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    NEWBIE MODIFIES COLEMAK - 5 Keys Changed for Comfort and Symmetry?

    • Started by Fred B. Fox
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    • Registered: 09-Mar-2016
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    Hey guys - I am a young fellow who uses his keyboard really only to journal and write down thougths in other ways.

    I have been learning Colemak since nearly one week now so I am "writing" this at about 15 wpm (coming from ~75 wpm with QWERTZ (German/EU layout). Since I started I liked some keyplacements more than others. Thus, I have changed a few keys that you see below.

    This is STANDARD COLEMAK with heatmap overlay of a few thousand words English and German Journaling
    logexampleooknk.png
    (I did not swap period with comma - the layout picture is incorrect)

    Letter Frequency in the English language overall
    letterfrequency_s88otp.png

    Modifications
    colemakmodvykhu.png
    (ignore red lines)

    L to M because
    L is more frequent and to reach it I would have to stretch my index far / move up my whole arm
    M to K because
    M is less frequent than L (L is easier to reach than M here)
    K to L because
    K is less frequent than M and L
    --------
    Swapped Q with G because
    Reaching G with my left pinkie is more comfortable to me than stretching my index / arm

    Oh, and I have small hands.

    Overall, I made these changes in order to let my hands rest in a more relaxed (angled) position as I become more adapt to the layout.

    logexampleupdateillusl6jm0.png

    (Standard compared to mod without illustrations)

    So far it has worked well for me - better than the standard layout. It feels more comfortable to me because my hands have to stretch less. Again, I do not program at all, I only write text.

    What do you guys think about it?
    Am I making big mistakes?
    Why aren't my changes already implemented in Colemak? :P

    Cheers!
    Fred

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    • From: UK
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    Welcome to the fun world of Colemak modifications.

    I can see why you might be tempted to move the L - the M key is a more comfortable position and L is more common. That's why Workman moved it to that position also. I am less convinced about the G-Q swap though, not least because of the adverse effect on same-finger bigrams (notably GA).

    As you don't like to stretch your index finger, you might want to consider the D and H keys. Especially as the H is even more frequent than L.

    Check out Colemak Mod-DH in my signature.

    Last edited by stevep99 (09-Mar-2016 18:02:45)

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

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    [Note: I started this response before I saw stevep99's, so that's why they are so similar! :-)]

    My own opinion is that moving keys in such a way that you type them with the same finger is generally ok (might make some key sequences harder, might not), and if it's more comfortable, then it's probably a win for you. If you have small hands (you are young, you say), then it could very well be a win. Swapping the 'q' and 'g' is more questionable to me because 'ga' and 'gr' would be more difficult to type (for me), which may not be a problem at low speeds, but once you get fast could be slightly annoying. I mean, the layout would still be a vast improvement over qwerty. And you could always switch them back once your hand gets larger, if it gets annoying.

    See also Colemak Mod-DH (https://colemakmods.github.io/mod-dh/) if you haven't already. Its aims are similar to your own.

    Edit: to answer the question of why these changes aren't implemented already, one reason is that it involves changing more keys from their qwerty locations. One of the goals of Colemak is to strike a balance between the number of key locations changed from qwerty and the benefit gained. Also, some people don't like having to stretch their pinky to other rows frequently (qwerty/colemak 'q', your 'g'). Incidentally, on my layout (custom, not Colemak), 'q' is where it is on your layout, in part for the same reason as you put it there. However, my whole layout is different, so it's "designed in" to work well in sequence with the other keys. Still, I am an adult male with average sized hands, and I still find it slightly less comfortable to reach the same keys you find difficult. I gather that stevep99 does, too!

    Last edited by colibius (09-Mar-2016 18:53:26)
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    You might try swapping G with V instead of Q. That would move the Ctrl+V position, which is one of the sacred positions of Colemak. But, it would likely achieve your desired result better than a G-Q swap. That V key is a cold spot in your desired V-shaped layout.

    Just my two cents, welcome!

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    • From: Oslo, Norway
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    Why not keep the G in QWERTY position instead?

    The only swaps from Colemak that are relatively "safe", are ones within each finger. Yours will almost certainly ruin some important bigrams, which you may not notice immediately but it'll come back to bite your arse in the long run.

    As such, the MLK swaps are among the safer ones. Try them out, by all means. But if you check out the DH-mod discussions, you'll see that I think there are better options once you agree to move these keys around. In particular, if you don't mind moving things around then your K-on-top placement looks promising in your case.

