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    Hello Colemak, my new friend

    • Started by realArst
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    I am finally getting around to share my experience with Colemak. Since after switching to this goodness I really love to type, my post might be long one. But TL;DR – Colemak makes typing silky smooth I love it. It creates a rhythm and flow. I can try to describe the feeling further, but then this guy already did it with dog memes, so nothing further to add. Switching is actually not that hard, once you are prepared that switching a keyboard layout is really hard :lol:.

    I type around 50 WPM in QWERTY. My reasons for switching were partly that I wanted to improve my typing and speed, but also because somehow it always bugged me that something I use constantly is not optimized for the job.

    I have never had any real pain in my hands, but the whole experience typing on QWERTY gives you that “There has to be something better than that” feeling. What pissed me the most is the placement of the “P”, it is just so nonsensical having “;” in the home row and stretching up for a relatively common letter.

    I read a lot about alternate layouts, actually probably way more than anybody should ever read about keyboard layouts. If I invested the time spent reading in typing practice I would be at 230 WPM by now. But in a sense, it was interesting. I am probably going to write up a short summary of it so that future potential switchers can benefit from that knowledge. At one point, of course, I also tried to invent my own layout – and I did. Not just one but several, and they are all absolutely the best layouts ever created xD. I never really intended to use a custom layout, it was a more of a game, but by playing it I really came to appreciate how robust Colemak is.

    I switched mostly using The Typing Cat tutor – no particular reason for choosing it, probably it was at the top of a Google search. It allows you to start practice right away. It took me two weeks around Easter break to get to about 30 WPM, with 2 hours of practice daily. What really helped me out was hearing about the concept of deliberate practice on a podcast. It was really timely and I tried to apply it to Colemak.

    In the two weeks, I did about 2h a day or 30 hours total of deliberate practice to get off the ground with Colemak. I was in full Eye of the Tiger mindset, and even when not on a keyboard, I was often thinking “Right Index – N, Right Middle – E” to train my mind. I also switched my phone, so that Colemak was always in front of me. At about 30 WPM I was broadly functional and could start to feel the real benefits and pleasure of Colemak.

    I see on forums people wonder how quick they can switch and then measure the time in weeks or months. I think the important question to ask yourself is “How Slow can you Switch?”, can you afford to slow down for a bit and devote some proper time for practice and learning a new layout. Trying to complete a regular daily task with a new layout in the beginning is bound to piss off your brain royally. I switched cold turkey at a time when I didn’t have to do a lot of productive work on a computer, but if you have to maintain productivity, Tarmak might be a good idea.

    30 hours might not sound so much, but the first few ones are difficult. Your body is fighting you. I’d say it is too different from doing physical exercise – your biceps don’t want to do another set of lifting at a heavier weight, your legs don’t want to do that extra 1K of running. But your mind makes them and then you get a sense of accomplishment. Your finger muscles work the same way, and Colemak does give me a sense of accomplishment. It makes me happy to type on it.

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    realArst said:

    I am finally getting around to share my experience with Colemak. Since after switching to this goodness I really love to type, my post might be long one. But TL;DR – Colemak makes typing silky smooth I love it. It creates a rhythm and flow. I can try to describe the feeling further, but then this guy already did it with dog memes, so nothing further to add. Switching is actually not that hard, once you are prepared that switching a keyboard layout is really hard :lol:.

    I type around 50 WPM in QWERTY. My reasons for switching were partly that I wanted to improve my typing and speed, but also because somehow it always bugged me that something I use constantly is not optimized for the job.

    I have never had any real pain in my hands, but the whole experience typing on QWERTY gives you that “There has to be something better than that” feeling. What pissed me the most is the placement of the “P”, it is just so nonsensical having “;” in the home row and stretching up for a relatively common letter.

    I read a lot about alternate layouts, actually probably way more than anybody should ever read about keyboard layouts. If I invested the time spent reading in typing practice I would be at 230 WPM by now. But in a sense, it was interesting. I am probably going to write up a short summary of it so that future potential switchers can benefit from that knowledge. At one point, of course, I also tried to invent my own layout – and I did. Not just one but several, and they are all absolutely the best layouts ever created xD. I never really intended to use a custom layout, it was a more of a game, but by playing it I really came to appreciate how robust Colemak is.

