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    Shai's Colemak mod

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    • Shai
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    I've been experimenting a bit with new keyboard layouts, and I tried to make something that would combine the best of vanilla Colemak and Mod-DH

    QWFDG JLUY;
    ARSTM PNEIO'
    ZXCVK BH,./

    Compared to Colemak:
    * Moves H into a better position
    * Reduces usage of the QWERTY 'B' position
    * Reduces usage of the middle columns
    * Slightly better balance between the hands

    Compared to Mod-DH:
    * Keeps ZXCV
    * Reduces usage of the QWERTY 'B' position
    * Reduces same hand horizontal stretches with the letter M. For example the word "I'm" in Mod-DH is strainful.

    If you don't care about ZXCV and you're not using a staggered keyboard, and looking for something that prioritises the QWERTY 'V' position like Mod-DH, you can use the following layout:

    QWFMV JLUY;
    ARSTG PNEIO'
    ZXCDK BH,./
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    Gosh, I never thought I'd see the day! Hmm, some interesting suggestions though, so let's have a look...

    Regarding this one:

    QWFDG JLUY;
    ARSTM PNEIO'
    ZXCVK BH,./

    I think the problem with this is that, although people are supposed to type C with their middle finger, in practise they don't. I sometimes observe people typing and anecdotally have noticed most people use their index finger. The consequence of this is that there is an effective awkward CK same-finger bigram. Maybe people could alt-finger it, but I'm skeptical of having K in that position.

    There is the Angle Mod of course - which makes it possible to keep the "official" Colemak finger assignment while allowing for the easier motion to C. But some people are resistant to shifting the bottom row over, especially ANSI keyboard users, which does create a dilemma - people have to either use the "wrong" fingers, or the "wrong" key locations.

    Also worth noting that it introduces new same-finger BL and PL, but that's partially offset by eliminating LK and LM. On the face of it, you would assume PH same-finger would be a problem too, but according to bigram stats it's not as common as you'd think.

    On to this one:

    QWFMV JLUY;
    ARSTG PNEIO'
    ZXCDK BH,./

    I think this makes V worse, esp given that some people with will using it with left-control. Might as well switch V and K here, but there's still the potential CK issue as above.

    I'd also note that these suggestions change finger assignment, so in that respect they are further away from standard Colemak than Mod-DH is. One of the design principles in DH was to keep standard Colemak finger assignments.

    For people who really want to keep ZXCV in place (possibly using "wrong" fingering with index finger for C), I think the old-fashioned D>P>G is a decent option for the left, combining with the H-M switch on the right. Keeps all the original Colemak finger assignments, but still moves D and H from the centre column, and keeps the bottom left row.

    QWFDP  JLUY;
    ARSTG  MNEIO
    ZXCVB  KH,./
    Last edited by stevep99 (07-Nov-2020 14:01:59)

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

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    Just a further thought on I'm. It's fair to say having M in the centre-column is not perfect, just that it's an improvement over having H there (IMHO). At this level of optimization, it's almost impossible to change one thing without adversely affecting something else. I hadn't actually noticed an issue with frequent I'm before, but maybe I just don't it that often.

    DreymaR has a mod where apostrophe is moved to the semicolon location, which I think should be a nice solution to this problem.

    Last edited by stevep99 (07-Nov-2020 14:02:23)

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

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    • Shai
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    stevep99 said:

    I think the problem with this is that, although people are supposed to type C with their middle finger, in practise they don't. I sometimes observe people typing and anecdotally have noticed most people use their index finger. The consequence of this is that there if an effective awkward CK same-finger bigram. Maybe people could alt-finger it, but I'm skeptical of having K in that position.

    The layout is designed for classical touch-typing technique, i.e. typing C with the middle finger. CK isn't a same finger bigram in that case.

    stevep99 said:

    There is the Angle Mod of course - which makes it possible to keep the "official" Colemak finger assignment while allowing for the easier motion to C. But some people are resistant to shifting the bottom row over, especially ANSI keyboard users, which does create a dilemma - people have to either use the "wrong" fingers, or the "wrong" key locations.

