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    The new Apple Keyboard goes Colemak

    • Started by Korivak
    • 11 Replies:
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    • Registered: 20-Oct-2006
    • Posts: 111

    Apple recently released a new keyboard that's basically a MacBook keyboard for desktop computers.  It's amazingly thin, but still sloped like a normal keyboard, making it very comfortable for the wrists.  The front is just barely off the desk, and the back is lower than the front of most other models.

    It has the distinctive feel of a laptop keyboard, with the shallow travel and the little clicky-crunch feel, so if you like the old clacky IBM Model M style boards, this is not for you.  If on the other hand you've spent a lot of time on laptops (like myself), then you might enjoy this.

    But as awesome as it is, it's still not perfect.  It's still QWERTY.  But that's easy to fix.

    colemak-swap1.jpg

    All you need is a small screwdriver or any other small, hard object that you can use as a lever.  Start at the top left of the key, pry it up gently, then pull backwards until the key twitches slightly.  That's the keycap connected to the scissor-switch.  You want to pop the keycap off and leave the spring below in place.  Pry upwards gently, and the keycap should come lose.  If not, try pulling the screwdriver a bit farther up (you need to by prying on the last tiny bit of the keycap.).

    colemak-swap2.jpg

    After that, do the same thing on the left corner too, and the keycap should just pop off.  Note the two little clips on the bottom of the upside down keycap above -- those are what you are trying to detach.  Check the spring below (it should be connected on the two top corners).

    colemak-swap3.jpg

    This is how far in your lever should be -- any deeper, and you are prying against the spring.  Be careful of this, since it won't get the cap off and it might break your board if you keep at it.

    colemak-swap4.jpg

    And that's all there is to it.  Just pop off, make a space, and put the key on the new spring by setting it in place and slowly and firmly pushing down.  For letters that are symmetrical (S, N, I, O), check the bottoms to make sure you're putting it on right side up (they won't stick unless they are on the right way).

    colemak-swap5.jpg

    Nearly done.  Remember, not every key needs to be moved.

    colemak-swap6.jpg

    Finished.

    colemak-swap7.jpg

    Now put your old (Colemak) keyboard on a shelf and enjoy your new slim model.

    colemak-swap8.jpg

    Dirty old QWERTY IBM keyboard for gaming under Boot Camp not included.

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    • From: Köln, Germany
    • Registered: 01-Apr-2007
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    Thanks, Korivak! I was wondering how long it'd take until someone came up with the idea of modding one of the new apple keyboards. Well, nice job.

    If only you'd have used proper colemak... *sigh*

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    I use Google Reader several times a day, and can't stand not having the 'J' and 'K' next to each other for next and previous.  Also, 'B' is about ten times more common than 'J'.

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    • Shai
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    • Registered: 11-Dec-2005
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    If you're using Firefox, you could use a GreaseMonkey script for these kind of things, e.g. something similar to this.

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    I'm using Camino, which is the OS X native port of Firefox.  Sadly, no plug-in support.

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    • From: Houston, Texas
    • Registered: 03-Jan-2007
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    Excellent!  Now if Colemak would just come available as a standard alternate layout like Dvorak.

    If B is about ten times more common than J  then standard colemak makes more sense to me personally.  The left index reach to B below positon is more comfortable for me the right index reach above.   

    I am reluctant to do this moving around because OS X refuses in some situations to use anything other than qwerty and happens to annoyingly often to want to actually change the board.  Besides when I am really using Colemake to the best advantage and never looking at my keyboard.   I would think this could be too much of a crutch.

    Still,  it's nice to see!

    Last edited by keyboard samurai (27-Aug-2007 16:04:21)
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    I find that reaching up for the 'B' is more comfortable than reaching down, personally.  It comes down to personal preference in the end -- which is why I don't make a big deal about my tweaks in general.

    I've never had any problems with the layout under OS X.  I set it to Colemak-B permanently last December and it hasn't budged since (other than while virtualizing Windows, of course).  I did have an odd problem with Opera stubbornly sticking to QWERTY, but I only ever used it for checking web pages I made, and not as a primary browser.  Other than that one app, no bugs.

    And yes, I do still catch myself peaking at the keyboard occasionally...never have broken myself of that bad habit.

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    • From: Houston, Texas
    • Registered: 03-Jan-2007
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    yes, Opera is a particularly irritating case.    I find iCal always keeps flipping back to qwerty. 

    I have been caught a few times with system stuff where I have to enter stuff in qwerty like passwords correctly or get locked out and I always have to login using qwerty.    Stuff like that makes me a little cautious about moving the key caps, though it would be fun to do. 

    I also have had some experiences in VMWare Fusion when using AutoHotKey where some critical business programs stopped working. That makes me a bit cautious and conservative when time is short and I need to get some information quick from the corporate office, I would just as soon not risk it and type in Qwerty (passwords and such) to get in find the information I need with no hangups.   When stuff is not critical, most of the time AutoHotKey works just fine though.

