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    No Hand-Switching

    • Started by Jojirius
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    • From: North Carolina
    • Registered: 04-Jul-2017
    • Posts: 3

    I've looked at Colemak and all of the other keyboard layout options publicly available on the internet, and I've noticed that nearly all of them have at least one set of keys that switched hands. There are 0 popular layouts without such keys. Even minimak and qwpr have keys that switch hands.

    Most commonly, there is an E-K switch (and then the K is rotated somewhere else) or there is an E-P switch, and bizarrely in the case of Asset there is a J-R switch.

    I realize a lot of people say that adjusting to a new layout just takes time and practice, but even though almost any other key switch has been fine for me, swapping a right-hand key with a left-hand key almost seems like a mental block for me. I just can't do it. When I make the swaps that are independent of those hand-swapped keys, I can type at 60 wpm with no typos, and then as soon as I make the adjustment everything just crashes and burns down to 20 wpm.

    It could be an issue of perseverance, it could be something about the way I learn, it could be just me imagining things are this bad and the placebo "psychs me out".

    But I guess I've got a thought experiment I'd like to pose to designers far more experienced than me - if you were to apply Colemak's design principles to the keyboard, but 0 hand-swapped keys were allowed as a rule...what would your keyboard look like? Because currently, I'm basically just making something customized for myself, with swapped keys but no hand-swapped keys.

    I have no real experience in this. What I've got so far, using AutoHotKey, is:

    QWDG F J UKL;
    ASET R Y NIOH
    ZXCV B P M,.?

    And yes, I do know that swapping E over to the right hand is a huge load of irreplaceable goodness - it balances the typing load on both hands and it assigns E to a strong finger plus you've got more alternation between hands when typing English words.

    But that's off the table. What is the best-case scenario when that's off the table?

    EDIT: I've seen folks talk about "when you make one change, it's tempting to make more, so why not go all the way" elsewhere in the forums. I'm familiar with that mindset - and honestly I'm happy to do a larger amount of changes or less, that's not the issue. The issue is for whatever reason I can't abide hand-swapped keys.

    Last edited by Jojirius (05-Jul-2017 02:32:10)
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    I made an account just to reply to your post. I find it very interesting that you pretty much came up with the Norman layout. He was guided by similar principles, though R does switch hands. If you're looking for another place for E, consider moving it under the left thumb on a split spacebar keyboard like the Malt layout.

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    • From: Bærum, Norway
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    H on a pinky, horrible DE/ED, CE/EC and LO/OL bigrams, where do I start...?

    You said it yourself: You have no real experience in this. I too, set out to find my own layout when I was fresh in the game. At least I learnt how well designed the really good layouts are! And Colemak is definitely one of those.

    All in all, yes – Shai too abhors a hand switch so he tried avoiding them but that didn't lead to very good layouts. Hence, I truly believe that you will not be able to come up with anything that you won't either regret in the long run or keep using unaware of the good things you're missing. ;-)

    The E is learnt really quickly because it's so common. So the only real issue would be P. I think the goodness of Colemak is more than worth this concession.

    On a side note: It is my honest and unhumble opinion that the Norman layout firmly belongs on the scrap heap of layout history. Look into the Curl(DH) mod if the D and H bother you; otherwise Norman just doesn't hold a candle to its superiors.

    Last edited by DreymaR (05-Jul-2017 09:18:03)
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    Jojirius said:
    QWDG F J UKL;
    ASET R Y NIOH
    ZXCV B P M,.?

    It achieves your objective of not swapping keys between hands, but at a cost of worse bigrams as DreymaR says. I wouldn't criticize the H on pinky particularly, since standard Colemak as A and O on pinkies which are both very common, but I still think the M key is a better place for it, as M is an underrated position in most layouts (hence Mod-DH!)

    If you were going it stick with something closer to your current layout, I'd at least switch L/U to avoid same-finger LO. K is in too good a position as well, and the R is annoying in the G position. The frequent DE bigram could be avoided by having the top row QWFDG, at least FE is less frequent.

    Colemak does only cause 2 keys to change sides, which is a small price to pay for the extra goodness you get.

    Last edited by stevep99 (05-Jul-2017 11:54:55)

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

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    DreymaR said:

    H on a pinky, horrible DE/ED, CE/EC and LO/OL bigrams, where do I start...?

    You said it yourself: You have no real experience in this. I too, set out to find my own layout when I was fresh in the game. At least I learnt how well designed the really good layouts are! And Colemak is definitely one of those.

