summary of Tarmak, or this thread for more details and downloads.
Last edited by lalop (28-May-2014 19:50:20)
Of all the keyboard layouts currently in circulation, I believe Colemak to have the best shortcuts by far, surpassing even QWERTY's. Not only does it preserve most of QWERTY's left-side Ctrl- shortcuts; several important ones are actually moved closer, resulting in a left-side shortcut density of nearly 100%.
The following image assumes Ctrl has been moved to Caps Lock (rather than the Colemak default - IMNSHO, a mistake - of having it be an extra Backspace):
Green shortcuts are preserved on their QWERTY positions.
Blue shortcuts are improved from their QWERTY positions.
Ctrl-S is minutely worsened (though placed on a stronger finger). Ctrl-D and E are significantly worsened.
Destructive shortcuts (e.g. Ctrl-Q, Ctrl-W, Ctrl-X) tend to be preserved.
Emacs-users may find C-r/C-s (incremental reverse/forward search) amazing compared to their QWERTY positions.
Last edited by lalop (04-May-2014 12:32:59)
The Tarmak transitional layouts allow for Colemak to be learned 3-5 keys at a time, rather than all at once.
This allows not only for a more tractable transition (3-5 keys per stage vs. 33 keys (Dvorak) or 17 keys (Colemak) all at once), but for reduced risk while transitioning. The more gradual steps allow for shorter disruptions to one's work, while progression to the next stage can be scheduled for a convenient time. Even if one is unexpectedly stuck on a Tarmak stage, one would still retain its intermediate benefits.
Note that Tarmak is only really useful for QWERTY touchtypists (since it builds upon the muscle memory of QWERTY); otherwise, it may be easier just to learn Colemak from scratch.
For more information, analyses, testimonials, and downloads, see this thread.
Last edited by lalop (22-Jul-2014 05:28:38)
The content of this thread was originally a suggestion of how the colemak website might be updated. If you are able to put it to that purpose, that would be awesome!
Otherwise, it serves as a short summary of Colemak talking points. You may link to it, quote it, use the arguments as you please.
Unfortunately, I've seen enough misinformation going around about how QWERTY is "no worse" than the optimized layouts, that I thought I should immediately list some ways in which (if the reader takes even a moment to look) QWERTY is obviously flawed.
Make github version?
Pick a better title?
Find a way to fit an actual picture of colemak (and probably QWERTY/Dvorak, for comparison). When I tried putting one in the OP, it only made it look more cluttered. Perhaps in the second post? Help from UI-minded people appreciated. Done, though further proposals are always welcome.
Get values for same-finger that include punctuation. Probably make a new thread to avoid footnote clutter.
License: All of my own content of my posts in this thread is released under the CC0 1.0 Public Domain Dedication.
The Colemak image in the first post, and Tarmak gif are by DreymaR.
Last edited by lalop (22-May-2014 13:35:35)
¹ Same-finger is defined here as the proportion of text for which the same finger has to immediately type two different keys. So, for example, having to type "QA" would be an instance of same-finger in QWERTY standard touchtyping, while having to type "QQ" would not be.
Standard touchtyping has artifacts unfavorable to Colemak; actual same-finger is probably better. For example, the model suggests that one would type '<Return>' (single-quotes before and after the Enter key) solely with the pinkie, moving it twice in the process! In reality, the pinkie and ring-finger would probably both be used in that case.
If <Return> is ommitted from the analysis, Colemak's same-finger improves to 1.27% (once every 79 keys on average), or 1.45% (once every 69 keys) if you hit C with the index finger. Dvorak's becomes 2.05% (once every 49 keys), and QWERTY's 4.50% (once every 22 keys).
Last edited by lalop (28-May-2014 19:34:35)
This is brilliant Lalop!
