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    10 years later, should I pick Colemak over anything else?

    • Started by Andrew256
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    Hi everyone!
    I'm QWERTY touch typist for about 10 years, and finally gotten sick and tired of it's inefficiency. I thought about Dvorak but never got to it so far.

    Searched for topics on "Why should I use Colemak" and I found only some threads from 2006.
    It's almost 2018 and I'd like to ask - should I still pick up Colemak over other alternatives?

    I've read a ton of feedback, I've read FAQ, I understand what Colemak achieves, but I also understand that there's no ideal layout and each popular layout sacrifices something to improve on something else.

    So, why do you think Colemak is THE best of them all? Sorry if you've tired of explaining it to other people, but please bear with me and you'll probably get another follower for your holy army.

    A link to a similar topic where it's been discussed would be also great!

    Last edited by Andrew256 (07-Dec-2017 23:39:38)
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    Hi, and thanks for asking! If your search provided only old hits then it's a good time to ask this again. :-)

    You could use Colemak-CAW with Extend, and have improvement on many fronts. And you could use Tarmak to get there smoothly if you wish. See my sig topics.

    One good reason for picking Colemak(-CAW/-CurlDH/-whatever) would be support. We're an active community with members who contribute to solutions. There's solutions for major OSes and people working for them. If you were to choose some other variant out there chances are you'd be on your own and uncertain as to its efficency. Colemak is well tried out and moved further by an active and critical community who keep looking for the best options.

    Not all agree on what is best, and one solution doesn't fit all. So it's up to you:
    • How many keys would you accept moving (keeping in mind that it doesn't seem efficient to move more than 20 or so!?),
    • how much of a hit to your typing speed can you live with while learning (Tarmak could help with that),
    • how much deviation from other people's keyboards is okay for you (you could mod a lot of things including modifiers and many physical key positions),
    • how much do you care about ergonomy,
    • etc etc.

    My personal sales pitch could be that Colemak has so much more: Community, learning strategy, ergo mods, harmonized locale variants, enhancements such as Extend...! Many of these could be combined with other layouts, but without a vibrant community to help you do that it's a lonely and frustrating journey.

    Last edited by DreymaR (08-Dec-2017 12:54:31)

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    Andrew256 said:

    It's almost 2018 and I'd like to ask - should I still pick up Colemak over other alternatives?

    Short answer: yes

    Long answer: While there are many decent optimized layouts, Colemak achieves the best balance of advantages and disadvantages. Dvorak wins (marginally) on being a "recognised" standard, but is harder to learn, makes common shortcut relearning more difficult, and has some well documented issues such as its pinky L key. There are other layouts that change pretty much everything in pursuit of optimization, like MTGAP or the carpalx one, but I think these end up suffering from being harder to learn, while offering doubtful benefit over Colemak. On the other end of the scale are layouts like Asset and Norman which are easier to learn, but are somewhat less optimized, especially when it comes to same-finger bigrams. Workman has one or two interesting qualities, but has its own disadvantages, but in any case it's benefits  are nullified by Mod-DH, which fixes the most commonly cited criticisms of vanilla Colemak.

    Probably more important still, is that Colemak also has an active community, and is well known and recognised (for a keyboard layout). And there are supported variants and add-ons such as Mod-DH (i.e. Colemak-CAW) and Extend, both of which I highly recommend.

    For fresh learners, I'd say the choice is pretty clear in favour of Colemak these days.

    Last edited by stevep99 (08-Dec-2017 12:27:36)

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

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    Ok, thank you for responding! I think I'm being sold.

    Just one question I got somewhat confused with:

    stevep99 said:

    Dvorak wins (marginally) on being a "recognised" standard, but is harder to learn, makes common shortcut relearning more difficult, and has some well documented issues such as its pinky L key.

    ...

    For fresh learners, I'd say the choice is pretty clear in favour of Colemak these days.

    If we disregard the complexity and familiarity with QWERTY entirely (let's assume I've never worked with QWERTY and learning to type from scratch, toddler style), is Colemak indeed a clear choice over Dvorak?

    The FAQ certainly make it seems so:
    https://colemak.com/FAQ#Is_Colemak_bett … ramming.3F

    But, as always, the opinions on the internet are very polar.

    In your opinion, is this true? Is it really worth to pick Colemak over Dvorak if I don't have issues with relearning the full layout ?

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    Andrew256 said:

    Ok, thank you for responding! I think I'm being sold.

    Just one question I got somewhat confused with:

    stevep99 said:

    Dvorak wins (marginally) on being a "recognised" standard, but is harder to learn, makes common shortcut relearning more difficult, and has some well documented issues such as its pinky L key.

