Sorry to drop in unannounced like this, but as the old saying goes, I was just passing by and I heard some interesting things being talked about.
My name's Joe and I'm a court reporter in Perth, Western Australia, and because of my work, audio transcription at the speed of spoken word (120-180 words per minute), ergonomics and "keyboard efficiency" are pretty high on my list of desirable Christmas presents and I like to follow up every possible avenue to see if there's something I've missed.
I'll say up front that I use neither Dvorak nor Colemak, but have used a Maltron (using the Malt layout) since about 1986. One reason I never used these two layouts is because at the time I was learning Maltron (I'd learned QWERTY in 1967) I was working as a "temp" legal secretary and found myself going into various offices, sometimes at an hour's notice, to help out with word processing. I was thus changing keyboards almost on a daily basis, and, as you probably realise, even when only using one layout, not all keyboards are the same. Because Maltron was such a different type of keyboard, I found absolutely no clashing of "mental gears" between Maltron and QWERTY, but I thought that with learning Dvorak (I hadn't met Colemak until late last year, 2010, when I started researching more deeply) on the same "flat" keyboard, it could cause difficulty, with no tactile feedback. However, even after 25 years, I can still use QWERTY, but choose not to, as I'm now self employed, and if other people do wish to employ me, it's on my terms, ie, using Maltron, and my own software, more of which anon.
As noted in a previous post, the Maltron website
has a couple of interesting pages to read, including the academic papers by Lillian Malt and Stephen Hobday (for those of an inquiring mind), and also a couple of word lists, which give interesting data such as the number of different words that can be typed using only the "home row" keys on both Maltron
http://www.maltron.com/keyboard-info/wo … ayout.html
It seemed to me that the greater the number of words that could be typed, the lesser amount of travel by hands and arms, with reduced fatigue and chance of injury.
However, the Maltron website did not perform the same analysis for either Dvorak or Colemak, so in order to obtain a more balanced picture, I performed the "home row test" for all four keyboards, using the one word list.
As observed previously, on the Maltron keyboard the E is considered a home key because it is activated by the left thumb, with the right thumb hitting the space bar.
Based upon an international Scrabble word list of 172,807 words, the following figures were derived.
QWERTY - 198 words can be typed without taking the fingers from the home keys.
DVORAK - 3126 words can be typed without taking the fingers from the home keys.
COLEMAK - 5963 words can be typed without taking the fingers from the home keys.
MALTRON - 7639 words can be typed without taking the fingers from the home keys.
The actual word lists for each keyboard are available on this link:
A couple of points which perhaps I may be able to clarify for you. The OP's comment re the Z and L (and the Q and P?) Keys and the difficulty in using the pinky finger. Many years ago I decided that that was possibly going to be a minor problem, so instead of using the pinky, I use the ring finger(s) for those four keys, since it's very unusual to have digraphs of "ZL", "LZ", "QP" or "PQ". I believe this also will address the comment about typing a double "L". It is a moderately common digraph, but in fact the "L" is not on the home row, so in order to type it, the hand must leave the home row in any case, so to move the ring finger into position is no great difficulty.
I would submit that the many subtleties of Stephen Hobday's execution of Lillian Malt's idea are not truly grasped until, like almost any keyboard layout, one has become very familiar with it. These subtle features include angle of each individual key as it meets with the digit. For example modifying a standard keyboard to make use of the thumb to strike "E" won't necessarily replicate "Maltronic" motion of the key, since on the "flat" keyboard the space bar merely moves up and down, in the one plane, which could possibly result in a suboptimal performance. Further, as well the angle of individual keys in relation to the fingers, each key is at a different depth within the 3D matrix, catering for the differing lengths of each finger.
I found pinkyache's comments pretty well spot on
I think it odd that people are more obsessed with an optimised layout on the standard keyboard rather than creating an optimised ergonomic keyboard.
That's been pretty much the story of my life since working in public with the Maltron. Many people express interest, but virtually nobody will even bother to step outside the box! Oh, I'll stick with what I know, thanks, and they stop complaining about the pain in their wrists (although obviously the pain will still be there.)
I make these comments, having read your thread, to perhaps either (a) save you time in trying to make an unacceptable adaptation or (b) give further inspiration to try something better.
If you are interested, this link
is to my blog where I give a much more detailed analysis of what I consider makes for a truly ergonomic keyboard.
As you probably realise, there's more to an ergonomic keyboard than just the distribution of the letters.
Again, you may or may not be interested in this blog
where I address the efficient/ergonomic use of software, in particular word processing and high speed audio transcription. It probably won't be of any benefit for games or programming, but for many other uses ... well, I'll leave it up to you.
It's almost the same experience with Maltron, when people see me keying in shorthand. Once they find out they have to stop using MS Word, the shutters go up, and they go back to pounding the keyboard, virtual manual labour.
One of the unexpected spinoffs I found to using this shorthand style of typing was that if, for example, I was chatting to someone on line, I could do my typing using the wordprocessor and all its functions, then I created a simple macro, which selected the entire text, saved it to the clipboard, and then I pasted it into my chat page. Very speedy way to chat. ;-)
Anyway, just dropped by for a brief discussion on a topic which seems to be of mutual interest. If you have any questions about the Maltron itself (though obviously not in respect of Colemak) please feel free to contact me either via this board, or send me an email.
PS If you are interested in single handed keyboard, Maltron does a very nice matching pair, for either hand, which I'm currently trying to teach myself how to use with the shorthand described above.
PPS In respect of the question of "cost" of the Maltron, I'd have to say that I bought my first one in 1986, and I'm still using it (without any breakdown) in 2011, so taking the cost over 25 years, I doubt whether you could buy ANY keyboard for such a small price, especially given the amount of work I do on them.
Luckily, I've got four of them, I couldn't survive with out them.
Last edited by proword (03-Mar-2011 01:19:38)