Keyboard Layout: Dvorak vs Colemak: is it Worthwhile to Improve the Dvorak Layout?

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Keyboard Layout: Dvorak vs Colemak: is it Worthwhile to Improve the Dvorak Layout?

Xah Lee, 2010-08-30, …, 2011-06-10

There are many keyboard layouts. Some claim to be better than Dvorak layout. (See: Dvorak, Maltron, Colemak, NEO, Bépo, Turkish-F, Keyboard Layouts Fight!.) For languages other than English, then improving on Dvorak is significant. However, for English languages, even for programers, improving on Dvorak seems to be a lost cause. This page tells you why.

Which Layout is the Most Efficient?

PAT's Keyboard Layout Analyzer

Patrick Gillespie wrote a web app at http://patorjk.com/keyboard-layout-analyzer/. The app is very simple and visual oriented. It takes a input text, and computes simple distances and finger frequency among 5 layouts: QWERTY, Dvorak, Colemak, Capewell, Arensito. Plus, it also generates a new layout that is most optimal for the input text you used.

Major Problem: The site only compare simple measures such as distances, row positions, and finger ease. It does not take consideration of ease of digraph, hand alternation, etc. (e.g. try to type “mommy you ok” in QWERTY.)

Keyboard Evolve

Michael Capewell, author of the Capewell layout, wrote a software Keyboard Evolve, written in C++, that uses evolutionary algorithms to arrive at a optimal layout. michaelcapewell.com Keyboard Evolve. Here's a quote:

Unfortunately, I have yet to find the holy grail of keyboard layout evolution parameters! Things are complicated by there being a fundamental difference in how curved, ergonomic keyboards and plain, rectangular keyboards are used — the way I see things, they have different home “rows.” This program works best for ergonomic keyboards. I'm in the process of finding the right balance between the two…

The moral here is: What keyboard hardware you use has more impact to hand health than layout.

carPalx Study

carPalx (at http://mkweb.bcgsc.ca/carpalx/) is a site dedicated to studying efficiency of keyboard layouts. The site is created by a Martin Krzywinski, a Bioinformatics scientist.

The study assumes English language, and assumes the default PC keyboard key layout. It uses computation and statistics to find a best model of efficiency measurements, then evaluate the different layouts. This is the most thorough study and quite technical. You can spend several days studying the site.

When you study keyboard layout as carPalx did, one thing quickly becomes obvious. The difficulty in creating the “most efficient” isn't about computing distances or gathering statistics, but finding the proper metrics (i.e. what to measure with respect to a goal).

According to him, the layouts from best to worst are: QFMLWY, QGMLWB, QGMLWY, Colemak, Dvorak, Capewell, Arensito, QWERTY. See: Full Optimization - Q*MLW* Layouts http://mkweb.bcgsc.ca/carpalx/?full_optimization.

carPalx site does not evaluate the Maltron layout, because the e key is on Maltron's thumb cluster, not on a standard PC keyboard. Also, carPalx's program does not seem to search layout spaces where the , . / keys on QWERTY are re-arranged. This seems to be a major flaw of their test.

Does Improving on Dvorak Do Anything?

No Consideration of Hardware Key Layout Problems

Keyboard layout studies on the web always assume the common PC keyboard hardware's key layout.

pc keyboard physical key layout

PC keyboard physical key layout

It's easy to write computer programs to compute the various frequencies and distances of the PC keyboard's keys. It is also easy to create a keyboard layout. But it is difficult to invent a different physical key layout that fixes some serious PC keyboard problems. Thus, all online layout studies simply focus on shuffling of the keys of the PC keyboard. (See: Computer Keyboards Gallery.)

The PC keyboard physical-keys layout has several major flaws with respect to ergonomics. For example, the Enter, Tab, Backspace, are most frequently used keys but requires the pinky to press. In particular, the Tab, Enter, right Shift, Backspace, keys requires the pinky to stretch over 1 or more keys. (See: Keyboard Hardware Design Flaws.)

You might think that these keys are not used that often. But most keyboarding activities are not straight input of letter characters, especially in computer programing. Most of the time you are editing. You use editing keys such as arrow keys, Backspace, Enter, Tab, more often than some of the letter keys. From statistical study of emacs commands, the percentage of editing related key presses is 48% of all key presses! (See: Emacs's Command Frequency.)