    Hitting C with the middle finger takes a little practice, but I don't see the Angle Mod as necessary for that.
    The Angle Mod makes some shortcuts very strainful to use and is less interopreable with QWERTY as it moves the ZXCV keys.
    I recommend the US layout as it is less straining to hit the left Shift, but I don't see why it should be different on an ANSI keyboard.

    stevep99 said:

    Also worth noting that it introduces new same-finger BL and PL, but that's partially offset by eliminating LK and LM. On the face of it, you would assume PH same-finger would be a problem too, but according to bigram stats it's not as common as you'd think.

    Yes, BL is worse, but you don't optimise a layout for the sake of a single bigram.

    stevep99 said:

    I think this makes V worse, esp given that some people with will using it with left-control. Might as well switch V and K here, but there's still the potential CK issue as above.

    Frequencies (from Mayzner Revisited) are B: 1.48% and V: 1.05%. The letter B is more common than V, and the QWERTY B positions is one of the worst ones. This tries to minimize that.
    CK is a bit worse indeed, but it helps take the strain off the right hand.

    stevep99 said:

    I'd also note that these suggestions change finger assignment, so in that respect they are further away from standard Colemak than Mod-DH is. One of the design principles in DH was to keep standard Colemak finger assignments.

    No, same finger assignments as standard Colemak, i.e. the Recommended finger diagram

    stevep99 said:

    For people who really want to keep ZXCV in place (possibly using "wrong" fingering with index finger for C), I think the old-fashioned D>P>G is a decent option for the left, combining with the H-M switch on the right. Keeps all the original Colemak finger assignments, but still moves D and H from the centre column, and keeps the bottom left row.

    QWFDP  JLUY;
    ARSTG  MNEIO
    ZXCVB  KH,./

    Compability with the existing Colemak isn't the priority design goal for this.
    This doesn't fix the issues, e.g. right-hand overload, and a lot of bigrams with M, and the QWERTY B position which is used more often than needed.

    stevep99 said:

    Just a further thought on I'm. It's fair to say having M in the centre-column is not perfect, just that it's an improvement over having H there (IMHO). At this level of optimization, it's almost impossible to change one thing without adversely affecting something else. I hadn't actually noticed an issue with frequent I'm before, but maybe I just don't it that often.

    It's not just I'm, although that's by far the worst offender, and I find it particularly strainful. It's also all the other bigram ME MI MO are all very common.
    Exchanging ; and ' does make things better for words like I'll. Here's how it looks with them exchanged

    QWFDG JLUY'
    ARSTM PNEIO;
    ZXCVK BH,./
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    Shai said:

    Compability with the existing Colemak isn't the priority design goal for this.

    Ah OK, then I may have misunderstood, I took it from your first post that this was intended to be a small mod to Colemak - a middle ground between Colemak and Mod-DH. It's still very Colemak-like of course (in terms of home keys), but I think it's fair to say that changing keys between hands and fingers makes it a bigger departure from Colemak than Mod-DH is. That's fine of course if your objective is broader - i.e improved hand balance etc.

    Shai said:

    The layout is designed for classical touch-typing technique, i.e. typing C with the middle finger. CK isn't a same finger bigram in that case.

    Shai said:

    Hitting C with the middle finger takes a little practice, but I don't see the Angle Mod as necessary for that.

    We probably just aren't going to agree here, but I say the classic touch-typing technique (with C on middle finger) just doesn't make sense. C is mid-way between (Qwerty) D and F, and it's clearly more ergonomic to curl the index finger inward to C than do that whole hand diagonally-down motion that's needed for the indexmiddle finger. Indeed, this observation is implicit in your own scoring system, which I pointed out previously. Even good touch-typists don't religiously follow the classic diagram - I think it's important to bear in mind what feels comfortable in practice, and what people tend to actually do, rather than what people are "supposed" to do according to theory (especially when that theory isn't even sound). That said, it's fair to say the Angle Mod ANSI/ISO conundrum is a perennial problem. Row staggered keyboards are basically the bane of layout designers.

