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    Need advice on Colemak + Slovak

    • Started by zblesk
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    Hello. First time posting here. I'm looking for advice on whether and how to move from qwerty to a colemak-based layout.
    I like the idea of more comfortable typing, and the Tarmak scheme I've recently learned about seems like a reasonable way to get into it.

    Here's the catch: I'm Slovak, and most often write either in Slovak or English.

    Basically, I'd appreciate advice on how to evaluate which version to move to, or if it's even worth the hassle.
    Here's a more detailed rundown on what I considered; but there still might be unknown unknowns, I'm new to this.
    Do any of you use colemak for writing Slovak, or maybe Czech?  (Of course I did search the forum; there's not much on Slovak.)

    First off, the frequency of letters and bigrams is naturally different between English (EN), which Colemak was designed for, and Slovak (SK). It seems that the bigram frequency wasn't even calculated for Slovak before. (I've checked with the relevant national institute.) 
    It doesn't sound hard to actually compute those, but then - I'm not sure if it's worth doing, since I'm writing in both EN and SK and my particular stats would be different.

    So therefore my Big Brain Move™ was to make key usage heatmaps (with the Training app ZSA provides for their Moonlander keyboard).
    Then I used paint.net to move the keys around, to see what they'd look like if I'd typed the same letters on a different layout.

    So this is what the heatmap looked on qwerty:


    UmtphWMpT7kk.png

    (There will be inaccuracies: I do use homerow mods, layers, etc. But I think it's close enough. )

    This is what it looked when I moved the letters around to match Colemak-DH, with the top 10 most frequent keys numbered:

    uOIJwJKROH8F.png

    The layout I used:

    colemak_dh_main_matrix.png

    While better in some ways, it certainly seems worse in others; especially in the J-M-K column. Slovak uses 'j' and 'k' more often.

    This is one of the things where I can't judge how important they are. I usually prefer sticking to defaults, if they're close enough, for the sake of consistency. (One example from keyboard space: I use the QWERTY for both EN and SK. The SK default is QWERTZ; it's not worth it, I think.)

    On the other hand: I'm not sure it's a relevant factor here? Nobody else I know will ever use a non-qwerty layout, or use my keyboard. It doesn't matter to the apps I use, either. (I see there are "downloads" for Colemak, but I have no idea what they're for; my plan is to rewrite the firmware in my Moonlander, not do any changes anywhere else, and hope for the best. Will that be a problem?)
    So maybe it makes sense to try to make the layout as good for me specifically as possible?

    On this forum, I've also found the SavetierX layout, "for Central European languages".


    This is what it looked when I moved the letters around to match SavetierX, with the top 10 most frequent keys numbered:

    nmMPgdgzTOyK.png

    It is a bit better; the 8 most frequently used letters now all are on the home row. The J-M-K column is better, but maybe still could be tweaked a bit, to decrease the frequency of diagonal movements of the index finger? Say, switching these:

    znNJvCa5Igg1.png

    Then there's the Tarmak problem. I won't be switching cold turkey, but I don't even know if the final layout I end up with will be amenable to such nice, incremental changes.

    What do you think? Any advice appreciated.

    edit: for some reason, I only see the first 2 images in my post, and not the second 2. Is that just me, or did it break?

    Last edited by zblesk (12-Sep-2023 08:28:46)
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    • From: Viken, Norway
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    No, those images are broken. Interestingly, so is the image I added to this post below. Maybe something is up with this Forum?

    I'm DreymaR, who among other things made a Colemak variant for Slavic typing; the Colemak-Cz and Pl vaAs riants are found in the EPKL program for Windows.

    Cmk-eD-Pl_ANS-CAWS_s0_EPKL.png
    https://github.com/DreymaR/BigBagKbdTri … /Cmk-eD-Pl

    As you can see, my suggestion is to make special letters more available while keeping the main Colemak layout intact. This allows typing in both English and Slavic.

    You're right in your observation that this will lead to some awkward bigrams for Slavic. I'm Norwegian myself, and like you we use J and K a lot more than in English. I still use Colemak both for English and Norwegian. But it's a bit of a question of what you do: I type a lot of English every day, anyway. So for me it's better to have a layout that's really good for English and still decent for Norwegian. Only you can know what you really need.