Another problem of PC keyboard's physical-keys layout is that the right hand has 5 more keys letter/symbol keys than the left, and all of them are pressed by stretched pinky. Also, the key alignment are unnaturally jagged.

From my recent experience, if you just type the Enter key and Tab keys all day, just these two keys and nothing else, on a standard PC keyboard, with hands at touch-typing positions, say do it once every 5 seconds, for 8 hours, you'll get RSI fast. (See: Left Wrist side-to-side Motion Pain; vi Esc key Syndrome.)

Just How Much Do You Type?

Many programers all claim to type 8 or 10 hours a day. They may be sitting in front of the computer all day, but the time their fingers actually dance on keyboard is probably less than 1 hour per day.

Contrast data-entry clerks. They are the real typists. Their fingers actually type, continuously, for perhaps 6 hours per day.

It is important get a sense of how much you actually type. This you can do by logging you keystrokes using a software.

Let's assume a pro typist sustain at 60 wpm. 60 wpm is 300 strokes per min, or 18k per hour. Suppose she works 8 hours a day, and assume just 3 hours actually typing. 18k × 3 = 54k chars per day. With this figure, you can get a sense of how many “hours” you actually type per day.

I sit in front of computer on average 13 hours per day for the past several years. I program and write several blogs. My actual typing is probably double or triple of average day-job programers. From my emacs command frequency log for 6 months in 2008, it seems i only type 17k strokes per day. That's 31% of the data-entry clerk scenario above. Or, i only type ONE hour a day!

I was quite surprised how low my own figure is. But thinking about it… it make sense. Even we sit in front of computer all day, but the actual typing is probably some miniscule percentage of that. Most of the time, you have to lunch, run errands, browse web, read docs, chat on phone, run to the bathroom. Perhaps only half of your work time is active coding or writing (emails; docs). Of that duration, perhaps majority of time you are digesting the info on screen. Your whole day's typing probably can be done in less than 20 minutes if you just type continuously.

If your typing doesn't come anywhere close to a data-entry clerk, then any layout “more efficient” than Dvorak is practically meaningless.

Ergonomic Keyboard is More Important!

If you are using standard straight PC keyboard or laptop keyboard, it would be far more significant in efficiency and hand health to switch to a ergonomic keyboard than using some improved Dvorak layout.

For some choices of keyboard that improve the PC keyboard physical key layout, see: Fancy Ergonomic Keyboards You Didn't Know Existed.

Keyboard Shortcut Layout is More Important!

vi users often develop RSI due to Esc key Syndrome (or, Left Wrist side-to-side Motion Pain). Emacs users may develop the Emacs Pinky Syndrome due to key combinations.

From a study of Emacs's Command Usage Frequency, statistically more than 50% keystrokes are for editing commands (e.g. moving cursor, deleting words). For most programers, less than 50% of keystrokes are entering letters.

So, if you are a programer, the layout for editing commands are perhaps even more important than the layout of the keys.

Problems with Cut Copy Paste Keys?

I think the primary reason people might choose Colemak over Dvorak is because 2 things:

  • ① The Z X C V keys remain unchanged as in QWERTY, so keyboard shortcuts for Undo, Cut, Copy, Paste are unchanged and convenient.
  • ② Half of the keys on Colemak remain unchanged from QWERTY, so it alleviate the painful problem of transition from QWERTY.

If you have a problem with the Undo Cut Copy Paste keys on Dvorak, the easiest solution is just map them to F1 F2 F3 F4.

On Apple and Linux, there are Dvorak layout but with QWERTY modifiers. This way, you don't have to relearn your shortcuts muscle memory.

As for the painful transition for those already touch-type QWERTY, i don't think there's a way out. I was QWERTY typist employed as a data-entry clerk in 1992. It took me 2 months to relearn touch typing on Dvorak, and i remember the process is extremely painful. (See: Dvorak Keyboard Layout and My Experiences) If you are going to retrain your muscle memory, you might as well go with the more universal Dvorak. It is a ANSI Standard; builtin in Windows and Mac OS X, with wide support from all keyboard related devices today. I think it's silly to save one week of relearning for something you use for the rest of your life.

Desiging a keyboard layout is one of those things certain nerdy engineering or hobbyist types do. It's like a trap. They smell “design” and “efficiency” and they fell into the hole. They spend months, years, on something that has little practical implication. See the story on how another wanted to improve on Colemak: Colemak vs Workman.


