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    Shifting keys to the left on the bottom row?!

    • Started by DreymaR
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    • From: Oslo, Norway
    • Registered: 13-Dec-2006
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    CShadowRun's UK Colemak layout inspired me to think about this, as he shifted all the keys on the bottom row one step to the left so that the Z is now on the VK_OEM_102 key that non-US keyboards have at the bottom left. Whatever used to be on that key gets re-inserted at the right hand end of the bottom row. (I think that somebody discussed this before, but I couldn't find the topic(s) right now.)

    Moving the bottom row one step to the left seems to have advantages once you wrap your head around it! Those inward-downward stretches were always horrible. And the B becomes an easier stretch at the expense of the more rarely used K, which is all as it should be.

    The biggest hassle may be having to type comma and stop with different fingers from before, as those are fairly common. The beauty of a bottom row left shift, otherwise, is precisely that you still type ZXCVBM (maybe even K if you want to) with the same fingers as before!

    Ah... hang on... What if you only shifted HALF the row, keeping the right-hand side (which works well enough) as it is and putting the OEM_102 key ('#' on your board) in that awkward position in the middle?! Apart from the slightly unaesthetic plan of punctuating the main letter block with a punctuation key, this seems to me a good idea.

    Maybe that'd appease people like Korivak who want to switch B and J because the B is on an awkward stretch and they don't care about the hotkey functionality for B? It'd even let those who DO like their Ctrl-B or whatever it is keep on using it in (approximately) the same position as before (see https://forum.colemak.com/viewtopic.php?id=234 for instance). At any rate, like Korivak's twist it would be an optional thing I guess.

    The letter block posted by sorenk at https://forum.colemak.com/viewtopic.php?id=189 (in a topic about a totally different layout):

    z q/w/f/g¦j l\u\y\-
     a/r/s/t d:h n\e\i\o ,
     /x/c/v p b:k m\,\.\?

    I see that Sorenk has tried to make a shift of both the upper and lower rows that works even with US keyboards, but I'm not too convinced about that one - for one, the key staggering is just a little to the left at the upper row (on most boards) so that a shift there would be more dramatical; and secondly, I don't think the upwards stretches are so bad and they certainly don't compel me to angle my left hand the wrong way as it is (I want to be able to hit the G and number 6 keys!). It may not be a bad idea per se - I just think it sounds like overkill moving both the Z and the P around like that. Certainly not a great idea seen from that hotkey perspective.

    It's too bad the US keyboards don't have the VK_OEM_102 key, or this could've been made a general rule. I'm tempted to do the same thing with my own keyboard! I wonder what Shai feels about the bottom half-row shift; that is, what he WOULD be feeling if all US keyboards DID have that extra key. (Gee, I wish my own keyboard had a Kana key - imagine the fun I could've had with THAT beauty!)

    CShadowRun, let us know how you feel about that shift now that you've been using it some.

    Last edited by DreymaR (24-Sep-2007 16:45:11)

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    • From: Oslo, Norway
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    Not much interest for this topic, it seems. Ah well - it's understandable if people get tired of "but what if we did THIS instead?" topics. Especially since the benefit from this one might be considered minor.

    I'm still a bit intrigued by this one though, especially since I believe that the learning cost would be very minor indeed. I don't think my motor memory would mind. And in that context, any benefit would be easy pickings. In my view, it would also not really change anything so dramatic that it'd break with the main Colemak paradigm; some may disagree with that though.

    The biggest contraindication as I see it, is the "backward" US keyboard.  ;)

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    DreymaR said:

    Not much interest for this topic, it seems. Ah well - it's understandable if people get tired of "but what if we did THIS instead?" topics. Especially since the benefit from this one might be considered minor.

