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Incremental Colemak for programmers

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During the process of learning Colemak, typing speed can grind to a halt. For this reason, an incremental learning method has been developed ( see Tarmak at https://forum.colemak.com/viewtopic.php?pid=8786#p8786 ). I love this idea but, as a programmer, I don't like how the ';' key wanders to the middle of the keyboard. As such, I am proposing an alternate method.

To change to Colemak, it isn't necessary to change all of the letters at the same time. There are two loops of letter changes that need to take place:

Small loop:
L>U>I

Big loop:
Y>O>;>P>R>S>D>G>T>F>E>K>N>J

The big loop can be further broken into smaller, intermediate loops. Unfortunately, the intermediate loops involve moving a letter to a temporary location. Tarmak moves 'J' and ';' to temporary locations. The method that I propose here only moves 'J'.

To incrementally learn Colemak, I recommend the following steps:

Big loop in 4 steps:
Step 1 (Same as Tarmak):
J>E>K>N (J travels to QWERTY E)

Step 2 (Same as Tarmak):
J>G>T>F (J travels to QWERTY G)

Step 3:
J>R>S>D (J travels to QWERTY R)

Step 4:
J>Y>O>;>P (J arrives at new home)

Followed by the small loop:
Step 5:
L>U>I

I recommend starting with the big loop due to the high benefit of getting EKN and GTF into their proper locations.

This process should make it possible to learn Colemak while maintaining typing efficiency. Hopefully, people find it helpful.

(For more ambitious learners, it is not difficult to refactor the big loop into bigger chunks, which would mean less travelling for J.)

[edited as per DreymaR's suggestion]

Last edited by karl (08-Apr-2014 04:15:57)
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http://patorjk.com/keyboard-layout-anal … d/n2lXzPCr (please double-check)

First glance analysis:

  1. Steps 1 and 2 agree with Tarmak

  2. The LUI [assuming O has been moved away from the ring finger] and [those loops including] RSD seem important for reducing same-finger.  This gives IC3 an edge over Tarmak 3, but Tarmak 4 an edge over IC4.

  3. Tarmak distances seem consistently lower

  4. "Programmer Tarmak"?

Last edited by lalop (08-Apr-2014 13:47:27)
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Hey lolop, thanks for entering that into the analyzer. That's really helpful and interesting.

If it has to have a name, I prefer something that includes the word Colemak... perhaps "inColemak" as an abbreviation for in(cremental) Colemak. Really, it is a learning process and not a competing layout.

That said, if DreymaR wants to promote it as being Tarmak-related, I'm fine with that. It is a variation on his idea. It could be called "Tarmak4p" (Tarmak for programmers).

Whatever gets the idea out there is fine with me. I just hope that someone finds it useful.

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Tarmak was optimized (during its second development phase) to give the most benefit per changed key at all steps according to the Codesharp analyzer. Therefore, the LUI loop was moved to where it best benefited travel distance and such metrics compared to other steps. Since it's an isolated loop it could of course be put anywhere, but I don't want to make files for all such cases and it'd only confuse people.

I shouldn't think that the semicolon movement constitutes a real problem even to a programmer? You usually need it once per line and that's not so bad. But if that works out for you, nice.

I see this as a variant over the Tarmak theme and as such agree with lalop that a Tarmak-like name would be best for the users. In fact, steps 1 and 2 are identical to Tarmak and you should've stated this in your post I feel. But you're free to do as you wish of course. I don't think I'll promote it as such unless it becomes popular, as I think a plethora of choices for a first-time user may be confusing. But it's nice to have available should anyone feel like you do.

Last edited by DreymaR (07-Apr-2014 08:40:26)

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Hey DreymaR, I edited the original entry as you suggested.

I analyzed some code and ';' comes up between 1-2%, which makes it as popular as many of the other letters. Personally, I think that I would find it very disturbing to have it in the middle of the keyboard.

I started with EKN and GTF due to their large benefits (as you described in your post).

I also felt that it was very important to finish the intermediate stages as quickly as possible. At the beginning stages, the benefit of having letters in ideal locations is less significant that the challenge of the learning process itself. While it might seem good to optimize according to Codesharp, it has to be weighed against the frustration of reinforcing the wrong letter location. At each intermediate stage, 25% of the moved letters are in the wrong location. This is why I left the self-contained LUI loop to the very end. In fact, I recommend that you consider that for Tarmak. The additional benefit is that it will disturb the programmers less because the ';' will make it home sooner.

I understand that it can be confusing to have too many options. I just wanted to put the idea out there for consideration. I don't feel a strong sense of ownership over it or that it has to have a particular name. If, by chance, any of it is useful to you, feel free to take what you like. I appreciate the work that you've done on Tarmak and I do not plan to put any more work into it.