The Colemak images I've made are released freely; the "IBM-style" ones have their own CC license (CC 3.0 BY-NC-SA). So feel free to include the heat map one without further comment (unless the patorjk analyzer requires anything – which I'm pretty sure it doesn't). Also, let me know if you need any particular variants of my images. If you think my IBM-style images are too gaudy or something (they don't have to be you know), there's always the good old SEO one:
By the way, any feedback on my new Tarmak presentation topic? It was about time a new one was made and especially since it concerns the very first contact with Colemak! I just hope it's clear and attractive to the newcomers.
Last edited by DreymaR (05-May-2014 10:27:17)
Here are a few more images I whipped up. Want anything like that?
CmkNew, ANSI "IBM" board, gray (blurred)
CmkNew, ISO "IBM" board, tinted
These are scaled down to 60 dpi. They look better at 90 dpi if you're okay with the size (812 vs 542 pixels wide).
Last edited by DreymaR (05-May-2014 12:34:30)
I think an ideal might be a small, gray/tinted, non-distracting image showing colemak, qwerty, and dvorak next to each other for comparative purposes, between the first and second paragraphs.
I don't have a very good UI sense, however. If you have anything you think fits well somewhere in the first post, just tell me and I'll put it in.
I'll leave some feedback on the tarmak thread shortly.
Last edited by lalop (05-May-2014 12:41:37)
I've tried making such images, but showing all three side by side gets messy whenever I've tried it at least. Actually I don't think you need to show the Dvorak layout. Either people will be familiar with it already or they can easily look it up elsewhere. Also, most people will have a QWERTY right in front of them and/or a profound knowledge of its design.
I'm making a small Tarmak animation pic, as a result of me producing a set of help images for PKL. Maybe we can use that for something? :)
Here it is; let me know if you think anything should be different! I think it moves too fast now but I couldn't figure out how to set a different speed from the one the GIMP suggested (100 ms per frame) without manually editing all 32 frame descriptions.
Last edited by DreymaR (20-May-2014 11:39:59)
That's awesome! I think it would be useful to put in sigs linking to this thread (slash website, if it ever gets that far).
convert -delay 35x100 Tarmak_SpectralAnimation_45d.gif Tarmak_SpectralAnimation_45d_slower.gif
from this recipe, I get:
I would also consider making J blue throughout. I think it'd be less confusing that way.
For the original post: I'm liking the look of the "small" tinted gif version (the freezeframe with all black letters). In particular, getting rid of the number row reduces distraction, though I'm not 100% sure about the punctuation on the right side; I might keep that. It also doesn't look as good as the higher dpi one, so maybe just keep that DPI or there's some smallest intermediate size that still looks okay? Use your discretion and I'll put that between the 1st and 2nd paragraphs I guess.
Edit: cropping the high DPI pic gets me:
(If I read correctly, these two are released under CC 3.0 BY-NC-SA and are modified from the original.)
Trying this on for size.
Is it possible/advisible to make it even darker? Say, the color of the shift key? Edit 5: Also, would it be possible to distinguish the home keys slightly? I've already had someone say they were confused of where the home row was supposed to be.
Edit 2: These are cropped from your "Space: The Final Frontier" one:
I reckon they don't look as good as partial images; perhaps if the letters were made bigger? This one is nice in showing the punctuation in more detail.
Edit 3: These are nice and small from a non-intrusiveness perspective... perhaps too small?
Cropped from the website:
Cropped from one of your images. Not sure if the colors help or are distracting in this case.
Edit 5: would it be possible to distinguish the home row keys (say in Edit 1?). I've already had someone say they were confused of where the home row was supposed to be.
Found this. Currently I'm trying out the 500px rendering, but it's svg so if you want to resize/work any magic on it (tint it, distinguish the home keys?), that would be cool!
Edit 7: I still think the image is distracting. Suggestions (including "you're just imagining things") appreciated.
Last edited by lalop (06-May-2014 05:24:21)
Heh, let's see...
I don't think we can use sig pics in this forum, or a Tarmak transition animation might indeed happen there. I'll look into your tips which I think are good; I already thought of the J color and in addition I think I'll darken it or something to make it less obtrusive.
