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Was going to learn dvorak but luckily stumbled onto colemak

  • Started by losty
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  • Registered: 03-Mar-2007
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I will keep this short and sweet as i just converted -- I rearranged all my keycaps on my laptop -- going cold turkey
like the fact that colemak keeps all the common shortcuts --

One question -- how about swapping the j and the b keys?  j is the 3rd lowest occuring letter and its in a really comfy position....

B is the one stretch.... and it occurs alot more often than j

Any thoughts why I shouldnt? I will do it now while im just learning--

edit: sorry I should have posted this in the general forum

Last edited by losty (03-Mar-2007 12:42:43)
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Judging from usage alone, B may indeed be just a little "underplaced" in Colemak. But changing place with J wouldn't accomplish anything in that respect, since the Colemak J position is just or at least almost as bad as the B one is - except for the right/left hand thing. Maybe you have a special feeling about those positions; everyone has their personal experience. I certainly don't find the J position really comfy! And then there's the question of where the B should then go, to which I don't think there may be a good answer.

Also remember that Shai has made the Colemak considering a lot more than single character usage! I tried putting together a few layouts myself before I switched to Colemak (it's all the rage, hehe), and they would invariably be pretty decent at single-letter frequency statistics but suck badly at too many important digraphs (two-letter combos). And digraphs plus some trigraphs is what top notch typing is REALLY about!

Other considerations do apply:
- Both are rare letters, at least relatively so. And thus, the B is probably better left where it is.
- Your suggestion would switch B and J between the hands they are on in QWERTY, making it more difficult to learn Colemak.
- The B is used as a not uncommon shortcut key both in Windows and on the Mac (don't know about the other systems/interfaces). This is another reason to keep it in place.

I encourage you to try the Colemak "full package" so you can benefit from consistency with Colemak users. The activity currently on this site means that utilities, images and stuff are being produced all the time, and if you have your own personal quirks then you'll miss out on those. I do encourage national layouts, as far as changing/adding a few special characters goes, but that's really another matter entirely. The main block is better used as Shai made it - and trust me, it's a damn good layout he made!  :)

Last edited by DreymaR (03-Mar-2007 13:32:00)

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Cheers! I figured there would probably be reasons.

Don't get me wrong im just curious. Would be interesting to learn about the thinking behind all the design choices.

Colemak feels so comfy everywhere else that I suppose I just notice the awkward moves more now. 

Ill stick to the standard as im sure there has been alot of thought put into it -- it may not be perfect in every respect but it seems well balanced to my uneducated eyes. Love the shortcuts retention.

And its going to kick the hell out of qwerty. Im stoked I stumbled across colemak. Thanks again Shai. 

Cant wait until I get some speed back. Havent done any tutes yet. Will start tomorrow after my hangover is gone.

One more question. -- Any one know how I can change the keybooard in my windows mobile device?

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  • Shai
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DreymaR got most of it, I'll just summarize my reasons:

I decided not to switch B and J because:
* Both B and J are a long stretches, and therefore have been assigned low frequency characters.
* The switch increases both same-finger combos, and same-hand row-jumping.
* Moving additional keys, especially keys that move between hands make the layout harder to learn.
* Ctrl+B is one of the most common shortcuts, and it's good to preserve it for compatibility.
* Right index finger already does more work than any other finger, and putting B there would imbalance things even further. This also helps keeps a better hand balance.
* It's not an issue for people that don't use ergonomic non-jagged keyboards (TypeMatrix, Maltron, Datadesk Smartboard, Kinesis).

If you feel uncomfortable pressing the B key, you should adjust a bit the angle of your left hand.

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Cheers

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Basically my second day.  Didnt touch the computer much for a while as was mega hung over. No lessons.

2nd day

Definitely some small improvement --- I find myself daydreaming about the layout alot while watching TV etc to try and drill it in. I even dreamt about it last night.  lol

Got 55wpm on the first lesson once (the st en keys) -- thats bloody good for me.  I am averaging about 47wpm on that lesson.

