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    Why I still love Vanilla Colemak over DH

    • Started by NottNott
    • 7 Replies:
    • Reputation: 29
    • Registered: 03-Feb-2018
    • Posts: 126

    (xposted from /r/colemak)

    A lot of people talk as if Colemak DH is a direct upgrade to vanilla. For some people the center column usage of DH in vanilla is a big problem, and DH is what works for them.

    Obviously not saying DH is bad, in my case it just didn't work for me. I've been using some kind of Colemak 24/7 since February 2018, and I used DH fulltime for two months in that time period too. Here's some reasons I prefer vanilla:

    1. All about the 'C' key

    This was my biggest issue to overcome, although I completely learned the Colemak layout, I still always press 'C' with my index finger and learning to press it with my middle finger still had some strong mental resistance after 2 months, it just didn't feel natural to me. DH 'improves' the positions of D and H, but seemingly sacrifices the 'C' key by putting it where the almost never pressed X key is. The DH layout encourages you to press the D key with your index, similar to how you press C with your index on QWERTY/Colemak. If D and H was not a problem for you in the first place, the C key is now in a worse position, which for me killed my ability to use the layout.

    2. Better shortcuts

    I think ANSI is superior to ISO because the enter key is perfectly sized for touchtyping, compared to the fat enter key with ISO where you have to reach further to hit enter. The left shift is also bigger for gaming. Looking at the DH layout, Ctrl+Z is in the middle of the board making it harder to reach, and because Ctrl+D is next to Ctrl+C and V now, I seriously ended up bookmarking every other page I visited in Google Chrome.

    3. Better vim keybindings

    Just a nitpick. I don't rebind any keys when using Colemak with vim, and it's mostly totally fine. DH moves QWERTY/Colemak H to the QWERTY/Colemak M position, which makes already counterintuitive bindings slightly worse. I can imagine it's still totally usable.

    These are ultimately small issues and DH is a great layout. I found these issues to be bigger than the benefits gained from the 'better' positions of the D and H keys (especially the 'C' key position), so I use vanilla Colemak over DH.

    I made this post because I'm tired of people treating Vanilla like it's totally outclassed and DH is superior. If these issues don't affect you, and the placement of the DH keys is an issue for you on vanilla, I'm sure DH will provide improvement over the Vanilla layout. Every subsequent alternate keyboard layout that is an improvement from QWERTY suffers from diminishing returns, Colemak can only improve so much compared to Dvorak, DH improves even less compared to vanilla Colemak, after a while it does become academic.

    But if we're rooting for our home team some more: Carpalx lists vanilla Colemak's effort rating as lower than DH. Whether DH is better in the first place is also dependant on which layout analyser is used etc.

    Reject DH, return to Vanilla

    Last edited by NottNott (10-Apr-2021 16:12:19)
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    • From: Oslo, Norway
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    I think you're misunderstanding one rather important thing: You are not encouraged to press Colemak C with anything but your middle finger, far from it! Colemak was designed to have C on the same finger as S (and F). What you've been using is known as the Angle Cheat and while it works well on QWERTY it isn't at all recommended for Colemak as it'll lead to worse SFBs.

    ( のvの) c[_]  ~(  Read the Colemak Design FAQ  )
      https://colemak.com/Design

    Last edited by DreymaR (10-Apr-2021 17:28:48)

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

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    I was planning to share a similar post to explain why I find vanilla Colemak to be better than mod-DH, but you beat me to it even though I do not agree all your points. Right now I use ortholinear keyboards almost exclusively (a Preonic and an Atreus) so C key is not a problem for me, and it isn't a problem for me when I type in Qwerty either. I like how vanilla Colemak keeps the common shortcuts in their place though.

    What I really didn't like about mod-DH is that it made my index fingers jump up and down much more (or at least it made me feel that way). It is kind of hard to explain but bear with me. In vanilla Colemak as D and H are on the home row, my index fingers are on average stay on the home row; and when they need to leave their position, they only need to move 1U (again on average). But on mod-DH, now that D and H keys are on the bottom row, the statistically expected position of my index fingers are also slightly below T and N keys. This position is of course more comfortable because the index fingers are relatively short, but since when typing they are expected to leave that position, in contrast the average movement of the index finger is increased. So in short, I think mod-DH is a more comfortable solution for the index fingers for when your hands are static, but typing is a dynamic process, and it falls short in that respect (pun intended).

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    This is a really excellent point. DH makes reaching for the top row after pressing D or H harder.

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    DreymaR said:

    I think you're misunderstanding one rather important thing: You are not encouraged to press Colemak C with anything but your middle finger, far from it! Colemak was designed to have C on the same finger as S (and F). What you've been using is known as the Angle Cheat and while it works well on QWERTY it isn't at all recommended for Colemak as it'll lead to worse SFBs.

    DH moves D to where C would be, and on the DH website it's stated that the D key should be pressed with the index finger. On the surface it seems that the index finger is just the naturally more comfortable way to press the key, unless there's some advanced bigrams that have been figured out that make index D on DH a good idea but index C on vanilla a bad idea.

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    I think you'll get used to it!

    Last edited by AndrewSmith (14-Apr-2021 11:12:47)
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    NottNott said:

    unless there's some advanced bigrams that have been figured out that make index D on DH a good idea but index C on vanilla a bad idea.

    Top 3 non-punctuation same-finger bigrams for...

    (1) standard Colemak (and Colemak-DH):

    1. finger 6     KN     0.105%
    2. finger 7     UE     0.104%
    3. finger 2     SC     0.096%

    (2) Colemak "Angle-Cheat":

    1. finger 3     CT     0.200%
    2. finger 6     KN     0.105%
    3. finger 7     UE     0.104%

    Angle cheat trades SC for CT. It certainly worse, albeit not massively so.

    It also changes the finger usage distribution:

    (1) standard Colemak (and Colemak-DH):

    finger 2     10.30%   (middle)
    finger 3     18.64%    (index)

    (2) Colemak "Angle-Cheat":
       
    finger 2     8.17%    (middle)
    finger 3     20.91%    (index)

    Left index finger somewhat more utilized, middle finger has not so much to do. Perhaps this greater imbalance is actually the more significant problem?

    Last edited by stevep99 (15-Apr-2021 15:41:42)

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

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    For 3. You could just use extend as  a replacement because extend puts the arrow keys in similar places to the vim keys

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