This is a tangent, but do you think that there might be a better chance of getting Tarmak on the front page if it had a name that sounded more Colemaky? My first impression, from hearing the name "Tarmak", is that it is a competing layout, which is really not the case. Again, just putting the idea out there.

Cheers!

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Because I can't stop thinking about it, another name for this approach could be "J-Hopper".

[edit: Please disregard this tangent. I'll stick to Incremental Colemak or let be absorbed by Tarmak.]

Last edited by karl (08-Apr-2014 15:01:05)
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I see that the latest news on the front page is from 2009. Obviously, the front page is dead.

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Yes, there's hardly any forum/site action from Shai. It can be frustrating at times, but on the other hand it worked well enough for Zamenhof (the creator of Esperanto) from what I hear. :) He handed down his creation and made a point of not lording over it. A maintained website would still be nice...

I do agree with your point of getting disturbance out of the way quickly. I debated back and forth a bit about the LUI loop back then. In Tarmak "ETOI" it's now the second-to-last step, in part because it's easy to learn I feel and the last step is the biggest one. The Codesharp 'effort per key moved' figure in my Tarmak post shows that every Tarmak step has a good benefit per key except the last one! I was thinking that if someone did get stuck on one of the steps they should have the most benefit for their efforts so far. The last step also contains more rare keys which may be a bit harder to learn as they don't get trained so much by normal typing. In sum, the LUI loop seems like low hanging fruit to me, a fairly quick way of securing an important letter with little extra effort.

I see some nice points about your suggested way:
- Only moving the J to wrong positions. This may feel more consistent to the learner?
- Learning R and S in a separate step, not at the end. RS confusion is a big hurdle for Colemak learners as these letters "castle" past each other.
- Getting the wrongly placed letter out of the way one step earlier, as you point out.
- Judging from Patorjk's layout analyzer, it looks like the LUI loop is much less beneficial than the proposed RSD loop. Your steps even out the benefits per step.

The QWERTY G position in the middle of the board is at least easy to hit for me! So for a rare character I still feel that it isn't bad. In my case at least, the symbol positions aren't fully speed typed the way letters are so I feel that they're easier somehow. Using the Wide mod, my brackets are smack dab in the middle of the keyboard and I don't mind that much even when coding. Mostly, I don't speed type code though. It's more about movement and editing for me – but I suspect that's the way for many coders?

As for the name, well maybe you have a point. But the competing layouts often have more Colemaky names too, and I grew fond of the little joke about transitional layouts laying down a tarmac for you to travel comfortably to Colemak on. At any rate, it won't change now. And I certainly don't think the name is what's keeping my work from the front page; that stems from the deadness of the front page as you observed. :(

I'll edit my post to report your findings. Maybe I'll change my recommendations too, we'll see. ;)

Last edited by DreymaR (22-Feb-2015 09:26:42)

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Lalop: Does Karl's step 3 have an edge over Tarmak3 in Patorjk's analyzer? Do you have a link to your Tarmak analysis too please?

I found it very amusing to watch the heat maps move towards the home row with each step! I think we should make an animated gif out of that. Again, if I could see an analysis of Tarmak analogous to the one you made of karl's steps please?

Last edited by DreymaR (08-Apr-2014 10:11:02)

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I'm out right now, but Tarmak is already pre-loaded in the analyzer; just load them, paste in your corpus of choice (my last one was just the deafult Alice in Wonderland), and run.

I found that IC3 (or whatever we're calling it now) indeed has a same-finger advantage over Tarmak 3. I̶f̶ ̶f̶o̶l̶l̶o̶w̶e̶d̶ ̶i̶m̶m̶e̶d̶i̶a̶t̶e̶l̶y̶ ̶b̶y̶ ̶L̶U̶I̶,̶ ̶I̶ ̶t̶h̶i̶n̶k̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶s̶a̶m̶e̶-̶f̶i̶n̶g̶e̶r̶ ̶a̶d̶v̶a̶n̶t̶a̶g̶e̶ ̶c̶o̶u̶l̶d̶ ̶b̶e̶ ̶s̶i̶g̶n̶i̶f̶i̶c̶a̶n̶t̶.̶  [Edit: nevermind, it's doesn't seem all that different - i/o actually makes it worse for the ring finger.]



Edit: http://patorjk.com/keyboard-layout-anal … d/sdW1RtQC (yeah, I think a more representative corpus should probably be used for those heatmaps)

Last edited by lalop (10-Apr-2014 12:01:23)
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Okay, I did a side-by-side comparison on Patorjk's analyzer of a bigger snippet of text: A couple of chapters from Pride and Prejudice (found at Project Gutenberg) containing more than ten thousand strokes of the letter E. Should be good enough.