    All in all, yes – Shai too abhors a hand switch so he tried avoiding them but that didn't lead to very good layouts. Hence, I truly believe that you will not be able to come up with anything that you won't either regret in the long run or keep using unaware of the good things you're missing. ;-)

    The E is learnt really quickly because it's so common. So the only real issue would be P. I think the goodness of Colemak is more than worth this concession.

    On a side note: It is my honest and unhumble opinion that the Norman layout firmly belongs on the scrap heap of layout history. Look into the Curl(DH) mod if the D and H bother you; otherwise Norman just doesn't hold a candle to its superiors.

    Not exactly basing mine off of Norman, despite the fact that it has been mentioned twice.
    The weakness of not switching hands is effectively twofold insofar as I can tell, at least if we're looking at really really big losses in productivity. There are definitely the small bits and pieces of smart optimization that I'm also not getting out of this.

    -The workload on each hand is asymmetric. Horribly so.
    -No matter how you rearrange the left hand, wherever E is, you will see that finger have poor digrams OR you'll be putting E in a bad position.

    I appreciate your belief that I'll regret this, but currently I'm saying that the conceit is I'm not willing to switch hands. We may readily agree, even, that this is a stupid conceit. But if we have this conceit, what emerges when we move forward? You suggest that LO is just terrible together, so would you recommend your standard rotation of letters in the top right? I know you usually only recommend that to start the process of moving the P over to the left hand in the Colemak progression.

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    stevep99 said:
    Jojirius said:
    QWDG F J UKL;
    ASET R Y NIOH
    ZXCV B P M,.?

    It achieves your objective of not swapping keys between hands, but at a cost of worse bigrams as DreymaR says. I wouldn't criticize the H on pinky particularly, since standard Colemak as A and O on pinkies which are both very common, but I still think the M key is a better place for it, as M is an underrated position in most layouts (hence Mod-DH!)

    If you were going it stick with something closer to your current layout, I'd at least switch L/U to avoid same-finger LO. K is in too good a position as well, and the R is annoying in the G position. The frequent DE bigram could be avoided by having the top row QWFDG, at least FE is less frequent.

    Colemak does only cause 2 keys to change sides, which is a small price to pay for the extra goodness you get.

    QWFR D J LKU;
    ASET G Y NIOP
    ZXCV B M H,.?

    I think this is your proposal? I just moved R back, then went through your logic.

    I see more DH-mod going in, which I'm happy with, sure. I will say that it seems OU is a fairly common digram too, more so even than LO.

    EDIT:
    After experimentation, I'm going back to UKL and then looking into other solutions from there.. I don't think the U-L swap solves the issue. A rotation might be necessary.

    Last edited by Jojirius (05-Jul-2017 21:24:08)
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    Try this for no-hand-switching:

    VFGR W K HU.J ;
    SAET C , NIOL /
    XBZD Q P MY-'

    This prescribes the BEAKL philosophy of minimizing the pinky usage and maximizing stronger and faster fingers. Never put a vowel on the pinky finger as that would overwork it, plus it's slower to press, leading to fatigue. Distance and finger effort is somewhat better than Colemak; but sometimes falters on same finger usage.

    Hand balance is actually better than Colemak. QWERTY already favors the right hand. By moving the E to the right, you're unbalancing even more, causing more strain on the right hand.

    If you want to keep bottom row for Ctrl-editing, just a slight alteration:

    QFGR W K HU.J ;
    SAET B , NIOL /
    VCZD X P MY-'

    Even better, the most often used Ctrl-C copy and Ctrl-V paste is closer to Ctrl; less stretching.

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    • From: Chicago
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    That depends of what you believing in. Russian users of йцукен layout will completely agree to your thesis of minimizing pinkies usage in favor of index and middle fingers. But doing that you literally limit your touch typing from 10 fingers to 8 fingers. Pinkies are trainable. I see nothing wrong in regular usage of pinkies in home row like Colemak does. Been a mostly йцукен user in the past, I may tell that my pinkies was almost not used for typing at that time and they are much stronger now. One resent example. I'm using Angle mod on ASCII keyboard, now I have physical troubles of pressing Z with left pinkie on a matrix board, because it is untrained to do that.
    Layouts look good. Running them in https://colemakmods.github.io/mod-dh/analyze.html giving good scores, but not as good as Colemak DH though.

    Last edited by ckofy (13-Jul-2017 19:15:46)
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