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    The angle mod for ISO keyboards

    • Started by stevep99
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    I have so far resisted using the angle mod (moving Z X C V B one space to the left).
    Presumably, the main advantage of this mod is the easier access to the B key. It's true, it is quite annoying in the default position, arguably the hardest key to reach on the keyboard.

    Part of my reluctance is I really like having C where it is now, very comfortable to reach with my index finger, and don't really want to relearn this key on a new (worse) position.

    A more tempting change for me would be to use a slightly modified version of the angle mod, with bottom keys arranged thus:

    Z X B C V   -- i.e. Z moves to VK_102, B now with middle finger, C and V are unchanged.

    I find I am somewhat conflicted about making changes like this. I believe it would be an improvement, but at the same time I want to remain using a standard(ish) recognised layout.

    Any thoughts on this?

    Last edited by stevep99 (14-Oct-2014 12:19:54)

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    I don't quite get what you're saying: The fingering for C and all other keys except VK_102 stays the same with the Angle mod. That's part of the beauty of it! It just lets you keep a better wrist angle. I certainly feel that the C reach is better and not worse with the Angle mod. It's 1/2 key either way but with the mod the reach is done without ulnar deviation.

    Oh, I see: You've used the index finger for C. You cheater you. ;-) Well, unless your middle finger is having some special sort of problem I don't think it should cause any trouble. You'd have to learn the "proper" fingering then as you say but if it only concerns one finger that's done in a jiffy. Your finger balance should get a bit better too.

    From a technical point of view, it's 6 more keys moved. From a typing point of view, it's just one very rarely used one (well, two keys in your case).

    Last edited by DreymaR (14-Oct-2014 13:56:59)

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    Yes, for clarity, my current technique is:

    index finger: C V B
    middle finger: X
    ring finger: Z
    pinky: \   (VK_102)

    I suspect a lot of people type like this in practice even though it is not "conventional". Therefore for me the angle mod is a big change - it means new positions for all those keys.

    As the middle finger is long, it's easier reaching for the top row than the bottom. Whereas the index finger is comfortable reaching for both top and bottom rows. My reasoning was that C is the most common bottom row letter should be on the strongest finger, especially as I am already used to typing it that way.

    A quick solution would be to simply move B to VK_102, but I think having B and A both on the pinky would be bad.

    On the other hand, Z and X are infrequent so I don't mind to move them. Leaving C and V in place means B is the only significant key to relearn - in an improved position - but with a non-standard layout.

    Last edited by stevep99 (14-Oct-2014 15:34:05)

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    You're already using your own angle mod. It entails changing the fingering for the involved keys which I wanted to avoid, but it should give the same ergonomical benefits for the most part. Bigrams shouldn't be badly influenced I think, as the involved consonant bigrams aren't that common (SC is in fact one of the more common ones iirc, and your technique makes it a two-finger bigram which is an improvement).

    A little load is taken from the pinky to the index finger, but I don't think it's dramatic. So all in all, the only major reason I can see for wanting to change your solution would be the B key stretch. You'll have to find out for yourself if you think it's worth it, really. If you float well and use the whole underarm to move laterally, that position isn't too bad I feel.

    On the upside, I think you should be able to learn the ZXCVB angle-modded positions fairly quickly no matter what. And if you do, you'll get a nicer B stretch (at the cost of a little more confusion but what's life without confusion eh?). Somehow, the better wrist position will make the G stretch a little harder but you should already have noticed that using your technique?

    Last edited by DreymaR (15-Oct-2014 15:04:37)

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    You are right that my motivation for this is to deal with the B key stretch.

    I began thinking about the digraphs involved, and did a bit of analysis of what effect adjusting the Z X C V B keys has.
    Below are fractions of same finger digraphs for Colemak, Colemak with ZXBCV, and another option, ZXVCB.

    Colemak:   total : 0.015112
    top digrahs:
    finger 7 e,: 0.004053
    finger 6 kn: 0.001074
    finger 7 ue: 0.001060
    finger 2 sc: 0.000980

    colemak-zxbcv:  total 0.016717
    top digrahs:
    finger 7 e,: 0.004053
    finger 3 ct: 0.002037
    finger 6 kn: 0.001074
    finger 7 ue: 0.001060

    Colemak-zxvcb:  total : 0.016439
    top digrahs:
    finger 7 e,: 0.004053
    finger 3 ct: 0.002037
    finger 6 kn: 0.001074
    finger 7 ue: 0.001060

    (I have included punctuation keys from the main 30-key block)

    The main difference, while not major, is that SC is solved, but at a cost of CT which is actually more common!  Just goes to show it's hard to modify Colemak without introducing some unwanted side effect.

