• You are not logged in.
  • Index
  • General
  • Limiting keyboard use to only easy-to-reach keys

    Limiting keyboard use to only easy-to-reach keys

    • Started by stevep99
    • 17 Replies:
    • Reputation: 110
    • From: UK
    • Registered: 14-Apr-2014
    • Posts: 924

    A lot of the keyboard optimizations that are discussed (Extend layer, custom AltGr layer, Angle mod, etc) have a theme in common: maximizing use of keys that are close to the home position, and avoiding keys that are not. The Extend layer is especially effective at this, as eliminates need for far-away arrow keys, home, end, page up/down, return, backspace and delete.

    Thinking about this principle in more detail, we could define a subset of keys which are deemed to be "useful" - those that are sufficiently close a home key. I am quite interested in the idea that all the keys you would normally need to type should be within this range.

    If you set this maximum key distance to 1.5 units, then on a standard ISO keyboard it gives a set of useful keys that looks like this:

    useful keys image
    (I am allowing Space and both Alt keys, as these are really thumb keys).

    So, I am thinking about schemes that avoid the need to reach keys that lie outside the green area.

    Many of the "excluded" keys are handled by the Extend layer, but notably the number keys are also in my exclude zone. There is the possibility to define a virtual numeric pad using an extra layer, e.g. using AltGr. If following this "useful keys" principle, it would mean having all the numbers on the three main rows, something like this. Other custom mappings could be done for the other brackets symbols which are outside the area. I think it might be interesting to then have the function keys on the top row, occupying keys 1 through +.

    My existing mappings already achieve most of the above, but I am interested to know what others think. Do you agree with this "useful keys area" idea and would your green area be the same as mine?

    Last edited by stevep99 (12-Jun-2016 15:19:31)

    Using Colemak-DH with Seniply.

    Offline
    • 1
    • Reputation: 172
    • From: Viken, Norway
    • Registered: 13-Dec-2006
    • Posts: 5,181

    I don't agree that the B]# keys are not "useful keys"! They're just slightly awkward, so they can hold less important stuff.

    And I don't see any problems with the Shift keys?

    I think you may be a little too focused on staying put. I use the hard Enter key easily enough for instance, in addition to the Extend Enter. It's what most people do and it isn't really hard.

    Last edited by DreymaR (12-Jun-2016 22:02:20)

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

    Offline
    • 0
    • Reputation: 110
    • From: UK
    • Registered: 14-Apr-2014
    • Posts: 924

    I've thought the position of the shift keys was terrible since long before I got into keyboard geekery. Given how common they are, the shift keys positions are (yet another) a seriously major design flaw in my book. Since having a split keyboard and mapping Shift to the left half of the space bar, I have achieved "shift happiness", and no longer need to touch the stupid default shift locations thank goodness.

    Maybe the (qwerty) B and # aren't too bad for rare keys. I do even use # still, but it's mildly annoying. I only use return key for tapping e.g. to confirm things and not really at all when typing sentences. Fortunately I have no need for [ and ] since all brackets are in my AltGr layer.

    Probably learning Colemak makes one love start to love the home position too much!?  But have to say I am particularly averse to moving away from home row for far away pinky keys. That's partly why I moved my Extend key to Left Alt instead of Caps: thumbs rule compared to pinkies.

    It's also easier to type 2 easy keys simultaneously than one key in an awkward position, and so that's why additional layers beat far away keys I think.

    Last edited by stevep99 (13-Jun-2016 16:34:36)

    Using Colemak-DH with Seniply.

    Offline
    • 0
    • Reputation: 172
    • From: Viken, Norway
    • Registered: 13-Dec-2006
    • Posts: 5,181

    Maybe you have weak pinkys compared to my piano-trained ones? :-)

    At any rate, the Shift keys are still nearly 1.5 keys away from home position so it's not about the distance for sure. Same with QWERTY B.

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

    Offline
    • 0
    • Reputation: 4
    • Registered: 04-Feb-2010
    • Posts: 147

    Funny, I've had a similar thought percolating in the back of my mind for a while now. My aim has been somewhat narrower though, and is limited to keys which can be hit with the hands remaining in a static position.

    For me, that boils down to:
    caps a ; ' on pinkies
    weio sdkl on rings and middles
    fjcm on pointers
    space on thumbs

    All other keys are - barely in reach and must be hit on key edge (q), with part of the finger other than the tip (x)(Alt), require a roll or flattening of the hand (h)(t), or over extension (enter).

    So.... 16 keys, plus space. Having had experimented with ASETNIOP in the past, this is pretty much the point where I gave up on the idea.


    That aside, yes, Shift keys are in a terrible position. L.Shift is significantly better on ANSI boards though. Split space/shift bar really should have been made be the default by now.


