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    Colemak Lite (new keyboard layout)

    • Started by Antithesis
    • 9 Replies:
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    • Registered: 25-Jun-2012
    • Posts: 8

    I think we would all prefer it if QWERTY wasn't what we grew up with and what we still have to use occasionally, but the fact is that it is, and keyboard layouts should take this into consideration. QWERTY-compatibility comes with a couple of advantages:

    • The layout becomes easier to learn.

    • It's easier to switch between QWERTY and the keyboard layout.

    • Less of the experience you've gained typing QWERTY all those years will be lost.

    The last point isn't the same as the first: once you've learned a keyboard layout well enough to say you're comfortable with it, you still aren't as fast with it as you were with QWERTY. You might not make mistakes that often, but it still takes more time for you to process which key to press next.

    I feel the importance of QWERTY-compatibility is often overlooked, and while Colemak does a very good job being similar, I decided to look for a way to improve Colemak on this front with as few sacrifices as possible. There's also the ASSET keyboard layout, but it had exceptionally high consecutive finger use (using one finger twice in a row), so it was better to use Colemak as a basis.

    So, for people who want Colemak's efficiency on a more QWERTY-like layout, here's the Colemak Lite layout!
    FO0xS.png

    Differences (vs. Colemak)
    • R and S are switched. (honestly, I don't see why Colemak doesn't do this.)

    • P, G and D are 'cycled' between positions.

    • EU and IY columns are switched.

    • L and F are switched.

    What it has to offer (vs. Colemak)
    • Improved QWERTY-compatibility: the S and the G are at the QWERTY positions, and the I (i) is under the same finger (this is more important than you may think).

    • A more balanced heat map: of course, Colemak has the most common letters on the home keys, but the next three most common characters (HLD) are all under the index fingers. Colemak Lite places one of them, namely the L, under the left middle finger. I personally find this a lot more comfortable.

    • More hand alternation: by switching the L and F between hands, the left hand is used slightly more, but still less than the right hand.

    • On-par consecutive finger use and finger travel. It depends on the text you test it with, but I actually had a lower CFU with some books. The difference in finger travel is insignificant.

    Difficulties

    If you look closely, you'll see that the EU and IY columns on the right side are switched. Again, this is for QWERTY-compatibility regarding the I (i). It does mean you're relearning 4 characters for an advantage regarding only 1 character, which will be pesky at the beginning, but when you consider the years you've typed the I (i) with the middle finger, I feel it pays off. I've used Colemak a couple of months and relearned those two rows in a week.

    Next to that, the placement of D on the top row and the shifted P might feel awkward. This was done in the favour of keeping the G in place, regardless of the fact it isn't used too often. To me, moving the index finger upwards isn't really less comfortable than moving it sideways, the only problem was getting used to it, which I did quickly.


    Get Lite

    For Windows (PKL package)
    For GNU/Linux
    For GNU/Linux (for use in ttys, when you don't use X)

    Instructions for GNU/Linux

    • cd to the directory you downloaded it to.

    • Type:

      xmodmap colemak-lite.xmodmap
    • You might want to put this line in your .xinitrc (or whatever launches on startup)

    Test results

    I could, of course, show some results from the Keyboard Layout Analyzer, but I could just pick texts biased in my advantage. Let's try something interesting: use this code to load the layout yourself, and then share results from any text you want. This creates more variety in the texts picked, which gives a better insight.


    Improvements

    This layout is open for improvements, just remember that the main goal is to be more QWERTY-like. If you spot any keys that can be under the same finger (or even the same spot) as with QWERTY without too much sacrifice in CFU or finger travel, even if by rearranging some other keys, feel free to share. Constructive criticism is very welcome.

    Last edited by Antithesis (01-Sep-2012 12:45:31)
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    Thanks to patojk Keyboard Analyzer website, a thousand of keyboard layouts can be produced each day easily and efficiently. They are pretty the same in term of efficiency, plus or minus 0.5%.

    We are reinventing the wheel for pure joy of invention of something new.

    For a layout to be useful, it need a community for support. But which of them have such a dedicated website for support like Colemak here?