    ...

    For fresh learners, I'd say the choice is pretty clear in favour of Colemak these days.

    If we disregard the complexity and familiarity with QWERTY entirely (let's assume I've never worked with QWERTY and learning to type from scratch, toddler style), is Colemak indeed a clear choice over Dvorak?

    The FAQ certainly make it seems so:
    https://colemak.com/FAQ#Is_Colemak_bett … ramming.3F

    But, as always, the opinions on the internet are very polar.

    In your opinion, is this true? Is it really worth to pick Colemak over Dvorak if I don't have issues with relearning the full layout ?

    I learned dvorak some time when I was at the uni, and it really made my pinkey finger hurt, I didn't like it very much. Also in my biased way I didn't enjoy the feeling of typing in dvorak in any way better than what I do in Colemak. The flow that one gets in colemak is something that I haven't really managed to find in any other layouts before.

    I'd also suggest that while you're starting to learn, go with the angle wide dh mod at once, I did it the not smart way, and went through standard colemak first. And I kind of regret that I did, since caw is so much more comfortable to type with. One thing I don't think the others were mentioning about caw is that it makes typing on a laptop keyboard so much more comfortable since your hands aren't pushing your shoulders together as much, it really does make a difference.

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    sotolf said:
    Andrew256 said:

    Ok, thank you for responding! I think I'm being sold.

    Just one question I got somewhat confused with:



    If we disregard the complexity and familiarity with QWERTY entirely (let's assume I've never worked with QWERTY and learning to type from scratch, toddler style), is Colemak indeed a clear choice over Dvorak?

    The FAQ certainly make it seems so:
    https://colemak.com/FAQ#Is_Colemak_bett … ramming.3F

    But, as always, the opinions on the internet are very polar.

    In your opinion, is this true? Is it really worth to pick Colemak over Dvorak if I don't have issues with relearning the full layout ?

    I learned dvorak some time when I was at the uni, and it really made my pinkey finger hurt, I didn't like it very much. Also in my biased way I didn't enjoy the feeling of typing in dvorak in any way better than what I do in Colemak. The flow that one gets in colemak is something that I haven't really managed to find in any other layouts before.

    I'd also suggest that while you're starting to learn, go with the angle wide dh mod at once, I did it the not smart way, and went through standard colemak first. And I kind of regret that I did, since caw is so much more comfortable to type with. One thing I don't think the others were mentioning about caw is that it makes typing on a laptop keyboard so much more comfortable since your hands aren't pushing your shoulders together as much, it really does make a difference.

    Thank you for the input, that's what I wanted to know.
    I've already tried both vanilla Colemak and Angle-DH mod, and to be honest, I like vanilla better, mainly because I don't have issues with lateral finger movement and wrist position. On the contrary, shifting the bottom row felt awkward to me. Having huge hands and being a piano/guitar player had contributed I guess :) I'll keep that in mind in case I change my mind down the road.

    I've resisted re-learning layout for years because I was already touch typing in QWERTY, so making this huge effort again in case there will be something better than Colemak seems impossible to me, so I really, really want to be sure.

    P.S. I understand why people who already learned QWERTY don't feel like re-learning, but why do we still teach our kids this god-awful layout is truly beyond me.

    Last edited by Andrew256 (08-Dec-2017 20:23:16)
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    Andrew256 said:

    Thank you for the input, that's what I wanted to know.
    I've already tried both vanilla Colemak and Angle-DH mod, and to be honest, I like vanilla better, mainly because I don't have issues with lateral finger movement and wrist position. On the contrary, shifting the bottom row felt awkward to me. Having huge hands and being a piano/guitar player had contributed I guess :) I'll keep that in mind in case I change my mind down the road.

    Everybody telling about not having issues with lateral finger movements, but the thing is that whoever tried Mod-DH do not come back to vanilla Colemak (to be honest I heard about one case of returning back so far). This is not a problem, relearning from Colemak to Mod-DH takes just couple weeks at max.

    Andrew256 said:

    I've resisted re-learning layout for years because I was already touch typing in QWERTY, so making this huge effort again in case there will be something better than Colemak seems impossible to me, so I really, really want to be sure.

    If you already touch typing, you can pick another layout way faster than a person who never touch type. We are agreed here that touch typing ability is some personal trait that some people have more and some less. It is layout independent.

    Andrew256 said:

    P.S. I understand why people who already learned QWERTY don't feel like re-learning, but why do we still teach our kids this god-awful layout is truly beyond me.

