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    Left-dominant COLEMAK

    • Started by betja
    • 3 Replies:
    • Reputation: 0
    • Registered: 02-Mar-2021
    • Posts: 1

    Hi all,

    Bit of an odd one this so apologies for the length. TL;DR: I'm looking for a layout that has the benefits of COLEMAK but also keeps the strong left hand dominance QWERTY has.


    My right arm is amputated just below the elbow, but I can effectively press one key at a time with my right stump whilst also making use of all 5 digits of my left hand. I’ve only ever used QWERTY and basically developed my own style where the left hand covers the majority of the keyboard (I cover the usual keys used by those of you with two hands, plus the two centre columns with my left, the rest with my right stump). QWERTY ironically works quite well for this; it’s left-hand bias (a bad thing for most) is a plus for me. I don’t know exactly but I’m probably a 60-40 split for left hand vs right hand use on a QWERTY.

    I’ve hacked away at this pretty well and can type fast but I am starting to get RSI in my right shoulder (place your left hand and right elbow on a keyboard at the same time and you’ll get the idea of the strain I put on my right side). I recently tried a split keyboard (Ergodox) which is magic for resolving this issue. But that’s presented another issue; I can’t reach the right-centre column with my left hand (Y,H,N in a QWERTY). I’m finding my right stump is taking more strain than it used to (offset by an easier time on my right shoulder).

    That lead me to lots of layout research and COLEMAK and this great forum which has been really useful. I can clearly feel the benefits of COLEMAK in my left, but the layouts significantly shift the bias to be slightly right-hand dominant, putting a lot more work on my right stump. I thought of just flipping COLEMAK but that doesn't help as its fairly balanced in each hand.

    I can just tweak COLEMAK and put more popular keys on the left, but I lose all the hard work & thinking that’s gone into it and was wondering if anybody has come across something that could help (either a left-dominated layout, or right-dominated one I could flip).

    I've looked into DVORAK LH but that's a different use case to me. It’s for ONLY the left hand, you place one hand in the middle of the keyboard and therefore it doesn’t work well with a split keyboard. Also by not using my right stump I lose 1 of the 6 digits I have to use and it is very noticeable

    Sorry a very specific issue but any thoughts greatly appreciated!

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    • From: UK
    • Registered: 14-Apr-2014
    • Posts: 907

    Colemak does favour the right-hand by about 55:45.  Simply mirroring the layout would help a bit as your left hand would do 55% of the work instead.  You could also map some additional keys on the right, like backspace and return, to keys on the left. You can also mitigate those reaches into the centre with Colemak-DH. 

    A variation on the mirroring theme, if you wanted to do even more work with your left hand, would be to have the right-hand side mirrored on the left but in a new layer, selectable via a dedicated key. Then you could give your right arm a rest whenever you felt like it.

    There are also some layouts around that are specifically designed around one-handed typing, which I sense might be a step too far, but might still be of interest?

    Last edited by stevep99 (02-Mar-2021 18:25:46)

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

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    • Shai
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    • Registered: 11-Dec-2005
    • Posts: 410

    Start with the simple things, hitting the Backspace with your left hand (the Caps Lock key) and Space with your left thumb will increase your usage of the your left hand beyond 50%.

    You'd might also want to consider a keyboard with thumb keys (e.g. ZSA Moonlander), and map the E keys to one of the thumb keys.
    Note: that specific keyboard is very expensive and I haven't tried it myself.

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    • From: Viken, Norway
    • Registered: 13-Dec-2006
    • Posts: 5,145

    I'd look into mirrored Colemak. It's described in the BigBag. I've used it for one-handed typing, with a Shift-like modifier for mirroring. Not very fast but easy to learn and interesting. You can use a spare keyboard as a foot switch for the modifier. I'm planning on adding it to the EPKL program using the AltGr key for it.

    Using mirrored Colemak as your main layout will change the relationship between symbol and letter keys a bit, but it shouldn't be a capital issue.

    Shai's tips are also good.  d( ^◇^)b

    Last edited by DreymaR (03-Mar-2021 11:28:02)

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

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