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    long-term experience of a keyboard hobbyist

    • Started by davkol
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    • From: CZ
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    This is a summarizing write-up after using Colemak for almost four years. I hope it's explanatory enough to show how (not) to learn, why Colemak is (not) a good choice, and some other aspects of writing text on a keyboard.

    background

    I'm a self-taught touch typist and a computer power user.

    I started to touch type back around 2005, while I was still interested in web development. I went cold turkey without practicing at all, following some of the advice by Dušan "Yuhů" Janovský. My primary concern was being able to type without looking at the keyboard. I used Czech QWERTZ on generic Samsung or Genius rubber-dome-over-membrane keyboards at the time. Most of my typing involved Czech prose and HTML/CSS/JS code.

    Briefly about the Czech QWERTZ layout… It's QWERTZ (heritage of the Austro-Hungarian Empire), but with significant changes to punctuation placement, compared to US or UK QWERTY. Written Czech makes heavy use of diacritic marks (ever since Jan Hus), which results in ~15 "extra letters". Therefore, these accented letters replace punctuation on the number row. Number-row numbers are placed on the second (Shift) layer, thus it's necessary to use either dead keys, or Caps Lock to type upper-case accented letters. The special "programmer" punctuation is moved to the third (AltGraph) layer.

    Fast forward to summer 2008. I was already using GNU/Linux full-time and often had to type in US QWERTY for system administration. The difference between QWERTY and QWERTZ frustrated me, thus I switched to Czech QWERTY, because there was no reason to stick to QWERTZ anyway. I was also using scissor-switch keyboards most of the time: a classic thinkpad, Dell Latitude D series, or Logitech UltraX at home. This was the first time I measured my typing speed; I could produce (i.e., not copy, I didn't test copying) about 40 words per minute in Czech.

    Fast forward another three years, to summer 2011. I was frustrated. I was stuck at 55 wpm, while my hands were all over the place. My typing technique heavily favored the left hand (which made sense, because it was dominant anyway); I used only the left Shift and Control keys, my left index finger took over one extra column (6YHB) as well as the C key. The overuse of left Shift and consequent finger stretches made me hate the ISO layout. I was hunting for decent, quiet keyboards with the ANSI physical layout (i.e., long left Shift)—not an easy quest in a market dominated by ISO and Asian layouts with a big-ass Enter and an 1-unit Backspace (which I didn't want either, because of my short pinkies). To add insult to injury, the Czech QWERTY keymap turned out to be inconsistent in the 3rd (AltGraph) layer across various GNU/Linux distributions and MS Windows, and I needed to code on both kinds of systems.

    motivation

    I wanted to "fix" my typing technique, i.e., relearn the standard fingering, start to hover my wrists without resting them on the desk/wrist rest, and learn to touch type numbers and punctuation located on the number row or in the layout's corners. A new layout seemed like a great opportunity to do so. I wanted to break away from Czech QWERTY regardless. US QWERTY seemed like an obvious choice as a standard; programming languages and shells were designed around it too. However, I still needed to type in Czech, and various "international" QWERTY layout implementations were even less consistent than Czech QWERTY.

    Then I stumbled upon Dvorak Simplified Keyboard. The idea of an optimized layout appeared intriguing, but I naïvely thought the optimization wouldn't work for Czech, and I was still attached to US QWERTY as the industry standard. In addition, I didn't believe I had the motor skills to manage the amount of hand alternation typical for Dvorak layouts.

    That's why I picked Colemak. It was the second most popular Western alternative keyboard layout, and I (again, naïvely) thought I could maintain my typing skills in both Colemak and US QWERTY—punctuation and some letters were the same anyway. I already gave up on a standardized layer for diacritic marks and wanted to design my own.

    flaws in reasoning

    I ignored the fact that DSK was an ANSI standard, thus available nearly everywhere just like Czech QWERTZ/QWERTY. I ignored UCW layouts (both QWERTY and DSK based) as well; UCW was a popular Czech programmer layout with a custom 3rd/4th layer for accented letters and various typographic symbols. My custom layers for Colemak could be classified as an example of the NIH syndrome, considering that they turned out to be very similar to UCW.

    My belief, that I was too clumsy for Dvorak's high alternation, was unfounded too. I didn't even try at the time.

    I did test "efficiency" of different layouts in the simplistic online Keyboard Layout Analyzer, but considered finger travel as the primary metric. I don't think it warranted any conclusions for real-life scenarios.