Interestingly, the 141 instances of J prove that it is indeed a rare letter and the rarest of those that are moved by Colemak. Even the colon/semicolon key (241) and Z (142) had more presses and only X (102) and Q (83) of all the letters less presses. Another good argument for sticking to moving the J and leaving the semicolon out of this?

Tarmak(ETOI): http://patorjk.com/keyboard-layout-anal … d/2b1Bz5t9
Tarmak(ETRO): http://patorjk.com/keyboard-layout-anal … d/MVB2CBnK

As in my Tarmak post, I use the ETOI vs ETSO/ETRO nomenclature to show which important letters are brought to the home row at each step. Makes sense to me, but maybe not to everyone. ;)

Again, karl's steps win this analysis both on step 3 and 4! I'm getting more and more convinced here. Also, it seems that the ETRO scheme evens out the benefits per step better.

Patorjk favorises hand alternation which brings Colemak to somewhat of a disadvantage per se since it focuses on same-hand rolls instead. I don't know whether this bias will play into the present analysis but I shouldn't think it matters a lot? The Tarmak(ETOI) scheme moves keys predominantly on one hand at a time (R-L-RL-R-L), and so does the Tarmak(ETRO) scheme (R-L-L-RL-R).

[edit: Oh lookie, heat map animations below!]

   Tarmak_ETOIR_Patorjk-Austen.gif?raw=1
   Animation of Tarmak(ETOI) step-by-step heat maps from Patorjk's analyzer based on a largish English text sample.

   Tarmak_ETROI_Patorjk-Austen.gif?raw=1
   Animation of Tarmak(ETRO) step-by-step heat maps from Patorjk's analyzer based on a largish English text sample.

Last edited by DreymaR (21-Mar-2017 16:03:40)

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I wouldn't take patorjk's ranking at face value.  Rather, focus on the individual stats.  My observations about those are above.

DreymaR said:

Interestingly, the 141 instances of J prove that it is indeed a rare letter and the rarest of those that are moved by Colemak. Even the colon/semicolon key (241) and Z (142) had more presses and only X (102) and Q (83) of all the letters less presses. Another good argument for sticking to moving the J and leaving the semicolon out of this?

Were the semicolon that rare, I wouldn't see much issue in temp-moving it.  karl's issue is that it's supposedly less rare for C-style programmers (I wouldn't know about that, having generally stuck to languages without redundant boilerplate like mandatory semicolons).

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Yes. Whether it's simple line endings or sequence delimiters, both colons and semicolons get their share of the action in coding. I was just fascinated to see that they're still 70% more common than J in an English literature sample. It does provide an additional argument for his way of sorting the Tarmak steps, even for non-coders but all the more so for those of us who do type in codey stuff!

Last edited by DreymaR (08-Apr-2014 14:05:46)

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meh https://xkcd.com/1102/

Nevertheless, after some reflection, I also generally like karl's scheme:

  1. Appeals to my sense of elegance

  2. Fewer changes in the R/S step

  3. Better for colon and semi-colon use (intended goal)

  4. "Feels" more balanced

Elaborating on the "balance": my impression is that ETOI Tarmak takes a reduced gain (or even a loss; same finger is increased in your particular corpus) in Step 3, in return for superior Step 4 performance.  This comes from the LUI loop (ETOI's step 4) being excellent, but (far as I can tell) only after moving the O away; otherwise I/O would significantly hurt the same-finger.

So the two tradeoffs with karl's scheme, that I can see, are:

  1. Step 4 doesn't seem "as good"

  2. Longer distances: Step 3 distance a fair bit longer, Step 4 distance just slightly

I think it could very well be worth it, though.

Last edited by lalop (08-Apr-2014 15:05:38)
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DreymaR said:

Using the Wide mod, my brackets are smack dab in the middle of the keyboard and I don't mind that much even when coding. Mostly, I don't speed type code though. It's more about movement and editing for me – but I suspect that's the way for many coders?

Yes, I agree, if I were using the wide mod, then I don't think that I would find it jarring to have the ';' in the middle.