    Ideally I would change to use the angle mod as it stands, but as noted this would change the positions of 6 keys - ones that were unchanged from Qwerty - and ones that are relied on heavily for common shortcuts, one of Colemak's big selling points. 

    Probably I'll just have to stick with my keyboard as is - but would like to find a nice way to type B though.

    (oh, and yes, I do have a bit of a problem with the G key as well. I have considered doing the D > P > G switch before now, but that's another story!)

    Last edited by stevep99 (21-Oct-2014 16:06:53)

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    Tip: They're not digraphs! Digraphs are Dutch IJ, Serbocroatian LJ, NJ and DŽ etc, which sometimes are represented by a single Unicode point. Generally, when you type two characters in sequence it's a bigram.

    I have absolutely no qualms about the shortcuts, as they're usually typed as a separate chord anyway. The mental separation of reaching for a Ctrl+key combo makes it easy whether the ZXCVB keys are moved or not in my experience.

    I wouldn't move the G. It's fine, especially with a bit of float in your technique. I just noticed it, is all. And after all, G is a fairly long march down the ETAOIN SHRDLU CMFGYP... road. ;)

    Last edited by DreymaR (23-Oct-2014 18:44:00)

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    DreymaR said:

    Tip: They're not digraphs! Digraphs are Dutch IJ, Serbocroatian LJ, NJ and DŽ etc, which sometimes are represented by a single Unicode point. Generally, when you type two characters in sequence it's a bigram.

    Fair point, I had thought the terms were interchangable but actually bigrams makes more sense.

    DreymaR said:

    I have absolutely no qualms about the shortcuts, as they're usually typed as a separate chord anyway. The mental separation of reaching for a Ctrl+key combo makes it easy whether the ZXCVB keys are moved or not in my experience.

    I decided to adopt my "Z X B C V" angle mod, possibly as a transitional step to the full angle mod. What's surprising is just how much I use Ctrl-Z and how hard it is to adjust that being moved!  I think the C/M keys are probably the two easiest keys after the 8 home finger ones, so I am still slightly wary of relegating my much beloved C key to a mere V.

    DreymaR said:

    I wouldn't move the G. It's fine, especially with a bit of float in your technique. I just noticed it, is all. And after all, G is a fairly long march down the ETAOIN SHRDLU CMFGYP... road. ;)

    The main idea of that mod would be to improve access to D, but a nice side-effect is G returns to its Qwerty position.

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    Damn, that is a good point about D>P>G. I think the P position is slightly better than the D one and certainly no worse. Have you done any analysis on this?

    Last edited by DreymaR (24-Oct-2014 15:07:01)

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    hmm at 1st glance rotating D>P>G clockwise would seem to make sense solely on a letter frequency % basis

    D 4.3%
    P 1.9%
    G 2.0%

    I definitely think the current P is easier to hit than the D, with G obviously being the hardest

    So whats not too like with spinning D>P>G round to G>D>P? (There must be a catch ;)

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    The thing is, when Colemak was created the home row was considered very holy. So based on this, the D deserves to remain there. Nowadays, especially for people with long fingers (caveat!), the FPW and LUY positions are considered good too.

    This loop shouldn't damage anything I can think of as the letters stay on the same finger. Moving 16 instead of 17 keys should be nice for the learners, too.

    Last edited by DreymaR (24-Oct-2014 15:26:51)

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    DreymaR said:

    The thing is, when Colemak was created the home row was considered very holy. So based on this, the D deserves to remain there.

    a fine ecumenical argument - not one to want to dabble in holy matters i shall leave my D well enough alone then..

    bit of a relief really..

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    bph said:

    a fine ecumenical argument - not one to want to dabble in holy matters i shall leave my D well enough alone then..
    bit of a relief really..

    The only problem with that argument is people could likewise say, with its long heritage, Qwerty is holy, and messing with it is sacrilege.

    I think it's worth identifying improvements where possible. Having gotten used to default Colemak now, I am also reluctant to make any significant changes, but this is one that I would consider. I previously mentioned it in the Workman thread, as it helps to de-prioritize the centre column to some extent, which is a common criticism Workman devotees level at Colemak.

    Last edited by stevep99 (24-Oct-2014 16:32:54)

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    I think a 2/3 majority should be required for any key change to bring the colemak community in line with the Vatican.

    Is Pope Shai infallible? Will he become the patron saint of ergonomic keyboard layouts?

    Only time will tell..

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