    I put too much stress on similarity to US QWERTY, although I never bothered to relearn touch typing in QWERTY after the switch.

    poor learning methods

    I started to practice Colemak on Sunday 07/08/2011. One session a day for two weeks, usually up to 20 minutes before going to bed. (So far so good.) I went through the first nine typing lessons at the Colemak website. Therefore, I couldn't really record my progress, but certainly became familiar with the home row at the very least. I gave up after two weeks, not altogether though.

    I went cold turkey on Monday 05/09/2011. No practicing anymore. I didn't even print out the layout or set it as my wallpaper. Even typing a short comment was a struggle, but incredibly helpful at the same time. Sometimes, I'd just blank out and stare at the screen trying to remember, which finger was supposed to be used for that letter. No cheating. I was stuck at roughly 30 wpm the whole time, and my accuracy slowly improved from horrible 80 % to almost bearable 90 % after a month.

    Most of my issues involved confusing middle and ring fingers on either hand (R/S, I/E). J placement was initially too far from the home position as well, considering its frequency in Czech.

    For the record, I didn't remap Caps Lock to Backspace until three months in.

    back to the former QWERTY speed

    I started to take random online tests every now and then after the one-month mark. Again, there was no system. I could spend an hour or two avidly copying one paragraph after another, or avoid any extra typing altogether for weeks. I sometimes went to 10FastFingers (random common words), sometimes Key Hero (quotes), rather rarely hi-games.net (infinite stream of short quotes). Always in English.

    My accuracy "rocketed" from initial ~85 % to 95 % after 6 weeks, 97 % after 4 months and 98 % after 6 months. Short-term speed followed a similar curve; I was somewhere in the 30s until about 3 months in, then in the 40s for another two months, and finally reached my former QWERTY plateau (~55 wpm) after 6 months of using Colemak. When I "nailed" it and hit 100 % accuracy, my top speed was only 5 wpm higher than the average at the time; for example, I sometimes reached 60 wpm at the 6 month mark.

    Meanwhile, I was successfully using Colemak to take notes in history lectures, although I ignored diacritic marks for the sake of keeping up with the professor. Handwriting wasn't an alternative anyway; I did a couple of brief tests out of curiosity, and found my handwriting speed to be only around 20 wpm.

    focused learning

    I reached a plateau just right above 60 wpm at 98 % accuracy. I was satisfied that I managed to surpass my QWERTY speed despite all shortcomings in the process. It was good enough for taking lecture notes, and speed didn't matter, when I was coding or writing at home.

    However, I made several attempts to practice deliberately, inspired by reading about performance psychology and learning methods in music. One of these experiments happened in January 2014 (2.3 years after going cold turkey). I practiced typing on my thinkpad each and every night before going to bed. The motion of my hands was a subject to a close observation, whenever I found a sequence of keystrokes, that was a source of mistakes or simply felt fatiguing. I repeated these motions over and over again, slowly at first, then at higher speeds. The outcome? I went from burst speed just above 70 wpm to more than 80 wpm average in a month; I broke 85 wpm at 100 % accuracy.

    the effect of hardware

    I've tried dozens of different keyboards over the last few years. From well-regarded modern laptops to various vintage keyboards, sometimes with obscure (semi)mechanical switches, to custom ergonomic keyboards. Swapping them around has greatly helped improve my typing technique. Some notable experiences follow.

    First, scissor-switch keyboards in general. I've noticed that low-profile, rather flat keyboards work fairly well with Colemak, because it's easier to slide between keys, and less aggressively sculpted cylindrical keycap tops don't force a specific finger positioning, thus wrist deviation.

    My favorite low-profile keyboard is TypeMatrix 2030. It's compact and decent quality, supports US Colemak out of the box in firmware, and the layout is somewhat extraordinary… Keys are aligned in a grid (matrix) with some extra hand separation. Imagine a more polished DreymaR's angle&wide mod, but easier to learn. If you want to press a key on the top or number row, your finger simply moves forward without any extra asymmetrical lateral movement. This key arrangement finally helped me learn touch typing on the number row. It also made B and J (QWERTY Y) keys easier to reach, although at the cost of messing with my muscle memory for bottom-row hotkeys (XCV) and a temporary K/M confusion.

    Another shout-out goes to the ErgoDox. The benefits of full hand separation for wrist comfort and health should be pretty clear. There's something else though. The layout rich in thumb keys enables hand alternation for all modifiers, including AltGraph, and toggles for custom layers (navigation, embedded tenkey, more symbols).

