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    Looking for feedback/a second look at my new layout

    • Started by squarology
    • 4 Replies:
    • Reputation: 4
    • Registered: 27-May-2016
    • Posts: 7

    I’ve been using my current layout for a few years. Over the years, I found many problems with it: criminal underuse of thumbs, redundant keys, silly mistakes, unsound paradigm, dead keys, underused keys, home pinky is off, et cetera. No single problem was critical, so I just kept using it. But now the problems are too numerous to ignore, and I’ll be taking some time off to relax and change my layout.

    If you understand what makes a layout good, I’d appreciate it if you could take a look at it to give me some feedback if you have any. I haven’t compiled it yet. I’m not in a rush. I’ll be using QMK. Any tips on mouse, debouncing, and other settings are much appreciated (as they relate to QMK, of course).

    Here is the layout on Oryx: https://configure.zsa.io/ergodox-ez/lay … x/latest/0

    The code for the layout (which isn’t user-friendly): https://gist.github.com/Evotron/1c8b74c … b8ea11d9e4

    Here is the code for my old layout (somewhat user-friendly): https://gist.github.com/Evotron/ee2e58a … 4a34a2cc06

    A picture of my old layout: https://i.imgur.com/MszXbgD.jpg

    And here are two pictures of my keyboard. I’ve modified some of the keys to be easier to press. They were proofs of concept, and they weren’t bad, so I stuck with them. I’ve gotten some new keycaps and materials, so I’ll be changing them as well. Still, the pics are good to understand my layout. https://i.imgur.com/V0qB3PZ.jpg https://i.imgur.com/bX0ZvFe.jpg

    A few notes about the new layout:

    1. Starting at layer 9, every key is just a hotkey. I won’t be using those keys like they were intended, but as hotkeys for use with AHK. Running out of hotkeys is so easy. Media keys and the like give me insurance against that.
    2. No special keys like ñ, é, §, etc. I’m going to be using a macro key to transform single- and multi-character strings to these special characters. I’m using Windows, so this is easily possible with AHK.
    3. The middle finger is a strong finger; I’m not afraid to use it.
    4. The pinky is the weakest finger, so I try to limit its use.
    5. Thumbs are amazing, so I use them. They are criminally underrated.

    EDIT:
    6. The pinky is based one row below the other fingers. So the comma and period are where they would rest.

    Last edited by squarology (13-Jun-2021 00:02:59)
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    • From: UK
    • Registered: 14-Apr-2014
    • Posts: 923

    I'm a bit confused by it - it seems to make some unusual choices such as home row higher up, and row of index fingers alphas stretching down. I think it needs more context/explanation on the objectives and reasoning behind it.

    Last edited by stevep99 (13-Jun-2021 11:06:48)

    Using Colemak-DH with Seniply.

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    • Registered: 27-May-2016
    • Posts: 7

    I switched my layout yesterday evening. I had to reflash a few times to get my intended LED settings working properly. It's only been a few hours, and my proficiency is a tiny fraction of what it was, but I can already say this: this layout feels very good. It's a huge improvement over my previous one.

    To reply to your doubt, Steve, my new layout aims to address the single biggest issue in a majority of keyboards, that is, the extreme underuse of the thumbs. The thumbs are the most dextrous and nimble fingers; thus, they should take on the heaviest loads. It's a simple truth, yet I didn't understand the gravity of it until last year.

    At the beginning of the year, I began creating my new layout. I had time to think about it since I wouldn't be able to switch until the summertime due to work. In February I asked about rolls on this forum. When Shai provided a link to the hand alternation page on the main Colemak site (https://colemak.com/Hand_alternation), I was reacquainted with Arensito, a layout I had come across but had long since forgotten, by a quote that caught my eye: "I finally wanted to maximize the probability of having two consecutive keystrokes happen next to each other. This keeps the fingers rolling and increases the typing speed (Dvorak was wrong!)." I totally agreed and checked out the source.

    To my amazement, the designer of Arensito had to the same conclusion I had, namely, that the thumbs can be better utilized by moving keys up a row and assigning the newly freed keys to the thumbs. That was in 2001(!). He (Håkon Hallingstad, the designer of Arensito) gave his thumb access to five (5) additional keys by doing this. He mentions that Kinesis gives each thumb six (6) keys and Maltron, the layout from which Evotron, my own layout, derives half its name, eight (8). Though, he doubts whether they can be effectively accessed.