    I switched mostly using The Typing Cat tutor – no particular reason for choosing it, probably it was at the top of a Google search. It allows you to start practice right away. It took me two weeks around Easter break to get to about 30 WPM, with 2 hours of practice daily. What really helped me out was hearing about the concept of deliberate practice on a podcast. It was really timely and I tried to apply it to Colemak.

    In the two weeks, I did about 2h a day or 30 hours total of deliberate practice to get off the ground with Colemak. I was in full Eye of the Tiger mindset, and even when not on a keyboard, I was often thinking “Right Index – N, Right Middle – E” to train my mind. I also switched my phone, so that Colemak was always in front of me. At about 30 WPM I was broadly functional and could start to feel the real benefits and pleasure of Colemak.

    I see on forums people wonder how quick they can switch and then measure the time in weeks or months. I think the important question to ask yourself is “How Slow can you Switch?”, can you afford to slow down for a bit and devote some proper time for practice and learning a new layout. Trying to complete a regular daily task with a new layout in the beginning is bound to piss off your brain royally. I switched cold turkey at a time when I didn’t have to do a lot of productive work on a computer, but if you have to maintain productivity, Tarmak might be a good idea.

    30 hours might not sound so much, but the first few ones are difficult. Your body is fighting you. I’d say it is too different from doing physical exercise – your biceps don’t want to do another set of lifting at a heavier weight, your legs don’t want to do that extra 1K of running. But your mind makes them and then you get a sense of accomplishment. Your finger muscles work the same way, and Colemak does give me a sense of accomplishment. It makes me happy to type on it.

    It is good to see that you're enjoying it :) Are you using the standard colemak layout or one of the variations? I've found Dreymar's Curl Angle Wide combination to really be the most comfortable to write with over the board. It took a bit of extra time to get used to, but it was well worth it, just for the extra comfort, as I huch my shoulders less together now when I'm writing on a laptop.

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    Thanks, I have come to point of enjoying it :)

    I use standard Colemak, as the creator intended it :lol:

    I have taken a look at Mod-DH (and spent a considerable amount of time playing around in the Layout editor on the site before switching), but don't find it very enticing. I think if you want to apply an angle mod, it might be the way to go. But to really get it going properly you need an ISO keyboard and I think the ISO left shift is a lot less ergonomic (an Angle mod I think negates the otherwise less ergonomic ISO enter). Also, Mod-DH in general seems to be influenced by Workman, which I read about and seems quite terrible. I really don't know how it kinda became a thing at one point (seems to have died now). By all evidence it was created by a guy who had an index finger the size of his pinky, so I don't see much value in fully minimizing the middle column. Also, Mod-DH breaks the ZXCV patttern, which I think is kinda the soul of Colemak.

    Last edited by realArst (30-Apr-2018 16:29:54)
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    realArst said:

    I am finally getting around to share my experience with Colemak. Since after switching to this goodness I really love to type, my post might be long one. But TL;DR – Colemak makes typing silky smooth I love it. It creates a rhythm and flow. I can try to describe the feeling further, but then this guy already did it with dog memes, so nothing further to add. Switching is actually not that hard, once you are prepared that switching a keyboard layout is really hard :lol:.

    I type around 50 WPM in QWERTY. My reasons for switching were partly that I wanted to improve my typing and speed, but also because somehow it always bugged me that something I use constantly is not optimized for the job.

    I have never had any real pain in my hands, but the whole experience typing on QWERTY gives you that “There has to be something better than that” feeling. What pissed me the most is the placement of the “P”, it is just so nonsensical having “;” in the home row and stretching up for a relatively common letter.