    Instead of using the Angle Mod, some layouts even seem to just assume the "wrong" fingers as part of their design, like this one.  This seems a like valid approach on the face of it, but then might cause confusion on a matrix-like board, as the Z wouldn't be in the bottom left corner.

    Shai said:

    It's also all the other bigram ME MI MO are all very common.

    Given Mod-DH's objective, which is keep everything on the same finger as Colemak (ANSI Z excepted), it's a huge improvement compared to the HE, HI and HO bigrams in standard Colemak. According to Mayzner Revisited:

    HE > ME > HI > HO > MO > MI

    If you compare the H* with the M* bigrams for those three vowels, putting M there instead of H reduces those stretches by about half, and even more for the worst one, which is HE/ME. If you think M is a significant problem being in this location, then it suggests you've come to conclusion that Colemak's H is an even bigger problem?

    Last edited by stevep99 (08-Nov-2020 17:29:04)

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

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    stevep99 said:

    Ah OK, then I may have misunderstood, I took it from your first post that this was intended to be a small mod to Colemak - a middle ground between Colemak and Mod-DH

    You could think of it as a new layout, rather than a minor mod.

    stevep99 said:

    We probably just aren't going to agree here, but I say the classic touch-typing technique (with C on middle finger) just doesn't make sense. C is mid-way between (Qwerty) D and F, and it's clearly more ergonomic to curl the index finger inward to C than do that whole hand diagonally-down motion that's needed for the index finger. Indeed, this observation is implicit in your own scoring system, which I pointed out previously. Even good touch-typists don't religiously follow the classic diagram - I think it's important to bear in mind what feels comfortable in practice, and what people tend to actually do, rather than what people are "supposed" to do according to theory (especially when that theory isn't even sound). That said, it's fair to say the Angle Mod ANSI/ISO conundrum is a perennial problem. Row staggered keyboards are basically the bane of layout designers.

    No we're not going to agree here. Practically all touch typing learning materials I've seen teach to type C with the middle finger. Anyone who's doing standard touch typing tecnhnique will be hitting C using the middle finger. Also, if you hit C with the index finger, you're more like to overwork your index finger. And I think it makes sense to have consistent fingering regardless if you're using a staggered or non-staggered keyboard.

    Regardless, even if you type C with index finger becuase curl/angle, I still think it's better overall despite the CK bigram, because you're hitting the B position significantly less frequently, and significantly reducing the AB (QWERTY) bigram. Alternatively, you could still use different fingering just for that bigram.

    That said, BL/PL is not ideal indeed. I think it's an overall improvement, but probably needs more testing.

    stevep99 said:

    If you compare the H* with the M* bigrams for those three vowels, putting M there instead of H reduces those stretches by about half, and even more for the worst one, which is HE/ME. If you think M is a significant problem being in this location, then it suggests you've come to conclusion that Colemak's H is an even bigger problem?

    I've been experiencing a bit more strain while typing recently, so I'm experimenting with new layout ideas to see if it improves things.

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    I have put the layouts in my analyzer to compare.

    Calling the proposals "Shai1" and "Shai2":

    Layout   same-finger  score (lower better)
    Shai1      1.67%      1.720
    Shai2      1.67%      1.716
    Colemak    1.52%      1.784 

    Obligatory caveat: Obviously analyzers are somewhat subjective, and this one penalizes the centre column positions. So it's to be expected that these proposals would score better than Colemak. Certainly from my experience the Qwerty M position is an excellent spot for H in the case where E is at right-middle-finger home. These proposals are a somewhat bigger departure from Qwerty than Colemak (one of Colemak's selling points), but I would say the benefit of reduced centre-column usage more than makes up for it. So, in case I sounded overly negative previously, let me say I do think these layouts do look on the face of it to be a big improvement over Colemak.

