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Workman Keyboard Layout????

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Hey what do you guys think of this?
The guy claims that Colemak has too much side-to-side movement and that the H and E action is annoying and maybe even harmful in the long run.
What do you guys think of his criticisms and his layout?

http://viralintrospection.wordpress.com … d-layouts/

Last edited by parkerv (04-Oct-2010 08:09:06)
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It's interesting, but I think I don't quite agree with him.  :)

- His layout has consistently higher same-finger ratio than Colemak. Same-finger is the worst of all the bad statistics in my head. It's interesting to note that he claims the layout optimized for the common bigrams in English and yet it performs suboptimally in this important respect! A difference of a percent or so may not look like a lot on paper, but bear in mind how much of a difference in typing speed and comfort an error rate difference of less than a percent can mean once that percentage is in its high 90s!
- The issue of "side-to-side movement" as he calls it is really about making the index finger stretch to the H and D keys, I take it? It's individual how much of a strain that is to people, but I do agree that for instance the F and U keys are easier to hit than these particular home row locations. However, there are good reasons for keeping those keys there and I hope Shai himself can elaborate on that.
- Personally, I don't think it's hard at all but then I play musical instruments. :)  I suspect that the Workman guy doesn't float his hands well while typing, contributing to his problems.
- I'm pretty sure Shai could also give a few specific arguments as to why the Workman layout leads to more of the dreaded same-finger problem and probably a few other things.
- While it's probably more or less as good to type on as Colemak, it moves more keys around from their QWERTY positions. The benefits of not doing so are not obvious to all newcomers, but in my experience they're substantial even after having learnt the new layout!

Last edited by DreymaR (30-Sep-2010 08:59:53)
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The author of the article apparently has problem stretching to H using the index finger, while remaining stationary with the middle finger, hovering above E. I weren't aware that this could be a problem for some people, but then again, I've been playing the piano for quite some time too. One big problem I see with the Workman Layout is the positioning of the P, the K, the M and a few more letters which are more frequent in Swedish than English. One of the enormous advantages of Colemak, when I chose the layout, is that it works pretty well with Swedish too.

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I didn't have to get as far as the workman layout to tell there are some major issues with it's design. Just look at the "strain/difficulty" map. "W" gets a 2 while "H" gets a 3? "A", right under the pinkie and requiring no movement gets a 2, the same rating as "V" on the bottom row? The only way these make sense is if I was just learning to touch type. Even then it is a long shot.

Last edited by cevgar (30-Sep-2010 19:04:02)
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Strain/difficulty maps are always prone to individual preference it seems. GIGO-prone, in the worst case.

I agree fully that the A key shouldn't have a high difficulty for all but a very few (hardly trained) typists. It's a weak finger, but even a weak finger can plonk down the key right under it. And if not exactly stronger in terms of lifting weights, it's better suited for stretching than the ring finger that hits the W position anyway.

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Hmm interesting. What his layout reminds me of is the numeric keypad -- where it's designed for vertical movement between the rows. I used to do numeric data entry and in my heydays was able to do over 16000 keystrokes per hour or at least 5 keystrokes per second. I disagree with Dreymar in that I don't think that Same Finger is the worst metric, especially if the difference is only half a percent. 10-keyers operate with over 30% Same Finger usage and it's not uncomfortable. In fact, it's quite effective. They also have a 100% same hand usage,(take that Dvorak :P).  While it's true that 10-keying cannot potentially be as fast as typing, my point is that a half-percent to even a 1 percent difference in terms of same finger utilization is negligible especially considering that it seems that he was able to bring down distance, and also index finger stretching by 50%. Granted at the expense of moving more letters around. I find his layout quite interesting.

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If you type on an orthogonal matrix, same-finger may work differently. It's easier to slide up and down on a 10pad than on the standard keyboard - at least when your rows are staggered as is the usual non-TypeMatrix case.

As a general rule for the usual type of letter block, I stick to my assessment.

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DreymaR said:

It's interesting, but I think I don't quite agree with him.  :)
- Personally, I don't think it's hard at all but then I play musical instruments. :)  I suspect that the Workman guy doesn't float his hands well while typing, contributing to his problems.

I was wondering about that too.  I float so for H, I also don't stretch much and certainly don't twist.  I'm moving the whole forearm and keeping the wrist straight.  So H-E is simply forearm movement followed by snap back to home position and depressing the E with middle finger.  That's a very accurate move for me.  Much more than the attempting a sideways movement for the L in Dvorak layout with the pinky which is why pinky was often just stretching without forearm movement and getting strained.

