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    Which thumb should press the spacebar, and when?

    • Started by TypeHypeTripe
    • 15 Replies:
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    • From: Ottawa, Canada
    • Registered: 05-Mar-2014
    • Posts: 4

    I've been searching for the answer to this question for a while now:

    Should I use the thumb of the hand opposite the hand entering the last letter of a word to hit the spacebar?
    OR
    Should I use the thumb of the hand opposite the hand entering the first letter of the next word to hit spacebar?

    I've opted for the first option, but as I practice it, I sometimes wonder if I could be enabling a bad habit here. I realize that for most people (myself included), the natural thing to do is rely dominantly on one thumb more than the other. I personally found that I was using the right thumb EXCLUSIVELY, and that this was hampering my ability to type at higher speeds. Especially annoying seeing as I use Dvorak and need to make those delicious right-pinky stretches.

    I've tried Colemak twice now, and switched back to Dvorak both times (just as I was getting good :p) because I switch computers all the time at school, and I move somewhat frequently; having Dvorak pre-loaded on everything Windows, NT 3.51 and up, is a godsend and I don't want to forget how to touch-type it. Which brings me to my last point: I don't want to remap anything. I have heard from some that a great workaround for my spacebar dilemma is to modify an alt key and use a thumb there, so as to only have one thumb on spacebar and the other on alt (maybe make it the "E" key, like Maltron). But unfortunately, I would really prefer to stay with the default layout.

    So which of the two options listed above is best? I know many of you are going to tell me that this isn't worth the effort, but I think you'll understand when I say that re-learning how to type can be quite fun, and that I enjoy the challenge.

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    • From: Ottawa, Canada
    • Registered: 05-Mar-2014
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    Well, crap. That's actually an awesome idea, and it would eliminate any extra processing involved in choosing a thumb.
    I'll be seriously considering using it from now on, thanks!

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    • From: Viken, Norway
    • Registered: 13-Dec-2006
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    The thumbs are strong and agile enough that it hardly matters. But I wouldn't want to press space with both as that seems superfluous.

    What I'd like would be an Enter key for the left thumb instead. But I'm not willing to use special hardware (beyond mechanical switches) so the Extend mapping layer is enough for me in that respect.

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    • Registered: 08-Dec-2010
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    Colemak and Dvorak are leaning to the right hand (Colemak 6%, Dvorak 14%), so I suggest using the left thumb to press Space bar to balance the workload between hands.

    Last edited by Tony_VN (06-Mar-2014 16:12:40)
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    • From: Viken, Norway
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    As I said, I don't think it matters Tony. It's usually the fingers (and their carpal tunnels) that get stressed, not the hands per se I think? So unless you are one of the few people who actually have troublesome thumbs then it shouldn't have any real impact which thumb you use.

    Well, that said, neighboring fingers do stress each other because they aren't quite independent. But I don't think that should apply to the thumbs nevertheless.

    Last edited by DreymaR (07-Mar-2014 10:56:14)

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    • From: London, UK
    • Registered: 09-Nov-2013
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    On Dvorak the left hand remains relatively stationary so left thumb may be better. The thumb you use is more important on a touch screen if you're thumb typing, where you want to use the lesser used thumb for space.

    Last edited by shaaniqbal (07-Mar-2014 15:24:58)

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    • Registered: 17-Jun-2014
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    For right handed people, I guess typing with the right thumb comes more naturally, although it does depend on what you pick up initially when you start practicing. I've personally known a lot of good typists who type either ways and some even who type using both thumbs (although of course not as one of the posters suggested earlier *at the same time*, cause I seriously can't imagine someone doing that) depending on which letter they encountered in the last letter of the previous word.

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    • From: UK
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    According to this article http://gizmodo.com/5944694/is-the-extra … or-useless
    "Internal research at Microsoft shows that more than 90 percent of people hit the spacebar with their right thumb"

    I wonder if that's really true though.  Certainly I use the left thumb despite being right-handed. I realize I am statistically insignificant though :)

    I am interested to know which hand others use, especially if you use a non-standard setup, such as the Wide Mod or remapped AltGr.  Does anyone (with a standard keyboard) use both thumbs for different functions?

    Last edited by stevep99 (18-Jun-2015 13:38:16)

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    • Registered: 17-Nov-2014
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    Apparently I always use my right thumb to hit the space bar. Looking at my hands now, my left thumb does not even hang out close to the key board. Should I try to alternate my thumb? Also, I always use my left hand for Shift, Alt, Control, etc. Is alternation better?

    P.S. I'm on standard Colemak

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    • Registered: 18-Jun-2015
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    I'm left handed, and I always use the left thumb to hit space.

    Although, I wonder how accurate self-testing is, and I may very well be hitting it with the right-thumb sometimes.

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    • From: Viken, Norway
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    Right thumb all the time I believe. But with Extend I use the left thumb on the space bar for Enter! Doing this I feel like I have a split spacebar in a way, and it's all sorted out nicely in my head.

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    DreymaR said:

    Right thumb all the time I believe. But with Extend I use the left thumb on the space bar for Enter! Doing this I feel like I have a split spacebar in a way, and it's all sorted out nicely in my head.

    Just wonder...since you also use the wide mod, why don't you always use left thumb for space, leaving right free for AltGr?

    Using Colemak-DH with Seniply.

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    • From: Viken, Norway
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    AltGr is relatively rarely needed. The right thumb tends to rest on the space bar just left of the AltGr key, so they're both quickly reachable.

    There was a thread debating the theoretical pros of using both thumbs for space. It doesn't seem to matter much to me.

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    • Registered: 11-Apr-2022
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    This is an old post, but no one has mentioned the frequency of letters at the end and beginning of words. The most common endings in English are e, s, d, and t. The most common beginnings are  t, a, o, d, and w.

    I mean, this is an oversimplification because we have a lot of really common short words like "the, and, to, not, has, was, we, he it, that", etc. that should be taken into account due to frequency. But I think it's still pretty relevant.

    So if you are on Colemak, only the "e" is on the right hand for word endings. For word beginnings, you only have "o" and "d". The difference between the last letter of a word and the  first letter of the next word isn't going to matter in each individual case unless both of those letters are on the same hand. A much easier generalization is to think of which hand gets used most on the beginning and ends of words. For Colemak it seems like using right all the time would be more efficient, if it made a difference.

    On the other hand, with Dvorak you have the "e" on the left hand but all the others (s, d, t) are on the right. With beginnings, there are still more consonants on the right. I don't know the frequency of word beginnings and endings of vowels vs consonants, but maybe using your left could be more efficient on Dvorak.

    Anyway, this is an oversimplification and it probably doesn't matter enough to cause a difference in typing speed or comfort, but I don't think it would matter if you're trying to alternate on the word before or word after, as the OP was asking. Rather I think you have to look at the bigger picture.

    Last edited by damnjoe (15-Apr-2022 21:56:34)
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    • From: Viken, Norway
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    Word endings and starts matter less since you press the Space bar and sometimes punctuation keys in between. One effect I have noticed on Colemak is the 'e,' same-finger bigram, that's an annoying one. Using my EPKL program, I've devised a way around this: I press a thumb key called the CoDeKey and then one of the home row keys NEIO for the punctuation marks '!,.?' followed by a space; I've even added in capitalization of the following letter for all the signs except comma! Very nifty, and it solves the SFB problem with comma.

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