    The DH-mods are based on that principle: Achieving desirable modifications without ruining the finely tuned wonder that is Colemak. If you think this is mostly about letter frequencies, you have a long long way to go young Padawan. I was there too, back in 2007, clumsily trying to improve Colemak. I failed utterly and became aware of the complexity of layout and Colemak design (and of modeling), and have since then been doing non-invasive mods to the Colemak layout.

    Overall, I heartily agree in your desire for straight wrists! My answers to that are the Angle, Curl and to some extent Wide mods.

    See my signature topics for more info.

    Last edited by DreymaR (11-Mar-2016 11:31:48)

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    stevep99 said:

    I am less convinced about the G-Q swap though, not least because of the adverse effect on same-finger bigrams (notably GA).

    As you don't like to stretch your index finger, you might want to consider the D and H keys. Especially as the H is even more frequent than L.

    Check out Colemak Mod-DH in my signature.

    Yes, I see why the GQ swap is potentially problematic. Thanks for mentioning the DH keys! I actually really struggled to learn the D position as I somehow felt resistance to accepting that a key like D is in that position.
    I took a look at the link you provided and a layout that instantly resonated well with me, since I bought an ANSI keyboard (Cherry Stream XT Evolution US (after using the predecessor highly successfully for 8 years), was this:
    mod_dh_keyb_ansi_alt.png
    Except for the L positon perhaps I like it a lot and am definitely considering!


    colibius said:

    If you have small hands (you are young, you say), then it could very well be a win. Swapping the 'q' and 'g' is more questionable to me because 'ga' and 'gr' would be more difficult to type (for me), which may not be a problem at low speeds, but once you get fast could be slightly annoying. I mean, the layout would still be a vast improvement over qwerty. And you could always switch them back once your hand gets larger, if it gets annoying.

    Edit: to answer the question of why these changes aren't implemented already, one reason is that it involves changing more keys from their qwerty locations. One of the goals of Colemak is to strike a balance between the number of key locations changed from qwerty and the benefit gained.

    Oh, I am not that young ;)
    I definitely see that Colemak also takes into account the transition from QWERTY. As I see it now - since I am committed to make the change even to a Colemak mod - I have at least 60 more years that I want to spend on this planet and many millions of words to write so I might as well go all the way and optimize to get the last possible percentage in efficiency and comfort...

    jonhines said:

    You might try swapping G with V instead of Q. That would move the Ctrl+V position, which is one of the sacred positions of Colemak. But, it would likely achieve your desired result better than a G-Q swap. That V key is a cold spot in your desired V-shaped layout.

    Just my two cents, welcome!

    Thank you! I am not that afaid of moving the V since I worked with Ctrl+Z in the J position ever since I started typing - not saying I want to have it that far away again, though!

    DreymaR said:

    The DH-mods are based on that principle: Achieving desirable modifications without ruining the finely tuned wonder that is Colemak. If you think this is mostly about letter frequencies, you have a long long way to go young Padawan. I was there too, back in 2007, clumsily trying to improve Colemak. I failed utterly and became aware of the complexity of layout and Colemak design (and of modeling), and have since then been doing non-invasive mods to the Colemak layout.

    Overall, I heartily agree in your desire for straight wrists! My answers to that are the Angle, Curl and to some extent Wide mods.

    That is what I thought - Colemak is the result of many hundreds of hours of calculations and for a newbie like me to think quickly making some changes will indeed have a positive effect overall is somewhat unreasonable - hence the thread.
    Thank you for your contributions, too! The mods you mentioned are all based on the ISO layout unfortunately. I will definitely consider the concept, though.

    Overall I'd like to say as soon as I saw how many more viable options there are to take into consideration, I felt quite overwhelmed! Hence the late reply.
    Your posts have been tremendously helpul and I feel I know enough now to make a confident choice in the upcoming weeks. If I opt for the layout above, I definitely want to be sure about it ^.^

    Thanks again, guys!

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    • From: Oslo, Norway
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    Be assured that the balance between QWERTY similarity and efficiency is heavily in the direction of goodness for Colemak. Rather, the changes not made in Colemak are largely unnecessary changes, where Dvorak took the whole thing several bridges too far by insisting on changing everything even though some keys were perfectly well placed already in QWERTY. Some are, after all.

    Be aware that there are two main DH-mod variants (Steve's DvbgHm and "my" DbgHk). In my opinion, mine is the simpler and better choice for normal-staggered boards, and Steve's reigns supreme on matrix-design boards. But it's mostly a question of preference, which of the lower-mid positions you find good.