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DreymaR said:

If you type on an orthogonal matrix, same-finger may work differently.

I type on orthogonal keyboards most of the time. I've never been able to get same-finger working very well, with or without finger sliding.

Last edited by tomlu (05-Oct-2010 09:24:32)
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  • Shai
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The Workman layout is a layout that tries to gain a few extra percents of optimizing one factor, while completely neglecting other factors.
1. The layout doesn't maintain ZXCV in the same location. e.g. if you're working with different windows that have different keyboard layouts, it means you can't reliably copy and paste between windows. This also ignores the strong motor memory of these shortcuts. It makes it harder to learn, and more difficult if you're switching back and forth between layouts.
2. The layout moves more keys around, more keys move hands, they move further away. Many of the ease of learning elements in Colemak have been ignored.
3. Same finger is mostly ignored. It's quite bad on the ring fingers which aren't dexterous. You'll see people who complained in the forum about the same-finger of the WR/RW same-finger digraph on the ring finger in Colemak. Compare it to the PO/OP digraph on Workman which is an order of magnitude more common. Same-finger aren't a big deal in the beginning, but they become very problematic with high speed typing as they break the flow of typing.
4. Shift-Capslock is escape, which means that if you're typing words in uppercase by holding the shift, you can't make corrections without releasing and repressing the shift key, which is very annoying.
5. By optimizing for combos, it allows for quite long sequences of the same hand. Colemak IMO has a better balance between combos and hand alternation.
6. It has more row jumping than Colemak.
7. The letter D, which is the 10th most frequent letter in English gets a bad placement on the ring finger off the home row.
8. The research is based on a small corpus of six books, which skews all the statistics.
9. The author claims to be "Workman is now stable and better than before. There will be no more changes after October 3, 2010". There hasn't been any feedback yet from long-term users (I doubt even the author has used it for long), and it still has design flaws which means that either it will be changed again, or the flaws will be ignored.
10. The author claims "Typing ‘HE’ [on Colemak] forced the hand to make a very unnatural sideways twisting motion from the wrist and then back again". If you're twisting your wrists while typing, you're doing it wrong. Again the layout was optimized for the TH combo, while ignoring other typing statistics.
11. A project that only exists as a blog post, and doesn't even have it's own webpage doesn't inspire too much respect, or demonstrates any investment from the author.

I've added it to the list of alternatives layouts, but I think there are better ones out there.

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I personally don't really see a point to this layout. I spoke to the author of the layout about it, and overall the concept of home keys vs home row is very true, Colemak is still far superior than it. One letter H, which I type easily, isn't going to make me switch my layout.

Also, what keyboard are you using Shai? I just received my TypeMatrix 2030 keyboard and it's great, but I really hate the middle enter and backspace. I want my backspace lock back haha. I'm wondering if I should return it.

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I am currently learning the workman layout, and I like it so far.  I've typed Dvorak for 4 years (over 100 wpm), and have learned 2 other layouts (colemak & a modified carpalx).  While it's much too early to make any conclusions about workman, I can say that I have high hopes for it.  Many of you have immediately disregarded it, probably because colemak already meets your needs - which is great.  Colemak is a fine layout.  But I wouldn't be so quick to label it as pointless. 

Shai brought up some good points, but many of them are non-issues for me.

1) ZXCV is not nearly as important to me as how well the layout flows under my fingers
2) Ease of learning is a valid point, although workman will be easier to pick up than dvorak
3) Same finger is about as good as dvorak.  But not all same finger sequences are undesirable
4) Shift-capslock is a two-edged sword, but I tend to agree with Shai on this one
5) There are long sequences on the same hand.  Time will tell if that is good or bad
6) True, yet I haven't encountered any that are awkward to type
7) The letter D is in one of the easiest keys to hit, for me.
8) A corpus is only as useful as your heuristics
9) The author has used it for 2 months and types about 70 wpm.  *all* layouts have flaws (yes, even colemak)
10) Agreed
11) Again, agreed.  But just because he hasn't yet, doesn't mean he won't...  the layout is very new


One of the reasons I didn't decide to stay with colemak is because it overloads the index fingers, and I found mine were in pain after typing all day.  Another reason is that it never quite felt right.  I felt some sequences were a lot harder to type than they should have been.  Workman appears to address those concerns without sacrificing things I care about, but like I said, I won't know until I have reached a 60-70 wpm.

