Author Topic: Smaller layout fullsize keyboard?  (Read 3603 times)

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Offline HarkPtooie

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Smaller layout fullsize keyboard?
« on: Sun, 01 August 2021, 06:34:07 »
Greetings

My wife brought to my attention that more than half of humanity - women and children - has smaller hands and narrower shoulders than the standard keyboard probably was designed for, supposedly by male computer engineers of yore. This means that a substantial fraction of computer users have to spread their fingers and do larger motions than the rest of us, with forearms at a less comfortable angle - especially when reaching for mouse - et cetera. Not very ergonomic.

So I have searched for keyboards that have:

a) Standard layout. No TKL, chopped-off style. All keys where they usually are.
b) Denser pitch. The norm seems to be 19 mm or some such, 16-17 mm would be preferable. Like 90% as much area used.
c) follows from b): narrower total width.

I come up with nothing. It is all compact layouts with keys at weird positions or lacking altogether. Laptop things with touchpads and media keys where F1-F12 should be, etc. And all standard keyboards are identical in size and layout save for bezels.

So I figure I might give it a shot to design something myself. Cherry switches supposedly allow for 16 mm pitch, not sure about keycaps.

However, most all resources I find assume that I am skilled with electronics, which I am not. I'm a mech eng with access to CAD, and I could actually produce plastics moulding tools to make smaller keycaps if I have to. Costly, but I could probably produce and sell a bunch of "reduced footprint" keyboards.

But when it comes to electronics... I know the general difference between a resistor and a capacitor, and that is about it. I have attempted tracing layouts and putting out components in KiCAD, but it is a rather tall threshold, and I wouldn't know what to do with the results anyway. I'd prefer to purchase all but that which I absolutely have to design myself.

So: any advice where I should start? There are plenty of tutorials out there, but they generally assume that I will simply buy kits for the usual layouts, or that I want to do everything from scratch and solder up chips and diods and whatnot. I get dizzy from trying to find the middle path I seek.

Sincerely,
Some Dude

Offline iaji

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Re: Smaller layout fullsize keyboard?
« Reply #1 on: Sun, 01 August 2021, 07:24:44 »
kailh choc switch's dimension is 18mm x  17mm. if i remember correctly, https://mkultra.click/ sells some choc tkl kits.

Offline HarkPtooie

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Re: Smaller layout fullsize keyboard?
« Reply #2 on: Sun, 01 August 2021, 10:56:14 »
The Cherry MX is 15.6x15.6 mm, and there are variants that does not need to go into a faceplate but instead fixates on the PCB with a plug at the bottom. So a c/c spacing of 16 mm should be possible.

https://www.cherrymx.de/en/footer/dev.html

Offline nevin

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Re: Smaller layout fullsize keyboard?
« Reply #3 on: Sun, 01 August 2021, 14:20:00 »
compact full size....
- 1800 layout - cherry g80-1800, tkc-1800, drop shift, etc.
- compact (some separation) - Macally MK96, cooler master storm tk, data desk Lil'Big Board (originals were alps, not sure about current)
- squashed (no separation) - Keychron K4 or similar

f-row less (can have f-keys, arrows, etc in firmware with key combination)
- usually based on the M0110a layout - apple M0110a, the key dot co Molly, etc.

specifically made for small hands
- datadesk LittleFingers (pretty sure it's rubber dome)
http://www.datadesktech.com/desktop_base.html

... now that i think about it.... look at a bunch of the wireless keyboards for tablets. they are usually smaller keys and condensed layouts

you could space normal mechanical switches closer together and try the typewriter style keycaps, or have someone custom 3-d print you a set that would work with the tighter spacing.
- standard spacing is right around 19mm i believe (including the keycaps & tiny gap so caps don't rub/collide/catch each other)

another thing to look into is getting into firmware layers. so the board can be small like the olkb planck but have all the functionality of a full size board and more.

one thing i think is silly is the control & shift keys on the outside edges of keyboards, why make the most used modifiers the furthest away? i think control(command), shift and alt(opt mac) should be close to the center of the board for use with your thumbs.
Keeb.io Viterbi, Apple m0110, Apple m0120, Apple m0110a, Apple 658-4081, Apple M1242, Apple AEK II, MK96, GH60/Pure, Cherry g84-4100, Adesso AKP-220B, Magicforce 68

Offline Gorbon

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Re: Smaller layout fullsize keyboard?
« Reply #4 on: Mon, 02 August 2021, 08:55:50 »
Actually in this thread, some have expressed the view that the standard layout was designed for smaller hands and is not comfortable for larger ones.