    The mods aren't all based on ISO layouts. Getting a good (Curl)Angle mod on an ANSI board requires more work but it may still be a brilliant idea. You have the choice between A-Frame (the one in Stevep's picture), Angle-Z (simplest option, but moves the Z to the middle) and some other possibilities.

    Again, all is described in my sig topics.

    Last edited by DreymaR (11-Mar-2016 14:50:45)

    *** Learn Colemak in 2–5 steps with Tarmak! ***
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    I made the switch yesterday.

    161312colemakmod-dhalcusn4.jpg

    As you can see, Colemak Mod-DH Alternative / LK Switch is its name.

    I'm happy. Thanks again to all :)

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    Fred B. Fox said:

    I made the switch yesterday.

    http://abload.de/thumb/161312colemakmod-dhalcusn4.jpg

    As you can see, Colemak Mod-DH Alternative / LK Switch is its name.

    I'm happy. Thanks again to all :)

    Very nice!  I will be interested to know how you get on. I am sure you will like the new D and H positions!  Will be interesting to know how that L switch feels too, once you are used to it, I don't think anyone has tried that variant before.

    Last edited by stevep99 (12-Mar-2016 12:51:12)

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

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    This is perhaps slightly off topic, but I was rather intrigued to see that one of the members of this forum, DreymaR, lives in Bærum, Norway, next door to Asker, where I grew up! I assume that, like me, you're a native Norwegian who does a lot of your typing in English. I just started making the transition to Colemak a month ago and could of course not resist the temptation to do a little bit of re-mapping myself. The only letter I've moved from its Colemak position is [J], which I moved to Colemak [;]/Qwerty [P]; this because I wanted to use the Colemak [J]/Qwerty [Y]-key for BACK-SPACE. I did a fair bit of research and some math to find the frequency of Æ, Ø & Å, on the assumption that I only type in Norwegian about 50% of the time. At this point, I've re-located them as follows: Æ to Norwegian Qwerty [-] position; Ø to [Å] position; and Å to [Æ] position. Would be interested to hear how you've done it―om du faktisk er norsk :)

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    Since I am a native German which language includes Ä, Ö and Ü, I have mapped them at their 'mother keys', meaning

    [Right Alt] + a = ä
    [Right Alt] + [Shift] + a = Ä

    etc.

    I also wonder how more experienced members have solved those issues.

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    Joda, norsk som bare det. :-)

    See my sig topics for how I've done my layout mappings and more.

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

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    Hey guys– I wanted to give a quick update on how I am doing and wanted to show you another modification that I have been making.

    So, overall I am satisfied. I am now at a point where I can type blindly without doing mistakes, but I still look at the keyboard most of the time since it allows me to type significantly faster. I will gradually move away from that naturally as I get more adapted. I would say I am at about ¾ the speed that I had before, so it’s super useful.

    Overall, I am not yet sure if I would recommend the transition to the more average Joe – yes, it’s much, much more comfortable, but so far I don’t see where this layout is particularly faster. I’m not saying the benefits don’t outweigh the costs for me, but I think that this is definitely more for advanced users with specific needs at this point in time (o rly).

    What I like most by far is the simple correction of the bottom row, or rather the main and top row – my fingers are now actually actuating the correct bottom keys. I don’t ever want to go back to the weird f’d up nomal positioning!
    I am very happy with the K and L swap, as I find the bottom key much easier to actuate, and L is much more frequent.

    Anyway – so about eight weeks back or so I had the idea for another modification that I have been successfully using ever since, which is the rearrangement of the number keys.

    capturekljo6.png

    As you can see, - and = went where [ and ] were before, and finally the top left corner is as dead as it should be. Why would I want to keep the 1 and 2 on the left if my hands are much farther to the right anyway?

    The benefits are for me that the layout is more comfortable. Not only are the exclamation mark and round brackets easier to reach, but also, if I am typing some numbers, say, a timestamp, then I can just let my main row fingers slide two rows up and I land almost perfectly on the number keys – on my keyboard, the number row is positioned only slightly to the right, not as much as in the layout picture above.

    The downsides as far as I can see are some function impairments, for example I can’t open the Windows Magnifier anymore when I hit WIN and = (which has the + on it) [Oh, I just realized I can hit WIN+0 now and it works! :]. Also, a game (Team Fortress 2) does not seem to recognize a custom layout and therefore [ is 1, and 1 is 3...

    I am sure you guys have considered this modification before. How come you are not using this arrangement of the numbers row?