Xah's writing is ...

Ok, it's Friday.

Dear Xah, your writing is:

  • Full of bad grammar. River of Hiccups.
  • Stilted. Chocked under useless structure and logic. Bottled up verbosity masking as tech detail.
  • WRONG — Filled with uncouth advices; the prototype of misinfo.
  • Heedlessly insulting. You need to see a doc.
  • Simply stinks. Worth less than a piss pot.
  • Mediocre. A fish in the sea of vanity bloggers, admit it.
  • I love it. Your writing is pro!
  • You are genius! one of the great expositor, eassyist. A wild pleasur ride in creative endeavor; a impeccability in tech exposition.
  • Dude, you are full of shit. I've not seen a crank quite like you.

Vote at: http://xahlee.blogspot.com/2011/06/xahs-writing-is.html.

2011-06-17 Result. 32 votes. (multiple choice):

  • 10 (31%) Full of bad grammar. River of Hiccups.
  • 4 (12%) Stilted. Chocked under useless structure and logic.
  • 4 (12%) WRONG — Filled with uncouth advices.
  • 12 (37%) Needlessly insulting. You have problems.
  • 1 (3%) Simply stinks. Worthless.
  • 5 (15%) Mediocre. Just like everybody, admit it.
  • 11 (34%) I love it. Your writing is pro!
  • 5 (15%) You are genius! one of the great expositor, eassyist.
  • 10 (31%) Dude, you are full of shit. I've not seen a crank quite like you.

Keyboard Layouts: Dvorak vs Colemak vs Workman

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Keyboard Layouts: Dvorak vs Colemak vs Workman

Xah Lee, 2011-06-09

Discovered yet another keyboard layout!!! Introducing … the Workman Layout.

It's supposedly a improvement of the Colemak layout. Here's Colemak layout

    qwfpg jluy; []\
    arstd hneio '
    zxcvb km,./

Here's the Workman layout:

    qdrwb jfup; []\
    ashtg yneoi '
    zxmcv kl,./

(If you don't know what's Dvorak or Colemak layout, see: Dvorak, Maltron, Colemak, NEO, Bépo, Turkish-F, Keyboard Layouts Fight!.)

Here's his story on why it is invented. A Different Philosophy in Designing Keyboard Layouts (2010-09-06) By OJ Bucao. @ Source viralintrospection.wordpress.com. Quote:

Being a programmer, I type a lot and I suffer from Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) and tendonitis on my wrist. …

The first alternative keyboard layout that came to mind is Dvorak. It was created in the 1930′s and promised to be vastly superior to QWERTY. I went ahead and tried it out and soon enough after doing “ls -latr” on the terminal, I had to shake my head and sadly walk away from it. I didnt like the way Dvorak was laid out especially for the weak fingers of the right hand.

Then I stumbled upon a layout called Colemak, …

My initial excitement turned to disappointment when I realized that even though my fingers were not moving up and down as much, it was moving too much laterally. I realized that the main culprit was the letter ‘H’ placed to the right of the letters ‘N’ and ‘E’. ‘N’ is where your index finger rests. Typing ‘HE’ forced the hand to make a very unnatural sideways twisting motion from the wrist and then back again. To give you an idea on why this could be serious, consider these:

  • ‘HE’ is the second most frequent bigram in the English language (‘TH’ is the first).
  • It occurs in approximately 8,188 words.
  • You type it approximately once every 26 keystrokes, or once in every 5 words.
  • At 40wpm, you will make this movement 8 times in one minute. More if you are faster.

Just ask yourself, how often do you type ‘the’, ‘these’, ‘them’, ‘when’, and ‘where’, etc. on a day-to-day basis? It's even worse when you're typing these words in the beginning of a sentence. Try typing “The” with the T capitalized on Colemak and hopefully you'll see what I mean. Your right hand will move somewhat like this: you swing to the right to get the SHIFT key with your pinky, then you swing back to the left to get the letter ‘H’, and then you move to the right again to get the letter ‘E’. All this is happening in a split second. …

I was really disappointed that Colemak was not the layout that I had hoped it would be. I no longer wanted to use QWERTY. I didn't like Dvorak, and the other alternatives didn't look very promising either – but rather very alien. I really wanted Colemak to work however I can't live with the H-E movement and having to reach for D and H often. I felt that it could be made better. …

I decided to try to create a new keyboard layout based on these ideas. …

I call it the Workman Keyboard Layout in honor of all who type on keyboards for a living. And considering that today is Labor Day, I think it's perfectly fitting.