In any case, trying to improve ergonomics by keeping the standard layout, would not offer much benefit. I assume you want to do this with the goal of making a more ergonomic keyboard for smaller hands, without the need for retraining, but:
  • Reducing the key pitch by 3mm, would alter the position of some keys by up to ~1cm (~0.5u), which is a significant change.
  • While typing, keys are very often pressed off-center and by eliminating the gaps between them, would require more accurate positioning of the fingers to avoid typing errors.
Both of the above would make typing on such a keyboard very different and would require retraining. And If you are going down that path anyway, then you might as well learn to type on a compact (e.g. choc switches/keycaps have tighter spacing) and properly ergonomic keyboard that was designed from the start with ergonomics as a priority (there are lots of options here).

The standard layout was created ~150 years ago with very different priorities and little/no regard for ergonomics. Trying to improve it by not appreciably changing it, is like trying to polish the proverbial turd.

Of course if you don't touch type and/or type very little, then none of the above really matter. Even typing with your thumbs on a tiny touch screen would probably be fine.

Offline HarkPtooie

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Re: Smaller layout fullsize keyboard?
« Reply #5 on: Tue, 03 August 2021, 09:18:37 »
The non-standard layouts of the 1800/etc is what I want to avoid. I just want to condense the area without changing the locations.

I have average hands, but my wifes' fingertips reach about to the outermost joint of my fingers. That is 3 cm shorter than mine, and she says she has to hunt around to reach the far ends of the keyboard, plus its width means she has to angle her forearms outwards to reach the mouse, which is less than preferable. She would not be at a disadvantage with a keyboard that is a couple of centimeters narrower and more dense.

Further, my 9 year old daughter is learning to use a keyboard.

Both of them are already moving - or will extensively move - between other keyboards at school, workplaces, friends, et cetera. For this reason, better to stick to standard.



Offline nevin

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Re: Smaller layout fullsize keyboard?
« Reply #6 on: Tue, 03 August 2021, 10:02:32 »
the biggest problem would be finding or making smaller keycaps. pretty much everything is based on the 19mm key spacing.
again, look up the typewriter style keycaps and see if you can find measurements on them. it's about the only common but non standard caps that i can think of.
Keeb.io Viterbi, Apple m0110, Apple m0120, Apple m0110a, Apple 658-4081, Apple M1242, Apple AEK II, MK96, GH60/Pure, Cherry g84-4100, Adesso AKP-220B, Magicforce 68

Offline 1391401

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Re: Smaller layout fullsize keyboard?
« Reply #7 on: Tue, 03 August 2021, 10:14:59 »
The Tex Shinobi ships with two sized keycaps [1] which are 1u and approx 0.80u.  As a result things like the nav cluster are much closer together.  Presumably you could procure the same or similar keycap from a vendor and make a smaller / tighter keyboard.

I know it's not actually what you're asking for but as far as prebuilts go I loved my Vortex Tab 90 and Vibe for a full sized but "squished" layout.

[1] https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0052/5814/9978/products/2020-05-16_122712_600x600.png?v=1592296598

People I've given money to from this webform who never respond to me and have not shipped me anything: ctrlalt.io 1 2, Team Readline Reputable alternatives to GH group buys: http://pimpmykeyboard.com, https://www.massdrop.com,

Offline Volny

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Re: Smaller layout fullsize keyboard?
« Reply #8 on: Thu, 12 August 2021, 05:01:29 »
The non-standard layouts of the 1800/etc is what I want to avoid. I just want to condense the area without changing the locations.

I have average hands, but my wifes' fingertips reach about to the outermost joint of my fingers. That is 3 cm shorter than mine, and she says she has to hunt around to reach the far ends of the keyboard, plus its width means she has to angle her forearms outwards to reach the mouse, which is less than preferable. She would not be at a disadvantage with a keyboard that is a couple of centimeters narrower and more dense.

Further, my 9 year old daughter is learning to use a keyboard.

Both of them are already moving - or will extensively move - between other keyboards at school, workplaces, friends, et cetera. For this reason, better to stick to standard.
I hear you. And I hope you find what you're looking for. But keep in mind two things.

-As someone mentioned, a smaller-but-identically-laid-out keyboard would end up requiring different muscle-memory for most of the keys since they're at different distances from each other than usual. In which case it would probably be just as annoying to switch from this to a regular keyboard, if not more so.