Ugh, I don't like the Wikipedia SVG images! They convey info, but that's all they do.
Thanks for looking into the GIF thing. But I had a delay at each completed transition which is lost using that ImageMagick trick. So I guess I'll just have another shot at GIMP; I have an idea now.
As you can see, the small (45 dpi) image is small enough and looks good. The 60 dpi image gets some problems which I've been unable to solve because the gutter lines between keys are 2 px at the native 90 dpi which means that some will be 1 and some 2 and that looks horrible. So it's either 90 or 45 dpi but I think 45 works well for our purposes!
Not sure exactly where you're going with the cropping examples (or with Edit 7?)? I think that the tightly cropped image is the best way of showing the Tarmak transitions at least, but maybe the whole main block is better for a generic Colemak image (like I've done in the Big Bag topics). I'd still drop the Space bar row, and probably leave out the markings for the modifier/special keys.
Since different people use different symbols, I try to leave them out of this when cropping so they don't confuse anyone. A Norwegian user might think that if the brackets have to be there on the right side that's a problem since he/she might want to keep the Norwegian ÆØÅ letters there as before! Also, cropping off the symbols makes the image more symmetric around the DH position which is the "typing origo" if you wish.
I've made homing nubs in the images, as a subtle home row indicator. I'll look into something more substantial.
People now don't trust in PR, but trust what their friends told them. A review of Colemak in Geekhack.org, Overclock.net, Deskthority, Facebook or reddit would be very good.
True about those reviews, Tony. But people are a varied group. We've had people come in here and feel confused and put off since the info is badly organized, poorly graphically presented and (out)dated. Those people may or may not trust in PR, but they do want the info well presented! And that's what Lalop is working on here.
Removing the space from that particular image makes it look funny, I think:
I think there's something to be said for "full information" images like the wiki svg. It provides the most points of reference, with an instantly recognizable general shape. Were any part left ambiguous, people would tend to wonder what is there. The end result, I think, might even be less distracting: it's easy to pattern-match, and the reader can just skim it and move on. So, while I'm not particularly attached to any image, my current impression is that a variation of the svg (tinted, home-rowed, some of the more superfluous labels removed?) might be the best "first colemak image" overall.
Edit: updated OP with my attempt at tinting (including svg file if anyone wants to improve on it)
Edit 2: Alternate version with home row lighter than modifiers
Edit 3: Lighter version
Edit 4: Lightest version
Last edited by lalop (07-May-2014 06:51:46)
I've said it before and I'll repeat it ad nauseam: Sorry, but that wikipedia svg image looks horrible. Horrible, horrible, horrible. I honestly don't think anything can be done to redeem it. :(
tintingshading, unfortunately, doesn't add any clarity I believe. In fact, it lowers the image contrast so that the image becomes more confusing (and it was bad beforehand). The light version with only home row shading is the best, but since it's all in grays the home row emphasis doesn't quite work with the modifier key emphasis. I think you need a little color of sorts – but I'll repeat that this particular image can't be saved in my nsho. ;)
Last edited by DreymaR (07-May-2014 08:52:05)
Even "horrible" (which I don't exactly see) does not preclude "best first colemak image". The priorities here are:
Pattern matching: the reader should be able to identify the shape of the layout at a glance
Non-distracting: ideally, the reader should be fine with just that one glance to acknowledge that "I'll come back to it later".
Inconspicuous: It should also not capture attention while the reader is reading nearby sections.
A notion of the home keys (doesn't have to be obvious, but should be effortlessly discernible if the reader wants to verify which key is pressed by which finger).
Stretch goal (not met with the current one): make it work well on a black background as well as a white one
As always, I'm open to alternatives.
The light version with only home row shading is the best, but since it's all in grays the home row emphasis doesn't quite work with the modifier key emphasis.