For intro about Dvorak, see: Dvorak Keyboard Layout.


Buy Xah Emacs Tutorial

Created a dedicated page for buying my tutorial, at: Buy Xah Emacs Tutorial.

For those of you who have bought it before, just email me at xah@xahlee.org with subject “emacs tutorial upgrade” and i'll email it to you.

Thank you for your support!

Portishead - Small (song)

A fantastic song by Portishead. Dreary, dismall, depressing — small.

“Portishead - Small” amazon

for analysis, see: http://xahlee.org/music/portishead_small.html

Idiocy of the Happy Hacking Keyboard

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The Idiocy of the Happy Hacking Keyboard

Xah Lee, 2011-06-08

There is a computer keyboard, called the Happy Hacking keyboard (HHK). It is a keyboard often loved by “hackers”, and is one of the most idiotic keyboard. Let me count the ways.

happy hacking keyboard lite2

The Happy Hacking keyboard, model lite 2. image source amazon

Missing 12 Function Keys

It lacks 12 function keys. TWELVE of them! One, two, three, …, four, five, six, and more. Continue counting: seven, and eight and nine. Then, we add another digit to hit 10 in a decimal system. Then, eleven as in Seven-Eleven, and twelve, as in: twelve days of xmas. Twelve programable keys down the drain! What to do if you need them? You have to press 2 keys: 【Fn+‹key›】. What happened to the concept of efficiency?

Missing Page Navigation Keys and 20 Extra Function Keys

Bygone are the extremely convenient dedicated page navigation keys: Home, End, Page Up, Page Down.

Of course, PrtScn, ScrLk, Pause keys, and the whole 17 keys on number-keypad are gone too. Sure, you can do without them, but for programers, that's another 17 programable function keys gone. The HHK is supposed to be used by programers, right?

Missing Modifier Keys

Ok, now you lost 33 keys to automate your work. To make up the lost keys, the Control+Meta+Alt must be going strong on the HHK. But on HHK, it has fewer modifier keys than cheap generic PC keyboard! What the fuck⁈

There's Alt and Ctrl, ok, and there's ◇ Meta and Fn. What about my Super and Hyper keys? On a standard $15 PC keyboard, i have 1 or 2 more modifier keys than the $80 Happy Hacking. Let's do comparison here.

$80 Happy Hacking, you have:

1 Control, 2 Alt, 2 ◇ Meta, 2 Fn. (am not sure the Fn count here because usualy it is hard-wired in the keyboard circuitry thus the OS doesn't see it.) That's a total of 7 modifiers. If not counting Fn, then it's 5.

On $15 nameless USB keyboard, you have:

2 Control, 2 Alt, 2 Meta (Win key), 1 Menu key, 1 Caps Lock (the Menu and Caps Lock can both be remapped to any of {Meta, Super, Hyper}, as can the left Win key or right Win key, independently.). That's a total of 8 modifiers.

Microsoft wired Keyboard 200 2

Cheapest Microsoft keyboard the “Microsoft Wired Keyboard 200” ($15). amazon Logitech K120 ($15) is just about the same. amazon

Non-Symmetric Position of Modifier Keys

Non-symmetric position of modifier keys. If you look at the distance from F to the left ◇ Meta versus J to the right ◇ Meta, you see that they are not symmetric. The right side modifer requires you to curl in thumb deeper.

Many cheap PC keyboards have the modifier keys symmetrically positioned. (e.g. “Microsoft Wireless Keyboard 2000” ($21), Microsoft Comfort Curve ($17), “Microsoft Natural Elite” (~$30.) amazon, and lots others from other brands.)

unix, vi, emacs, Advantage?

I presume those who like HHK are unix users and the reason they like it is due to some key's layout. Namely:

  • The Esc key is at right above the Tab key. The Esc key is frequently used in vi text editor. (See: Emergency vi (vi tutorial).)
  • The Control key is right to the left of A key. The Control is frequently used in Emacs text editor, in unix shell. (See: Xah Emacs TutorialUnix Shell Text Processing Tutorial.)
  • The ⌦ Delete key is right above the Enter key. There's no ⌫ Backspace key. To do backward delete, you have to press 【Fn+Delete】. (On unix terminal, you can backward delete by 【Ctrl+h】 and forward delete by 【Ctrl+d】.)