    For me, it's just as important to have other typing and other keyboard tools like Extend and powerful dead keys, as to worry about layout details. Again, it depends on what you do: If you type lots and lots of text every day with little editing and navigation going on, then your base layout may matter more. For me, it's a mix of some pure typing and quite a lot of other keyboard use: File editing, navigation etc etc.

    Last edited by DreymaR (13-Sep-2023 14:07:51)

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

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    Thank you, DreymaR! Much appreciated.
    I've seen some of your work, but not the CZ variant, so thanks.
    Yeah, I also use a mix of both; I'm a coder by trade, and use the keyboard for navigation as well.
    One thing I didn't mention is, that even when I'm writing in SK, I quite often write without diacritics, so that particular aspect isn't greatly important to me, I guess.

    For me, it's just as important to have other typing and other keyboard tools like Extend and powerful dead keys, as to worry about layout details. Again, it depends on what you do: If you type lots and lots of text every day with little editing and navigation going on, then your base layout may matter more.

    Ah, I don't know what any of those are.
    Google says 'dead keys' are those where instead of hitting a letter for 'č', you do two keystrokes - 'ˇ' and 'c'. Is that correct?
    What's an "Extend"? Google didn't help there.

    And why does the base layout matter more in that case? (Sorry for the daft questions. ?)

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    See my BigBag, link in my signature. Or this:
    https://dreymar.colemak.org

    Yes, a dead key is a key that doesn't produce direct output (it's "dead") but modifies other keys' output.

    The reason your base layout may matter more if you write a lot of text copy, is that in that case you need to enter text more than you navigate and edit. In my case, I navigate and edit a lot! So for me, Extend is even more important.

    If you have any specific tips for a Slovak locale layout variant, please let me know. But it should be the same needs as the Czech one, I think?

    Last edited by DreymaR (14-Sep-2023 13:58:28)

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

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    Ah, understood: If I'm not writing a ton of prose, the little inefficiencies of the layout don't matter as much. I guess that's my case as well.

    Yes, CZ and SK mostly differ in a few letter variations.

    I see, I'll give the Extend layer a closer look. (I'm already used to layers on a smaller keyboard; though I stopped using the Media layer after I built this cuuuuute Reviung5.

    I think I'll give the SavetierX layout a try and see how it goes.

    I'll have to figure out a tarmac variant, though. (But hey! The L-U-I loop is the same on both! I'm already writing with that change, and while I'm absorbing this one, I'll have time to figure out the rest. Yolo. :D)

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    Heh, the LUI loop was originally put as the first Tarmak step since it's self-contained and easy. But then I got the advice of sorting the steps by letter-frequency-based efficiency. Then, it was decided to finish the big loop before doing L-U-I, and the sequence eventually became ETROI (named for an important letter brought to the home row in each step, "12345").

    When deciding on Tarmak variants, do you mean the Colemak-DH vs vanilla decision? For help with that, please consult the Community page.

    https://www.colemak.org

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

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    Ah, so that's why it's called ETROI. :'D

    I got the advice of sorting the steps by letter-frequency-based efficiency.

    Ah, I guess that makes sense. For me it was great that I could find out on just 3 keys whether I won't get tripped up so bad that I abandon the project. 

    It's going well so far, though. In the end I went for the Savetier layout.

    The Tarmak moved the letter J around a lot, arguing it's not used much. Since that's not the case for me, I created the transitional layers from scratch and only ended up with 3 of them.

    Yesterday I've moved to the last one, so typing is slow today. But it's not bad so far.

    Maybe I'll write a blog post about it once I'm done, in case someone else googles for this.

    Last edited by zblesk (04-Oct-2023 12:38:50)
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    Summarized it here, in case anyone is looking for a followup: https://zblesk.net/blog/alternative-key … or-slovak/

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    Glad you found something you like!

    Side note: When you repost my images, I'd like it best if you say they're from DreymaR's Big Bag of Keyboard Tricks (https://dreymar.colemak.org), not just "the Colemak Forum". The BigBag was first created on the Forum, of course, but it's moved to its own pages now.

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

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    Ah! I've taken if from a forum post I think, so I didn't know.
    I'll update the blog post in the evening. Thanks for letting me know.

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