I have only just started working on touchtyping last few weeks. Before that I was a very fast blind hunt and pecker. Dont know speed though.

At around 10.5 wpm for the common words lesson. Have done probably 45 - 60 mins lessons today so far.

I think I may have underestimated how much work this would be. Luckily I have a month where I am not doing much.

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This tip from the learn page will help a lot in making your first month more productive.  Take breaks and don't focus on speed at the moment - focus on hitting the right keys. 

Dedicate 2 hours per day during the first 5 days for learning the layout. Accommodate into your schedule the extra time needed to complete tasks due to the slower typing speed while learning the layout. It's usually a waste of effort to practice more than 2 hours per day.

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Is it actually counterproductive to practice more than 2 hours a day? Actually worse off for the extra practice?? Or just not a very good use of time? I.e third hour worth only half of first?  /Thinking back to the days when I would practice guitar---excessively going by >= 2 hrs is a waste of time rule.

I can see doing more than two hours at one time as being a waste of time. I tend to do little blocks -- 20-30 minutes here and there. Maybe four or five a day. Not really sure. Definitely improved -- can get 30 wpm on the second lesson now. Was at 10 wpm yesterday feeling like it would take months to improve.

Yeah I try to go at a challenging rythmic pace saying the letters as I go, just slow enough to be able to catch myself when my fingers are about to make an error.

Slow is fast. Fast is slow.

Also been over practicing a few strings like my passwords and some urls I use alot. Actually faster than before on this new layout. Treated them like tunes on a guitar -- broke them down into chunks and practiced them over and over til I got fluent. 

This is going to feel like an achievment once I have gotten up to speed with the layout. Everyone I tell thinks I am nuts to put in all the effort to learn a nonstandard layout.

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Even the mightiest oak was once just a nut.  ;)

Sounds like a dedicated and sensible approach you have there. Myself, I prefer playing typing games simply because that's more fun. But typing phrases and text should be effective.

If you break your practice into short blocks like you say, I'll wager you can do more than 2 h total per day and still benefit well from the extra practice. But not much more. And keep in mind that even if this is an ergonomic layout you could overwork something because you're often a little tense from frustration while learning as well as from the unusual movements.

Back when I learnt playing instruments, the general consensus was that you could do well to practice 3-5 h/d on the piano (I did about 1 h/d, but I'm no pianist). On the traverse flute and guitar, the number would be lower - not sure why on the guitar, but the flute is played so unergonomically that it'll hurt you if you overdo it. Likely, the guitar is a matter of not overworking fingers.

Last edited by DreymaR (06-Mar-2007 08:57:24)

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I like that acorn saying. lol lol lol I used to to play guitar about 6 hrs a day for the first 6 weeks or so. Slowly tapered off to the point now where I dont even play more than once a year. 

I am always one to go to extremes when I first get caught by an idea. I used to skydive and when I was learning I would practice headstands while watching videos so I could train my headdown flight. I used to practice balancing in a chair. Anything to help me learn to fly. Some times I couldnt sleep because I couldnt stop thinking about it all night. lol...   nut...  I used to have such determination.  Freeflying.... best times I ever did have. Tracking like birds into the sunset. Magic.
One day I will be back... one day.

Yeah typing games huh?? I read something about them. I will have to look into them.

I feel crippled and I have so much I want to do at the moment. I want to get this out of the way as soon as possible.

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Well well well. Here I am at the end of my first week of actively practicing Colemak. Today marks the end of a long week of initial frustrations but steady progress.
I am at the point now where typing is no longer a massive chore. I have yet to regain my speed but I have gotten back enough to get by and alot more than I was expecting for a weeks practice. I was doing about 2 hours a day and I feel I am definitely back up to speed enough to work if I had to. Just this last day I have gotten up to a new level of automaticity. If you are converting you just have to hang in there for that first week and put in the yards. Just put on some music and get to work.