Each of these key positions are actually inferior to optimal. For example, if you are vi user, the optimal position for Esc is where the PC keyboard's Caps Lock is at, or, one of the big Alt right under thumb (as one of the strong design point of Kinesis Contoured Keyboard.).

If you are a emacs user, the optimal position for Control is the 2 big Alt key on Microsoft ergonomic keyboards right under your thumbs, 2 of them, symmetrically placed, pressed by a strong finger thumb. Or, alternatively, as Caps Lock on left side AND the Enter on right side. (a design point advanced by Truely Ergonomic keyboard. See photos at: Fancy Ergonomic Keyboards You Didn't Know Existed)

For the ⌦ Delete key, am not sure what advantage it serves on the HHK. For emacs, vi, bash, or any text editing, backward delete is more frequently needed. It would be better if that key is ⌫ Backspace.


Keyboard Porn

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Keyboard Porn

Xah Lee, 2011-06-08

When i look at computer keyboards, saliva drools from the corner of my mouth.

You know how girls do window-shopping as a life-long regular activity? and some guys do window-shopping of cars? I don't need another keyboard, i already have plenty. But, i look at them, look for them, stare at them for hours, every week. I:

• Compare their sizes, the keys on them.

• How they label their keys. Do they say Page Up or PgUp, Enter or Return? Do they use glyph like ⇧ Shift and Enter ↵? or or ? What glyph they use for Zoom In, Zoom Out, Mute, Web, Search?

• The key's positions, arrangement. Are the arrow keys in inverted T? In one row? In a cross? How's Home/End key cluster shaped? 2×3 or 3×2?

• What are special buttons and knobs they offer. Sound level controller as slider? As rotary knob? disc shaped? Touch sensitive bar? Zoom as seesaw rocker?

What's their functions, the style of the keys, their height, tactile sensations, the differences between them, their ergonomic implications, the implications for Emacs use ….

This page is a gallery of keyboards. I look and think about them.

Microsoft Wired Keyboard 200

This is the cheapest keyboard that Microsoft offers.

Microsoft wired Keyboard 200 2

“Microsoft Wired Keyboard 200” ($15) amazon

If i were to use a non-split keyboard, i'll like this. Plain and functional. Note the standard F keys, arranged in traditional 3 clusters, 4-keys each. This means you can press them without looking. Also, the keys are full-sized. Nice. Some fancier keyboard make these into one continuous row, and as flattened non-tactile buttons.

I'll take this keyboard than the ~$80 Happy Hacking keyboard any day. (See: The Idiocy of the Happy Hacking Keyboard.)

Microsoft Wired Keyboard 600

This is second cheapest from Microsoft.

Microsoft wired keyboard 600

“Wired Keyboard 600” ($14) amazon

Added are some multimedia keys. But as you can see, there's one immediate fuckup already. The function keys now became special buttons, losing the tactile quality of keys.

Microsoft Wireless Keyboard 2000

This is new. Seems just came out in 2011. Not available on Amazon, but street price is $21.

Microsoft wireless keyboard 2000

“Microsoft Wireless Keyboard 2000”

As we advanced into the higher-end models, the form gets stylish, yet function seems going downhill.

Notice the F1 to F2 are now one continuous beatific row. You need to look at them to hit the correct key.

Notice that there's no gap between the arrow keys and ajacent key blocks. LOL

Also new is that they replaced the right Windows key with a Fn key. For super emacs users, this means losing a modifier key.

Microsoft Digital Media Keyboard 3000

Microsoft digital media keyboard 3000-s

“Digital Media Keyboard 3000” ($25) amazon

Interesting is that these days they have a dedicated Flip3D button. I think this is a very nice feature. (See: Windows Flip3D, Instant Viewer, Productivity Tips.)

Also interesting is that, a wireless version, with a mouse, is actually cheaper. See: “Wireless Media Desktop 1000” ($22), amazon,

Microsoft Wireless Comfort Desktop 5000

Microsoft wireless comfort desktop 5000 keyboard 2

“Microsoft Wireless Comfort Desktop 5000” amazon

Notice the top buttons — one continuous beatific row. You can't feel them, but you must look!