    Since changing the layout is not an option, one may try changing the finger-key mapping to taste.  That's strictly between your fingers and your brain, and doesn't involve hardware or software modifications.  When I first saw the Colemak recommended fingering diagram, I was taken aback by:

    1) all that yellow.  The pinkies get quite a bit of responsibility!  There is no way I can manage what the chart recommends.  I hit 8 with my right index (RI) and hyphen with my right ring (RR).  Indeed I use my pinkies only for the letter rows (home and the row above and below it). 

    2) the off-by-one bottom row.  This was my fault: I had learned to type the bottom row wrong in qwerty without realizing it: I used to hit Z with my left ring (LR); X : left middle (LM); etc, etc; M : right middle (RM); comma : RR; period : right pinky (RP).  I have since corrected my bottom row for Colemak, and as you can guess, given the curves that that imposes on the wrists, it is better for my right wrist but is worse for my left wrist.  I might end up going back to my old left-wrist habits, at least for the Z and the X.   What aggravates the problem with the standard fingering is that the bottom row is staggered to the right quite a bit.  The A-to-Z stagger is twice as much as the Q-to-A stagger.  Using the left pinky to hit both Q and Z thus makes for quite a bad constriction in the left wrist.

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    Interesting thoughts about the fingering, but I'm worried that the wrist angles may be strained that way? When it comes to re-fingering letter keys, I'd be careful with that as it might spoil some of the bigram considerations Shai made.

    As for the fingering of the left-hand bottom row: At least, those keys are rare. So you may get away with what you've been doing and not really worry about it unless you're a perfectionist.

    The magnitude of the bottom-row stagger is indeed - forgive the pun! - staggering. That's part of what makes me think that the proposed shift might work, since the stagger would be approximately the same one way or the other except that the proposed shift would facilitate outwards wrist angling.

    Last edited by DreymaR (25-Jan-2019 09:27:08)

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    • From: Köln, Germany
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    Hey guys, i really like this idea.
    I made a picture of how i'd do it on my german keyboard. It only works if you have that extra key next to shift. The image is a bit cheap, but i made it with paint so... xD
    colemakstaggeringuz8.png

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    And there you go for 'normal' keyboards:
    colemakstaggeringuszy5.png
    By the way, ds26gte, I've been thinking about different fingering (?!) too, but as DreymaR said, realised that that would mess up the finger weights, digraphs and stuff.

    This fingering would make every normal keyboard more or less an ergonomic one.

    Last edited by vilem (25-Sep-2007 15:54:06)
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    Nice figures, Vilem. But I wouldn't move the P down like that, myself:
    - It defeats the idea of making the B more accessible and putting something rare (the VK_102) on the hard-to-reach old B position - this is what Korivak has been concerned with for instance
    - You're putting an extra key or two on the left pinky, which may be a bit much considering all it already does (10 keys, albeit some rarely used)
    - As mentioned, the grain of the row stagger is such on the top row that I find it to discourage the long rightwards stretch (try it on the pinky and ring fingers and see if you don't agree? - the middle and index fingers seem fine with it though)
    - It appears a much more drastic departure from the standard Colemak

    I find that the slight stretches to the left on the top row aren't bad, while the bottom row stretches to the left feel very bad. So I'd opt for the conservative change - just the five lower left keys, if any.

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    Well, being in North America and thus lacking that extra key in the bottom left, I don't see this working for me.  Moving 'Q' and 'W' over would break 'Quit' and 'Close Window' respectively and losing the 'Z' would break the Undo-Cut-Copy-Paste block.

    If I lived in a different hemisphere, then I might see the appeal (although you guys must have a terrible time with the left Shift key!).  But even within that limited audience, you're still only going to have a limited percentage that want to change their layout even after having already changed to Colemak.  Even my own Colemak-B tweaks are a bit of a pain, since I can't use the default layout files (worst problem word of all for me: 'job') and the '?' and '/' shift behaviour swap gives me trouble when I type a question or a complex URL on QWERTY .

