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LEARNING COLEMAK ONE HAND AT A TIME?!
The discussion in that thread of Wibble's (https://forum.colemak.com/viewtopic.php?id=337) about how a layout change breaks our "gestalt" feeling but then it's regained for the changed layout at a speed which depends on the complexity of the changes, had me thinking about the idea someone had a while ago: That you could learn Colemak not all at once but small bits at a time. (Does anybody remember who that was, or where that topic is?) I'm wondering whether it might be a good idea after all, since I and others have been arguing how easy it is to make small changes compared to big ones. Obviously, moving one letter means that you pretty much have to move another and so on, but I've found an intrigueing way to break up the loops.
The L-U-I keys make a mini-loop on the right hand: Moving these from their QWERTY positions to Colemak ones changes nothing else. That might be learnt first, as a warm-up step. I'm leaving open to debate whether 2 bigger steps or one little baby step first to get used to "gestalt remoulding" before getting serious is the better way to go about this; currently I'm leaning towards including L-U-I with the next step.
q w E R T Y l u O P a S D F G h J K i ; The L-U-I mini-loop is the only change shown so far z x c v b N m
If you use a "non-US" board with a VK_102 key to the left of Z, you could start off with the BRHS (moving ZXCVB one to the left), and get used to that before moving on. This breaks your keyboard "gestalt feel" a little, but doesn't change any fingering. A good starting exercise.
z x c v b _ N m optional but nice (semi-)step if you have VK_102
The large change loop goes F-T-G-D-S-R-P-;-O-Y-J-N-K-E and in this loop only P and E move between hands (nice work, Shai!). Note how they're splitting the loop fairly down the middle, and oddly enough all the keys on each side are on one hand? Aha! It struck me that you can change one hand at a time! That could be useful I think? If you can concentrate largely on learning one hand at a time I think it might be an advantage - for some, at least? I'm in no way certain, but the thought certainly fascinates me and I'd like to see it discussed here.
If this is done in two operations, only one key needs to be temporarily displaced. Still, better make sure it's a rare key, and the rarest of them all must be ';' (or whatever lies on that key, such as the Æ, Ø, Ö or other European special letters). Conveniently, it lies right after P which swaps hands and thus naturally marks the "middle" of the loop. The choice is whether to map it onto the 'orphaned' key you've moved first, or tuck it away on its' own AltGr mapping for the time being. For that matter, you could do both and in addition put it on an AltGr mapping of the QWERTY P position where it'll end up eventually as well! Having a board with two E's temporarily might on the other hand (pun initially unintended...) ease the transition a little, something I noticed when learning Colemak with two BackSpace keys.
The right hand goes first since it'll move the important E key and we're already started on that hand. Swapping ;-O-Y-J-N-K-E, note how the right hand is done now except for P, and all the vocals are in place already.
q w ; R T j l u y P a S D F G h n e i o ';' goes to an AltGr mapping, or takes the old E position as shown z x c v b k m
Once the right hand feels sufficiently Colemak trained, do the left hand chain F-T-G-D-S-R-P ... and voila, we're done!
That was 2-3(.5) steps. As mentioned, I'm currently for making it 2 only - one for each hand: First L-U-I and ;-O-Y-J-N-K-E (10 keys) and then the remaining 7 (optionally together with ZXCVB_). The E and P that swap hands get put into one step each, which feels right to me. Some might want to move the P in the first step to complete the right hand, but then either the P has to reside in a temp position or you start digging into the left-hand changes already. I don't like either of those much.
Whether you'd be better off with 3-4 steps or just 2 could be a matter of preference and individual learning characteristics I suppose. In the original "chunk-learning" topic the topic maker wanted more steps while I held back feeling that too many steps would be confusing instead of helpful. I'd like to hear arguments for either position.
Having temp steps means having extra layout files, preferably for all the operating systems and national variants etc. I know Shai doesn't like that idea, and I can't say I blame him for it. So I'm discussing this mainly as an idea for interested users and not as a suggestion for Shai. This is another reason to do 2 steps only: You'd get away with a single intermediary layout which should be quite manageable.
If someone actually want to try it out and don't have the skills to make the temp layout files I could help them if they're using Windows (and probably Linux X11 as well). I already know Colemak so the idea is of no direct use to me anymore, but I'd like to see it discussed out of academic interest.
Øystein "DreymaR" Gadmar