Microsoft Wireless Keyboard 6000

Microsoft wireless keyboard 6000

“Microsoft Wireless Keyboard 6000” ($30) amazon

There is a desktop set with this keyboard, named “Microsoft Wireless Desktop 6000”. But actually, there are 3 generations of this keyboard+mouse set, all physically different but sharing the same name, with “v1”, “v2”, “v3” on Amazon. The v1 is dramatically different than the other two. Dunno why Microsoft named them the same.

  • “Microsoft Wireless Laser Desktop 6000 v1 (B7T-00001)” (2004) amazon
  • “Microsoft Wireless Laser Desktop 6000 v2 (69A-00001)” (2006) amazon
  • “Microsoft Wireless Laser Desktop 6000 v3” (2008) amazon

They all got very bad reviews. Usually like connection problems.

Logitech K120 Keyboard

This is Logitech's entry level keyboard.

Logitech K120 keyboard

“Logitech K120 Keyboard” ($15) amazon

Notice that Logitech uses these symbols for the arrow keys ◀ ▶ ▲ ▼. However, the up/down triangles are also used for Page Up/Page Down keys. I see inconsistency.

Logitech Wireless Keyboard K250

Logitech wireless keyboard k250 1 Logitech wireless keyboard k250 2 Logitech keyboard k250 m305 fleur set

“Logitech Wireless Keyboard K250” ($25) amazon

This one is beautiful! On Amazon, the product name has “Dark Fleur”. The word “fleur” means flower in French. Apparantly, this is part of a series of Logitech's “Fantasy Collection”. There's a matching mouse.

Logitech wireless mouse m305 dark fleur-s

“Logitech wireless mouse M305 (Dark Fleur)” amazon

Logitech Wireless Desktop MK320 Keyboard

Logitech wireless desktop mk320 keyboard

“Logitech Wireless Desktop MK320 Keyboard” ($30) amazon

Logitech Illuminated Ultrathin Keyboard

Logitech Illuminated fullres-s

“Logitech Illuminated Ultrathin Keyboard” ($60) amazon

This is one rectilinear flatness. Notice, that instead of special extra buttons, now they are merged into the function keys. So, now to play your music, instead of pressing one button, now you have to press 2 buttons: 【Fn+F11】.

Logitech Wireless Solar Keyboard K750

Logitech created a solar powered keyboard. New in 2011.

Logitech wireless solar keyboard k750

“Logitech Wireless Solar Keyboard K750” ($60) amazon

Really love it, but not for me, because: ① Not ergonomic. ② Lack of extra buttons.

Microsoft Bluetooth Mobile Keyboard 6000 (Cat Keyboard Hero)

Microsoft bluetooth mobile keyboard 6000 Microsoft bluetooth mobile keyboard 6000 3

“Microsoft Bluetooth Mobile Keyboard 6000”

This comes in 2 versions, with or without number-pad. It seems that this keyboard is also called “cat keyboard hero”, because the images on Microsoft site is named that.

  • without numbper pad. ($40) amazon
  • with numbper pad. ($44) amazon

Logitech Wireless Desktop MK710 (keyboard & mouse)

Logitech wireless desktop mk710 keyboard 1 Logitech wireless desktop mk710 keyboard 2

“Logitech Wireless Desktop MK710” ($76) amazon

Getting fancy. But for a pro typist, this is a quicker road to RSI than the $15 ones.

Microsoft Arc Keyboard

This is new in 2011.

Microsoft arc keyboard 1 Microsoft arc keyboard 2

“Microsoft Arc Keyboard” ($40) amazon

Apparantly, this is intended for those sitting in their sofa watching TV or playing games. Note the newfangled arrow button.

Microsoft arc keyboard 3

I think it's neat.

Smartfish Technologies K2418B ErgoMotion Keyboard

Now comes this smooth bull.

Smartfish Technologies k2418b ergomotion keyboard

“Smartfish Technologies K2418B ErgoMotion Keyboard” ($149) amazon

Quote from Amazon

This ErgoMotion keyboard with its patented pivot-motion design that automatically adjusts to your natural hand and wrist position is the world's first intelligent keyboard that prevents Repetitive Stress Injury. The patented DPC - Dynamic Positioning Controller automatically moves based on your use pattern capitalizing on productivity while diminishing operator hand and wrist fatigue and discomfort.

