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    Need help with punctuation due to mostly useless right pinkie

    • Started by jadequann
    • 6 Replies:
    • Reputation: 0
    • Registered: 22-Nov-2019
    • Posts: 2

    I have recently switched to colemak-wide (last few days).  For the last 15 years I have had only about 50% feeling in my right pinkie due to a nerve issue near my right elbow.  I can hit the O just fine and the Return isn't too hard, shift is difficult but possible but other keys, especially punctuation on the right side of the keyboard are all but impossible.  On qwerty I have been using my ring finger for basically every right pinkie key and 8 times out of 10 I hit the wrong key.

    My Current setup
    Keyboard: Microsoft Natural Keyboard 4000 (had it forever)
    OS: Arch Linux running Sway Window Manager (sway is keyboard based)
    Editor: VIM (most of my apps use vim keybindings)
    Layout: Colemak-wide

    Modifications: (my xkb file)
    3rd level: numbers on right, other punctuation on left (no keys on pinkie finger)
    Right Alt: 3rd level key
    Caps Lock: Super (Mod4) (for terminal mod key, my kitty terminal wouldn't work with meta)
    Super key: Meta (Mod3) (for Sway mod key - Sway is keyboard based window manager)

    I can reach the 2-6 and 7-9 keys without issue.  I've gotten in the habit of using my ring finger on both hands instead of the pinkie for the 1,~,0, etc and often hit wrong key.  After reading this post I'm considering the following:

    Modifications:
    Move punctuation keys normally on pinkies to 2-6 and 7-9 on levels 1 & 2
    3rd level: numbers and movement keys (not sure which side is better)
    Left Alt: additional Shift
    Right Ctrl: Alt (rarely use alt)
    Caps Lock: Esc and Ctrl (Set kitty terminal back to ctrl-shift as modifier)
    Super: back to Super
    Menu: additional Super

    I use vim keys in like every program and they J is hard to use so often. That's why I want to move the movement keys to 3rd level. Is there any advice you can give me?  Is there a Linux app I can test different layouts?  I mostly do Ansible and shell scripting as I'm more IT than programmer.

    Thanks for the help!

    Jade

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    • From: UK
    • Registered: 14-Apr-2014
    • Posts: 696

    Sounds like you have got a good list of optimizations already. Avoiding the modifiers at the edge of the keyboard (control, shift, etc) is good, so remappings that bring them to the middle - preferably on thumb keys - are a good thing. I avoid the standard shift keys, and have defined RAlt as Shift instead, for which I use my right thumb. You are using RAlt for your third layer, which is also a good idea. I use my left-spacebar for that (split keyboard) - here is my mapping if you want to compare.

    I know vim users love their HJKL setup, but I always say, even for vim, nothing is better than Extend. I'm only an occasional user of vim, and I use Extend for movement (UNEI). I don't have a special vimrc file and so other commands are all default mappings.

    For people with a weak right pinky, a reasonable modification to default Colemak is the U-O switch - gives more work to your middle finger instead without causing weird bigram issues (EO is also rare).

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

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    • Registered: 22-Nov-2019
    • Posts: 2

    Thank you!  I never thought about swapping out the O key for something else.  The U seems a great option.  You said you have a split space bar?  What keyboard are you using?  I'm curious.  My MS Natural KB 4000 is getting really old, though I haven't had too many issues with it so far.  I searched for something to replace it with, but haven't found something that really justifies the cost yet.  A split space bar sounds like a great option. I considered making my space bar into shift, but I couldn't find a good place to move it too.

    Jade

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    • From: UK
    • Registered: 14-Apr-2014
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    I have a Matias Ergo Pro. There are other decent options around too, e.g. the Ultimate Hacking Keyboard and the Kinesis Freestyle 2. Or more still if you don't mind ditching the standard staggered layout.

    I previously considered making the Spacebar into a Shift and the RightAlt the spacebar - which might work OK with the Wide Mod, but I didn't end up going down that route - having a split board makes it unnecessary.

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

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    • From: Oslo, Norway
    • Registered: 13-Dec-2006
    • Posts: 4,707

    I wouldn't swap any letters. But you could use Extend! That may take a lot of load off your right pinky, especially the {Ext+Spc}=Enter mapping. To really alleviate your right pinky, I'd replace any Extend mappings you don't care for with stuff you need. Also, I'd move Back and Delete to another finger – for instance, move PgUp/PgDn to the MouseUp/Dn places on QWERTY T/G and move Delete/Back there from QWERTY P/; where I put them by default.

    Many typists get by with only using the Left Shift, so that's what I'd do too.

    Last edited by DreymaR (25-Nov-2019 10:47:40)

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

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    • From: UK
    • Registered: 14-Apr-2014
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    DreymaR said:

    Also, I'd move Back and Delete to another finger

    Just on that, for example: my Extend mapping has Backspace on the Qwerty M key, as I much prefer a common key like backspace to be on a strong finger. It works great and is super comfortable.

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

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    • From: Oslo, Norway
    • Registered: 13-Dec-2006
    • Posts: 4,707

    Yeah, if your right pinky is weak that's a good thing. Luckily for me, my pinkies are both up to doing a little work as long as they're not forced into a lot of same-finger repetitions and weird stretches.

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

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