    Force and travel required to actuate a key matter too. I originally fell in love with Cherry MX Red switches (linear, low-force), thanks to the cloud of boobs effect. However, I hated anything stiffer, and that was almost everything. Then I built my ErgoDox with stock Cherry MX Clear switches (tactile, medium stiffness with force rapidly growing after actuation). Daily rotation of these two completely different switch types (one for gaming at home, the other one for typing in school) forced me to reconsider my keystroke technique. I had to exercise a bit with a power grip ring to build strength in fingers in order to avoid fatigue. At the same time, I had to work on my motor skills to avoid bottoming out hard on reds. Then it suddenly clicked and I've been capable of typing efficiently on basically any switch from MX Red to buckling spring ever since.

    Not all key mechanisms are pleasant, though. For example, I initially hated scratchy modern Cherry MX Brown switches in Kinesis Advantage. Luckily, the manufacturer included a buzzer in the keyboard, which emulated key click on actuation. I was amazed, how it messed with my brain and completely masked the gritty feeling. It also greatly complemented the gentle typing style, that I adopted thanks to the partial switch to stock clears.

    posture

    Proper posture matters. Unfortunately, it isn't particularly easy to maintain, though, esp. with budget office chairs. I've danced around this issue by building the $22 Ikea standing desk. The keyboard tray is mounted just below my elbow level and doesn't get in the way of arm rests (because there aren't any) or my legs. Therefore, I can hover wrists above the keyboard comfortably.

    Czech Colemak extension

    I use custom layers for typing in Czech. It's somewhat similar to UCW.

    Typing accented letters via AltGraph greatly benefits from two symmetrically placed AltGraph keys, that I've mentioned as a benefit to my ErgoDox (or Japanese keyboards for that matter). Chording still isn't as efficient as dead keys, though.

    A side note: I'm not a fan of switching layouts for different purposes, such as coding, writing in one language, writing in another language and so on.

    the final plateau

    I've tried to point out that there are many factors involved in typing comfort. That's also the reason, why it's difficult to quantify my further progress. It may, or may not be directly associated with Colemak. Either way, my current status is following.

    I can consistently score 50 to 75 wpm (the latter at 99+ % accuracy) in short typing tests, depending on my mood, part of the day, temperature, and familiarity with a particular key mechanism. My speed has been around 60 wpm in the 5-minute test at hi-games.net—for the last few years. Real-life use cases are more complicated, though. What if I'm composing or editing a text in Czech? What about code? What about both, such as some writing with inline LaTeX formulas? I've tried to measure it a few times, and estimated the actual speed around 40 wpm, does it actually mean anything, though?

    compatibility

    I haven't bothered to keep or rebuild my QWERTY skills. I can hunt&peck with most fingers at ~25 wpm, which is enough to look up schedules… and that's almost all I ever do on systems, where I don't have an account with my own configuration.

    However, I usually carry a TypeMatrix 2030 around with me, thus basic US Colemak is always at hand. Current OS X has the same level of Colemak support built in. GNU/Linux (or rather X.Org) supports stock Colemak out of the box. I keep PKL in my home directory in the university network. I don't type prose there, thus the defaults (as opposed to my custom layers for Czech) are fine.

    On the other hand, I still can and do use staggered keyboards, although my weapons of choice are ErgoDox and TypeMatrix. It only feels inefficient (due to modifier placement, esp. for GNU Emacs) and uncomfortable, in case of long-throw keys (because of ulnar deviation) or winkeyless keyboards (because of AltGraph too far out in the right corner). The only thing, that confuses me, is Caps Lock, when it isn't remapped to Backspace.

    Colemak works fine with most software in my experience. GNU Emacs default key bindings are mostly mnemonic anyway, games support remapping and so do, say, common X.Org window managers, such as KWin. My only beef are vi-like controls. For example, VimFX (user-friendly vi-like controls for Firefox) generates strings for keyboard-operated access to links based on QWERTY home row, thus I sometimes have to overreach for G, K or J.

    what next?

    I'm mostly happy with my 80key ErgoDox and Colemak typing experience. It's already good-enough efficiency-wise. My hands move less, there are fewer awkward keystroke sequences, and my wrists are relaxed on a split keyboard. I can further exploit thumb keys for text expansion, and improve my workflow in GNU Emacs (the thumb keys are very beneficial).