DreymaR said:

As for the name, well maybe you have a point. But the competing layouts often have more Colemaky names too, and I grew fond of the little joke about transitional layouts laying down a tarmac for you to travel comfortably to Colemak on. At any rate, it won't change now. And I certainly don't think the name is what's keeping my work from the front page; that stems from the deadness of the front page as you observed. :(

While I tend towards more generic names, I think that the Tarmak name hasn't hurt you. It's probably helped. Even in writing these forum posts, it's helpful to have a handle to refer to. I also find that it sticks in my head.  ;)

About the name of this 'J' hopping sequence:

If, in your detailed analysis, you determine that the above set of steps is more optimal, I'm totally fine with it being absorbed into Tarmak, either as the default or as a programmer-specific choice. I know that it's complicated and that, at this stage of the game, every change means losing something in another area. Besides, I didn't present a dramatically different idea. I just refactored the big loop to eliminate the ';' hopping and moved LUI to the end.

If, on the other hand, it ends up standing on its own and you refer to this set of forum posts as the main reference, then I think that we should stick with the name "Incremental Colemak".

Further comment about the frequency of 'J':

One weakness of this approach is if someone, for whatever reason, does have the reason to type a lot of J's. For example, what if a guy named James Jordon Jr. writes for a jube jube factory in Jumbalaya, IL? I still think that Incremental Colemak is better for programmers, but I can imagine that some small percentage of the population could have a problem with it.

Tangent...

DreymaR said:

- Learning R and S in a separate step, not at the end. RS confusion is a big hurdle for Colemak learners as these letters "castle" past each other.

If it were up to me, I would be in favour of removing S from the loop and leaving it permanently at the QWERTY position. I know that it's less optimal, but it would be easier to learn and live with in a QWERTY world. That said, I believe the strength in sticking to the standard is a greater benefit for most people.

[edit: added jube jubes. oops, S not R]

Last edited by karl (08-Apr-2014 17:15:24)
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lalop said:

Nevertheless, after some reflection, I also generally like karl's scheme:

Thanks lalop.

lalop said:

So the two tradeoffs with karl's scheme, that I can see, are:

  1. Step 4 doesn't seem "as good"

  2. Longer distances: Step 3 distance a fair bit longer, Step 4 distance just slightly

You've got to remember that reaching a little bit further or having to type some same-finger digrams is inconsequential compared to the experience of staring at the screen for a few seconds wondering where the heck a letter is on the keyboard. If a person regularly types some ';'s or ':'s then Incremental Colemak can reduce that pain. If a person has to type more 'J's than ';'s, then Tarmak is better.

Learning can be a painful process. At a minimum, I recommend that LUI be moved to the end of the Tarmak sequence.

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karl said:

At a minimum, I recommend that LUI be moved to the end of the Tarmak sequence.

On the contrary, LUI is a huge gain (it goes from being "worse" than your step 3 to "better" than your step 4) so long as it takes place after the O is moved.  It also costs only three letters.

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lalop said:
karl said:

At a minimum, I recommend that LUI be moved to the end of the Tarmak sequence.

On the contrary, LUI is a huge gain (it goes from being "worse" than your step 3 to "better" than your step 4) so long as it takes place after the O is moved.  It also costs only three letters.

It's a gain at the expense of reinforcing an incorrect letter location. Maybe you are a quick learner, but many people will find the un-learning painful. It could feel meaningless and frustrating to many people.

[addendum: it's better to get the letters to their final location before they get "burned into" the wrong location. This will, I think, reduce the pain of the learning process and get them typing full Colemak sooner.]

Last edited by karl (08-Apr-2014 17:31:07)
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Er, AFAIK, only the semicolon, a rare letter, is potentially "burned in" by having LUI as step 4.  If you are talking about letters differing from colemak in general, then you should consider that LUI (14.37%) are typed almost as much RSDP (18.75%).  Being able to achieve the former much more easily (for the cost of 3 vs 5 letters) is a significant advantage.

Last edited by lalop (08-Apr-2014 18:06:18)
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lalop said:

Er, AFAIK, only the semicolon, a rare letter, is potentially "burned in" by having LUI as step 4.  If you are talking about letters differing from colemak in general, then you should consider that LUI (14.37%) are typed almost as much RSDP (18.75%).  Being able to achieve the former much more easily (for the cost of 3 vs 5 letters) is a significant advantage.

It's not a significant advantage if you frequently have to type stuff like:

int k;
for (k=0; k<max; k++)
{
    printf("k=%d\n", k);
}

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It's a significant advantage for everyone who doesn't.  If they do, probably your scheme is a far cleaner solution.

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lalop said:

It's a significant advantage for everyone who doesn't.  If they do, probably your scheme is a far cleaner solution.

Agreed. For people typing regular English, Tarmak is better optimized. For programmers that don't have to type many ';' or ':' characters, it might be a wash.