    I read a lot about alternate layouts, actually probably way more than anybody should ever read about keyboard layouts. If I invested the time spent reading in typing practice I would be at 230 WPM by now. But in a sense, it was interesting. I am probably going to write up a short summary of it so that future potential switchers can benefit from that knowledge. At one point, of course, I also tried to invent my own layout – and I did. Not just one but several, and they are all absolutely the best layouts ever created xD. I never really intended to use a custom layout, it was a more of a game, but by playing it I really came to appreciate how robust Colemak is.

    I switched mostly using The Typing Cat tutor – no particular reason for choosing it, probably it was at the top of a Google search. It allows you to start practice right away. It took me two weeks around Easter break to get to about 30 WPM, with 2 hours of practice daily. What really helped me out was hearing about the concept of deliberate practice on a podcast. It was really timely and I tried to apply it to Colemak.

    In the two weeks, I did about 2h a day or 30 hours total of deliberate practice to get off the ground with Colemak. I was in full Eye of the Tiger mindset, and even when not on a keyboard, I was often thinking “Right Index – N, Right Middle – E” to train my mind. I also switched my phone, so that Colemak was always in front of me. At about 30 WPM I was broadly functional and could start to feel the real benefits and pleasure of Colemak.

    I see on forums people wonder how quick they can switch and then measure the time in weeks or months. I think the important question to ask yourself is “How Slow can you Switch?”, can you afford to slow down for a bit and devote some proper time for practice and learning a new layout. Trying to complete a regular daily task with a new layout in the beginning is bound to piss off your brain royally. I switched cold turkey at a time when I didn’t have to do a lot of productive work on a computer, but if you have to maintain productivity, Tarmak might be a good idea.

    30 hours might not sound so much, but the first few ones are difficult. Your body is fighting you. I’d say it is too different from doing physical exercise – your biceps don’t want to do another set of lifting at a heavier weight, your legs don’t want to do that extra 1K of running. But your mind makes them and then you get a sense of accomplishment. Your finger muscles work the same way, and Colemak does give me a sense of accomplishment. It makes me happy to type on it.

    Excellent write-up! The buttery smooth feel in those dog gifs is something that can definitely be related to. The challenge of learning the layout was actually a lot of fun for me, and the thought of continuing to type buttery smooth for the rest of my life is pretty nice. You certainly can't go wrong with either Colemak or Colemak-DH, and I hadn't thought about the ISO factor. I wouldn't say it's dead however, a lot of people still use it. The article you linked is a terrific read too.

    Qwerty keys were not placed as a result of ergonomic considerations. Take the R key, for example. Colemak puts this on the home row. But in Qwerty it was moved to the top row. Why? To make it easier to peck out TYPEWRITER on a single row in sales demos by Remington reps. By accepting Qwerty, you are stuck in demo mode forever.

    Hope you can continue to get better and enjoy the layout!

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    Hi NottNott, thanks for the welcome. I forgot to say in the original write-up that part of what drove me to Colemak is the active community around it. You in particular seem to be one of the guys behind the recent Wikipedia article revival for Colemak, which I think is an amazing. Meeting Wikipedia's notability criteria is no small feat.

    I hadn't thought about the ISO factor. I wouldn't say it's dead however, a lot of people still use it.

    I meant to say the Workman layout is kinda dead (at least from my current impression), not ISO keyboards. ISO is standard in a lot of places and people are happy with it, I just think the benefit of a closer L-Shift and Enter make ANSI keyboards more comfortable.

    Last edited by realArst (30-Apr-2018 17:09:25)
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    realArst said:

    Hi NottNott, thanks for the welcome. I forgot to say in the original write-up that part of what drove me to Colemak is the active community around it. You in particular seem to be one of the guys behind the recent Wikipedia article revival for Colemak, which I think is an amazing. Meeting Wikipedia's notability criteria is no small feat.

    Thank you! It's nice to think that my efforts are making a difference. In addition to the Discord server (in my signature), I'm also slowly trudging toward getting the new Colemak Wiki to a baseline level of content. It's very empty at the moment and not in a promotable state, but the backends are configured now and really some man hours need to be poured into it. I don't know how much the community will take to editing it in the future, we'll have to see.

    realArst said:

    I meant to say the Workman layout is kinda dead (at least from my current impression), not ISO keyboards. ISO is standard in a lot of places and people are happy with it, I just think the benefit of a closer L-Shift and Enter make ANSI keyboards more comfortable.

