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3 months in

  • Started by stratacast1
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For a while before I switched, I was kind of curious about keyboard layouts, originally wondering why I would switch from QWERTY. So eventually for kicks I tried Dvorak. Hated it. Mainly because it was just SO different and realizing most shortcuts I use would vanish. After watching Youtube videos on others' opinions on Dvorak, some folks mentioned Colemak. So one night I pulled up an online typing program and tried it for fun. DANG I never knew I could type so slow, but it became a curiosity, so I tried it more in my free time. I thought, hey, if this does happen to be a useful keyboard layout, maybe it will help with my gradually-getting-worse wrist pains from sysadmin work and programming and school. Boy did it take a while though. But now typing feels more natural, my wrist pain IS reduced, and when I type I don't feel like my hands are flailing around like a fish out of water.

So to fill in info from Shai's list:
* I've used QWERTY before like most, and I didn't really start learning to type until 2nd grade soo...it's been 15 years of it.
* I have used Colemak daily now since mid November, so it has been 3 months, and I type maybe 3 to 8 hours a day

* When I started to learn Colemak, it mainly started with me using an online typing program (thetypingcat.com). I honestly was able to memorize the entire layout in one night. I would also at random times try to go through each row in my mind when I wasn't doing anything. Eventually, I tried typing what I could with Colemak, but saved the big stuff for QWERTY when I still needed speed. After 3 weeks I decided to take my typing and put it to the test, as the last time I tested my speed it was 20WPM (from my usual 100WPM). So I decided to take notes one day in class. WOW I WAS KEEPING UP!! So from that point, I just stuck with Colemak and typed everything, maybe switching once or twice to QWERTY from time to time. After one week my speed went from 30 to 35, then 35 to 45, and in 2 months I got up to the 50s consistently! All in just over a month of time. That was my progression and "path" I took to learn Colemak.
* For my operating systems, I use Windows 10 (secondarily) and Fedora mainly. My findings with Windows 10 is it keeps capslock and backspace all in one key, along with Fedora with KDE, and I think my FreeBSD servers too. Fedora with GNOME actually disables capslock!!! So I can use backspace properly now when I actually remember it's a thing right there. I also recall NetBSD doing this properly too (aside from it nuking the usability of numpads and whatever you call the insert, home, delete, etc. key grouping).
* For speed tests I mainly just use Type Racer.

Progression:
-Day1 - Probably 5WPM
-Week2 - About 10WPM
-Week3 - About 15WPM
-Week4 - 25-30WPM
-Month2 - About 50WPM
-Month3 - Current, 70-75WPM


I think the thing I can share most about tips for learning Colemak are to use it with an open mind. One of the biggest turn offs I see with people are that they don't perceive a need so they bash the idea of changing, even dissing legitimate truths about Colemak or just ignoring it. It's cool to not want to switch, but it's not cool to fling insults at a user or the concept of using an alternate layout. But at least I can return with obvious reasons Colemak is better and they have nothing ;) Just be certain you want to switch because it's actually hard to go back and you have to rebuild what you lost (PS - it's NOT worth going back)

Criticisms - well, where's my Right Alt key!??! I used that thing! Mainly for switching workspaces with one hand if my left hand is occupied with something (like food or coffee)

For me I think the worst thing about switching has been using Colemak on a QWERTY keyboard. It's no problem whatsoever when I type regularly, but if I have to finger peck something it's impossible. Kinda like translating from English to Spanish on the fly if you don't really know Spanish. And for Linux/UNIX admins: eventually you begin to get used to typing CLI commands with the new layout, and generally, it's nicer to type them on Colemak once you're used to it.

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Good to hear that you're liking it as well :) I have been going back and forth a couple of times, and no, changing back to qwerty isn't worth it, I had to switch due to getting a new job where was not able to use colemak, and I had to go back to qwerty for some years, but now leadership has changed and I'm able to do colemak again, and it really is a saver for my hands, being an IT-administrator I'm typing quite a lot during the day, and the little extra comfort that colemak brings me really adds up.

I also recently did the change to colemak-caw, which also really was even better for me, it changes some letters around, and lets you separate the hands a bit more, which is a lot more comfortable for the shoulders, and even more when you're typing on a laptop.

As I am a european user I'm used to use Alt-gr for different accents and stuff, so that never threw me for a loop, I'm don't even think about the keys as the same really, as they always has done different things for me.I have the same issue as you when I have to use a single hand, but it's a small price to pay for the comfort that I get from typing with a better keyboard layout.