I have only done up to lesson 7 so far but through general use and due to the fact that alot of the keys havent changed I have become fairly competent with all the keys. I would not underestimate the benefit not changing some of the keys makes to the speed of learning the layout. I think anyone who is looking at swapping from QWERTY would probably be someone who uses computers professionally so would likely be on a restricted schedule. Colemak would be a much wiser choice than Dvorak where pretty much all the keys have changed.

So far I am quite happy with the swap and I would recommend it to anyone looking to swap from QWERTY. I did a bit of touchtyping on QWERTY for about two weeks before I swapped over to Colemak so I can attest to Colemak being far more comfortable. I used to be a well above average hunt and pecker but I think within even just another few weeks I will surpass my old speed. Learning a new layout gave me a chance to consciously work on technique.

Current Progress:

Lesson 1 Peak 67wpm Avg 60
Lesson 7 Peak 37wpm Avg 35

I seem to go faster when just typing for general use as I am not thinking as much. I make more mistakes but fix them very quickly. I tend to use the old bacspace alot more too without thinking. I will have to be conscious of that. I could probably afford to stop practicing so much or even completely now but I think I will continue for another few weeks and make sure I instill a good technique.

Will report back in a week.

Basically; happy with Colemak and would recommend it.

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Starting to have my first tinges of regret....I have been losing my patience lately.... I just want to let things rip....

I feel so stuttery...  I hope it doesnt take years to get my old fluency back....

Tried qwerty keyboards recently and I am fucked... no turning back now.

Patience....  Dont jump into this impulsively people...

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Ah, I remember that point. I also went through it. "Ah, screw this. I want to type fast again" is what I said. When I tried typing with Dvorak again, it was a total loss. I couldn't type fast anymore, so I reached the point of no turning back. You just have to push through it. That's the point that's going to make you or break you.

The more you use Colemak, the easier it's going to be for you. You just have to keep in mind that you'll be typing faster and better for the rest of your life.

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losty, patience and practice is needed to go over that virtual mountain. Currently, you're 1/2 way to the mountain peak so you can't really go down, all you can do is go up and you'll be rewarded after you go over that mountain peak to the Colemak side :). Once you'll pass the peak you'll speed up real fast, like many of us who already have passed that point. For me it took 2 weeks to pass that point and I'm glad I did. There are many advantages so your hard work of relearning will soon be paid off...as GH said, "You just have to keep in mind that you'll be typing faster and better for the rest of your life."

Last edited by AGK (14-Mar-2007 17:53:45)
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Yeah.. Shutup and type lol
Keeping at it :)

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Its been about 3 weeks since I installed the layout and I am now quite fluent. It is no longer much of a conscious effort to type.

Broke through that barrier everyone was talking about. Yippee! I did it! lol

One small step for man...

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losty said:

I will keep this short and sweet as i just converted -- I rearranged all my keycaps on my laptop -- going cold turkey
like the fact that Colemak keeps all the common shortcuts --

One question -- how about swapping the j and the b keys?  j is the 3rd lowest occurring letter and its in a really comfy position....

B is the one stretch.... and it occurs a lot more often than j

Any thoughts why I shouldn't? I will do it now while I'm just learning--

edit: sorry I should have posted this in the general forum

The B stretch can be fixed without significantly altering the layout by shifting x c v and b by one key to the left (b to v, v to c and so on).

When you get to z, there are no more standard keys to the left. You can move z to b. Though out of position, z is such an infrequent key in English that adding it to the other keys on the left index isn't a problem. It's also possible to shuffle the shift, alt and control keys around. Just keep in mind that the B-Key is easy to hit by accident if either index finger over reaches, so caps lock, win and alt should not go there.

I move z to left shift, left shift to left alt(lets me use one shift key for the entire board), left alt to left windows key, left windows key to caps lock, caps lock to back space and backspace to B.

Keytweak, free for windows, lets you move keys around by using the registry's map.

http://webpages.charter.net/krumsick/

shuffling the keys to the left also makes 'c' easier to type. It's almost like having an ergonomic board.