    Oops, didn't read your post properly at all! Yeah, Workman is pretty dead it would seem. Ease of learning the layout seems to be a factor, it does look harder to switch to than Colemak for no particular reason. One rationale from the creator makes little sense:

    Just ask yourself, how often do you type ‘the’, ‘these’, ‘them’, ‘when’, and ‘where’, etc. on a day-to-day basis? It’s even worse when you’re typing these words in the beginning of a sentence. Try typing “The” with the T capitalized on Colemak and hopefully you’ll see what I mean. Your right hand will move somewhat like this: you swing to the right to get the SHIFT key with your pinky, then you swing back to the left to get the letter ‘H’, and then you move to the right again to get the letter ‘E’. All this is happening in a split second.

    Why not just swing to the left shift? It's not like you're going to memorise the worse way of typing 'The' and then stick to it. I don't know, maybe me and many others are just filthy biased Colemak users :D

    As for ANSI being better than ISO, I'm happy to go against the grain and say I prefer a larger left shift (press all the time) to an easy backslash (probably press this key on once every three months). I'd have to get used to a smaller enter key, but I could see it being better.

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    Errr... Colemak Curl(DH) isn't "influenced by Workman", beyond that it fixes the problem Workman too addressed. However, it does so without breaking what Workman broke. You're quite right that Workman seems horrible (I never tried it so I guess I have to put it that way), but Colemak-DH is still very much Colemak. Just with that little curl that some of us have grown very fond of.

    If you like the closer LShift and Enter of ANSI, then may I interest you in the Wide mod (closer RShift and all other right-hand keys!) and Extend (even better Enter!)? ;-)

    In my not so humble opinion, the Angle mod more than makes up for that distance to the LShift, which in fact is no longer than the ANSI board's distance to the RShift before the Wide mod is applied. Furthermore, using Angle your left pinky has no business to the right of its home position which also helps. My left pinky, admittedly, is rather left-oriented anyway as it operates the Caps key as Extend modifier a lot! Steve prefers using a thumb for that and who can blame him, but that way works very well for me.

    Last edited by DreymaR (01-May-2018 17:33:13)

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    Well, I have tried Workman, and you can take it from me that your intuitions were right.

    The real crime of it all is that the learning curve for the two layouts isn't very far apart. You can spend a month getting used to Workman or Colemak and probably get to a similar speed, but you may not recognize the problems with Workman until you've used it for a longer period of time and seen that you can't break 70 WPM no matter how hard you try. :P

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    The most amusing-tragic thing about it is that the creator of Workman loudly professed that same-finger bigrams aren't a problem...

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    If you don't use the angle mod and leave Z X C V in their original positions, you basically have to choose between either:
    option 1 - using uncomfortable fingering style (i.e. hitting C with middle finger); or
    option 2 - use non-standard fingering (hitting C with index finger, but at a cost of introducing new same-finger bigrams such as CT).

    Of those, I would favour option 2, but in either case, B is still in a terrible position. Fortunately, the Angle Mod saves you from having to make this choice. Not only that, but it fixes B as well. For me, the terrible B was the final straw leading to me adopting the angle mod.

    As DreymaR notes, I also think the left shift is unergonomic (especially on an ISO keyboard) so I use AltGr as a third shift key which I press with my right thumb. I think doing this completely fixes the issues with Shift and is a killer feature. YMMV.

    Last edited by stevep99 (02-May-2018 13:22:46)

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

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    realArst said:

    Thanks, I have come to point of enjoying it :)

    I use standard Colemak, as the creator intended it :lol:

    it might be the way to go. But to really get it going properly you need an ISO keyboard and I think the ISO left shift is a lot less ergonomic (an Angle mod I think negates the otherwise less ergonomic ISO enter).

