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    New custom layout (Dvorak + Colemak)

    • Started by Icte
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    • Registered: 11-Sep-2018
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    Hi there!

    Long time lurker, newly registered. Was not entirely sure if I should post here or somewhere else, but given that Colemak forum seems to be the biggest forum for alternative keyboard layouts (Colemak) I decided to do so here!

    I am a long time user of staggered QWERTY keyboards who started to use Dvorak (almost loved it) on an ortholinear/matrix keyboard (Planck) for a few months, then moved on to Colemak (also almost loved it) for another couple of months and finally almost settled on Colemak Mod-DH (brilliant mod for Colemak BTW) until I realized there was one issue with it - lack of "asymmetrical" keycaps for this specific layout. For instance, when you buy printed keycaps in e.g. OEM or Cherry profile, where each row differ from the other, there are usually an option to add a so called "Colevrak" kit which includes a few more keycaps in order to setup a keyboard with Dvorak or Colemak legends, but unfortunately they do not include keycaps for Colemak Mod-DH (which is not surprising given that it is a modification).

    The lack of keycaps is of course not a dealbreaker for me but as a user who likes proper legends on my keyboards I started to look for a way to modify the standard Colemak layer to fix similar issues which Colemak Mod-DH takes care of. Simultaneously, given that I had grown accustomed to Dvorak and liked the way this layout approached certain solutions (such as the TH bigram), I decided to combine Dvorak and Colemak in order to create something new.

    The rules for this new layout were the following:

           1) Retain letters on the rows which they are allowed to exist on given the standard QWERTY, Colemak and Dvorak layouts.
           2) Use two of F,J,U,H,T,N on the homing key locations (home row, underneath pointing fingers resting position).
           3) Keep ZXCV on the bottom left corner.
           4) Move H to a more accessible position near T.
           5) Keep almost all of the letters ARST NEIO on the homerow under the resting position of the fingers - if moving one, put it at a comfortable position.
           6) Avoid uncomfortable same-finger bigrams.

    From 1), a table was created:

    Row 1:       C   E F G    I J     L      O P Q R    T U   W   Y    , . ;   "

    Row 2: A      D E F G H I J K L   N O        R S T U                   ; / "

    Row 3:    B C                  J K   M N        Q            V W X   Z , . ; /

    Following these rules, I started to experiment while testing my different ideas with the Layout Analyzer Tool on the Colemak Mod-DH Github page:

    https://colemakmods.github.io/mod-dh/analyze.html

    This was the end result:

    ,   . R P J G F U Y ;
    A E S N L D H T I O
    Z X C V B K M W Q /

    It scores 1.80090 in total with the Matrix layout, which can be compared to 1.88550 for Dvorak and 1.75468 for Colemak. While not as low as Colemak (or Colemak Mod-DH), it does have certain improvements towards Dvorak and as such can be seen as a Dvorak-improvement using some of the ideas behind the existing Colemak and Colemak Mod-DH layouts.

    I am far from an expert in layout creation and this was only created after a few evenings of experimenting, but I would very much like to hear what you think of it!

    Last edited by Icte (11-Sep-2018 15:22:32)
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    Now there's a kindred spirit. :) Way to experiment with what is possible!

    Very interesting! I've recently come to appreciate Dvorak's strengths while working in a software environment that is most efficient with Dvorak. While it's not replacing Colemak-DH for me anytime soon, it's easy to see why it represents a positive shift from QWERTY. Definitely a good layout.

    Have you compared the metrics to find out which hand the layout tends to favor? That may be one of the few negatives that come up when I talk about Dvorak, the fact that it puts so much emphasis on the right hand when greater symmetry is possible.

    Was there a particular reason for the position of "L"? That differs from both Colemak and Dvorak, so it had me wondering.

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    Icte said:

    Following these rules, I started to experiment while testing my different ideas with the Layout Analyzer Tool on the Colemak Mod-DH Github page:

    https://colemakmods.github.io/mod-dh/analyze.html

    This was the end result:

    ,   . R P J G F U Y ;
    A E S N L D H T I O
    Z X C V B K M W Q /

    Creating layouts is fun :P

    The biggest issues I see are the same-finger TU, which is a lot more common than any of Colemak's. Another thing I'd be wary of is the E on the ring finger. Maybe it depends how strong you feel your ring fingers are, but I don't think I'd be happy with either E or T on a finger that was not index or middle.