I'm not here to bash on colemak, or glorify workman.  I just hate to see people disregard it so quickly when it appears to have a lot to offer.

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All these keyboard layouts (Dvorak, Colemak, Workman, Arensito etc) are the same and good to me. 1% difference is undetectable. Like splitting an hair by 4.

Colemak is good that it come from qwerty, the de facto standard.

Here is Carpalx research on keyboard layouts
http://mkweb.bcgsc.ca/carpalx/?

Last edited by Tony_VN (09-Dec-2010 10:45:52)
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bsdhacker said:

I felt some sequences were a lot harder to type than they should have been.

Would you care to explain further?  Thanks.

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

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spremino said:

Would you care to explain further?  Thanks.

According to the corpus used by the Carpalx project, the top 5 trigraphs are:

the
ing
and
her
you

"the" is by far the most frequent, and typing it on Colemak requires me to stretch my right hand in a rather uncomfortable way.  Maybe its uncomfortable because I have rather short index fingers.  I feel like my fingers have to do the splits to hit "HE" in sequence.

"you" is perhaps the most awkward of the bunch to type, although it does not cause discomfort for me.

"her" has the same problem as "the"

"and" is another case  that I have to stretch to reach, although this one isn't a real bother.


Also, given my short index fingers, the letter "L" is in a very uncomfortable spot.  My entire hand has to move in order to strike it.  This really puts a damper on the flow of my typing.

This is not an effort to sabotage Colemak, but to shed light on why Workman may be useful for some people, like myself.  The difference in finger lengths makes a big difference.  I have a co-worker who has index fingers that are a longer than his middle fingers.  Mine are about 2cm shorter.

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  • Shai
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bsdhacker, I think that there is something wrong in your typing technique if you can't reach comfortably the letter "L", regardless of finger length. Maybe you could post a video of you typing, so we can tell you what's going wrong.

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Could be lack of float? If you're too "glued to the keys" it'll be a hassle to reach the top and bottom rows both as one finger has to do all the work to get there. I float around slightly, within the borders of the key cap, so that the hand helps out just a bit.

To achieve good float, I believe you should keep the wrists relatively straight around all axes. I like workspaces that allow me to rest my elbows on the desk.

Regardless of finger length, reaching the L shouldn't be difficult at all with good technique.

Last edited by DreymaR (04-Jan-2011 12:25:26)
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It's got to be about not floating.  If you have good typing position, with wrists straight and the heel of the hands in the air, not anchored, the all those three letter sequences become a snap with practice no matter what the relative length of the fingers.

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As many of you already pointed out, I agree that feeling uncomfortable with the stretch to 'H' comes from sticking too much to the 'E' with the middle finger. In my opinion this is mostly a problem only while learning a new layout. As you're not confident with the layout, you're very focused on not loosing your position. This leads to the other fingers 'sticking' to their position. As soon as you gain confidence, you start to float again and stretch your fingers far less.
At least that's my experience.

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bsdhacker said:

I am currently learning the workman layout, and I like it so far.  I've typed Dvorak for 4 years (over 100 wpm), and have learned 2 other layouts (colemak & a modified carpalx).  While it's much too early to make any conclusions about workman, I can say that I have high hopes for it.  Many of you have immediately disregarded it, probably because colemak already meets your needs - which is great.  Colemak is a fine layout.  But I wouldn't be so quick to label it as pointless. 

Shai brought up some good points, but many of them are non-issues for me.

1) ZXCV is not nearly as important to me as how well the layout flows under my fingers
2) Ease of learning is a valid point, although workman will be easier to pick up than dvorak
3) Same finger is about as good as dvorak.  But not all same finger sequences are undesirable
4) Shift-capslock is a two-edged sword, but I tend to agree with Shai on this one
5) There are long sequences on the same hand.  Time will tell if that is good or bad
6) True, yet I haven't encountered any that are awkward to type
7) The letter D is in one of the easiest keys to hit, for me.
8) A corpus is only as useful as your heuristics
9) The author has used it for 2 months and types about 70 wpm.  *all* layouts have flaws (yes, even colemak)
10) Agreed
11) Again, agreed.  But just because he hasn't yet, doesn't mean he won't...  the layout is very new


One of the reasons I didn't decide to stay with colemak is because it overloads the index fingers, and I found mine were in pain after typing all day.  Another reason is that it never quite felt right.  I felt some sequences were a lot harder to type than they should have been.  Workman appears to address those concerns without sacrificing things I care about, but like I said, I won't know until I have reached a 60-70 wpm.