    The less frequent the usage of the key, the harder it is to build up the muscle memory, so changes to 'Z', 'X', 'V' and -- depending on region -- 'Q' and 'W' will cause ongoing problems when using any combination of 'bottom row shift' and standard Colemak or QWERTY.  One of the key points behind keeping the corners the same on both QWERTY and Colemak is to make it easier to learn to learn the latter (and swap between the two while away from your home keyboard) than the mess that is Dvorak.  Bottom row shifting erases either a third or two thirds of that advantage (since Colemak changes one corner already).

    Now, I'm not saying that any of these things are deal-breakers (I do use Colemak-B, after all), but there are certain costs involved in any fiddling around with standard Colemak, and not everyone will consider them a worthwhile trade.  Even among the brave souls that do switch to Colemak in the first place, most are not willing to screw around with their layouts any farther...and that goes double for Shai.

    In the end, of course, you are the one typing on your own keyboard, and you can do anything you like to it.  That said, people tend to do the safe and standard thing instead of the adventurous and non-standard, which explains relative install bases of QWERTY, Dvorak, Colemak and non-standard Colemak (in that exact order).

    Last edited by Korivak (26-Sep-2007 03:22:13)
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    Heyy, how do we live in a different hemisphere?!
    What you are saying about the moving of Z is right, but at least the relative positions of X, C and V stay the same, which is more important than having Z with them.
    I just think this fingering sounds too good not to be considered. I'll try it out some time soon and give you feedback.

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    I'm in a different hemisphere from the UK keyboards (unless you are talking about the northern hemisphere, in which case I am not).

    Additionally, it's not the relative position of the XCV block I'm worried about; it's the absolute position.

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    Haha, I was actually just kidding.

    Alright, I'll try it out some time and tell you about my experiences.

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    Cmk-ISO-Angle_90d-FingerShui.png?dl=1

    I've been testing the half-bottom-row shift (ZXCVB< instead of <ZXCVB on my comp) a little now. It seems good!

    My speed is back to about 50 WPM sustained (TypingMaster 3 min) in just a few days; it's not been that much higher without the shift. (My best Dvorak speed was 60 WPM, and I was doing 55 WPM on a good day before I tried the shift.) That's a pretty low recovery time for me, so I'm not freezing up using this.

    My fingers have adjusted well to finding the keys, since the same fingers as before are used. I'm still just a little confused about digraphs and shortcuts but it doesn't feel bad at all. The shortcuts are now easier to do with one hand than before, for the most part.

    The B stretch is radically better now than before, and even more not having to do the old B stretch - this feels like the biggest improvement. I'm enjoying the C as well. The hand position feels better.

    This change can be implemented independently of Colemak. I'd recommend it to QWERTY users as well, if they wanted just a little improvement (although I'd be puzzled if they wanted that small improvement and not the HUGE improvement of Colemak!).

    I'd still not recommend making it a standard change to the Colemak definition, for obvious reasons: It does change a little more and as such would make some doubters a little more doubtful, and those primitive US boards just can't do it (although US citizens could buy a Euro board easily on the net these days). On the other hand, if someone in reach of a Euro board did doubt Colemak's not changing the bottom left row then this would be my solution.

    I'd still love some feedback on this from the Shai.  :)

    (Korivak: The Euro left Shift key, fortunately, isn't difficult for us who use it. Maybe our left Shift would be a problem for someone used to finding it in the US length, but I have a feeling that even that wouldn't be hard to retrain.)

    Last edited by DreymaR (25-Jan-2019 09:50:19)

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    • Shai
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    The shifted bottom row version ((ZXCVB< instead of <ZXCVB) may become an official variant of Colemak on 102-key keyboards. I'd like to hear more feedback from people who tried it.

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    I am writing this post with the version of double shifted colemak that I posted a picture of further up this thread. It's the one that Drey made for me and that puts another 'z' on the normal colemak 'q' spot.

