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    Help with F and C swaps to avoid left hand middle finger use?

    • Started by colemux
    • 6 Replies:
    • Reputation: 7
    • Registered: 24-Aug-2019
    • Posts: 26

    I have trouble with my left middle finger (the left ring finger also but to a much lesser extent), and want to reduce the amount of up/down motion on those fingers, especially in cases where just that finger moves up or down rather than the whole hand (e.g. typing ES or CR on QWERTY -- in fact anything with a C in it).

    I've started learning colemak (via tarmak -- working well for me so far but only on Tarmak2 so far) because it makes more use of the home keys than most layouts -- but of course specifically F and C are still common letters so I'd rather have them elsewhere.

    By the way, for reasons somewhat unconnected with my finger problems I'm using an ortholinear keyboard -- so I can't hit the C with my index finger.

    I've been considering swapping F with Q and C with V, or maybe even C with Z.  The C I think is worse for me than the F both because of the higher letter frequency and because when moving down, it tends to be just that finger rather than the whole hand.  FA and AF are not terribly common, so I guess the F/Q swap isn't too bad?  For the C, I think I could live with having to hit that position for V, which is about three times less common, but it's not ideal.  Of course the C/Z switch is appealing because of the very low frequency of Z, but I notice that the CA and AC bigrams in particular are fairly common.  A C/X swap, though also appealing on the letter frequency and same-finger bigram basis (CR is surprisingly uncommon), would use my ring finger, and I'd rather avoid the single-finger-down motion for that finger for the relatively common letter C.  I can't see anything obvious on the right hand side of the keyboard that would work as a good swap for C on the basis of letter and bigrams frequencies.

    But maybe I'm not thinking big enough and a bigger reoptimisation is worthwhile?  For example, maybe I'm missing some crazier multi-key switcharound that while worse than colemak for most people, would work for me?  Are there any layouts that cater specifically to people with problems with particular fingers?  Has anybody done any work on that?  I know carpalx exists, but I'm not sure if the model caters for my sort of problem?  Any comments on the key swaps I'm considering?  Am I missing important factors apart from same-finger bigrams?

    Thanks for your help!

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    • From: UK
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    It might be that once you have completed the whole transition process, some of these problems might go away. So far you are at Tarmak 2, which is a good start, but there is still some way to go. Obviously I can't account for your specific issue with your left hand, but I remember from my own switching experience that I experienced some temporary pain in new places, as my fingers adjusted to the new patterns. The overall benefit in comfort of typing fluently with Colemak might relieve some of your symptoms in due course perhaps?

    Arguably the Qwerty E key is undervalued in Colemak as F is fairly rare and for most people that key is quite comfortable, so if anything Colemak is probably already a good fit for you. Some people suggest a C-F switch as it doesn't affect same-finger bigrams, but not sure if that would help in your case. Larger switches that change bigrams are usually advised against.

    I guess I'd be inclined to advise persevering with default Colemak (or DH) and only making further changes if you are still having problems.

    Last edited by stevep99 (01-Sep-2019 12:01:58)

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

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    I should have been clearer: the problems I have aren't caused solely by keyboard use, and they're not going to go away just because of me switching.  They certainly weren't caused by switching to Colemak, but they are the reason for switching :-)

    F is better than E of course, but I really want to cut down up/down motion of that finger, by a lot -- I think you'll just have to take my word for that!

    Again, because I want to cut down motion of that finger by a lot, switching F and C would not achieve my goal.

    Edit: By the way, I *do* expect I'll likely first learn Colemak, then experiment: your advice there sounds good to me.  But to avoid repetition, please treat this topic on the assumption that yes, I am going to experiment to try to improve my condition.

    Last edited by colemux (01-Sep-2019 14:58:04)
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    • From: Oslo, Norway
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    Maybe you could use SteveP's optimizer to try and find something sweeter for your individual tastes, or maybe the BEAKL guy could cook something up? But it's a tricky track to make a layout, you easily overlook something and/or have to make concessions.