    However, I naïvely started to research keyboard layouts further, and I've been intrigued by both Maltron and Dvorak-based layouts. Let me explain…

    Maltron favors "rolls" (use of adjacent fingers) just like Colemak, but under the condition that the physical layout is columnar, thus takes non-constant finger length into account. I'm already using Colemak on ErgoDox most of the time, thus it shouldn't be a problem, right? Actually, there's another interesting design principle behind Maltron layouts: vowels are scattered across the keyboard. That's because of an error analysis, that found vowel substitution to be the most common kind of error in texts typed in DSK (which had all vowels in one block, not unlike Colemak with the exception of A).

    On the other hand, there's one argument for separating vowels from everything else. It makes it much easier to type their accented variants using multiple keystrokes (AltGraph or dead keys). In Czech, only vowels are used with an acute and mostly consonants with a caron. High-alternation layouts aren't completely outdated (in regards to speed) on straight keyboards anyway, and frequent hand alternation should help keep wrists more relaxed on non-split straight keyboards too.

    Moreover, DSK is an ANSI standard, thus available basically everywhere. It might serve me as a QWERTY replacement, should I ever need to use common systems with default settings more often. I already tried to practice it for a week once, and it was an interesting experience, due to a completely different kind of motions compared to Colemak or QWERTY. Of course, a fully optimized layout, such as AdnW, would be potentially more efficient, but at the cost of portability.

    I'm not worried about keyboard shortcuts anymore. There's, for example, the Dvorak-QWERTY layout in OS X, which is essentially DSK, but with QWERTY applied while a modifier (Command, Control) is held. It can be implemented on other systems and for other layouts too, rendering the Colemak ZXCV argument moot.

    All in all, I might stick to Colemak; learn DSK for fun, simplified typing in Czech or better compatibility with the rest of the world; or analyze and perhaps learn a Maltron-based layout. The symbol arrangement isn't everything anyway, and there are many more aspects of text processing.

    Last edited by davkol (29-Nov-2018 15:35:23)

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    If I recall correctly, VimFX has an option to set the hint chars.

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    if i try another keyboard, it may be the typematrix. the apple keyboard is one of my favorites. several companies try to differentiate by saying they have sculpted keycaps with long travel, but i found the same thing as you: that makes it difficult to glide fingertips around the keys. the sculpting doesn't guide my fingertips to the caps. instead it locks my hands into a certain position. the same is true for long travel because i need to press down into the key.

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    lalop said:

    If I recall correctly, VimFX has an option to set the hint chars.

    It does indeed. I use it with the following chars:  arstneiodhfu

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

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    Only shortcuts can be changed in the help overlay, but you're right that there's extensions.VimFx.hint_chars in about:config—it has to be changed manually from fjdkslaghrueiwovncm to tnseriaodhplfuwyvkcm or something like that. I don't use VimFX anymore though, because it lacks shortcuts for plenty of functions, including "pr0n mode".

    youBane said:

    if i try another keyboard, it may be the typematrix. the apple keyboard is one of my favorites. several companies try to differentiate by saying they have sculpted keycaps with long travel, but i found the same thing as you: that makes it difficult to glide fingertips around the keys. the sculpting doesn't guide my fingertips to the caps. instead it locks my hands into a certain position. the same is true for long travel because i need to press down into the key.

    Only cylindrical keycaps on a non-split keyboard are a problem. It says nothing about spherical caps or split keyboards.

    Last edited by davkol (23-Jun-2015 14:06:57)

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    Best post I have read in this forum. Well done.

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    Hi Davkol, a nice and well-thought post.
    My background: after a looooong time 6-finger hunt 'n peck Qwerty-use, I experimented (shorter or longer) with several layouts. My "summer resolution" is to finally stick to my favorite (see later), and to not fall back to Qwerty hunt 'n peck when under stress.

    My experiences:
    Colemak pros: feels like a better Qwerty. Easy to learn.
    Cons: like Qwerty, Colemak is not are very good for my language (I type Dutch 90% of the time; English maybe 8%, German 2%). I know Dreymar thinks different of this topic, but I found that linguistic similarity does not mean that the spellings (and hence the letter frequencies) are the same. For instance: a language buff may see that "the cow" is the same word as "de koe" (Dutch)  or "die Kuh" (German). But, the common German combination uh is rare in Dutch and English; "the is very common in English but non existent in Dutch, and so on. Tl; dr: Colemak was not good enough for Dutch - my subjective feel. 

    A pro for Colemak is that it works great on a mobile device. Swyping works great with Colemak (and also with Qwerty), but sucks on higher alternation layouts. If you want ONE layout for laptop and mobile, Colemak may be the best choice....