    Anyways, now I'll tell you about how it's going: Horrible. This is virtually the first thing I'm writing with double shifted colemak and it's really a pain. However, I can already feel the potential of this and I'll post about my further experiences later on.

    Shai: I don't think there should be several official versions of colemak, that would just complicate matters further. If you are considering making the shifted colemak official, keep it so that all letters are on the same positions on all keyboards. And 'double' shifting would be much neater and 'real' ergonomic.

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    I still think the double shift is too much - messes with Ctrl-Q, Ctrl-W and Ctrl-Z which are very important. The upper row, as mentioned, is a much bigger shift if you change it than the nearly-50%-shifted bottom row. I don't feel that the extra travel to the right is easier on my hands than the little outwards travel in the default - as long as it is upwards I feel that the slight outwards travel isn't a hassle.

    I feel it's too many changes, although it is a delicate balance. Too much of a 'good' thing.

    Maybe that's why I found it very easy to go with the bottom-half-row-shift (BHRS) and you found it 'horrible' to start up with a double shift? The BHRS is already second nature to me and I now type as fast as before if not a little bit faster actually.

    As you can see, I (respectfully) disagree that the double shift would be neater and even that it would be more "really" ergonomic. But I haven't really tried out both ways and won't find the drive to do so either.

    I agree that there shouldn't be several competing official Colemaks. But since there are national keyboards there could be a Colemak for the 102-key board (based on, e.g., the UK layout) like the standard one is for the 101-key US board now - nothing wrong with catering for both the main English types as I see it. Especially since the BHRS isn't really much of a change but a very subtle yet effective tweak that doesn't change the fingering of anything else than the very rarely used key 102.

    If I release any more Norwegian Colemak stuff, it'll likely have both a BHRS and non-BHRS version. Another great point to that is that I don't see it as any more difficult to first learn the non-BHRS Colemak and then add the BHRS than it would be to learn the BHRS Colemak straight off the bat.

    On a side note, I actually find it easier to type tags now that the <> key is in the middle of the bottom row! Go figure. My guess is that even if that place is a bit hard to reach for a letter position, it stands out well for a special character and reaching it with my index finger feels easier somehow. I don't feel that the Z is more difficult to type, so it is a bit odd.

    This reminds me that the Norwegian Dvorak used to be a right horrible mess in that area: They'd insisted on having all vowels on the left hand of course, which forced the actually-not-all-that-uncommon Ø to the dreaded VK_102! I remember the trouble I used to have hitting it. The memories, the memories...  :)

    PCTastatur.gif

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    Drey, you are right: the 'double' shift was in fact too much for me. I'm staying with normal cmk.

    I don't even feel like doing the bottom row only shift, because it horribly messes up the really important cut, copy and paste shortcuts, giving me brain-ache whenever I have to use them on a normal QWERTY keyboard. And that would be most of the time, since I don't want to swap around laptop keys. [I mean when I use cmk on a physical QWERTY keyboard]

    Also, having different letter positions for different keyboards just makes things more complicated. If I got accustomed to the bottom row shift cmk, whenever I'd type on a 101 keyboard, I'd be typing gibberish. It's hard enough for me to switch from cmk to QWERTY (typing QWERTY physically gives me headaches) so switching between 3 different layouts would bring even more turmoil into my typing world. I will try to get hold of an apple 101-key US keyboard anyway, because then I will actually be able to see where the punctuation is that I type and because hitting left shift will be so much easier.

    Last edited by vilem (24-Oct-2007 09:14:08)
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    You're probably right, Vilem. I guess it would best be kept a tweak for the specially interested, nothing official.

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    A few weeks ago, I was examining my hand positioning for inefficiencies (as you do), and I noticed that left and right hand bottom row typing did not match. I typed 'm' with the index finger, but on the left hand 'c' was getting typed with the middle finger. Crazy!