    I wanted to just talk about the "Shai2" one a bit more, since and you mentioned it was DH-like, and it has the ZXCD pattern. But just re-reading the comments above, I got the impression you might have misunderstood how Mod-DH and its implementation of the Angle Mod is supposed to work...

    Shai said:

    Compared to Mod-DH:
    * Reduces usage of the QWERTY 'B' position

    The Angle Mod makes some shortcuts very strainful to use

    ..prioritises the QWERTY 'V' position like Mod-DH

    If you hit C with the index finger, you're more like to overwork your index finger. And I think it makes sense to have consistent fingering regardless if you're using a staggered or non-staggered keyboard..

    So... the recommended ISO configuration is this, and for ANSI is this. Therefore, on ISO, no alpha key is assigned to the Qwerty B position, and on ANSI, only a very rare letter (Z) is. The idea is that the traditional fingering scheme should not be used, and this is baked into the layout design. The shortcuts if anything are less strainful, because the inward curling motion is easier, and (for those that use a one-handed technique), Z X C are closer to left control. Note, in Mod-DH, it's the Qwerty C key that is prioritized (not V), and V is unchanged from Qwerty anyway. With the Angle Mod, you are using the fingers you are supposed to (i.e. middle for C), but just with a more comfortable technique. The Angle Mod also makes it easier to transition to a non-staggered board, since it makes a row-staggered board effectively closer to an ortho one, and the fingering is consistent between staggered and non-staggered (albeit except the minor ANSI Z issue), as you can see from this matrix layout diagram.

    So having said my piece on that, the thing about Shai2 that I find intriguing, is if you apply the Angle Mod to it. You then get a super-comfortable D (as with Mod-DH), but also a slightly better M position!  I'm personally highly skeptical about the K and V, but I do think there could be merit in the P and M locations you've proposed. I might think about that a bit more. That said, I'm very happy with the DH mod as currently implemented, as I haven't really had problems with ME/MI and the like, and aren't really up for trying out something new - I think we're talking about minuscule (and subjective) alternatives here. And since you don't really agree with the Angle Mod, I guess it would be going down a path that doesn't appeal to you anyway.

    For users who are attached to the traditional fingering scheme on row-staggered boards, and want ZXCV in place, I think Shai1 is potentially great alternative to Colemak. But of course, I don't have any practical experience with it, and aren't likely to, so I guess I'll shut up now and see what others think instead :P

    Last edited by stevep99 (08-Nov-2020 17:24:21)

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

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    I find this quite strange. One of the strong points of Colemak since 2006 has been its consistency and how you, Shai, stood by your very solid 1000+ hour work back then and proclaimed the layout ready. We all know there are "a hundred" top notch layouts that could be made, but within the parameters of keeping ZXCV in place, keeping what doesn't need to be changed from QWERTY and not moving keys between hands if avoidable I believe you made a layout as close to perfect as makes no discernible difference. Over the years it's stood its ground based on that very solid work. I really loved the Design post which explains even further why it works so well.

    On important stats like same-finger it's been very hard to beat. And when the Workman gained way too much momentum based on a grudge against Colemak's straight home row, that annoyed me because its creator threw so much quality to the dogs to achieve what he wanted – even to the point of foolishly claiming that same-finger "doesn't really matter". On the other hand, I did find that point about the home row not needing to be straight interesting.

    What I loved about the Curl-DH mod is that it fixed something that some users cared about while still essentially being Colemak! Which is what I've tried to achieve with all the mods I've made and endorsed. A modular system that can be used on many different layouts really, for those who see the benefit with some or all of the mods. Indeed, that'll break the simplicity of having one installer (and unfortunately, makes implementation more of a pain unless you can achieve modularity by some tricks like I did for Linux and in part have done with EPKL but with much effort) but for many more ambitious users it has been worth it. While still being Colemak!

    Therefore we now have a situation where there are essentially the Colemak layout and the Colemak-DH variant of it (and a bunch of interesting little other mods) in use but they're both Colemak and users can pick their preferred mod battery.