My argument is that the default should cover as many people as possible. I understand that involves compromise. IMO, moving LUI to the end is a better compromise at the expense of some optimization. Also IMO the optimization is of more benefit *after* the learning experience and not *during* the learning experience.

[edit: clarified that I'm talking about LUI at the end rather than Incremental Colemak]

Last edited by karl (08-Apr-2014 18:52:24)
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karl said:

My argument is that the default should cover as many people as possible.

Your proposed default makes life slightly easier for the C-styple programmers (remember, they'd still incur the disadvantages of doing that 5-key stage first) at the significant expense of everyone else.  Sometimes, it's better just to accept that something's not designed for your usecase, and go with the other thing that is.

That reminds me, will we be seeing an implementation for whichever platform you're using?

Last edited by lalop (08-Apr-2014 19:11:24)
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I guess that the 5-key stage is a challenge because of the low-frequency keys that have been lumped together at the end.

BTW, it's not just C-style programming that's the problem. Many languages evolved from C. I searched for code samples for all of the common languages (that I could think of) and all of them have increased usage of ';' and/or ':'. This includes languages with minimalistic syntax, like Python. Plain HTML is lighter, but many of the languages mixed into HTML use ';' and/or ':'.

Also, I suspect that a significant contingent of Colemak learners are programmers. Few regular computer users are eager to muck with their keyboard layout.

No, I'm not planning to post an implementation. I have other projects on the go.

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As mentioned, I don't think that the semicolon would get "burnt in" the same way that a letter does – even a rare letter. To me at least, the symbol keys work a little differently. Maybe it's because they're usually not hit in polygram sequences but alone. This fact on its own would suggest moving the semicolon around all the time instead of the J, but there are other considerations. That stuff about potential J users doesn't worry me though. It's quite hypothetical and if such persons exist they'll just have to make their own variants.

Tarmak's full name is "Tarmak(ETOI) transitional Colemak" or a variant of that, which shold be descriptive enough. "Transitional" covers about the same meaning as "incremental" in this case I feel, and it's the name Shai suggested. I'll refer to your scheme as "Tarmak(ETRO)" but for the user that's too specific I guess so some confusion might arise. Also, since the I loop is in focus now maybe it'd be better to use the full progression and call them "Tarmak(ETOIR)" and "Tarmak(ETROI)", or drop the I and use "Tarmak(ETOR)" vs "Tarmak(ETRO)"? Hmmm... :)

Tarmak has already been through one upheaval: I started out recommending the LUI loop first(!) since that's easy and quite beneficial, doesn't mess up any key positions and I thought it'd be a nice warmup for the big loop. Then I did a right-hand loop moving only the semicolon over to the QWERTY E position and finally a left-hand loop. That has an aesthetic appeal and simplicity to it, but some analysis showed how much there was to gain from moving GTF. Also, making a few more steps allowed the user to select an even more incremental scheme while the braver souls could still skip a step or two (I think I'd start out with step 2 myself, to get a little challenge for each hand and a lot of benefit for it – after that it's more of a toss-up for me).

As mentioned, I think I'll make an implementation that lets you easily choose when to do the LUI loop – although one setting has to be the default one. I know how to do it for Linux XKB and the Arduino solution from GeekHack (which I haven't used but love the idea of!), but for Windows PKL it's a bit more hassle and confusion as always because it hasn't got "layers" to work with. Not a biggie though.

Looks to me like a choice between ETO(I)R and ETRO(I) schemes with a flexible I placement is a nice possibility. Not sure what to recommend as a default though.

Anyway, I've made a new figure to show the ETROI steps in comparison with the old ETOIR ones:

   Tarmak_Spectral_ETOIR.png?raw=1
   Fig.: The Tarmak(ETOI) transitional Colemak layouts, spectrally color-coded from red (Tarmak#1) to violet (Colemak).

   Tarmak_Spectral_ETROI.png?raw=1
   Fig.: The Tarmak(ETRO) transitional Colemak layouts, spectrally color-coded from red (Tarmak#1) to violet (Colemak).

Incidentally, the IE/EI same-finger bigrams are a problem with the Tarmak layouts in general. This is an argument for an earlier LUI loop but as lalop points out it should likely be done after the JYO partial loop so that you don't replace the IE/EI problem with a IO/OI problem! The individual learner should probably consider how long they plan to be sticking with each step, as these same-finger bigrams may be tolerable during a learning process but detrimental over time.

[Edit: I've had a naming crisis in which I went back to referring to the RSD step by 'R' rather than 'S'. This is because R is brought to the home row but S is shuffled to a maybe slightly worse position so the focus shouldn't be on that letter. Sorry for the confusion.]

Last edited by DreymaR (21-Mar-2017 16:10:32)

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