    Last edited by Tony_VN (02-Sep-2012 03:22:03)
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    • From: Viken, Norway
    • Registered: 13-Dec-2006
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    Welcome in the layout maker's club! :)

    In order to impress anyone here, I think it's safe to say you'll need a convincing digraph analysis. Digraphs are the reasons for the way R-S are placed in Colemak and some other placements you seem to wonder about. [Oh hang on - that's what you mean by 'CFU' is it? Still, a few more details there wouldn't go amiss.]

    Colemak gets frequent flak for being too similar to QWERTY, as well as not being similar enough. Maybe it's got it just about right? ;) But of course it's about individual preferences. If you check out my Tarmak layouts (see my sig topic) you'll find a very crude and mostly analysis on keys moved versus effort in steps towards the Colemak layout. It might interest you.

    The part about not being as fast as with QWERTY is hogwash. I'm considerably faster with Colemak than I ever was with QWERTY. I'm not making claims about why that is, but pointing out that your statement isn't true.

    Last edited by DreymaR (03-Sep-2012 08:24:23)

    *** Learn Colemak in 2–5 steps with Tarmak! ***
    *** Check out my Big Bag of Keyboard Tricks for Win/Linux/TMK... ***

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    • Registered: 06-Sep-2012
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    • The layout becomes easier to learn.

    • It's easier to switch between QWERTY and the keyboard layout.

    • Less of the experience you've gained typing QWERTY all those years will be lost.

    None of which holds any water given the following points:

    • The easier it is to learn, the less effective it's going to be (drastically true in the case of well-established layouts such as Colemak and Dvorak), and a marginal increase in typing speed and comfort is not worth the time and effort it takes to learn a new layout.

    • Switching back to QWERTY is not necessary for everyone, and can easily be made unnecessary to anyone.

    • The QWERTY experience is of no value once you have learned a superior layout.

    If you're too lazy to learn a well-established layout like Colemak, you're better off sticking to QWERTY. This isn't a dig on anyone, just a friendly recommendation.

    Last edited by Requiem (09-Sep-2012 16:22:22)
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    • From: Viken, Norway
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    No, Requiem, I don't buy your arguments.

    • All our metrics show that despite moving 31 vs 17 keys Dvorak isn't much more effective than Colemak. Yes, my Tarmak layouts show a progress but your proposal still isn't generally true. (I do share your skepticism towards "lighter" layouts but there's no automatics at work here. Colemak is that ingenious "lighter touch" compared to Dvorak.)
    • Switching back and forth is necessary for many and will be for a long long time. Anyone not seeing that is too much of a dreamer I fear.
    • The QWERTY experience is forced upon me every day. I can't use Colemak on my Playstation for instance, nor on most of the job computers.

    *** Learn Colemak in 2–5 steps with Tarmak! ***
    *** Check out my Big Bag of Keyboard Tricks for Win/Linux/TMK... ***

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    @dreymar, it isn't nice when having to go back to Qwerty where I appear most inept!  I think efforts should lie in not promoting the 'one true layout,' but rather in promoting accessibility and portability of alternative layouts.

    That sucks hard that you can't use Colemak on your Playstation.

    Last edited by pinkyache (10-Sep-2012 10:15:21)

    --
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    • From: Tampa, FL, USA
    • Registered: 24-Aug-2012
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    > I think we would all prefer it if QWERTY wasn't what we grew up with and
    > what we still have to use occasionally, but the fact is that it is, and
    > keyboard layouts should take this into consideration.

    Agreed.  While it may not have been necessary before QWERTY became
    ubiquitous (when was that, even?), I think that any layout which fails
    to take account that we are all coming from years and years of
    touch-typing QWERTY are sure to be relegated to the dustbin of time.  I
    think Colemak is the only layout which gives even lip service to this
    idea, but I think it doesn't take it nearly as importantly as it really
    is.

    Let's face it, until we move away from keyboards in their current form,
    there is exactly 0 chance for another layout to supplant QWERTY,
    including Colemak.  New layouts are competing for distant second among
    enthusiasts like us.

    > QWERTY-compatibility comes with a couple of advantages: The layout
    > becomes easier to learn.  It's easier to switch between QWERTY and the
    > keyboard layout.  Less of the experience you've gained typing QWERTY all
    > those years will be lost.  The last point isn't the same as the first:
    > once you've learned a keyboard layout well enough to say you're
    > comfortable with it, you still aren't as fast with it as you were with
    > QWERTY. You might not make mistakes that often, but it still takes more
    > time for you to process which key to press next.  I feel the importance
    > of QWERTY-compatibility is often overlooked

    Agreed on all points.  I'd say it's completely overlooked by any other
    than Colemak.