    That's funny, I've never had a computer with an ANSI keyboard, so I can't really say that I know ISO is better, but it's cumbersome to write my native language without the extra keys on there, so I guess there is a reason why the ISO is standard over here. I usually forget that there even is such a thing as the ISO as all the countries I've been staying at has had either the ISO or the JIS standard, so that's just how a keyboard is to me :p

    Using the wide mod, as I do there isn't really any long distance to the shift keys, and there isn't really that often that I'm using the return key really, and it's so large anyway that it isn't that easy to miss, I'm also usually always hitting it with my ringfinger for some reason, so I'm not really overworking my pinky that much.

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    stevep99 said:

    If you don't use the angle mod and leave Z X C V in their original positions, you basically have to choose between either:
    option 1 - using uncomfortable fingering style (i.e. hitting C with middle finger); or
    option 2 - use non-standard fingering (hitting C with index finger, but at a cost of introducing new same-finger bigrams such as CT).

    Of those, I would favour option 2, but in either case, B is still in a terrible position. Fortunately, the Angle Mod saves you from having to make this choice. Not only that, but it fixes B as well. For me, the terrible B was the final straw leading to me adopting the angle mod.

    As DreymaR notes, I also think the left shift is unergonomic (especially on an ISO keyboard) so I use AltGr as a third shift key which I press with my right thumb. I think doing this completely fixes the issues with Shift and is a killer feature. YMMV.

    This was the post I needed to convince me of the angle mod! I'm sold. I've been using the UK ISO layout on your github with a Caps Lock to BKSP tweak. The angle mod changed keys took longer to get used to than the moved vanilla Colemak keys, but, now I'm used to it I feel as if DH has improved on perfection. Cheers!

    Last edited by NottNott (03-May-2018 04:11:47)
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    DreymaR said:

    Errr... Colemak Curl(DH) isn't "influenced by Workman", beyond that it fixes the problem Workman too addressed.

    Well, that is kind of what I meant by "influenced". I haven't seen the middle home row being identified as a problem until Workman rolled around. If anything, Dvorak has the "i" there and I have not read any Dvorak broken finger stories because of it. I mean the Workman guy when he divided fingers into categories, he differentiated between the middle and ring ("very long" and "long"), but put index and pinky into the same one ("short"). I mean sure, if your index finger is the size of your pinky, you need to make some adjustments.

    Other than that, I do think ModDH is obviously a lot more robust in the implementation and if the middle row starts to give me any trouble, I'd sure give it a try.

    Also, I have to give the whole Extend thing a close look, looks like it is a beast of it's own right :)

    stevep99 said:

    If you don't use the angle mod and leave Z X C V in their original positions, you basically have to choose between either:
    option 1 - using uncomfortable fingering style (i.e. hitting C with middle finger); or
    option 2 - use non-standard fingering (hitting C with index finger, but at a cost of introducing new same-finger bigrams such as CT).

    Of those, I would favour option 2, but in either case, B is still in a terrible position. Fortunately, the Angle Mod saves you from having to make this choice. Not only that, but it fixes B as well. For me, the terrible B was the final straw leading to me adopting the angle mod.

    Yes, I do option 2, it is just extremely unnatural to hit C with the middle finger. CT only increases same finger bigram by about 0.1% (reference your ModDH layout analyzer tool, which again I would like to thank you deeply for creating as I have spent some precious time playing around with) as SC screams as a common bigram as well. And then compared to option 2, ModDH actually puts C in a worse position and it is almost as common as D.

    However, I would agree with you on the B. I would actually say that the B is a very strong selling point for ModDH, much stronger for me that the whole mid-column thing. B is down the pecking order in terms of frequency, but still way too common for what is probably the worst place on the keyboard.

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    And one final thing...

    DreymaR said:

    but Colemak-DH is still very much Colemak.

    I completely understand what you mean, because ModDH is very much in the spirit of Colemak. But then again, in the strict sense, it is most definitely not Colemak, because there are 7 letters in different places. If there is one thing to learn from 150 years of QWERTY, it is that as far as keyboard layouts go, there is value in being strictly the same everywhere and anywhere and all the time.