-I'm guessing that many (most? all?) of the keyboards that your daughter will be moving between at school will be laptop keyboards, most of which barely resemble a standard full-size layout. They usually have weird miniature up/down arrow keys, truncated right-hand modifiers to make space for them, function keys that don't work without an extra keypress, a missing numpad, and awkwardly compromised nav cluster. I've owned my laptop for over 5 years, and I still want to smash the screen every time I need to hit pgdn or home. In fact, laptops have quite a lot in common with the non-standard layouts you're hoping to avoid.
« Last Edit: Thu, 12 August 2021, 05:04:11 by Volny »

Offline nevin

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Re: Smaller layout fullsize keyboard?
« Reply #9 on: Thu, 12 August 2021, 08:03:19 »
good point. and it's actually good practice to switch between different form factors. keeps you more fluent when you get presented with something different.

i'd also like to mention. everybody's tastes are different. my wife would have a fit if she had to use my keyboard (split ortho w/blank keycaps) and i feel the same pecking away at her laptop (know your pain @Volny)

take this opportunity to try a couple different keyboards. get one of the smaller ones for your wife and find one that you like. your daughter will probably be able to switch between boards/devices a lot easier than either of her parents. ....we get old & stuck in our ways.
- you may not like the smaller board
- your wife may love the smaller board
- your daughter will probably just want something that works
and all of this is ok. .....what makes us unique as individuals.

if you're like most people, you won't find your perfect board on your first try, and your tastes could change as you start really examining your input devices.

i started out on the strange layouts from the 80's, then to full size as the decades progressed, then to a condensed full size layout (original 333Mhz imac keyboard), found the mechanical keyboard community, used a 60% keyboard with a separate numberpad for a handful of years, then started trying some of the more "strange" keyboards, ortholinear, split, columnar stagger, etc. my current board that i've been using for years now is a split ortholinear and my current opinion is... you couldn't pay me to go back to a one piece standard staggered layout keyboard. did i ever think that i'd like or want to use this type of keyboard... not at all. do i love it now... yes.
« Last Edit: Thu, 12 August 2021, 08:05:14 by nevin »
Keeb.io Viterbi, Apple m0110, Apple m0120, Apple m0110a, Apple 658-4081, Apple M1242, Apple AEK II, MK96, GH60/Pure, Cherry g84-4100, Adesso AKP-220B, Magicforce 68

Offline jamster

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Re: Smaller layout fullsize keyboard?
« Reply #10 on: Thu, 12 August 2021, 20:57:28 »
I started using a keyboard at around the age of ten. I'm sure that part of this was that I had nothing to compare it to, but I remember absolutely loving the experience of the toy that could do interesting things, rather than being troubled by key spacing. Ditto the manual typewriter I started using several years before that.

My kids started using keyboards from 6 years old and were on Mavis Beacon by 7. They're incredibly adaptable, no physical issues.

Conversely, as I get old, I find the traditional keyboard layout too cramped and sometimes type on a split board (and am in the process of building a second split board). The downside here is the incredibly non-standard key layout.

1800 is close enough to 'standard' fullsize that adaptation is incredibly easy (I have used both interchangably)

Offline Faceman76

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Re: Smaller layout fullsize keyboard?
« Reply #11 on: Sun, 22 August 2021, 12:46:52 »
What you're looking for doesn't appear to exist.  The closest thing to tighter switch spacing would be an Ergo from Maltron or Kinesis. 

https://www.maltron.com/store/p20/Maltron_L90_dual_hand_fully_ergonomic_%283D%29_keyboard_-_US_English.html

https://kinesis-ergo.com/shop/advantage2/

But if my 4&5 year olds and wife with tiny hands can use a 1800 with BOX Navy switches, I have a hard time seeing why anyone else wouldn't be able to.
TKC 1800, Crystal Box Navy, Sprit 100g

Offline Chalkboard

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Re: Smaller layout fullsize keyboard?
« Reply #12 on: Thu, 26 August 2021, 20:31:59 »

Offline HarkPtooie

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Re: Smaller layout fullsize keyboard?
« Reply #13 on: Fri, 27 August 2021, 15:19:34 »
Thank you for your thoughts!
My kid is currently on a Lenovo, and she seems to like it a lot.
https://www.ubergizmo.com/2020/01/lenovo-thinkpad-trackpoint-keyboard-ii/
I am still thinking that a condensed standard would be a good thing, but since the need is not that dire anymore and the threshold to building one myself is a bit too steep, I guess the Lenovo will suffice for the time being.

Offline RealET

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Re: Smaller layout fullsize keyboard?
« Reply #14 on: Fri, 24 September 2021, 13:53:14 »
I recently made my girlfriend a 95% scaled keyboard, and as others have pointed out, the limiting factor is the keycap size.  It is hard to find pre-made caps which are much narrower than about 18mm.  However, it is certainly possible to 3D print caps, which I am planning to try once I finish up some other ongoing projects :P.    Then I could make a board quite easily that has a pitch down to something like 15.5mm or so.