    Also, DreymaR, (b) is 1.5 keys right of (f), and 1 key down. Travel distance from home can't possibly be less than 1.5 keys.

    Last edited by cevgar (13-Jun-2016 23:09:32)
    Offline
    • 0
    • Reputation: 172
    • From: Viken, Norway
    • Registered: 13-Dec-2006
    • Posts: 5,181

    Actually, the Shift distance is indeed less than 1.5 keys if done right. Instead of trying to model this, I observed my fingers in action. My home position using Curl has the pinkies resting at the lower edge of their home keys. When hitting Shift, they both stretch to the corner of their respective Shift keys. This distance is 2.5 cm, on a board with horizontal key distance of 2.0 cm. In conclusion, it's important to not measure by modeling but by actual typing.

    I do enjoy using the Wide mod which reduces the distance to RShift by one key. But I still use the ISO LShift gleefully. ANSI users are often skeptical to it, but it's no further away than the normal RShift position.

    But yeah, why on earth couldn't they make us a split Space bar by default. I'd like one that has two extra normal-size keys in the middle, and the rest are two double-or-whatever-is-left-sized Space keys. Pretty much like the JIS/Japanese keyboard, in other words, just a little differently arranged.

        616px-JIS_layout_basic.svg.png
        Japanese/JIS keyboard physical layout

    Yeah, I'd enjoy the split RShift too I'm sure, although for safety I'd have it at least 1.5 key widths. Maybe the split Back as well. Lots of nice keys there, yummy!

    Last edited by DreymaR (14-Jun-2016 09:18:23)

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

    Offline
    • 0
    • Reputation: 4
    • Registered: 04-Feb-2010
    • Posts: 147

    Shhhhh, keep your voice down! Bringing out your 'real world' metrics in a keyboard forum, are you trying to start a riot? That kinda thing is taboo here.

    Also, defending Wide Angle ANSI L.Shift and ISO L.Shift by pointing out that it is no further from home position than normal R.Shift to an audience that doesn't use R.Shift because it is so ludicrously awful is just sad.

    Offline
    • 0
    • Reputation: 172
    • From: Viken, Norway
    • Registered: 13-Dec-2006
    • Posts: 5,181

    The only thing that's sad is you considering a key that's less than one key distance away de facto, ludicrously awful. ;-)

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

    Offline
    • 0
    • Reputation: 0
    • Registered: 11-Jan-2017
    • Posts: 45

    The idea is not at all Ludicrous.
    If only the caps key could be mapped to become a Launch key with no preassigned function, then the 2nd row could be numbers and symbols.

    Example: Caps+R = 1  Caps+S = 2  etc...

    Offline
    • 0
    • Reputation: 1
    • From: Canada
    • Registered: 23-Mar-2015
    • Posts: 27

    Hey Steve99, I sort of went overboard with that concept when I revisited your many inquiries to me regarding considering the extended  or wide layout. I went to the extreme with my Planck layout and pushed the home row right to the edges of the keyboard eliminating the pinkie finger extension completely. There remains only one awkward key extension, the "?" in the center column but thus far, it "feels" like the benefits of the additional hand separation are worthwhile. Thumbs naturally land over the Space and Enter keys which double as Shift keys when held down.

    keyboard-layout-split-colemak.jpg

    The outer keys are modifiers when held down and can toggle layers (num) right hand number keypad cluster (sym) left hand symbol cluster. The "A" and "O" keys at present don't have modifier assignments at present because typing on the home row is inherently faster than on other rows, just enough to trigger the modifier code of the firmware which I have yet to tweak.

    EDIT: Updated layout with center column symbols -, =, /, ~ moved to shift layers and outer modifiers moved to center columns. No extended index finger reach now with the symbols easily and comfortably accessible via the thumb activated layers.

    Last edited by sdothum (25-Jan-2017 16:59:05)
    Offline
    • 0
    • Reputation: 172
    • From: Viken, Norway
    • Registered: 13-Dec-2006
    • Posts: 5,181

    Nice! :-)

    Why do you keep the relatively rare B down there instead of V?

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

    Offline
    • 0
    • Reputation: 110
    • From: UK
    • Registered: 14-Apr-2014
    • Posts: 924

    I like it.  I have previously wondered if the Planck is a bit confined, since it is one fixed unit. But this would mitigate that issue nicely.

    I think I'd even be willing have symbols like - = + /  in a separate layer, perhaps reserving those central spaces for rare modifiers, e.g. Gui.

    Would be nice if there were a version of the Planck with two extra columns, then you could still have the greater separation, without losing the outer column. Or a split version.

    How do you find using your thumb on the small keys along bottom row?

    Using Colemak-DH with Seniply.