    At around this time, I began looking at new developments in QMK. I also looked at other layouts for inspiration. I remembered there was this one guy, Gergely Nagy, AKA algernon, an exceptional programmer who developed the tap dance feature for QMK, who, last time I had checked, was working on making his own layout. In truth, his layouts were never really that good, but I was curious, and, with his skill, anything's possible. As it turns out, he hadn't done much work in that area, but he had contributed to a handful of keyboards, one of which, Dygma, caught my eye.

    Dygma, a company I'd never heard of, made a keyboard with an 8-bar. A video called "The Key to Keyboard Ergonomics - the thumbs ? ?" does a great job explaining their philosophy, and mine as well. Here is a link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J7JVvFa330g It has a lot of great ideas. The problem is that it's an 8-bar. That is, each thumb gets four (4) additional keys. It's not enough. My old version of Evotron had a "24-bar". My new one has a "20-bar". And that's at a minimum because I'm not chording layers or keys.

    V, B, W, Tab, Backspace, Enter, Delete, D, C, and Escape all belong to the left thumb. My old version had more thumb keys, but they were mostly macro keys. Now, with just 10 for each thumb, they are all easily accessible. Likewise, Z, J, X, Q, K, Space, Hyphen, and three (3) macro keys all belong to the right thumb. Also, the pinkies' home row is one row lower than the home row for the other fingers.

    There's a lot more I could say, but I think that's good for now. Typing on this thing is really time consuming. It'll be a long while till I'm comfortable. The potential is there; I can tell it's amazing, but it needs time.

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    • From: UK
    • Registered: 14-Apr-2014
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    Ah OK, thanks for that, that makes more sense now. I hadn't realized keys like B were thumb keys. I was confused because on that keyboard image you link to, there are already plenty of thumb keys. I can see why you might want that sort of hack to get extra thumb keys on a traditional board, but not so much on that one? But since you  mentioned the Dygma's 8 thumb keys not being enough - it's clear you are fully into having huge numbers of thumb keys!

    I totally agree with you on thumb keys being the secret to keyboard enlightenment - but TBH I don't see much value in letters on them - especially low-frequency ones. For me, thumb keys come into their own for layer selection/modifiers, on account of the thumbs being strong yet independent of fingers. That's why I like the idea of 40% style layouts but with thumbs as selectors and modifiers, it results in minimal finger movement while giving thumbs plenty of work doing useful stuff. The Dygma design is pretty good I think - and 8 thumbs keys would be easily enough for me, and it's nice they are programmable and even support dual-role.

    Will be interesting to see how you get on with so many thumb keys...

    Using Colemak-DH with Seniply.

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    • Registered: 27-May-2016
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    I updated my layout. The previous version grouped T, M, P, and G together, which was a mistake because the M-P bigram is common in English and Castilian. I then decided to switch the D to the M, the M to the P, the P to the C, and the C to the D, a simple rotation. Then I considered what Steve had said about low-frequency letters, so I tried putting the N as the main left thumb key. It's a super interesting idea, but a little too crazy methinks, at least for now.

    Initially, I chose C and B because I wanted to deviate as little as possible from Colemak while still improving it. Then I came under the impression that the only way to pull off letters and extensive thumb keys was to use low-frequency letters, or at least letters that don't change things too drastically, which, in my mind, meant low-frequency, as in not high-frequency. I think that's what had been preventing me from finding the simple solution.

    So I tried another common home row key, S, which worked perfectly. It's very Colemak-y, facilitating the migration. I also moved the thumb letters to keys that are easier to reach. These changes improved my layout greatly. I also changed some things in the layers and trimmed the main layout. I feel like the layout has improved massively in the last couple of days.

    I still feel that low-frequency letters are the way to go with the right thumb key since the space bar prevents any high-frequency key from getting near it due to inevitable bigram conflicts. At least, that's what I think. I haven't even investigated whether there are high-frequency keys that don't happen at the beginning or end of a word.

    Here is a link to the layout: https://configure.zsa.io/ergodox-ez/lay … P/latest/0

    A pic on imgur: https://i.imgur.com/KqD4HS4.jpg

    I've also attached it.

    Last edited by squarology (15-Jun-2021 16:24:31)
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