    So, I decided to type as follows:

    c, v, b - index
    x - middle
    z - ring
    -/_ - pinky (using UK layout)

    This works really well I think. In short, the shifting to the left is not needed at all to my mind. The index finger can happily type c, v & b without any confusion after a week or less. Well it did for me. And you get the added bonus of using that key to the left of z for whatever you want! (with the now free pinky). I keep it as -/_

    Last edited by simonh (02-Jul-2008 21:48:43)

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    simonh said:

    A few weeks ago, I was examining my hand positioning for inefficiencies (as you do), and I noticed that left and right hand bottom row typing did not match. I typed 'm' with the index finger, but on the left hand 'c' was getting typed with the middle finger. Crazy!

    So, I decided to type as follows:

    c, v, b - index
    x - middle
    z - ring
    -/_ - pinky (using UK layout)

    This works really well I think. In short, the shifting to the left is not needed at all to my mind. The index finger can happily type c, v & b without any confusion after a week or less. Well it did for me. And you get the added bonus of using that key to the left of z for whatever you want! (with the now free pinky). I keep it as -/_

    Part of the problem is that Colemak was designed for you to use C on your middle finger, etc. This can cause problems like finger overload and too much same finger. The digraph CT is common enough that it will hurt your typing efficiency.

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    I'd be interested to know how frequent CT is compared with SC (same finger)? Anyhow, I have not noticed any discomfort fingering this way. And it keeps the shortcut keys in the same place.

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    simonh said:

    I'd be interested to know how frequent CT is compared with SC (same finger)? Anyhow, I have not noticed any discomfort fingering this way. And it keeps the shortcut keys in the same place.

    In my corpus, CT/TC is roughly 4x more common than SC/CS. Don't know how they compare in a general corpus of published articles, classic books, etc.

    speedmorph said:

    Part of the problem is that Colemak was designed for you to use C on your middle finger, etc. This can cause problems like finger overload and too much same finger. The digraph CT is common enough that it will hurt your typing efficiency.

    That's why you have to use "dynamic fingering"...hit the C with the middle finger and the T with the index finger for words that contain "-act", "-ict", "-ect", "-tch", etc...(<-- that one too. lol) like you're supposed to. BUT, on the other side, do the same with M and N. Hit the M with the middle finger and N with the index finger. :)

    For me, typing "efficiently" means using the fastest and most comfortable fingering, and I find a dynamic fingering method rather than a "set-in-stone" method best for that. I guess it could be _slightly_ more complicated to learn, and the payoff of a very slightly increased typing speed might not be worth it for everyone - the added comfort is why i do it. So, yeah - use whatever fingering you find most comfortable/fastest, and don't worry too much about "correct" fingering.

    EDIT: couple of typos due to my mirrored layout..now fixed :)

    Last edited by makdaddyrak (04-Jul-2008 08:29:43)
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    Ah, throwback time. So this is where I invented the Angle ergo mod (or to be precise, ISO-Angle). Did anyone else invent it independently from me? I wonder. Also, I don't remember who came up with the ANSI-Angle(Z) variant or when? Anyone?

    The Wide variants for ISO (Wide-Slash) and ANSI (Wide-Quote) haven't been quite standardized as the 6 key may go to either the left or right hand and there are some other minor variations around – particularly regarding the old RightBracket key. I think that Slash for ISO and Quote for ANSI are the best options, although ISO has the best solution for both hands.

        Cmk-ANSI-AWide-ZQu_60d_FShui.png?dl=1
        Colemak with the ANSI-Angle(Z)Wide(Qu) ergo mods

    [edit:]Oh, I found where and when the ANSI-Angle(Z) and Wide mods originated! It was Cevgar in 2010 who first posted it. I've tweaked the Wide mods (ANSI/ISO) a bit since then, but the idea originated there ttbomk. Note though, that kalixiri had had a Wide mod going for two years by then! So it's not easy to say who really did this first.

    Last edited by DreymaR (02-Feb-2019 18:25:41)

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