    So I'm to understand that here, after a 16 years' hiatus, are another two new layouts from the hands of the master? Hmmm. And this time, two more keys change hands and the stability of the V position is now negotiable. (Why not C as well then – it seemed to be holding the max efficiency of Colemak down a bit back then as the Colemak-Hirou creator at the Discord points out?) It's not-quite-Colemak this time, like so many people have had a stab at (my own bumbling attempts in 2007 included, heh). But why is that necessary? Is there a substantial benefit to this that I'm not seeing? Is the great Shai himself now competing with the great Shai himself?
      ლ( ʘ▽ʘ)ლ~ORLY

    Last edited by DreymaR (08-Nov-2020 20:20:15)

    *** Learn Colemak in 2–5 steps with Tarmak! ***
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    stevep99 said:

    ... the inward curling motion is easier, and (for those that use a one-handed technique), Z X C are closer to left control.

    Oh, Steve, I see that we have an interesting difference in how we view "inward" vs "outward"!   ̄(=⌒ᆺ⌒=) ̄

    To me, inward is towards the middle of the board and outward towards your elbows. Incidentally, I think this is in line with medical terminology 'ventral' (towards the body center) vs 'distal' (away from it). But medical terminology is, of course, complex and alien.

    Your take is that the fingers curl inward towards the palm, am I right? So it's about the hand not the keyboard.

    Not sure how the majority of people think about keyboarding geometry?  ⊂(;⊙д⊙)つ

    Last edited by DreymaR (09-Nov-2020 11:06:47)

    *** Learn Colemak in 2–5 steps with Tarmak! ***
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    Ha, yes I hadn't thought about that. I think it depends on whether the context is the finger or the whole hand:  I mean, curling a finger inwards to me means toward the palm, and outward means to extend outward in a pointing motion. But if the context is the whole hand, then inward would mean towards the body center as you say. At least, that's how I would see it.

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

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    Updated version:

    QWFDG JLUY'
    ARSTP MNEIO;
    ZXCVB KH,./
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    Since you insist on drilling this rabbit hole:

    Seems that 2/3 of Monkeytype users are "angle cheating", making the need to address non-standard typing technique urgent as hell. SteveP and I have trouble getting newcomers to Colemak and Colemak-DH to understand the concept of hitting C with your middle finger since so many QWERTY users have this homebrew technique. How best to address this predicament? Myself, I believe in a proper Angle mod but many newcomers don't understand it.

    "What finger do people use to type the letter C?" ~ Fruit @ the Monkeytype Discord
    unknown.png

    Last edited by DreymaR (12-Nov-2020 11:09:10)

    *** Learn Colemak in 2–5 steps with Tarmak! ***
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    Shai said:

    Updated version:

    QWFDG JLUY'
    ARSTP MNEIO;
    ZXCVB KH,./

    Do we have an official name for this?

    Thanks, Ian

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    iandoug said:

    Do we have an official name for this?

    Not yet, it's still experimental

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    Shai said:

    Updated version:

    QWFDG JLUY'
    ARSTP MNEIO;
    ZXCVB KH,./

    You might as well switch P and G I think, it also gives you unchanged G from Qwerty. That gives you

    QWFDP  JLUY;
    ARSTG  MNEIO
    ZXCVB  KH,./

    Mod-DH would actually have been this, but for the fact it still leaves the terrible B in place and it doesn't address the infamous index/middle C key issue.

    The other problem with this approach is that on matrix boards, you are assigning the rare V to one of best positions on the keyboard.

    Last edited by stevep99 (13-Nov-2020 12:12:31)

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

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    stevep99 said:

    You might as well switch P and G I think, it also gives you unchanged G from Qwerty. That gives you

    My 2c :-)

    P has higher frequency than G so should stay on home row, unless your goal is still QWERTY similarity.

    If not,  I would look at rotating ARS to RSA, but that will require more changes, with F and C having to find new spots.

    Cheers, Ian

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