    I know what you mean about keycaps, but to me it's not a big issue - you shouldn't be looking at the keycaps anyway. I have re-arranged the keys on my laptop, as they are all the same, but for my main keyboard, I use blanks for the ones where the profiles don't match Qwerty.

    Last edited by stevep99 (13-Sep-2018 13:23:33)

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

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    Thank you both for your responses!

    @azuvix: Dvorak does certainly have its strengths, especially compared to QWERTY. I am quite fond of the locations of T & H as well as the dot & comma on the upper left row which is what I have tried to preserve in the layout I described above (I am mostly using left shift with my pinky which makes access to < and > quite easy). What eventually made me move on to other layouts was mostly the locations of L (especially in conjunction with S on the pinky, very tiring when using the terminal command ls in Linux while digging around in different directories), F and I - the locations of ZXCV did not bother me as much as I mapped Ctrl to also temporarily activate QWERTY and as such did not have to re-train different Ctrl commands, such as copy-pasting.

    Regarding hand usage, I have not played around enough with the layout to come with a personal conclusion to if I feel more usage from one hand compared to the other but it is something I had in mind during its creation. Using the tool I mentioned above I noted the following metrics on a Matrix keyboard configuration:

    Dvorak: 0.45044 Left, 0.54956 Right
    Colemak: 0.45442 Left, 0.54558 Right
    Custom layout: 0.51777 Left, 0.48223 Right

    According to this, it does favor the left hand slightly more than the right as well as balancing out the load on both hands a bit better than Dvorak and Colemak, and I did feel slightly more usage of the left hand compared to when using the Colemak Mod-DH layout.

    I was a bit conflicted to the placement of R, P, J, F, G and L and was mixing around to try to find a proper place for these keys. It did feel better to have L where it currently is instead of e.g. R and F as these seems to be used more often in the English language, and as such it ended up where it currently is. While not as easy to access as it is on Colemak, it is easier than its placement on Dvorak and is still on a place where it is (personally) easier to move the index finger to as compared to the placement of e.g. J.

    @stevep99: It definitely is fun creating new layouts! :)

    Same-finger bigram UT is an issue I have not been able to solve yet. Switching e.g. F & U creates a bigger problem when typing words such as "though" where the three letters UGH end up being used by the same finger. I felt that it would be an easier "type" of same-finger bigram where U is typed with the long finger which is then moved back to its resting placement on the homerow above T where in turn this key is pressed immediately after, but it is a same-finger bigram nonetheless.

    The position of E does personally not bother me as I am equally comfortable to type the keys on the homerow under the index, long and ring fingers but I understand your concern! Earlier in this project I did try having E where S currently is (under left long finger) but it caused some issues with same-finger bigrams and I ultimately decided to move it a bit more to the left.

    True, it is much better typing without looking down on your hands. I have done this for many years now and mostly use blank keycaps myself as well, but this idea stemmed from when I was switching around the lettered keycaps on my Planck keyboard which I decided to keep just for the looks :)

    EDIT: I just noticed you wrote TU-bigram. This is an issue indeed and a small, quick solution I just thought of is to switch the places of U & Y. What do you think of this?

    Last edited by Icte (14-Sep-2018 01:02:15)
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    Icte said:

    The position of E does personally not bother me as I am equally comfortable to type the keys on the homerow under the index, long and ring fingers but I understand your concern! Earlier in this project I did try having E where S currently is (under left long finger) but it caused some issues with same-finger bigrams and I ultimately decided to move it a bit more to the left.

    Yeah, it's hard to fix one problem without causing other problems elsewhere. It's like in a balloon - you press it in at one location and it bulges out somewhere else.

    Icte said:

    I just noticed you wrote TU-bigram. This is an issue indeed and a small, quick solution I just thought of is to switch the places of U & Y. What do you think of this?

    By TU I really meant the pair in either order (i.e TU+UT), but no doubt TU is the less frequent so I should have written UT.

    The U/Y switch looks to be an improvement bigram-wise, but seems to score worse overall for some reason. I maybe the right-middle finger has too little to do, Y being less common than U.

    Last edited by stevep99 (15-Sep-2018 16:00:12)

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

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