    MTGAP (I designed one for my language-mix, using the Mtgap software) pros:feels like a better Colemak. Or actually, it sorty of sits between Colemak and Dvorak: it's more rolly that Dvorak, and/but has more more alternation that Colemak.   
    Cons: rolling is nice, but long clusters of letters on one hand are not.

    Dvorak pros: it's on many OS-es. Feels good. I like the alternations.
    Cons: not optimised for my language mix, some flaws (like the U/I discussion). For the record: I use Linux, but I don't understand the whining that ls is so hard to type. ls is roughly the same as dir in Windows, so it's a much used command. It's not a problem: make an alias, how hard can it be.

    ADNW. This is where I landed. Dvorak's ideas put into a C++ program. Input: stuff you type (text file). Output: keyboard layouts. When you don't want to calculate yourself, you can take "pre rolled" :-) layouts. Stock ADNW is optimised for German/English. My version is optimised for Dutch/English.
    Pros: feels great
    Cons: your own personal layout will never be a standard on any OS. Risk of never being satisfied, endlessly calculating new variants. Very different from Qwerty - although I have no problem at all learning it! An other con: the website and google group are in German, which is a problem if you don't read that language.....

    QUESTIONS:
    - what sort of keycaps do you feel are best for split hand columnar keyboards (like the Ergodox) ?
    - you bind letters such as íářáštý to keys on a seperate layer. Do you feel this works better than a dead key solution (=first a modifier, then the letter r => ř) or even diakritika keys (= first the letter r, then a modifer => ř ) ?

    Last edited by pieter (06-Jul-2015 12:57:14)
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    pieter said:

    - what sort of keycaps do you feel are best for split hand columnar keyboards (like the Ergodox) ?

    I'm using my 80key ErgoDox like this. I'm not perfectly happy with the upper pinkie 1.5x keys yet (I'm currently using DSA on home row and higher). Spherical keycap tops would be nice too, but that's impossible to implement (Signature Plastics don't do sculpted SA in PBT, not to mention POM AFAIK.)

    pieter said:

    - you bind letters such as íářáštý to keys on a seperate layer. Do you feel this works better than a dead key solution (=first a modifier, then the letter r => ř) or even diakritika keys (= first the letter r, then a modifer => ř ) ?

    First and foremost, it's important to use both hands just like in case of Shift keys.

    Chording, or a sequence of keystrokes? (FTR modifiers can be sticky.) I'm on the fence. A sequence is generally faster to type and lets the hand move around freely, but at the cost of additional modality, which may cause unwanted behavior, if you press the key by accident or change your mind. That's why I haven't stuck with sticky modifiers anyway.

    pieter said:

    feels like a better Qwerty (…) it sorty of sits between Colemak and Dvorak

    I certainly wouldn't put it like this. The design principles are fundamentally different, and so are the ranges of motion (see, for example, this old demonstration video (related tutorial) that compares typing on QWERTY and DSK in practice; there are some videos of typing on Colemak and perhaps DTHOR around the web as well).

    Last edited by davkol (29-Nov-2018 15:39:43)

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    Hi Davkol, I wasn't clear perhaps. I meant that MTGAP sits between Colemak and Dvorak on the metrics "rolling"  and "alternation". It would be more precise to say that
    -  both MTGAP and Colemak think that rolls are good (think ASD on a qwerty board) while Dvorak thinks that rolls are bad: AD is better than AS
    - Colemak goes furthest in this; MTGAP is willing to sacrifice some "rollyness" to obtain a higher alternation.

    Of course these are many criteria for keyboard design: rolls, inward vs outward, same finger penalty, row jump and home jump penalties, penalties for too much[alternation, the penalties for rows (does it favor the top row over the bottom row?) and for individual key locations etc. Of course you know all this - possibly better than me :-)

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    I'm uncertain as to what it is you think that I think. My main observation has been about the letter frequencies in different languages, and you seem to be saying something else.

    I do of course realize that bigrams are as important and I haven't analyzed those for different languages. It's certainly my impression that Dutch is a bit particular in some respects, making it harder to optimize for English while retaining good characteristics for Dutch.

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    DreymaR said:

    I'm uncertain as to what it is you think that I think.

    I am even not sure what I think myself :-)  -  I suppose you know the parable of the Happy Fish by the Chinese philosopher, Zhuang Zi (4th century BC). If not, it's below

    Anyway, I thought :-) Dreymar states that Colemak is good (enough) for most western languages and that language specific modifications are not needed. Maybe I misunderstood, in which case I apologize.