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    realArst said:

    I haven't seen the middle home row being identified as a problem until Workman rolled around.

    He was probably the first to identify the issue and describe it clearly. I started off with vanilla Colemak, but it became apparent to me that the middle column issue was significant. I tried to ignore it for a while, hoping it would go away, but it kept nagging.

    There are different opinions on the subject certainly, with some saying for example that the Colemak HE presents no problem at all. There are also many others who do find it irritating, what with HE being so common. At least those who do find it a problem now have a solution  :)

    realArst said:

    Yes, I do option 2, it is just extremely unnatural to hit C with the middle finger. CT only increases same finger bigram by about 0.1%

    I agree. Like the centre column issue, this seems to have been a blind spot in layout design for ages. Dvorak, Colemak, etc are all designed assuming the traditional staggered finger technique, even though it doesn't makes sense. It's true that the using the "incorrect" finger technique doesn't hugely affect same-finger bigrams. I also used C for index finger for many years (even before using Colemak in fact) without being aware of it. 

    The B is the killer though. Were it not for the terrible B, I would have simply done a D>P>G rotation on vanilla Colemak to fix the D, and then continued to use the "wrong" fingers for ZXC, as I was initially resistant to the angle mod. Probably the worst thing about learning Mod-DH for me was, due it requiring the Angle Mod, having to move the C from index finger to middle finger, as the old technique was quite ingrained. In the end though, with its much improved "centre column" keys D and H, plus the bonus of avoiding the standard qwerty/colemak B, it made it well worth it.

    Last edited by stevep99 (07-May-2018 16:19:25)

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

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    realArst said:

    I completely understand what you mean, because ModDH is very much in the spirit of Colemak. But then again, in the strict sense, it is most definitely not Colemak, because there are 7 letters in different places.

    No, I don't agree. Because not a single key changes fingering, it's still Colemak. It has most of Colemak's stats in analyses, depending on how they're weighted and modeled of course. And it's really really easy to learn for a Colemak typist, like the Angle mod is: Breaks everything for a few days but then it's smooth sailing again. So I contend that Colemak-DH is still Colemak, just with a Curl(DH) mod.

    But of course, you did say "in the strict sense". And I do agree that the Curl(DH) mod is more drastic than, say, the Angle-ISO or Wide mods. But my main point stands: Colemak-DH is a Colemak variant, not a non-Colemak layout!

    I feel that it holds true even with the ANSI-Angle(Z) mod which does change the fingering of the Z. The saving grace is the rarity of Z. And after all, the Wide mod also moves a few symbols away from the right pinky and it's still Colemak enough for most.

    Last edited by DreymaR (05-May-2018 14:58:08)

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    DreymaR said:

    So I contend that Colemak-DH is still Colemak, just with a Curl(DH) mod.

    ... Curlmak (!)

    Last edited by stevep99 (07-May-2018 16:21:06)

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

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    Call it strange, but I don't even think that the relocation of Z should exclude the mod from being considered a first-class Colemak layout. It's plenty accessible, still fast and comfortable to type, and it's using a strong finger in a place that was ergonomically awful for B. If that isn't grokking the whole point of Colemak, I don't know what is.

    Total aside:
    Just for kicks and giggles, I think I'll translate some of the mods into QMK tonight and switch things around on my main keyboard. They do look very useful, and I've been meaning to give 'em a shot.

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    stevep99 said:

    ... Curlmak (!)

    Well, that is a pretty good name, I'll give you that much :)

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    Azuvix: Instead, could you consider porting my TMK repo to QMK? That'd be so nice, we could serve both platforms. If you have special desires, we could cooperate on enabling them for both?

    "Curlmak"? Yes, it's a good and snappy name. I think it's been suggested before? But I'm going to be boring and say I'm against it and prefer Colemak-DH or Colemak-Curl. The main reason is to keep the strong link to vanilla Colemak, so people don't think it's YAKL rather than Colemak with a killer mod.

    Last edited by DreymaR (09-May-2018 09:07:08)

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