    Start to teach children in school something other than qwerty is the only way to end qwerty’s domination. But that will unlikely to happen. The task in its scale is comparable to converting all countries to left side driving (this way, convert majority to what minority use).

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    ckofy said:

    If you already touch typing, you can pick another layout way faster than a person who never touch type. We are agreed here that touch typing ability is some personal trait that some people have more and some less. It is layout independent.

    I'm 3rd day in and currently at 25 wpm consistently. The is going far easier than I've expected and I'm not using Tarmak.

    Thanks again! I'll be sure to post my experience after a month or two.

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    ckofy said:

    The task in its scale is comparable to converting all countries to left side driving (this way, convert majority to what minority use).

    About one-third of world's population live in countries that drive on the left, so right-hand driving is not as dominant as you'd think. I'd be totally happy if Colemak or other optimized layouts were anywhere near even one-third coverage!!

    Last edited by stevep99 (10-Dec-2017 15:10:03)

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

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    The thing about Dvorak is that it isn't a bad layout per se, but it changes a lot of keys unnecessarily. Really, it accomplishes no better (and some feel, a little worse) than Colemak but at nearly twice the cost in key relearning. Not worth it for the newcomer, I'd say.

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    stevep99 said:
    ckofy said:

    The task in its scale is comparable to converting all countries to left side driving (this way, convert majority to what minority use).

    About one-third of world's population live in countries that drive on the left, so right-hand driving is not as dominant as you'd think. I'd be totally happy if Colemak or other optimized layouts were anywhere near even one-third coverage!!

    Going off-topic, looking to the map of left and right driving countries https://www.worldstandards.eu/cars/list … countries/ , among 266 countries in the list, there are 76 where left side driving is used. It includes all tiny caribean and pacific nations where left side is used a lot, and UK is counted as England, Scotland, Wells, and Northern Ireland. Talking about population, Indian subcontinent is the major contributor to the left side.
    Also here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_c … storic.png there are a lot of countries converted from left to right, but I see only  Namibia converted from right to left.
    My point was not about population, but that around the world the right side driving seems like more popular idea among different nations.
    BTW, I do not mind about left side driving and had experience of it during my vacation time, unlike many of people around me, who never tried that. I may tell that it took way longer time for me to get used to Fahrenheit instead of Celsius (literally years) than drive on the left side (three days).

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    ckofy said:

    BTW, I do not mind about left side driving and had experience of it during my vacation time, unlike many of people around me, who never tried that. I may tell that it took way longer time for me to get used to Fahrenheit instead of Celsius (literally years) than drive on the left side (three days).

    I suppose where this analogy falls down is that with left vs right hand side driving, there's no real difference in efficiency between them (except arguably it makes sense to have the clutch on the same side as the gearstick).  Whereas with layouts, Colemak/Dvorak/pretty much anything is way better than Qwerty. So perhaps the Fahrenheit/Celsuis analogy is more apt as Celsius is objectively more logical - but then most of the world has actually made the switch in that case!

    Of course, while were at, we should all be using base-12 instead of decimal, but that's even less likely to be adopted than Colemak!!

    Last edited by stevep99 (11-Dec-2017 11:52:56)

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

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    stevep99 said:
    ckofy said:

    BTW, I do not mind about left side driving and had experience of it during my vacation time, unlike many of people around me, who never tried that. I may tell that it took way longer time for me to get used to Fahrenheit instead of Celsius (literally years) than drive on the left side (three days).

    I suppose where this analogy falls down is that with left vs right hand side driving, there's no real difference in efficiency between them (except arguably it makes sense to have the clutch on the same side as the gearstick).  Whereas with layouts, Colemak/Dvorak/pretty much anything is way better than Qwerty. So perhaps the Fahrenheit/Celsuis analogy is more apt as Celsius is objectively more logical - but then most of the world has actually made the switch in that case!

    Of course, while were at, we should all be using base-12 instead of decimal, but that's even less likely to be adopted than Colemak!!

    That is you and me and people at this forum know that pretty much any layout is better than qwerty. For qwerty apologists this is not obvious. For them the situation is exactly as with the side to drive - left vs right, no real difference, why to change? The only reason why different countries changed left to right, or right to left side driving, is to be like their neighbor countries and do not switch when crossing the border or to buy cars without adopting them for other side.
    When all the world is using qwerty, there is no such motivation either.

    PS. Living in US it is as hard to find a car with manual transmission as the purple unicorn :)  But I used to drive stickshift, and then I rent a car with stick during my vacation in Ireland, and I agree to you that having gearstick on the left makes more sense. Not even because of the clutch on the same side, but because when driving "hand on the wheel and one on the stick" it is better to have you right hand on the wheel (been right handed of course).