Last edited by sorenk (14-Apr-2007 03:06:42)

"Things will get better despite our efforts to improve them" - Will Rogers
"...even the dog doesn't think I'm a monster." - Humphrey Bogart in The Caine Mutiny (1954)

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Keep in mind though, that this will make your Ctrl-Z (Undo) shortcut stray from its current easily accessible position to a slightly harder one (and the straying itself may be bad enough), and also forfeit your chance to get freebies from this site. Soren doesn't mind as he's a pioneer who likes it in the open wild, but maybe you will think differently about it.  ;)

If we disregard those things, the idea should be a decent one. The reasons Shai didn't elect to move any of the keys to the lower left are consistency for ease of learning and consistency with current shortcuts. If those aren't important to you, there is certainly some comfort (and maybe speed?) to be gained by moving the B to a better place.

Last edited by DreymaR (14-Apr-2007 08:09:30)

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  • wad
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I've just posted some stats on my blog about sorenk's shuffled left bottom row.

http://www.waddles.org/twiki/bin/view/W … BlogEntry6

At first glance, it's awesome. Can someone suggest a reason not to use it?

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Uh, I did?

I listed a few reasons for not making the standard Colemak that way. If these reasons don't apply to you and you're okay with going your own way, feel free to improvise. What, didn't I say this already?

Basically, your improvements in ergonomy and balance concern rarely used keys and shortcut keys to boot, which means that Shai chose to keep them in place because the improvements didn't balance out the disadvantages. This will always be a bit of a personal choice, but that's how it's done.

If you do switch any keys around, I suggest you don't call it "Colemak" (or "Kolemak" which is wayyyy too similar!!!) anymore, but "my and Sorenk's layout, mostly based on Colemak" or something else entirely that's significantly different. "XColemak" is my suggestion, since it reflects your changed bottom row that now starts "XC". This to avoid confusion and ... keep our bloodthirsty lawyers off your back.  :)  j/k

Oh and: Before you whip out terms like "significant", make sure you add a disclaimer that you don't mean it in a scientific context. I find it hard to believe that you have estimated standard errors and power in your test. Whether the change is significant in an everyday usage of the word is also a bit open to debate, although the improvements in balance and other figures do look promising. Maybe you should repeat with bigger and more varied syllabi just to make sure your findings are consistent. Using a lot of Perl source will gear the test towards your personal usage for instance, which will of course be okay for you but will also weaken your claims if you want to make them in a public context.

Last edited by DreymaR (21-Apr-2007 08:31:31)

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  • Shai
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It moves 22 keys instead of 17 (~30% more moved keys), and it saves ~1% on finger distance according to your figures (which I haven't verified, and the figures are based on a small sample), and it breaks compatibility with the most important keyboard shortcuts. I simply don't think it's worth it. That said, if I were designing a keyboard layout from scratch without considering QWERTY compatibility I wouldn't have kept B in its QWERTY position, but I decided that moving it was not worthwhile.

The X position, where you've placed the rather common C, is one of the least comfortable keys to type on a standard keyboard if you use the standard touch typing technique, i.e. use the ring finger to type it. Moreover, even if the same-finger amount is lower, it's very important to reduce it to minimum on the weaker fingers (little/ring finger). That layout increases same-finger ratio for the ring finger, and reduces it for index finger.

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I should have said "Notwithstanding DreymaR's earlier comments (I don't care too much about Windows shortcuts), can someone suggest a reason not to use it?". As a Unix geek, the shortcuts I use more are ctrl-C,-S,-Q,-Z,-L and the ubiquitous Emacs keys: ctrl-A,-E,-N,-P,-K,-U,-B,-F, most of which have changed in Colemak anyway. I'm a vim user but Emacs are the default in bash so I learned them too. Shai's "Important keyboard shortcuts" are too subjective for me.