    Can I get away by quoting the Happy Fish story? :-)



    The Happiness of Fish.

    Zhuangzi and his friend Huizi were strolling along the bridge over the Hao River. Zhuangzi said, “The fish swim about so freely, following the openings wherever they take them. Such is the happiness of fish.”

    Huizi said, “You are not a fish, so whence do you know the happiness of fish?”

    Zhuangzi said, “You are not I, so whence do you know I don’t know the happiness of fish?”

    Huizi said, “I am not you, to be sure, so I don’t know what it is to be you. But by the same token, since you are certainly not a fish, my point about your inability to know the happiness of fish stands intact.”

    Zhuangzi said, “Let’s go back to the starting point. You said, ‘Whence do you know the happiness of fish?’ Since your question was premised on your knowing that I know it, I must have known it from here, up above the Hao River.”

    ~ from Zhuangzi: The Essential Writings With Selections from Traditional Commentaries by Brook Ziporyn ~


    Edit: PS, sorry for the ramblings guys

    Edit 2: Translated into normal English, and knowing that the old Taoists felt that the right thing is to 'be as your nature is',   the Fish-dialog would be like this:

    The Happiness of Fish - version 2015.

    John and his friend Carl were strolling along the bridge over the river. John said: “The fish swim about so freely, following the openings wherever they take them. Such is the happiness of fish.”

    Carl said: “You are not a fish, so how do you know the happiness of fish?”

    John replied: “You are not I, so how do you know I don’t know the happiness of fish?”

    Carl then said, “I am not you, to be sure, so I don’t know what it is to be you. But by the same token, since you are certainly not a fish, my point about your inability to know the happiness of fish stands intact.”

    John then finished by saying: “Let’s go back to the starting point. You said, ‘How do you know the happiness of fish?’ Since your question was premised on your knowing that I know it, I must have known it from here, from the river.  Both fish and men are happy if they go with the flow of nature”

    To go back full circle to Colemak and Dvorak: both are layouts that allow a natural typing style :-)

    Last edited by pieter (11-Jul-2015 12:20:04)
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    Thank you for the fish! :-)

    My stance is rather that one should consider how much one writes English and other languages, and whether a localized Colemak may be the best option in total. It often will. It's more successful for some languages, obviously – and also depends quite a lot on how much English one writes.

    Last edited by DreymaR (07-Jul-2015 19:06:42)

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    Coming back to the topic of keyboard hobbyism, my (general) experiences:

    * I work in higher education. Typically, despite "typing" for several hours a day (sending e-mails, writing assessments, writing papers, etc), most teachers and researchers are lousy typists. Only (guestimation) 2% can touch type. Among our secretaries it is maybe 20%.

    * Most people are unaware that qwerty is bad and that better layouts exist. I have not yet met anyone who uses Colemak, Dvorak or an other alternative layout.

    * People find it interesting to see/hear that I use an alternative layout. Standard reaction: "OK, I get they idea. Great, in theory. But, does it matter? And, isn't it very unpractical? "

    * I myself did try to learn touchtyping qwerty years ago but gave up soon after. Too hard. I found that alternative layouts such as Colemak, Dvorak (or in my case an AdnW-version) are easier to learn. (I think that if you can touchtype Qwerty, switching to Colemak is the easiest).

    Edit for typos ;-)

    Last edited by pieter (20-Jul-2015 12:59:12)
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    brilliant - on every level. without doubt the logical conclusion of the education system

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    Hey Davkol, did you try Dvorak or Maltron ? A small write up from my side, plus some of the lessons I learned. Davkol, hope it is OK if I post this here? Here is my keyboard layout travel.

    Step 0: qwerty - we have all been there.

    Step 1: Colemak - gave it a short try. Too short, for sure. Felt better than Qwerty, but has compromises since a) its based on qwerty and b) is optimized for English, while my language (90% of typing) is in Dutch. So, the hunt for "even better" starts.

    Step 2: MTGAP - I calculated this layout for a Dutch/English mix:

    .uopy xclbv
    aienh mdrts
    :,?kq fgwjz

    Felt better than Qwerty, better than Colemak. But it turned out to be too imbalanced (left/right) and it had too long clusters of letters on one hand.

    Step 3: RIEAO (an ADnW-version) - I calculated this layout for a Dutch/English mix:

    y.u,! pclhqz
    rieao gdtnsk
    x:?j/ vwmbf 

    Better than the previous layouts! More alternation, what I like. Good for Dutch, English and German. But but but.... I found I didn't like the letter r on the pinky, because that gives too much movements like the in "are" - outwards, then inwards. Also I found I like to use the pinkies less. I tried some minor variants of it, but was not completely satisfied.