    What I can chime in with is that apart from lower row usage I hardly feel that my middle left hand finger is moving up and down! This is because using the DH mod I rest it naturally in the crack between the home and upper row of my keyboard. So maybe if you use a NumPad (e.g., with Extend) for numbers and some kind of trick for the lower row then you won't really have to move that finger?!

    The simplest lower-row trick would be to fill in for the middle finger with the ring and index fingers as applicable – or even the thumb. I don't think that'd hurt your typing much all in all. Which one to use would depend on the n-grams, that is what you come from and what comes after.

    Another trick to moving the finger less would be to move the hand instead. If you type with the slightest hover or even just a possibility of lift-off, combined with a between-keys resting position as above, it's easy to float the left hand slightly up and down instead of curling the middle finger. Probably not quite as fast but that shouldn't be your top priority. I'm thinking that this would mainly apply to upper/home row transitions, but who knows – if it works well for you you might float all the way down to the lower row too?

    Last edited by DreymaR (02-Sep-2019 14:16:01)

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

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    DreymaR said:

    What I can chime in with is that apart from lower row usage I hardly feel that my middle left hand finger is moving up and down! This is because using the DH mod I rest it naturally in the crack between the home and upper row of my keyboard. So maybe if you use a NumPad (e.g., with Extend) for numbers and some kind of trick for the lower row then you won't really have to move that finger?!

    Yes, I've noticed the same and I think you're right that there really isn't a lot of motion to the top row.  Part of it though is that I have a theory that it'll help nevertheless in a more indirect way -- but that is quite specific to me and would be a bit of a long trek to explain here so I'll skip it.

    Another thing that I think will help with Colemak is that, without moving either F or C, the total load for the left middle finger is down from about 19% for QWERTY to about 12% for Colemak (going on this for the letter frequencies -- by the way I love Peter Norvig's bigram frequency diagram here).

    The simplest lower-row trick would be to fill in for the middle finger with the ring and index fingers as applicable – or even the thumb. I don't think that'd hurt your typing much all in all. Which one to use would depend on the n-grams, that is what you come from and what comes after.

    Great minds think alike: I moved my C this morning to a key well-positioned for thumb use on my ergodox (not one of the notorious "official" ergodox thumb keys -- rather the normal size key below V which is actually easier to reach).  My left thumb now has a whole world of keyboard responsibility to come to terms with: hitherto it's been responsible merely for keeping out of the way, now it has both C and delete to take care of :-)  It's not yet sure this is quite what it's cut out for or what it was expecting from life, but I think it'll settle into it given time.

    With C out, that's down to total load for left middle finger less than half of QWERTY.  I think I'll hold the F / Q swap in reserve and try it after I get plain (ignoring the C) Colemak down.

    Another trick to moving the finger less would be to move the hand instead. If you type with the slightest hover or even just a possibility of lift-off, combined with a between-keys resting position as above, it's easy to float the left hand slightly up and down instead of curling the middle finger.

    I think this is also a good idea, but it is something I do already.  As I mentioned in the original post, there are still key combinations that are naturally done with more single-finger motion -- though with Colemak, FR and FT are perhaps the only relevant ones, not super common, so that's another improvement.  Still, I think a lot of these good habits things are a lot to do with making the right thing easy, so that plus simply reducing total finger load further certainly makes me want to try the F/Q swap sometime still, rather than having to remember to always "hover" the way you're supposed to.

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    For the record, total left middle finger use, by percentage of average English text (not the main thing I'm optimising for, but interesting):

    QWERTY with middle finger X (my old keyboard as I used it): 12.10 + 3.87 + 0.19 = 16.16
    QWERTY with middle finger C (my new ortholinear keyboard): 12.10 + 3.87 + 3.16 = 19.13
    Regular Colemak (ortholinear keyboard): 2.18 + 6.73 + 3.16 = 12.07
    Regular Colemak except C moved to thumb: 2.18 + 6.73 = 8.91
    Colemak with C moved to thumb and F / Q swap: 0.1 + 6.73 = 6.83

    Source: http://practicalcryptography.com/crypta … equencies/

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    • From: Oslo, Norway
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    Best of luck with your endeavours!  d( ^◇^)b

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

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