I'm not here to bash on colemak, or glorify workman.  I just hate to see people disregard it so quickly when it appears to have a lot to offer.

Bsdhacker, have you got any more thoughts to contribute after so much time has passed.

I am particularly interested to hear your thoughts on point #5 (long sequences on same hands).

Thanks.

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Just a thought: Have anyone considered or learned alternative fingering for the HE/EH bigram? I just tried out sliding in with the ring finger and it does feel comfortable even if I misfire a bit right off the bat. Same logic would apply for the SD/DS bigram but that's less frequent.

What does the quick brown fox say? The quick brown fox seems to agree with me. :)

Last edited by DreymaR (17-Jun-2014 08:22:43)
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DreymaR said:

Just a thought: Have anyone considered or learned alternative fingering for the HE/EH bigram? I just tried out sliding in with the ring finger and it does feel comfortable even if I misfire a bit right off the bat.

Besides the quick brown fox, Sean Wrona would approve, too:: " I believe my biggest advantage in typing is that I do not necessarily use the same finger to type the same key. I use whichever finger is most comfortable, which can vary based on the context of the letters in the word." (from http://seanwrona.com/typing.php)

On the other hand, what about swapping H and M?  I know that, this way, H would be on the bottom row, but I think that the bottom row is too maligned.  For me, the M key is an easy reach for the index finger without moving the hand.  What about you guys?

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

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I think I have many with me in my scepticism against the bottom row. It could be the way I (and you) type, but curling the fingers seems much less pleasant than stretching them a little for the top row. This touches on the discussion above, as it's worst for the long middle and ring fingers. Other than that, the XC/<> positions certainly aren't horrible and apart from the X they're used for fairly important keys already so I think they're okay.

The M and V keys aren't so bad really, as the index fingers are flexible. I don't like the idea of swapping two more keys from their QWERTY positions unless there's a really good reason for it though; and I don't think there is in this case. At least it wouldn't affect the bigram statistics.

Maybe for people who abhor the middle positions it could be suggested as a quick hack! But that'll break the ease of implementation that Colemak has now, so I'd rather suggest the alternative fingering route.

Last edited by DreymaR (17-Jun-2014 09:51:36)
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Workman is on the right track as far as difficulty. But his chart is too simplified. Thus I have made a more detailed strain/difficulty/effort chart based on his:

keyboard_effort_grid.png

Effort is not just based on strain and reach for the fingers, but also how much arm movement is involved to minimize strain on the fingers. We both agree that the top and bottom rows for the pinkies are the worst. However, I disagree on several other keys, particularly the bottom row.

So I agree with spremino that the bottom row is much maligned. According to my chart, the bottom row is generally easier to type, that is, uses less effort overall. After the four home keys, the bottom index key requires the least effort, much easier than the center column index key--the same key which brought about the Workman layout in the first place. Thus I have made several layouts that favor the bottom over the top, in particular to take advantage of the bottom index key, and consistently the overall efforts for these layouts are less than Dvorak and Colemak, and even Workman.

I echo the sentiment regarding the top index key not that easy to reach. It is moderate difficulty; only 5 keys have greater difficulty, and 9 of less difficulty. In other words, of the 15 keys on the same hand, it is the 6th worst key.

You can read more about my experiments with my layouts here:
http://www.shenafu.com/smf/index.php?topic=89.0

Last edited by Amuseum (17-Jun-2014 23:59:05)
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I'd have more than 0 on the home row keys, although that may just result in a total penalty shift in the model? Also, the pinkies and ring fingers are about the same I feel. Maybe add 0.25 to all eight home position keys except pinkies? Also, the VM keys aren't really easier than FU I believe, so maybe 1.0 on those too? Also, I don't see why Q: should be that much harder than GJ – when trying them out they feel about the same to me.

Other than that, I think you're quite onto something with those weights! :) It's bound to be a bit individual of course.

As for the layout itself, I strongly recommend giving a mild penalty to moving keys from their QWERTY positions if you're making the layout for anyone else than yourself at least – and even for your own good. Punctuation flying all over the layout looks butt ugly, is harder to implement and probably just not worth it.

Last edited by DreymaR (19-Jun-2014 08:11:14)
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