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Yay, another happy camper! Thanks for the writeup! :-)

As Sotolf says, the AltGr key is generally considered more useful than a mere RAlt in the internationally inclined part of the community. However, it isn't that hard to get yours back – or you could even have both! :-)

In Linux/XKB, find your X11/symbols/us file if you're using the vanilla Colemak – or symbols/colemak if you're using mine. There you'll see a definition of level3 switch which you'll need to comment out. Presto. You'll need sudo privileges as these are system files. Try not to bork anything badly in there or the consequences may be unpleasant. ;-)

On Windows you haven't told us whether you use (my) PKL files or the Win installer. So I guess it's the latter then? For this, you'll have to get hold of a copy of MSKLC (The Microsoft Keyboard Layout Creator) and reverse-engineer your layout to have the US RAlt and not AltGr. But again, it's not that hard. Let us know if you struggle.

Last edited by DreymaR (15-Jan-2018 10:08:11)

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After reading what others have said, I found DH and haven't looked into CAW, but I found it interesting that so many enhanced alternatives exist! I may want to try them out, so long as they're easy to apply to many OSes...I use Linux daily, Windows just for gaming, will be getting a MacBook again to keep in the loop of all major OSes, and also do some admin work on FreeBSD and NetBSD hehe. Is it easy to apply some of these changes across many OSes?

I Also had no idea what AltGr was until here, so I learn something new every day! It'd make sense it is a more useful key internationally, and I expect as much out of a well thought out layout (AltR is barely used in the US anyways). Thank you for all this information DreymaR! I haven't heard of your packages until after I typed this up actually! I'm using all the vanilla packages found on colemak.com right now. It sounds like at least for windows, you have some neat packages as well as a program to handle these things in Linux and perhaps other *NIX OSes?

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Wait, I thought CAW was DH? I'm using the ANSI-Wide mod with brackets in the middle (kept the numbers row unchanged though).

Mods seem ridiculous but they are super comfy, unparalleled honestly.

Last edited by juice43 (17-Jan-2018 00:04:06)

ColemakDH typist

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juice43 said:

Wait, I thought CAW was DH? I'm using the ANSI-Wide mod with brackets in the middle (kept the numbers row unchanged though).

Mods seem ridiculous but they are super comfy, unparalleled honestly.

That would be me confusing things if it is ^^ I'm not sure if I want to mod or not. DH does make sense though. It is far easier to not have to extend for the DH keys. But idt I'm up for learning a mod...unless it's faster than switching to plain Colemak from QWERTY than MAYBE

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juice43 said:

Wait, I thought CAW was DH? I'm using the ANSI-Wide mod with brackets in the middle (kept the numbers row unchanged though).

Mods seem ridiculous but they are super comfy, unparalleled honestly.

CAW stands for Curl Angle Wide, so it's basically mod DH with the wide mod, which at least personally I find to be even more comfortable than just DH

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I'm a bit stubborn and insist on calling the DH-mod Curl(DH) since the point of it is to promote naturally curled fingers. Also since that goes well with AngleWide to produce the CAW moniker. ;-)

stevep99 is a bit stubborn and insists on calling it Mod-DH because that's what he called it in the first place. ;-)

Last edited by DreymaR (17-Jan-2018 15:29:23)

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I call it Colemak DH and sometimes Colemak Mod-DH.
AngleWide mode for the split columnar keyboard I'm using is delivered by moving and rotating halves.

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Is it hard to go from Colemak to Mod-DH? I might see some benefit in switching to it, but my main problem is Colemak is already just somewhat supported on  OSes, and DH definitely isn't. Wouldn't be a problem if I just used one OS, but I use...4 mainly, sometimes a 5th one

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No, it isn't hard. And furthermore, it isn't that hard to get either. For Windows, there's PKL or you can quite easily make an installer. For XKB systems it's also quite simple to tweak them to do something like this, or you can use my files. For MacOS, there's user-made solutions.

*** Learn Colemak in 2–5 steps with Tarmak! ***
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stratacast1 said:

Is it hard to go from Colemak to Mod-DH? I might see some benefit in switching to it, but my main problem is Colemak is already just somewhat supported on  OSes, and DH definitely isn't. Wouldn't be a problem if I just used one OS, but I use...4 mainly, sometimes a 5th one

For me, going from standard Colemak to caw, I dropped from ca 60 WPM down to 27, and then it took me a couple of weeks to get back up to 50, now I'm pushing on 60, so it's a lot easier than changing from qwerty to colemak.