Supposedly, this keyboard moves slowly, by a built-in motor, so that your hand muscle use is not always the same from the same position, thus preventing you from getting a Repeatitive Strain Injury. But, from its beautiful modern geometric look, like Apple's keyboard, i can tell you right away it's ergonomic garbage.

All Garbage. They Are ALL Garbage!

Ok. Spend 9 hours on this now. I think that's enough keyboard geeking today. None of these keyboards i can use. They all have multitudes of serious flaws:

  • Function keys not as real keys (but lousy buttons without tactile feedback on whether the key is registered; and hard to press repeatedly (e.g. Sound Level Increase key))
  • Function keys in one fucking beatific continuous row. This makes them useless without having to look at them.
  • Multimedia keys and app launcher and other buttons merged into the F keys. This means, you have to press 2 keys, usually requiring both hands, with the Fn.
  • The keyboard is non-split. PAIN follows your typing eloquence or verbosity.
  • Flat shallow keys. Shallowness is not my style. I prefer depth and solidity.
  • I don't want a damn Fn on the bottom right. I want the Menu key and or Win key. Because, i can remap them to Super or Hyper for Emacs for many purposes. Fn key is usually hardwired and hardware-specific. That means a dead-horse squatting on your sofa.

For keyboard that i deem useful for programers or heavy typers, see: Ergonomic Keyboards Gallery.

Note: all prices on this page are from Amazon as of 2011-06.


emacs manual trivia

Emacs Manual Trivia

Updated my mirror of emacs manual and emacs lisp manual to version for emacs 23.3. Here:

My emacs tutorial links to them. e.g. Emacs Lisp Basics.

Here's some trivia:

• There are a total of 694 HTML pages (nodes) for the emacs manual.

• There are a total of 896 HTML pages (nodes) for the elisp manual.

• Occurrence of HTML Entities in the elisp manual:

FreqstringUnicode Char


Mac OS X Keyboard Layout, Keymapping, Keybinding, Tools

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Mac OS X Keyboard Layout, Keymapping, Keybinding, Tools

Xah Lee, 2011-06-05

This page is a collection of methods and utilities for keybinding, keymapping, for Mac OS X.

The list are from most simple to more advanced.

Swapping Modifiers

This is builtin. See: Mac OS X: How to Swap Control, Caps Lock, Option, Command Keys.

For more advanced modifier remapping (e.g. distinguish left Control vs right Control, remap Esc key, map Menu key, …), see: KeyRemap4MacBook @ Source pqrs.org.

Adding/Changing Keyboard Shortcut in a Specific App

Mac OS X since 10.4 lets you do that. Just go to System Preferences, Keyboard & Mouse, Keyboard Shortcuts. Then click the + sign at button. See: Mac OS X 10.5 Help: Creating keyboard shortcuts for applications @ Source docs.info.apple.com

Note: This mechanism is not very flexible. For example, it only lets you create a key for a action that has a menu. Also, once you created a hotkey, the original shortcut will be lost. You can't create a shortcut from any key on the numerical keypad. (that is, if you don't use the number pad to enter numbers, you can't turn them into extra function keys.)

App Launchers, General Key Macro Utilities

• Free: Quicksilver (software). A app launcher. Assign hotkey to launch/switch/open apps or files. The hotkey can be single key (e.g. F1) or combo-key (e.g. 【Cmd+F1】).

Keyboard Maestro @ keyboardmaestro.com A basic key macro software. Good, but a bit expensive.

• QuicKeys @ startly.com. (for Mac and Win). A comprehensive automation software, with key macro features, and also key macro recording abilities. I used it in 1990s for 10 years and find it the best. It was the number one most touted productivity enhancement software in Mac community. The company changed hand a few times over the years. The first Mac OS X version released around 2001 is not so good. Since then i haven't used it. Don't know how good it is today.

Microsoft IntelliType

Buy a Microsoft keyboard then use the bundled IntelliType Software. Note: depending on what keyboard model you buy, not all features of IntelliType will be available. But basically, if the keyboard cost $30 or more, or has many special keys, most features will be there.

Highly recommended. With this solution, you get a functional keyboard, and with a software that does all launcher/shortcut common needs. No need to spend hours tweaking keymaps or config files.

