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    Is there a better optimisation for a flat keyboard?

    • Started by jammycakes
    • 10 Replies:
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    • From: Horsham, West Sussex, UK
    • Registered: 11-Jun-2007
    • Posts: 86

    I've said in a couple of places that my biggest problem with Colemak is that it just doesn't suit me on a flat keyboard, such as my laptop. However, having said that, I find it works very well with a split ergonomic keyboard such as my Microsoft Natural 4000.

    The reason for this is that when you're using a layout that is tightly optimised to the home row, it forces your wrists together into a more awkward angle than if you were naturally resting your fingertips on, say, the keys QWEF / JIOP (QWERTY) or QWFT/NUY; (Colemak). This is why I don't use Colemak on my laptop -- it got just too uncomfortable after an extended period of use.

    I've seen one or two other suggested answers to the problem, e.g. DreymaR's bottom row shift, but I'm not entirely convinced that that's the best we can do for comfort even yet. However, I was wondering, what would a keyboard layout look like if we were to abandon the sacred cow of the home row and instead optimise for the alternative home keys that I've suggested? Based on Colemak, something like this would probably be your starting point:

    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *
     A    R    S    *    *    *    *    E    I    O
      *    *    *    T    *    *    N    *    *    *
       *    *    D    *    *    *    H    *    *    *

    If you optimise for this kind of arrangement, it would allow your wrists to adopt a more natural and comfortable angle on a conventional keyboard.

    Is there any mileage in this idea? What if we moved the home keys down a row to ASDVMKL; / ARSVMEIO ? Any other suggestions?

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    • From: Houston, Texas
    • Registered: 03-Jan-2007
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    I don't see this problem at all.  All my typing with Colemak has been done on a flat keyboard and my wrists are straight.

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    • Registered: 17-Mar-2008
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    When I used a flat keyboard (I now use a TypeMatrix) I used the bottom row shift, and that was comfortable enough in terms of keeping my wrists straight.

    If you do try this out be sure to let us know what your results are.

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    • Registered: 27-Apr-2008
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    I also fail to see a problem with Colemak on a flat keyboard. If you have your fingers resting on the home row and each finger is naturally angled to the stagger of the board, Colemak is fine.

    To clarify, your index fingers rest on F and J (Qwerty). If the angle of those fingers is in alignment with C and M below, there should be no problem. Well, not for me anyway. That is how I've always typed.

    Last edited by simonh (06-Oct-2008 12:45:10)

    "It is an undoubted truth, that the less one has to do, the less time one finds to do it in." - Earl of Chesterfield

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    • From: Viken, Norway
    • Registered: 13-Dec-2006
    • Posts: 5,199

    Alexey Kasantsev, the "mad'n'merry"  ;)  maker of the Stamina Typing Tutor seems to have reached a conclusion similar to yours, albeit with a different implementation:
    http://typingsoft.com/typing.htm

    His method will put too much strain on the pinkies I fear. You avoid that it seems, while still getting a more comfortable home row. Even seems that the number row will be more accessible this way, and the home anchors needn't be moved which is practical. But those stretches two rows down look ghastly. I find downward stretches the most awkward in normal typing. I hope you're planning to put œ, æ, ð and ħ down in those dark corners...  ;)

    Thanks for mentioning me. I didn't invent the bottom row shift but I suppose I've earned the right to being associated it through unrelenting zeal and uncompromising fervor.

    Aren't we the joker today. Better stop there, before - or is it too late for that already?

    *** Learn Colemak in 2–5 steps with Tarmak! ***
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    • From: Viken, Norway
    • Registered: 13-Dec-2006
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    Continued from a small detour at https://forum.colemak.com/viewtopic.php?id=128&p=3  ;)

    jammycakes said:
    DreymaR said:

    If - perish the thought! - I were to use QWERTY again, I'd consider using a different home position, with the two middle fingers gravitating one row up (and the left-hand index finger hitting C!). Sounds radical, but it might actually help by the looks of things. I think some QWERTY users do that to some extent.