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i do wonder if one day mod-dh will become simply colemak?

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bph said:

i do wonder if one day mod-dh will become simply colemak?

Yeah me too, it's such a comfortable and simple mod that really makes sense, I guess it just depends on Shai's willingness to accept it as such or not.

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stratacast1 said:

Is it hard to go from Colemak to Mod-DH? I might see some benefit in switching to it, but my main problem is Colemak is already just somewhat supported on  OSes, and DH definitely isn't. Wouldn't be a problem if I just used one OS, but I use...4 mainly, sometimes a 5th one

For me switching to Mod-DH took two weeks.
My solution for supporting a custom layout by all OSes is using programmable keyboards. Works everywhere where the external USB keyboard can be connected. Works over remote connection with no tricks required. I have three keyboards now and planning to build fourth. The Planck is the most portable of them and it is easy to carry it with you everywhere.

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ckofy said:
stratacast1 said:

Is it hard to go from Colemak to Mod-DH? I might see some benefit in switching to it, but my main problem is Colemak is already just somewhat supported on  OSes, and DH definitely isn't. Wouldn't be a problem if I just used one OS, but I use...4 mainly, sometimes a 5th one

For me switching to Mod-DH took two weeks.
My solution for supporting a custom layout by all OSes is using programmable keyboards. Works everywhere where the external USB keyboard can be connected. Works over remote connection with no tricks required. I have three keyboards now and planning to build fourth. The Planck is the most portable of them and it is easy to carry it with you everywhere.

Boy do I wish I had that kind of money for a keyboard! I love my current one, but it only does the obvious qwerty and then dvorak and workman, which, is impressive in its own merit for a consumer mechanical keyboard. My keyboard is also only a few months old now and I really love it, so I can't justify a new one. I'll just do the hard way...

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Workman isn't impressive, it's sad. ;-)

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:D couldn't say I've tried it myself, but it didn't take me long to see that Colemak was better ;) I had spent a couple weeks prior to using colemak watching people talk about dvorak and I saw it was also...interesting like dvorak. But I was more alluding to the keyboard has any pre-programmed keyboard layouts...I just wish we saw more colemak :(

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Workman isn't so sad in itself, it's YAKL (Yet Another Keyboard Layout) in a sea of others, and when it came it was based on some interesting ideas. What's sad is the degree of implementation it's gotten. Its proponents have been very busy pushing it into all sorts of systems so newcomers will think it's one of the best options based on its availability. And I really think it isn't!

I consider Colemak-Curl(DH) the optimal Workman killer. Once the home row of Colemak is curled, Workman just becomes YAKL with high same-finger ratio. And a creator who professes that same-finger bigrams aren't bad... which, again, is sad...!

Last edited by DreymaR (27-Feb-2018 09:52:36)

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At the beginning I also had idea that it is nothing bad about same finger bigrams, kind of easy to remember for muscule memory. Russian йцукен has a lot same-index-finger bigrams, trigrams, and even some quatrograms because of all frequent letters in the middle. But now I always notice when I’m typing SC or UE in Colemak and it seems like slow down in the typing flow.

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Indeed. For UE/EU I've learnt alternative fingering in the last month, helping out with the ring finger. More comfortable, but probably won't help my speeds much alone because it leads to some disorientation before it's completely internalized.

Last edited by DreymaR (27-Feb-2018 17:14:11)

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Dear ladies and gents,

This is roughly my 1 year in mark since I switched to Colemak, so I wanted to share how my first year has been :)

Now to be honest...I switched to Colemak Mod-DH. I have to say, typing on Mod-DH has been better FOR ME, I just have troubles often with reaching the "B" key, but I find that would have been the "G" key this entire time so...I really don't mind. What's interesting, is each time I type, whenever i have to do the slightest stretch beyond the comfort zones of the keyboard, I notice it. Could just be my wrist issues that I've had for some time now, but those stretches aren't as often as when I used QWERTY, I can say that much, as sometimes when I set up a test OS or have to use someone's computer, I almost always feel strained (and feel like an idiot because QWERTY is hard now).

Here's why I don't recommend MOD-DH:

  • It's not as universally available on OSes as Colemak (I've seen vanilla Colemak on macOS, OpenBSD and NetBSD and Linux...shakes fist at FreeBSD, maybe I should be the one to do a pull request)

  • Need to take extra steps to setup Colemak DH on your computer

  • If you virtualize operating systems like me, you'll have to set up Mod-DH on each VM, or SSH into it.