See: What Microsoft IntelliType Can Do and Cannot Do.

See Microsoft IntelliType Hacks for some advanced config hacking of IntelliType for Windows.

Setting Up Text Editor Keybinding Behavior; Hotkey to Insert Text

You can use Mac OS X's system-wide mechanism by creating a key config file DefaultKeyBinding.dict. See: Creating Keyboard Layout in Mac OS X.

Setting Up Key Layout for Typing Math Symbols, APL Keyboard, Unicode Characters

Use DefaultKeyBinding.dict. See: Creating Keyboard Layout in Mac OS X.

See also: How to Create a APL or Math Symbols Keyboard Layout.

Keybinding, Keymapping, in Emacs

If you use emacs on the Mac, see:

Advanced Key Interface Mapping; Low-Level Tools and Utilities

For Microsoft Windows, see: Keyboard Layout & Key Macro tools for Windows.

Firefox 4 for PowerPC Mac

Firefox 4 does not support PowerPC Macs. You can download TenFourFox, which is Firefox compiled for PowerPC. Download at: http://www.floodgap.com/software/tenfourfox/. Alternative choice is Camino.

Apple no longer supports PowerPC Macs. So, its Safari (web browser) is stuck at version 4, while current version is 5. Similarly, the last version of Opera that support PowerPC Mac is 10.6x. Current version is 11. (See: History of the Opera web browser.) Google Chrome doesn't support PowerPC.

With your PowerPC being obsolete, can't you install Linux? Well, Ubuntu no longer officially support PowerPC neither. Unless you are prepared to spend days, and days afterwards to maitain it, the best choice is probably stay-put with your Mac OS X 10.4.x or 10.5.x, and hope to buy a new machine soon.

Computer Keyboard: Home/End Key Cluster Arrangement: Horizontal vs Vertical

Perm url with updates: http://xahlee.org/kbd/home_end_key_cluster_arragement.html

Computer Keyboard: Home/End Key Cluster Arrangement: Horizontal vs Vertical

Xah Lee, 2011-06-05

This article discusses the pros and cons of the Home/End key cluster arrangement on computer keyboards.

There are 2 type of arrangement for the key cluster: Insert, Delete, Home, End, PageUp, PageDown. Traditionally, they are arranged in 2 rows, 3 columns. Since about 2000, some arrange it in 3 rows, 2 columns.

nek 4000 2 wnm keyboard home cluster2

Left: Traditional arrangement of Home/End, keys. Right: Vertical arrangement.

If you read a lot keyboard review comments online, you'll find there's no universal agreement on which is better.

I used the old arrangement for 15 years (1990 to 2005) on many keyboards. (See: Computer Keyboards Gallery.) Then, i used the new arrangement for 2 years on a new keyboard. (Microsoft Wireless Natural Multimedia keyboard) Initially, i hated the new arrangement, but after using it for 2 years, i got used to it. Then, i got a new keyboard again that has the traditional arrangement (Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000), and i find the traditional arrangement annoying, till a month of adjustment.

So, i must say it's really a habit, and doesn't really matter in any significant way.

Reasons for the New Arrangement

Arguably, the new (vertical) arrangement is logically better. The Home key moves cursor to the beginning of line and End to end of line. So, Home and End side by side is more intuitive. The Insert key is a defunct key today, not used in vast majority of applications, even for programers. So, it's good to have useless key removed.

Reasons for the Traditional Arrangement

However, there are also reasons that the older arrangement is better. On Apple's computers (Mac), the Home key is for moving to the top of document, and End to the bottom of document. So, for Mac users, Home/End in the traditional arrangement of top/bottom, is more natural.

Also, for many programers, more key is better, because we can use keyboard macro software to assign functions to extra keys. (example of keyboard macro software includes: IntelliType, AutoHotkey, emacs, Quicksilver, Keyboard Maestro, QuicKeys, … etc.) For me, personally, i assign the Insert key in Emacs to switch windows (what emacs call “frame”), and in Second Life i use the Insert key for throw grenade in combat. I would dearly miss this extra key if it is not available. Without this key, i'll need to use key combinations, which is less convenient. (all my F1 to F12 are used up …, even if not, they are not good choices for a extra key at the navigation key cluster position for purposes that are related to nagivation.)