    If anyone wants to play around with my configuration, you can download the KLC file here.

    Cheers,
    Fred

    Last edited by Fred B. Fox (27-May-2016 20:09:31)
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    Hey Fred, glad your happy with your modifications, they look good. The only thing with your number row is that the numbers are in non-standard positions relative to the home-keys, since 1 would normally be ¾-key offset to the left of A. I agree the standard 1 key is pretty poorly positioned though. But if I was going to change the positions of the numbers from default, then I would go the whole hog and get rid of them completely and only use numbers via a virtual numpad instead. If you wanted to make it more standard-ish, you could have something like this as your top row?

      ` [ 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 ] 

    If key combos with Win key are not working properly then maybe you haven't set the VK_ column correctly in your KLC file...

    Last edited by stevep99 (30-May-2016 17:59:38)

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

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    Hey Steve, thank you for your feedback. I don't understand the benefits of the arrangement that you propose? I have only gotten that it is "standard", but why should I care about that?

    What do you mean by getting rid of numbers and using a virtual numpad? What does that look like and why does that make more sense?

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    The reason your hotkeys aren't remapped properly is likely that you forgot to change the VKEY assignments for the number keys in MSKLC. When doing a "physical key remapping" such as yours, you're advised to do that.

    Make sure you have only one physical key per VKEY code. There's a dude in another thread that seems to be blaming MSKLC for his inability to realize that. ;-)

    On a side note: If speed is your only goal, you're probably better off training the layout you had. People type blindingly fast with QWERTY, so it's not a slow layout per se at top level. The main reason for switching to Colemak should be comfort and flow, the ability to type fast without so much work and unnecessary strain!

    Virtual NumPad means having an Extend layer (see my sig topics and links therein) with the NumPad keys on it. It's similar to the Fn-NumPad on many laptops.

    Some people care about staying close to the standard arrangements (it's one of the principles behind Colemak after all, not wanting to make a change that likely doesn't give real benefit). Some don't. There's no big "why". To me, one benefit of staying close to the standards is that I find it easier to move back and forth between my own layout and the standard one that way.

    If I were to choose between your number row and SteveP's, I go for his. The main reason is that it conserves the geometric relations between numbers and letter keys from the standard layouts. That way, I can blind type numbers without getting confused. When I first tried the Wide mod I left the number row as it was but soon I had to change that because I found the numbers 7–0 very very annoying when they were no longer on the accustomed reaches from the home position!

    Last edited by DreymaR (31-May-2016 09:56:52)

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    Thanks for your input, guys! That was very helpful :)

    I currently feel like I am in the same place as three months ago when I came across Colemak – I got the idea two days ago to really exploit the AutoCorrect function of Word with which I have been streamlining my input gradually (’im’ becomes I’m, ’we ll’ becomes we’ll, etc.). I thought of t for the, u for you, / for ?, ju for journaling, sis for situations, etc. pp. I’m sure you get where I was going :)

    Anyway, haven’t implemented that yet, but I knew that I can’t be the first one having this idea. And so two days ago I discovered stenography, and Plover. Not sure if I want to take a swing at it, but certainly the real actual potential to write at one’s thought’s speed is only given with steno.

    YouTube: Plover: Thought to Text at 240 WPM

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    Steno is fascinating! Probably a bridge too far for me, but definitely awesome if you can handle it.

    One of the driving forces behind my tweaks is that I want them to be easily accessible, everywhere. So stuff I can run almost anywhere easily, and stuff I can carry in my pocket are winners. Hence, I'm wary of "exploiting" an AutoCorrect function that isn't available everywhere I'm typing.

    *** Learn Colemak in 2–5 steps with Tarmak! ***
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    Yeah, well, I think I will adopt steno sometime in the future. That’s the gut sense that I have right now, similar to what I felt about Colemak.

    I totally see where you’re coming from! Surely, your work benefits much more people that way anyway.

    I think I am in a kinda rare position in that I am really only typing on my PC keyboard, and ~97 % of what I type is just journaling. Therefore, I think that it would be a worthwhile move to transition to steno, because there is no evidence to suggest that I will be writing less anytime soon. Learning this skill could make quite a big difference in terms of my productivity and market value as an intellectual.

    The only thing is, I would have to buy a new keyboard again :D The Ultimate Hacking Keyboard looks pretty nice... I’ll wait with that project anyway, it comes out in September.

    For now, I really, really enjoy being able to type extraordinarily relaxed with all my fingers on the home row. Colemak is a winner! Thanks to you guys! :)

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