  • You'll want programmable hardware to REALLY enjoy it

(sorry for the wretched formatting, too used to HTML and Markdown and this "user-friendly" way of adding lists has stumped me)

But if you can get passed those things and sometimes put up with the inconvenience, I say if you're interested in Mod-DH (or other variants of Colemak) please do give it a try! What I've done is use what's provided on GitHub for macOS, for my Linux laptops (cuz I don't do Windows laptops) and times I've done FreeBSD and OpenBSD I've been able to make a modified evdev.xml and rules file to include my keyboard layout and it has worked well for me. For my workstation, I bought a Vortex Race 3, set it to Colemak mode and then programmed the necessary keys to match the Mod-DH layout. And since it use DSA-style keycaps I was able to rearrange my keyboard caps :) What's funny though, is people don't realize they don't have QWERTY TRULY memorized until they try to type it on my keyboard. They look down and their mind blows up haha.

I have about reached full efficiency for typing at this point. With QWERTY I was able to type upper 90s to 110WPM depending on the string (all Typer Racer tested), and right now I'm consistently getting upper 80s. I don't even care if I reach that speed though because the comfort of typing is worth any loss in speed. And I don't notice the loss in my day-to-day typing since I more or less type in quick bursts, think about what I typed, then quick burst again

All in all, thank you to Shai, and the geniuses behind the variants, and the people who have gotten Colemak readily available in most operating systems :)

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stratacast1 said:

I've seen vanilla Colemak on macOS, OpenBSD and NetBSD and Linux...shakes fist at FreeBSD, maybe I should be the one to do a pull request.

Colemak has been included in FreeBSD wscons since 2008, and should be available in X.org as well via xkeyboard-layout, since at least as long.

Last edited by ghen (13-Oct-2018 10:36:29)
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stratacast1 said:

What's interesting, is each time I type, whenever i have to do the slightest stretch beyond the comfort zones of the keyboard, I notice it.

I'd say this is because now you are using a much better layout, you notice the difference. It's general point about whenever you switch to using something of better quality: it makes you more discerning.

stratacast1 said:

Here's why I don't recommend MOD-DH:

  • It's not as universally available on OSes as Colemak (I've seen vanilla Colemak on macOS, OpenBSD and NetBSD and Linux...shakes fist at FreeBSD, maybe I should be the one to do a pull request)

  • Need to take extra steps to setup Colemak DH on your computer

  • If you virtualize operating systems like me, you'll have to set up Mod-DH on each VM, or SSH into it.

  • You'll want programmable hardware to REALLY enjoy it

Fair points for those who are looking to install a layout out-of-the-box on their OS. In that case you probably want an established layout that comes as standard and so base Colemak would be adequate (Windows excepted of course).

But to enjoy the full benefits of improved comfort and efficiency in your keyboarding, you'd be wanting to do more than just use bare Colemak - not the least is using Extend, but maybe other options worthy of consideration like moved modifiers, symbol/accent layers, wide layouts etc.

In the end, relying on a pre-configured list of layouts is always going to be rather limiting, and so the better bet will be to either install something customizable or use programmable hardware (or a usb remapper).

Maybe there should be some sort of effort to get Extend included as a built-in option in some operating systems?

Last edited by stevep99 (13-Oct-2018 14:17:40)

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

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stevep99 said:

Maybe there should be some sort of effort to get Extend included as a built-in option in some operating systems?

That'd be a dream come true for sure! But so far I fear that only Linux is within reach. My Extend implementation seems very stable and only a few layouts use the Level5 layers (for stuff that Colemak[eD] easily does with four layers anyway!) so there's almost no chance of conflicts... except for the function key mappings; those should maybe be optional for this.

The hurdle is adding my Big Bag to Linux. I guess I'd have to pull it apart a bit so as not to apply for the whole shebang in one go? And I'd have to make proper source files for the rules component because what I have now is not the recommended way (I provide edited precompiled files instead of the proper compilable rules source). Someone tried to show me how to do this once, but I couldn't quite follow it.

If someone wants to help me achieve this, please let me know.

There's bound to be many different wishes and habits when it comes to the exact mappings of each key. In Linux, that's not too hard for the user if they do their research.

Last edited by DreymaR (15-Oct-2018 08:37:30)

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