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    Colemak or something else?

    • Started by Sono
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    • Registered: 25-Aug-2020
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    Hello,
    I did search the forum, but could not really find anything suitable for my question. So even though it might surely have been asked before, here it goes:
    Some backstory: I'm interested in a new layout. Currently and all my life so far I have been using QWERTZ, the German variation of QWERTY, on a German keyboard (yes with umlauts). I did look at Colemak maybe two years ago for a brief time, also at mod-DH and the wide spread (ergo?) variation and also started making an adaptation for my use case using Ukelele on Mac. But then stopped all this because of life things and general lack of time and interest.

    Some other notes: I sit in front of a computer for work and also in parts for private. I communicate in English and German (but am currently unable to give exact percentages). I use vim, but don't write code. I like to use shortcuts in MacOS and Linux, including bash shortcuts. And now I'm trying to find out what kind of layout would suit me. I know it is highly personal, but maybe some others have had similar experiences, especially when it comes to not only English.

    Currently I'm undecided between Colemak (not sure if plain or with a mod), neo2 (which is optimized for German, but seems to work well in English as well) or AdNW (a variation of neo2 for which people claim that it is better then neo2). I know this is the Colemak forum, but still I thought this is suited here.

    Some thoughts:
    - Colemak is not very different then QWERTZ/Y and therefore I suspect it is easier to learn0
    - C. is also available by default in Mac and Linux
    - C. has no umlauts by default. Yes there is a German variation of it, but then we have no default integration anymore
    - What about shortcuts? and vim? (I saw there is a vim colemak plugin)

    - neo2 is optimized for German, so yeah umlauts and should also work with English
    - It is present on Linux by default and also has good drivers for MacOS
    - It is very different, so more learning time?
    - It has additional layers with navigation keys and special characters; more learning, but could be very useful (maybe)
    - Shortcuts?

    - AdNW is always a custom install as far as I can tell
    - it is also very different, so same learning curve as neo2 I guess
    - Layers, etc. are similar to neo2
    -Shortcuts?

    I guess my thought process is that I would suspect Colemak would be easier for me to learn (I could be wrong here), but neo2/AdNW seem to have other advantages over Colemak. I seem to be especially put off about having to push an additional modifier for umlauts in Colemak, even though I can't tell if this would really be an issue once I would learn it. Any experiences?

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    • From: Oslo, Norway
    • Registered: 13-Dec-2006
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    Indeed, Germans have more to choose from with NEO and AdNW. I won't answer everything you asked, but ask you to check out the BigBag for some of the answers.

    That said, I've used Colemak to type English and Norwegian on Linux and Windows since 2007, so here are some thoughts:
    • In my experience, you'll likely end up wanting something that's really nice for you because why switch otherwise?
    • Lemma: That won't come prepackaged as any OS default. So you might as well suck it up and get all the goodness.
    • Colemak has the advantage of being really good for English, and good for many other languages. You wrote the above in English!
    • Yes, I like the layout similarities which makes it fairly easy to type in QWERT* whenever I have to.
    • I don't know how active the NEO and AdNW communities are, but the Colemak gang is going strong. This leads to development.
    • Using EPKL on Windows has many other advantages, as the Big Bag shows. One of the major ones is Extend.
    • With that, using a locale variant like my German one is easy going. I've prepackaged it with EPKL for Windows.
    • Then again, you use MacOS for which there's less support, and Linux which I have Extend for but not everything EPKL has to offer.
    • I do have the German locale Colemak[eD] variant premade for Linux. I recommend using it with a WideAngle ergo mod.
    • Vim isn't a problem! Only if you let it be. I prefer to not use so much HJKL navigation anyway, and for arrows I use Extend.
    • Shortcuts aren't a problem. Many of them are mnemonic, so wherever your B is that's where you'll have the Bold shortcut.
    • For the shortcuts you do want to keep positional, you can always Extend-map them or something. But in my experience I haven't.

    Last edited by DreymaR (25-Aug-2020 15:11:38)

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

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    • Registered: 25-Aug-2020
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    Thanks! Yes indeed the community activity is a thing that kind of bothers me. Alternative keyboard layouts themselves are a niche and then the more niche ones are bound to have less activity. Indeed I saw a presentation from the Linux days in Graz 2019 about neo2 layout and the two presenters also mentioned that it has very little users.

    I only learned about the Big Bag yesterday, so I need to check this. Actually over the evening I came to the conclusion that the additional layers in neo2 are kind of what is really drawing me to it. Not so much the letter placement! Sadly yes, MacOS is somewhat limited, but also allows for some modification with Karabiner Elements and if need be Ukelele (although I didn't like that one so much). I guess what I have to come to terms with is that it won't be enough to just switch the layout in software and learn it. There will instead be a good amount of tweaking to the personal needs necessary.

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    • From: Oslo, Norway
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    As you can see from the BigBag, there was an implementation of it for the MacOS but with X it stopped working. So I'm hoping someone enthusiastic remakes it! If you like my way of doing things, maybe it'll be you?  (❁°‿°)

    *** 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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    It's interesting that people are attracted to the extra layers in the Neo layout. They are a nice feature, but of course anyone can add extra layers to any layout - even Qwerty. Often these extra layers are going to depend somewhat on the individual - especially if you need to type different languages, you're likely to have special characters etc that will vary from country to country. Or, if like me you often write code, then you can create an extra layer with common programming characters with good locations for brackets, underscore etc.

    Logically then, it makes sense to separate out the base layout from all the extra customised bells and whistles you can add. I think this makes the Neo approach with its built-in layers only superficially attractive. I can't common on how good it is as a layout though, since I can't deutsch sprechen.

    Obligatory:  +1 for Extend.

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

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    DreymaR said:

    As you can see from the BigBag, there was an implementation of it for the MacOS but with X it stopped working. So I'm hoping someone enthusiastic remakes it! If you like my way of doing things, maybe it'll be you?  (❁°‿°)

    I will rather say no or yes for now. I'm currently still mighty confused about the whole "package". Feel free to ping me again.

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    • From: Oslo, Norway
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    Be that as it may, I suggest you look through the end of the BigBag for Mac topic as there are some hopefully useful entries there. I haven't got a Mac so I haven't looked at the files but I think they look promising.

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

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    Sono said:

    Yes indeed the community activity is a thing that kind of bothers me. Alternative keyboard layouts themselves are a niche and then the more niche ones are bound to have less activity.

    Why is activity a problem here?  Is it software support that concerns you or just the niche-niche layouts not being very good?

    My strategy re software is to use a keyboard whose firmware can be flashed: then as long as you have that keyboard you can just ignore software running on the machine you plug it into, and any crazy layout tweak you like is easy.  Reprogramming firmware amongst mechanical keyboard people is almost mainstream I guess, QMK in particular seems widely deployed on lots of different keyboards and chipsets.  I have 3 different Ergodox keyboards, all with different hardware, and they're all very reliable and easy to flash once you've done it once.  Then as far as typing on other people's keyboards go, my strategy is 1. don't do that, for any real work and 2. retain QWERTY skills, which deals with the occasional 1 minute task on another keyboard (currently I do that mostly because I'm still faster on QWERTY, but I'd like to retain the skill anyway).

    I have the same approach to editor configuration: just don't ever use anybody else's editor -- even though I pair program often, I don't find that a bother.

    Last edited by colemux (31-Aug-2020 13:55:33)
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