    [...]

    > Differences (vs. Colemak)
    >   - R and S are switched. (honestly, I don't see why Colemak doesn't do
    >     this.)

    This is why I don't think Colemak takes QWERTY compatibility seriously.
    Your change makes utter sense even when you take same-finger repetition
    into account.

    >   - P, G and D are 'cycled' between positions. 

    This one's a tossup for me.  I understand trying to put G back, but the
    new location for D is one of those locations that are ergonomically poor
    because of the reach on the forefinger and the left shift of the top
    row.  The G spot is more desirable (pun intended).

    >   - EU and IY columns are switched. 

    I don't see this as worthwile and think the dominance of E should keep
    it on the middle finger, unquestionably.

    >   - L and F are switched.

    Trading hands for two keys needs a good reason, and L and F are hardly
    very different in frequency.  This one doesn't make sense to me either.

    I'm very pro your ideas...wish I had more constructive criticism, but it
    would lead you down the same path I went with my own layout design.  I'd
    like to see if you come up with anything more yourself.  The redesign
    bug gets under your skin, I've found.

    There's always room for another layout!  You might consider throwing up a blog entry of your own describing your layout.

    Oh, and I don't buy requiem's observations one bit, but you've probably guessed that by now.

    Minimak - Better typing without losing QWERTY
    http://www.minimak.org/

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    I have a layout that moves 10 keys and is better than your layout which moves 15 keys.

    Q W R F P Y U I J ;
    A S D T G H N E L O
     Z X C V B K M

    What it has to offer vs your layout:
    1/3 less moved keys: Y, U, I, D, L back to place.
    E in comfortable place
    WASD keys back in place.

    Goals retained in your layout:
    Less keys moved.
    Less index overload.
    I in same finger.
    ASRTNEIO managed in comfortable place.

    Last edited by PiotrGrochowski (12-Jun-2015 09:39:23)

    Banned from Colemak

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    • From: Poland
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    'Better' is subjective. Analyzer is not ideal, it prefers some optimizations over other.

    Testing only for Alice in Wonderland fragment because I don't have time to check and compare all results:
    - For your layout fingers move more.
    - Right index is moving 25% more than for Lite.
    - Right middle move and press twice as much as for Lite (because of I).
    - Moreover, your layout has much more same-finger combos for both index and both middle fingers than Lite.

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    Another old thread awoken by Piotr. But actually I hadn't noticed this before. I was quite interested in less drastically changed layouts than Colemak when I first started off.
    And it looked familiar too... at one point I came up with something fairly similar to Colemak Lite, except in my version I didn't swap EU and IY.

    The D>P>G switch has been discussed before - I think it's a good move. Some may say the Qwerty R position is not great - but it's better than Qwerty G position (IMO)
    I'd say the EU and IY switch isn't worth it though. E moves to a worse key and the change doesn't result in fewer changes from Qwerty.

    The only changes that affects same-finger bigrams are the shenanigans with R/S/F/L .
    For same-finger ratios, I get Colemak-lite to be 1.63%, compared to Colemak's 1.51%. Not a huge difference to be fair.
    However, if you use angle-mod style fingering but without moving keys (i.e. C with index finger, etc), as some people do... then the same-finger bigrams are only 1.53%, virtually the same as Colemak. This is because, although it introduces CT and RL, it eliminates SC, LK and LM.

    If using this layout though, I would still want to solve the HE problem. I would do this by applying an H>M>F rotation. But I'd keep EU/IY as per standard Colemak.

    This yields:

    Q W L D P J M U Y ;
    A S R T G F N E I O
     Z X C V B K H , . /

    I think this results in a very nice layout, especially if (i) you have an ANSI board and (ii) use the "non-standard" technique of typing C with index finger.
    It's same-finger ratio is low, like Colemak's, and it avoids moving S and G. It also solves the centre column issue with fewer changes than Mod-DH! On the other hand, two additional keys swap sides (F and L). And it leaves B in an awkward position.
    But, I think if I was a US user with an ANSI keyboard - and was just starting out, I'd seriously consider it.

    Last edited by stevep99 (12-Jun-2015 17:31:40)

    Using Colemak Mod-DH with some additional ergonomic keyboard mods.

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