    Offline
    • 0
    • Reputation: 1
    • From: Canada
    • Registered: 23-Mar-2015
    • Posts: 27

    Steve99, your idea of using the central column for modifiers is an interesting thought. That would certainly address the accidental triggering of the modifiers assigned to the outer keys when typing fast -- not typically a problem because my mind is not that nimble! -- by moving those modifiers to the center column. One nice feature of the QMK software is the one shot modifier: a key defined as such when tapped (not held down) applies to the next keystroke. Something to think about for sure. There are certainly possibilities regarding relocating the / ~ keys to eliminate the extension (as the - = are already redundantly defined on other layers). I like the idea.

    As for the thumbs and small keys on the bottom row, I did not find it difficult to get used to at all. The thumbs for the most part lightly rest on the space/shift and enter/shift -- quite firmly anchored in those positions with the rather dominant home row emphasis of the layout.

    DreymaR, as for the swap of the B and V, I know that violates the Colemak placement of the common cut and paste Ctrl chords. Some time back during my experiments with the angle- and DH-mods on my 60% keyboard, I swapped those keys, the B having a slightly higher frequency of usage and the lower row a more natural reach for me. I've gone back and forth a few times but seem to have settled on that merely for the frequency. Is there a fingering advantage (sequence pairs, triads..) with the V in its normal location I should take note of?

    Last edited by sdothum (24-Jan-2017 19:20:03)
    Offline
    • 0
    • Reputation: 6
    • Registered: 25-Jan-2017
    • Posts: 54

    Yes. Shift keys are in a bad location.

    I've actually started a new thread regarding the idea of remapping Shift to Alt. The Alt keys are in a much better location as they can both be pressed by the Thumbs

    https://forum.colemak.com/topic/2198-re … ft-to-alt/

    Last edited by misterW (25-Jan-2017 05:56:22)
    Offline
    • 0
    • Reputation: 10
    • Registered: 06-Jun-2013
    • Posts: 520

    that planck keyboard looks absolutely amazing..

    Offline
    • 0
    • Reputation: 110
    • From: UK
    • Registered: 14-Apr-2014
    • Posts: 924
    sdothum said:

    DreymaR, as for the swap of the B and V, I know that violates the Colemak placement of the common cut and paste Ctrl chords. Some time back during my experiments with the angle- and DH-mods on my 60% keyboard, I swapped those keys, the B having a slightly higher frequency of usage and the lower row a more natural reach for me. I've gone back and forth a few times but seem to have settled on that merely for the frequency. Is there a fingering advantage (sequence pairs, triads..) with the V in its normal location I should take note of?

    The frequencies for both keys are quite rare (wikipedia data):
    B:  1.492%
    V:  0.978%
    I think you are right that bottom-row key is a little better (esp on your planck), and B is clearly the more common letter. But since they are both small frequencies, I don't think it matters enough to change it. The frequencies above also don't take into account paste operations. If you copy/paste a lot perhaps that would make a difference? Personally I'd keep V on the bottom just to have XCV on the bottom row, but if it works for you that way, all to the good!

    Edit: In a similar vein, you could argue for switching F with C also. But I don't think that would be worthwhile either!

    Last edited by stevep99 (25-Jan-2017 11:07:32)

    Using Colemak-DH with Seniply.

    Offline
    • 0
    • Reputation: 172
    • From: Viken, Norway
    • Registered: 13-Dec-2006
    • Posts: 5,181

    Oh. Similar frequency, B somewhat more common. I had forgotten that, sorry.

    The issue of those Ctrl+X/C → Ctrl+V combos still stands, and I think it's a very valid point. Especially as an Extend user.

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

    Offline
    • 0
    • Reputation: 1
    • From: Canada
    • Registered: 23-Mar-2015
    • Posts: 27

    Steve99, I took your suggestions and used the center column for modifiers only -- creating a more defined split layout. No more index finger extensions. I updated the layout in my original post and added Shift layers (versus just defining a modifier key) which allowed mapping the previous center column symbols to the "comma" and  "dot" positions, as shown here..

    keyboard-layout-split-shift.jpg

    The "minus" and "underscore" now occupy the opposite Shift key position (not being held down). Not shown, is the layer the Tab key raises for Home, PgDn, etc. which has the remaining =, + in the  "comma" and  "dot" positions (though they are also redundantly defined in my number and symbol layers). Entering varaible names with hyphens and underscores, and path names is now ridiculously easy.

    And losing the outer modifiers on the edge letters eliminated the occassional unintended modifier being triggering when typing fast -- a firmware timing issue I don't need to mess around with now! All in all, in the very short time I have had this new layout, it works spectacularly well for me. Home row heaven! Thanks for the suggestion!

    Last edited by sdothum (25-Jan-2017 20:28:22)
    Offline
    • 0
      • Index
      • General
      • Limiting keyboard use to only easy-to-reach keys