Perhaps it's also worth re-iterating that I don't use the "standard touch typing technique" nor does my comparison. ALL of the testing was based on a technique that the entire left hand is also moved one key to the left (for the bottom row only) so the same fingers will be used in Kolemak as would be in Shai's testing of Colemak (except Z is now on the index). In other words, qwerty X (now kolemak C) is hit by the middle, not the ring finger.

For the same data set, my qwerty results will be different to Shai's qwerty results because of the shift in fingering.

What I am really looking for is for someone to say "What about the di/trigraph '...' (whatever) which occurs so frequently?". But as I'm shifting both the finger and the key it hits, I don't think there are any.

I don't know where I got the name Kolemak from - it was either here on the forum or a site that links off it. Maybe I'll call it Cuulemak for Unix Users :)

Yes, it's a very subjective data sample - it wasn't meant to be a deep introspection - just a cross-check of "Is colemak really the right one for me?" Maybe it still is. There are lots of things the applet can't test, such as Backspace, Tab-completion, 3-key combos like Shift-Ctrl-Whatever, auto-indenting, code justification/completion/correction. Does anyone have a more sophisticated algorithm that more closely simulates a human user? ie. Unix geek?

I'm not here to fight it to the death, I'm just sharing my findings in case anyone else stumbles across this thread and wonders the same thing. A friend of mine who is about to start the Colemak journey also shifts his fingers on the left bottom row, so I know I'm not the only one, +sorenk(?).

Either way, there's no going back for me, so thanks Shai, for making it so much better than QWERTY and easier than Dvorak. The plethora of drop in files available here has made it really easy.

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No worries: If I wanted a fight to the death, I'd suggest other weaponry...   ;)

Hjemsted01-06.jpg

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LOL I had initial concerns about the b key but in practice you hardly even notice it. Overall Colemak feels way better than qwerty and it's great how few keys had to be moved to make a *significant* subjective improvement in ergonomics. I really can't say about speed as I am touch-typing for the first time with Colemak(edit: actually touch-typed in qwerty for a few weeks but never got fluent) and using a computer more than ever before. Having said that I definitely think I'm faster(than before or I would be qwerty touchtyping). The comfort though is what I really care for. It feels so *lazy* that I have started practicing using the 'fn' key along with the "number pad" on my laptop.

l=left
y=right
8=up
e=down
7=home
n=end
 
and so on. I had to get a registry patch to kill the windows key that is right next to it for case of finger fuckups but I never used it anyway.

I'm so used to the lazy Colemak movements that it really annoys me to move my hand to the cursor keys.

I'm REALLY glad how few of the shortcut keys have changed because so many programs are designed for QWERTY. It would be such an annoyance during that learning phase. People shouldn't discount ease of learning when considering a layout. It really is a pain in the arse. I am amazed I actually swapped over being the slack bastard that I am.

Colemak is basically close to the perfect OVERALL compromise in my admittedly uneducated opinion. I am no maths geek even though I would love to be.
Interesting stuff really.

Anyway.... It 'feels' groovy. Like old 'slow hand' on a geetar. Lazy movements. Nuff said and that.

Shai has obviously spent a lot of time as this layout is a few iterations deep. Its the 2nd(?) version of Colemak which is his 2nd(?) layout.

Why bother try and improve it?

There is the cusomisation factor but even as an individual there would be a variety of situations a keyboarder would find themselves in. I mean it wouldn't make sense to make it application specific. Colemak seems pretty good overall compromise.

I suppose the terminally curious will just have to try and understand and better it otherwise they wouldn't be the people they are.

I suppose that's why. More power to em.



I also like the fact that Colemak is fairly easy to take to any platform. All the work is done. Thanks Shai! (and anyone else if they helped)


p.s. Good luck to the wicked mad bastards trying their own brand!

Last edited by losty (02-May-2007 15:47:44)
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DreymaR, I have the strange feeling that you're involved in some curious conspiracy or so... Let me guess, you're planning a viking overtake of the world?!

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