    An other thing: rieao has a 64% alternation, which is higher than qwerty or colemak, but lower than dvorak. As a consequence, it has more 'rolls'. Rolls are great on paper but I found I prefer more alternation.  It felt like "OK, now I'm typing 3 letters left, and then 3 letters right" I found I prefer not to type more than 2 letters on one hand. My ideal is 1 or 2 letters left, then 1 or 2 letters right and so on. The only way to find out what you prefer is to try it.

    So, out comes ye ol' ADnW optimizer, and after a silly lot of thinking and trying, and ridiculous amounts of time and versions, I kept this one:

    Step 4: SAEIO (a different ADnW version) 

    buy,! pvmlf*
    saeio gdtnrx
    z:.j/ kcwhq

    This one has more alternation (70%, which really feels much higher) and lower use of the (left) pinky. One disadvantage is the placement of the letter P. But keyboard layouts are always comprimises.

    Now I'm back to Amphetype, to try and learn it well.

    Last edited by pieter (08-Jan-2016 13:15:16)
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    You poor thing. Being Dutch, that may make sense (although I kinda doubt it's worth it...). Keyboardwise, I'm kinda glad I'm not Dutch. ;-)

    Last edited by DreymaR (08-Jan-2016 14:08:47)

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    DreymaR said:

    You poor thing. Being Dutch, that may make sense (although I kinda doubt it's worth it...). Keyboardwise, I'm kinda glad I'm not Dutch. ;-)

    I suffer from over analyzing. See cartoon later :-) 

    Probably the smarter thing would be to use Colemak or Dvorak. And be done with it. And spend the rest of the time on typing lessons ;-) But Colemak does not work so well for Dutch and German. I can't find the stats for Dutch I did found some older analyses I did with English and German, all based on the AdNW analyser (I know, not objective).
    v2lylkC.png

    The data show what I also *feel* when typing. Several remarks (see the caveats below the cartoon, at the end of this monster post):

    The results
    * AdNW is a Dvorak-like layout, it prefers high alternations and low adjacent keys. Nevertheless, it ranks Colemak better for English than Dvorak. This means that Colemak must do something very well :-)  For English, and I suppose many other languages, Colemak is a fine choice!
    * For German (the same holds true for Dutch) Dvorak works better than Colemak.
    * Dvorak's improvement over Qwerty is larger in German (and Dutch) than it is in English. So, despite the fact that Dvorak was made for English, it works better in German, Dutch and manybe other languages
    * I standardized everything to relative improvements over Qwerty. The graph does not show the base levels. But, Qwerty scores even worse German and Dutch than it does in English. Meaning that if you type a lot of German or Dutch, a change of layout is a clever move. A German or Dutch typist who wants a better layout may check out Colemak, Dvorak or AdnW

    TL;DR
    * Colemak, Dvorak and AdNW are all much better layouts than Qwerty.
    * Arguably, Dvorak (like) layouts work even better than Colemak, for German and Dutch

    * If you are really crazy you can go one step further and calculate your own layout


    efficiency.png


    Caveats
    * Bear in mind that these data are from the AdNW analyser, meaning that of course the AdNW layout scores best in that analyser.
    * Of course, the AdNW analyzer rates the AdNW layouts as the best layouts. The same as the Carpalx analyser thinks that Carpalx is the best, and the MTGAP analyser rates MTGAP as the best. If you have a) some months to spend, b) are interested in keyboards, math and coding, c) have C, C++ and Perl skills, you might try to make the Grand Unified Keyboard Analyzer (GUKA). Please share your results let us know here on the forum !  :-)
    * the improvements are relative improvements in the overall score in the analyser. This is a composite number in which "distance" counts (like in the patorjk online analyser), balance over hands (50/50 is best), balance over fingers, alternation (higher is better, here it shows its Dvorak-style background), row and homerow jumps (lower is better), ratio between inward rolls and outward rolls (relatively more inward rolls is better), adjacent keys (there should be not much combinations pinky-ring finger). For details see adnw.de and download the source code (it is clean an well commented C++ code).
    * these are only figures. They mean as much as you "believe" the model that is below it. The model is not perfect. Many choices, parameters, relations, valuation rules etc are debatable. Also, every person is different, every hand is different, we all have different tastes. So take it for what it is. In my opinion, it is an indication. But the real proof is in trying yourself and see, feel what your hand like.
    * for AdNW, I used the word "AdNW (hieao)", meaning that I compared with the stock AdNW-version, which is optimized for English (50%) & German (50%). The versions that I calculated (both rieao and saeio), are optimized for Dutch (90%) and English (10%) using the same AdNW optimizer. These versions are not in the graph. In the graph I concentrated on English and German, not on Dutch.