    That's pretty much what I was asking in this post. I tend to do something like that when I'm qwertying on my laptop and I do find it more comfortable than the focus on the home row since you can spread your wrists out a bit more. There's a kind of natural resting position of ASDC and HUIO, and my fingers tend to gravitate to those positions, though it does make for a lot of hopping and stretching about.

    It's an interesting question. ASDC sounds like you'll get a lot of upwards stretching when you use the number/symbols row, and HUIO won't have an index finger anchor (but I don't suppose you need one anymore). I'd think that either my suggested AWEF JIO: or - if you don't want to rest your pinkies in a bent position - QWEF JIOP, would feel more consistent and "safe". Then again, this isn't about "safe" I suppose but about natural gravitation and different people will have different preferences in that respect. Alexej K. had a slightly different tack as you can see, and there's bound to be others too. Maybe the overall phenomenon isn't as rare as I'd have thought initially.

    You know, people's index and long fingers have different relative lengths! And the independence of the ring and little fingers is a lot better if you're a pianist (or an adept typist) than if you've never worked them out. Things like that are bound to influence what the ideal position for each individual is.

    Overall, I fear that tricks like this will make either upwards or downwards stretches too long. The home row is the middle way and I think it may be golden. It's still a very intrigueing theory that the "upward gravitation trick" may be beneficial to QWERTY because it puts commonly used letters on the top row positions of the middle fingers of each hand. Gravitation, whether conscious or not, will in part be a function of letter frequencies (unless you're really adamant about returning to a strict home row position for each keypress... which I suspect relatively few typists are except for the index fingers). So my guess is that these finger positions can manifest themselves transiently "on their own accord".

    Last edited by DreymaR (22-Oct-2008 12:54:02)

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    • Registered: 03-Jul-2009
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    jammycakes said:
    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *
     A    R    S    *    *    *    *    E    I    O
      *    *    *    T    *    *    N    *    *    *
       *    *    D    *    *    *    H    *    *    *

    If you optimise for this kind of arrangement, it would allow your wrists to adopt a more natural and comfortable angle on a conventional keyboard.

    Is there any mileage in this idea? What if we moved the home keys down a row to ASDVMKL; / ARSVMEIO ? Any other suggestions?

    I don't find the shown arrangement to be comfortable. Better, NEIO would be comfortable, whilst ARST would be not.

    I've shifted the right hand keys a column to the right, and I find it the best arrangement on a standard keyboard so far. Not being too fussy about keeping the tips of my fingers centered over home keys, especially the indexes, allows me to keep my wrists straight.

    Dvorak typist here.  Please take my comments with a grain of salt.

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    • From: Viken, Norway
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    What I'd do is suppose that the middle and ring fingers rest between the upper and home row instead of only on the home row and then optimize for that. Incidentially, this makes QWERTY a tad less idiotic because the E isn't in a hopeless position anymore! Hence I think many typists do that whether they're aware of it or not.

    I wouldn't want my pinkies on the top row I believe, as the downward stretches seem very long then and I'm more comfortable keeping them in a slightly curved resting position.

    Last edited by DreymaR (27-Nov-2009 10:00:39)

    *** Learn Colemak in 2–5 steps with Tarmak! ***
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    • From: London
    • Registered: 29-Sep-2009
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    I tried something similar on a programmable point of sale keyboard. I moved all of the index finger keys down one position. It seemed logical, but it didn't feel good. Maybe I should have persisted, but I went back to something more conventional:
    attachment.php?attachmentid=3368&d=1248700167

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    rajagra said:

    I tried something similar on a programmable point of sale keyboard.

    POS keyboards are an interesting twist indeed. Only issue is they usually employ linear switches instead of tactile ones.

    Dvorak typist here.  Please take my comments with a grain of salt.

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    • From: London
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    spremino said:

    POS keyboards are an interesting twist indeed. Only issue is they usually employ linear switches instead of tactile ones.

    Yes, Cherry MX black switches, in the case of the Tipro MID KM128A above. :-(

    Last edited by rajagra (27-Nov-2009 13:43:59)
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