    Last edited by keyboard samurai (27-Aug-2007 19:33:41)
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    • From: Houston, Texas
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    Opera 9.5b  beta mostly now does not switch back to Qwerty from Colemak.   There still seem to be some instances where it switches like forms such as when logging in to the forum here when you select the user password box, it switches back to Qwerty, but for the most part when opening new tabs or windows it stays in Colemak now.

    Opera 9.24 the main current release still annoyingly flips back, though there are reports that it doesn't do this in Leopard with 9.24,
    http://my.opera.com/community/forums/to … ?id=209130

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    • From: Toronto, Canada
    • Registered: 13-Feb-2006
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    To continue the original theme of switching an Apple keyboard to Colemak, I just did that, but unlike most postings online, mine was the wireless bluetooth kind. I was scared out of my mind as I did it that I would break something, since the keyboard costs almost twice as much as the wired version. But I'm happy to report that was not the case and the switch went perfectly.

    However -- I was already extremely proficient at Colemak on normal QWERTY layouts, and not only that, I've now found out the hard way that when staring at the keyboard to perform keyboard shortcuts, I really, really want to push S (D in Qwerty) when I mean to push R (S in Qwerty). And my typing speed has also decreased because my fingers aren't finding the bumps in the F and J keys like they used to. It still works for me, I just have to be more conscious of preserving my fingers on the home keys when at rest. I've heard of "bump" stickers or of using glue or a soldering iron to burn in new bumps, but honestly, I think I may just switch the keyboard back to how it was...

    I did the wireless one because I bring it along with me to school in my backpack, for use with my bluetooth-enabled Mac-running EEE PC 901. I was sick of people not being able to type on my keyboard and having to switch keyboard layouts. I was also tired of having to explain the idea of keyboard layouts in the first place -- I mean, most people think the QWERTY layout is the "English" layout, if they even think of it at all, so the idea that you could push an S key and get an R is confusing and unsettling for most people. A rearranged keyboard layout, while still strange, at least feels more normal, and it invites people to try Colemak for themselves.

    In fact, I hope I can convince my brother and Dad to give Colemak a try on this keyboard, as while both of them are hunt-and-peck typists, I think they will appreciate the layout once they start using it. I mean, you get a real "Jeopardy" feeling looking at the home row: ARST...NEIO, All that's missing is L and U and you have RSTLNE+vowels. So once I've used this keyboard as a conversation piece and conversion tool, I think I'll swap the keys back, or at least the F and J keys for their bumps. I plan on putting stickers on an MS Ergo 4000 keyboard soon anyway, so I can show off its double ergonomic form + layout benefits. (And not worry about others being able to use my keyboard.)

    Having said all that, I'm proud to say that I'm having an easier time switching between Colemak and Qwerty than ever before. Except I think I'll have a little bit more trouble typing Qwerty on a Colemak layout than I do typing Colemak on a Qwerty layout. And I really, really hope I can customize Eclipse's keyboard shortcuts on Mac to fix the above mentioned bug. It's quite obvious in the Aptana code editor.


    Louis.

    P.S. While I was at it, I removed some dirt from under the down arrow key, which was tiny and felt even tougher to remove. WIthout the dirt, the key doesn't seem to "stick" like it used to, but unfortunately it still sometimes "double-taps" the down key signal when I've only pressed it once. Too bad I didn't try to fix this while the keyboard was under warranty, assuming there ever was one (it didn't come with my Mac).

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    • Registered: 09-May-2007
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    A full standard colemak customization just for pics, just once, would be nice.
    ..but I actually want a backword key instead of a backspace.  heh.. It seems once you're looking at colemak, you're getting the people too picky to even use any kind of standard key layout at all.
    'The other day I noticed that I type 'I don't know' a lot, so I just made a key for it.  I don't type 'j' much, so that's what it replaced.  My 'J' is now altgr+fn+z!'
    *sigh*

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    • From: Oslo, Norway
    • Registered: 13-Dec-2006
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    AltGr+Fn+z?!? I don't know...   ;)

    Louis said:

    I mean, you get a real "Jeopardy" feeling looking at the home row: ARST...NEIO, All that's missing is L and U and you have RSTLNE+vowels.

    The most common letters in English are usually found to be ETAOINSHRDLU (at the end there it gets quite dependent on your syllabus). Given that there are 10 easily reached keys on the home row and that Shai didn't want to move the more rarely-used punctuation keys around more than absolutely necessary (which amounts to the semicolon key!), it fits that bill perfectly. I should also mention that the Colemak (W)FP and LU(Y) keys are (afaik...) the most easily reached keys after the home row ones when using the usual touch typing method.

    Last edited by DreymaR (23-Apr-2009 11:59:52)

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

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