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    Just a minor observation, albeit from someone who never types in anything other than English.  It seems as though ADNW also seems to like having common letters (O and D) in the centre column. And it puts rarer letters (P, Ö, Ü and C) on four best non-home keys (in my opinion).  I haven't looked at the analyzer they use, but I suspect it doesn't share the Mod-DH / Workman philosophy. I don't know enough about German or Dutch bigrams to know how significant this would be though.

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

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    Hi Steve, you refer to the stock (hieao) AdNW layout, optimized for English and German:

    kuü.ä vgcljf
    hieao dtrnsß
    xyö,q bpwmz

    Your obervations are right that sometimes AdNW puts a rare letter in a very good spot. The reason is that the layout tries to balance several goals: low total "distance", low home row jumps, more inrolls than outrolls and so on, but also: balance over the fingers. On the left hand, the middle finger types the letter e  This is the most frequent letter (in English and German). In order not to overload the middle finger, on the top row the less frequent letter ü is placed. The same reasoning holds true for the other letters that you mention. For English, you can put symbols like / * > in there.

    What it does share with the the Mod-DH / Workman philosophy is that the center row (qwerty GH) is seen as slightly better than the top row. If you use the AdNW optimizer to make a custom layout, this can be changed in the setttings however. I have played with those settings, and then it puts the O on the top row. At the expense of overload on middle/ring finger though, and at the expense of inward rolls. So it's all about compromises......

    Edit: offline, the main dev of the AdNW optimizer/layout reminded me that the main reason (in AdNW's view) that Colemak scores better than Dvorak (for English), is the nice low "same finger" score of Colemak. German has other frequent letter combination, (for instance, SCH is common in German, but rare in English) and for German, but even more so fur Dutch,  Colemak scores not very wellwell on the "same finger" criterion. Like I said earlier, Colemak is still much better than Qwerty, also fur people who type German or Dutch.

    Edit 2: For science / history: I' ve changed my layout one more time..... (   https://youtu.be/FGBhQbmPwH8?t=46s  )

    My version was this:

    buy,! pvmlf*
    saeio gdtnrx
    z:.j/ kcwhq

    But I was unhappy with the P on the qwerty Y spot. Especially on a laptop with flat keys. Plus, I found it a nice idea to bring the Dutch letter ij back. Normally, this is just typed as i + j  but old typewriters had a special key for it, and fonts support Unicode 0132 and 0133 ( IJ and ij) Since most of the use in DUtch of the letter j is in combination with the i (forming the ij), the adoption of a dedicated ij key frees the j from that duty. Meaning, j can move to a better spot. Net effect: a small ergonomic gain.

    New layout:

    buy,! fpvljx
    saeio gdtnrw
    z:.ij/ kcmhq

    So how does this layout feel? Very much like the earlier one of course, but the ij-key feels really nice and the P is in a better spot. All in all it is a very good layout for Dutch, and still good enough for English and German (much better than Qwerty of course, roughly in Colemak/ Dvorak territory, but not as good as teh specialized German/English AdNW-version).

    Last edited by pieter (25-Jan-2016 20:51:01)
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    Small update after another four years.

    • My "standard" keyboards are JIS Master Race now. Even without the other modifications, it provides extra AltGraph modifiers for my Czech layout.

    • I can type in the Maltron/THOR layout too. It's absolutely worth it.

    • My keyboard collection currently also includes, aside from a custom ErgoDox and Kinesis Advantage (now 2): Keyboardio Model 01, Dactyl-Manuform, ErgoDash, Iris, Truly Ergonomic and Katana60. If I had to pick one to keep, it would be definitely Keyboardio.

    Typing videos!
    Open ergo keyboards! ErgoDox | keyboard.io

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    Hi Davkol! *waves like a madman*

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

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    i sometimes look at the keyboardio, but i don't see the linear a runic keycaps for sale and i still don't like the wood case. but maybe... for now i'm sticking with my ergodox

    i owned a truly ergonomic before and see they have a new cleave keyboard coming out. that looks interesting, but i don't see how i could reprogram it. they don't seem to have an online configurator yet

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