When I tried using the lightest image, it seemed... more painful. Just tried it again and similar result. Possibly the slight contrast with the forum background helps.
Last edited by lalop (07-May-2014 09:38:25)
1. Nope. The gaggle of patterns in that image preclude fast matching. And the stylized grid takes a little while to be recognized as a (paltry) attempt at looking as a keyboard.
2. No. The lack of visual guides and the many disturbing elements distract me to no end at least.
3. No. Too visually noisy, despite being monochrome.
4. Doesn't have that, and I don't think there's an easy way to bake it into that image.
5. Oo, that's tricky. In most cases people make two versions for that demand.
Yes, the lightest image is more painful. The others are just hopeless to look at. ;)
Again, alternatives. Without them, my choices are limited even if, theoretically, you are correct.
Yes, the lightest image is more painful. The others are just hopeless to look at. ;)
I'm... going to avoid using the more painful one, regardless.
Something along these lines, maybe?
Maybe I was a bit heavy on the green, but I wanted it to stand out. The blurred green makes it seem "marked-up" which is what I was going for. What do you think?
I marked the primary home position keys in a bright green, and the FDHU keys which I consider "secondary home position" light green. I guess this might have to go in a "first encounter image" to prevent confusion, but I'm showing it here.
The image could also be half that size, and/or gray/untinted (I guess my fingering colors will only be confusing here!).
[edit: I removed the FDHU markings again, and lightened up the green.]
Last edited by DreymaR (07-May-2014 12:56:54)
I like it, but it took me a couple of seconds to realise the scheme. The bold letters being those that change their Qwerty positions. The green I read firstly as English letter frequency/finger wear marks. But then I read your comment about them being your perceived home keys.
What I like is the contrast between Qwerty and Colemak. Perhaps the key changes would be better highlighted in the green. And not trying to put too much into the figure.
Last edited by pinkyache (08-May-2014 00:34:51)
Physicians deafen our ears with the Honorificabilitudinitatibus of their heavenly Panacaea, their sovereign Guiacum.
I was only intent on coloring the eight home keys (if it's not trouble, maybe make that as well for comparative purposes?), but this is interesting too, I guess!
As long as FU is included, I think WY should be as well (incidentally, avoiding unintentional gut reactions about how "is that image flipping me off and/or saying 'F U'?"). I also think DH should be made fainter for two distinct reasons:
Ergonomic perspective: Along with FU, the ring fingers are already "halfway to" WY, whereas DH is a bit more sideways.
Visual perspective: doing so would pretty clearly make the green refer to the two hands.
The image could also be half that size, and/or gray/untinted
I'm guessing 60 dpi (as before) might be best. I personally like this tint, but, as you say, the green is a bit heavy. I think I would prefer the more subdued green (the green currently at FUDH) as the main green, and the secondary greens (if any) even more subdued.
One consideration, though: I've had at least one person tell me they confused the embolded letters with colemak's intended home keys (by an awful coincidence, it's almost those keys but just slightly off). Whatever final color is picked ought to be clear enough to avoid that confusion at least.
Last edited by lalop (07-May-2014 11:45:10)
Done – update your browser window for the new version. I think we just drop the "secondary home" coloring.
You can try rescaling the image yourself, as that's a bit map issue pretty much. But unless you go all the way to 50 % there's usually resampling issues that detract from the image's quality. Too bad.
Not sure what you mean about confusing the bold keys with the home keys, or what final color needs to be picked? At any rate the image caption should specify what the image shows. While that's up, maybe you should mention that ETAOINSHRD are the most common letters in English (and even among the most common letters in most Western languages!). It's nice to look at the picture and see them all placed on the home row I think.
Last edited by DreymaR (07-May-2014 13:01:16)
Thanks. The confusion was between the emboldened middle-row letters and the colemak home keys. But it shouldn't be an issue with the new color scheme.
50% (think I'll go with this one to start with):
500px (approx the old size):
Last edited by lalop (07-May-2014 14:16:08)