    Last edited by ckofy (12-Dec-2017 15:01:18)
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    stevep99 said:

    Of course, while were at, we should all be using base-12 instead of decimal, but that's even less likely to be adopted than Colemak!!

    But that's what I'm talking about! So many things could be optimized and all that is needed is for the government to say "Starting from today, every new elementary school class across the country is going to study Colemak / base-12 / celsius / whatever isntead of their un-optimized counterpart"

    Ok, transitioning to base-12 will be insanely hard due to the fact that most already existing work and calculations use base-10, but what could be easier than to teach kids Colemak/Dvorak instead of QWERTY ? The only reason is that educational system and governments don't give a crap about keyboard optimization, because they are run by old conservative beurecrats who were born even before computers gone mainstream.

    Yup, I'm mad.

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    Andrew256 said:

    The only reason is that educational system and governments don't give a crap about keyboard optimization

    You nailed it! Just the thing is that 99% of people don't give a shit either!
    To be exact, that was an attempt to introduce something other than qwerty in schools:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PLUM_keyboard
    https://forum.colemak.com/topic/49-plum-keyboard/
    https://web.archive.org/web/20060701000 … //plum.bz/

    The site is down, the idea is dead, as I understand there was some local experiment in high schools to teach typing on PLUM keyboard.
    The keyboard itself is not the best to migrate to, but I still appreciate the attempt.

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    Ummm... why base 12 instead of base 16? I see no immediate advantage to that, other than catering to the habits of the ancient Babylonians and Chinese?

    [Edit: Ahhh... so that's why dozenal counting would make sense. Divisions made better, like on that ancient tablet. But... in real life these days we rely more on computing and less on manual division tables! So I still hold that to me it'd make more sense to drill hexadecimal counting. And after all, while 10 is divisible only by {2,5} the number 16 is divisible by {2,4,8} which is one more and handier than the unwieldy 5 – although it doesn't solve the problem of dividing by 3 like the number 12 does with its {2,3,4,6}.]

    Last edited by DreymaR (13-Dec-2017 10:56:11)

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    Unlike 16, 12 is a superior highly composite number, which brings a bunch of nice mathematical (number theoretical) properties to dozenal counting which hexadecimal lacks.

    The forum of the Dozenal Society of America has a lot of interesting information on and comparisons of many number systems.

    Alas, if even Colemak can't take over the world, Dozenal certainly won't. :-(

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    A lot of programmers tend to favour base-16, I also used to assume it was optimal until I found out a bit more about number theory.

    There is an excellent video here explaining why base-12 is so good.

    That said though, even if I were supreme dictator and king of the world, I wouldn't mandate a switch to base-12 — it would be a step too far. But I would mandate the use of an optimized keyboard layout for the next generation.

    Last edited by stevep99 (13-Dec-2017 12:03:46)

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

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    Going a bit off-topic here, but since I'm imagining myself as king of the world, I also declare:

    - Messing about with clocks twice annual for "daylights savings" would be abolished.
    - Dates would be written in ISO format YYYY-MM-DD.
    - The year would return to starting in March, so that the sept/oct/nov/dec prefixes made sense.
    - Fahrenheit would be abolished and only Celsuis (or Kelvin) used.
    - I have a soft spot for miles over kilometers, so miles would still be allowed. And beer would still be allowed to be served in pints. We all have our foibles.

    Last edited by stevep99 (13-Dec-2017 11:51:28)

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

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    I see your foible and raise you an obsession.

    Last edited by DreymaR (13-Dec-2017 12:07:22)

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    In fact senary (base-6) would be very nice as well.  It is also a superior highly composite number, so has similar features as dozenal, and it can actually be used for finger (not phalanges) counting on human hands, if you employ a "physical" positional notation.  1 through 5 are the fingers on your (say) right hand, and groups of six are fingers on your left.  So 1-5 is what we're used to, 6 turns over to one finger on your other hand, etc, until 35 = five sixes and five.  Much more economic use of our two hands. :-)  And base-36 is a nice "compression" base for senary, like hexadecimal is for binary.

    The real problem with switching to any other number system would not be the digits or getting used to the counting & arithmetic itself though, but the conflict with the metric system, which is heavily decimal.  You'de have to redefine anything that uses factors of ten, like kilometers, ..., which would be completely impractical.

    That being said, ever since learning about dozenal, I mentally group items into groups of four or six, rather than tens, when counting or sorting.  It's really much easier than ugly fives.

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