Author Topic: Writer's portable keyboard  (Read 13946 times)

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Offline Oobly

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Writer's portable keyboard
« on: Fri, 19 December 2014, 03:29:56 »
In the thread about the Hemingwrite I posted an idea for a small, portable mechanical keyboard to be used in a similar use case. It's something I've been thinking of for a while and the new thread prompted me to action. So here it is:

[EDIT- this layout is now obsolete, see new layout in update!]

84349-0

It's a small, high quality, mechanical keyboard with a slot / plate for supporting a portable device such as a tablet or phone and uses a MicroUSB OTG cable to connect to the device. It will have a battery mounted in the front part of the keyboard to counterbalance the device when the unit is used on the lap or a desktop and which provides power to the portable device so it can be used for extended periods. It will have a separate MicroUSB port to connect to a charger or PC / Laptop / Mac for both charging and use as a mechanical keyboard.

Here's a link to the proposed keyboard layout, so you can play with it: http://www.keyboard-layout-editor.com/#/layouts/77d5c1847798021a2b16ba3ebcb54ad6

It's 1 row shorter and 3 columns narrower than a standard 60%, with the 1x keys at the outside edges bringing everything closer in, so you don't have to move your hands as much when typing as on a normal keyboard.

It's primarily inspired by the Hammond Varityper / Multiplex that JRR Tolkien used to use:


Some more info: http://tonyriches.blogspot.fi/2014/06/j-r-r-tolkiens-writing-habits.html

Another example: http://offountainpenstypewriters.blogspot.fi/2014/10/latest-addition-to-collection-hammond.html

I have tried to keep only the most essential keys for typing prose on the main layer, so as to minimise the size. It will be fully programmable and come with (hopefully) sensible default Fig and Sym layers.

It's still in the design phase, with changes happening all the time, so I can't yet show a drawing of the concept, but I will once I nail down a few more aspects of the design.

Advantages over the Hemingwrite and similar dedicated typewriter-like devices:
1. More compact and portable - it's primarily only a very compact keyboard. Far easier to carry than a laptop or complete writing "gadget" like the Hemingwrite. You're carrying the other half of the unit with you most of the time anyway.
2. More versatile - Can use any app on the device you like or have a preference for. Can be used for many more tasks than just writing prose, limited only by the device you pair it with.
3. Convenient data storage and transfer - no need for intermediate connection, etc. Device has all the connectivity, JotterPad for Android has DropBox integration for example.
4. Long battery life - built-in battery extends the usage time of your portable device and can even be used to charge the device if needed.
5. Can be used as mechanical keyboard for any device that can act as a USB host - PC, Mac, Android, iOS, etc.
6. Does not become obsolete / limited - since people tend to go through upgrade cycles of their portable devices, it's always as up-to-date as your device is.


Initially I am testing the layout on a GON NerD60 (http://www.keyboard-layout-editor.com/#/layouts/41822b0067c49a745d05f72068c1c8a6). Once the layout is finalised I will design a PCB and will make a prototype for my own use as a test unit. If testing goes well, I may start an Interest Check for a Group Buy, but that's a long way off yet.

I'm considering the design of a flip-out removable cover which acts as the device holder / support when open and covers the keys when closed. The USB OTC cable will have a 90 degree connector and be stored with a loose loop inside the case so it can be pulled out as far as needed to reach the port on the device, while not getting in the way / looking messy.

For keycaps I was thinking of using DSA profile due to their low height and typewriter-like spherical tops, but I have actually found SA profile to be the most typewriter-like experience I have had with mechanical keyboards. This poses somewhat of a dilemma, since DSA profile only come in matte finish and don't feel as authentic as SA which come in semi-matte and gloss as well as matte and can also be fully contoured / sculptured, but DSA is so much lower and would provide a more compact board. The design of the cover will depend on the profile and thus define the overall thickness of the product.

Post your thoughts :) I'm particularly interested in feedback on use cases / features and whether you would use such a device or not.  Bear in mind it's primarily aimed at people who write a lot and would like a portable unit that feels good so they can get their inspiration onto "paper" conveniently and efficiently, using a familiar interface that aids the process rather then getting in the way.

I will be testing it also as a primary keyboard for PC use, text editing and coding, but this is a secondary function / use case, although if it works well for that, it will increase the appeal to a larger audience.

A possible future feature is the addition of a Trackpoint device to allow it to be used as both a mouse and keyboard and turn any Android device into a laptop (with a mechanical keyboard :) ).


[UPDATE: 17 Feb 2015]

First prototype in action:


[/UPDATE]




[UPDATE: 20 Feb 2015]

Latest layout with possible keycap legends and beveled case edges:
91377-1
http://www.keyboard-layout-editor.com/#/layouts/2555c20d9169e280d55ba46b64bb7b1c

[/UPDATE]
« Last Edit: Fri, 20 February 2015, 08:26:28 by Oobly »
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Offline dorkvader

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Re: Writer's portable keyboard
« Reply #1 on: Fri, 19 December 2014, 03:36:49 »
I was planning a similar thing with this guy:

Offline Mandolin

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Re: Writer's portable keyboard
« Reply #2 on: Fri, 19 December 2014, 03:52:18 »
It looks really good, I like the minimalistic approach, but would specially be interested in an iso ver with a big enter (that small return is for ants).

I would prefer it to be in a case as a calculator, with a detachable lid for protection, to toss it in my backpack
« Last Edit: Fri, 19 December 2014, 04:08:56 by Mandolin »
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Offline vivalarevolución

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Re: Writer's portable keyboard
« Reply #3 on: Fri, 19 December 2014, 06:01:25 »
Heck yes, boys.
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Offline PieterGen

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Re: Writer's portable keyboard
« Reply #4 on: Fri, 19 December 2014, 09:09:55 »
@Dorkvader: Looks like a 1 row LCD display - is that right?

@Oobly: great idea. For some reason I had to think of the Palm foldable keyboard that I had long ago... :-)  But better of course!  How about a layout more like this?.

To me it would be nice for note taking during presentations, talks, meetings and so on. A laptop is sometimes seen as 'intruding' in a meeting. They think you'r hiding behind that screen, people can't see what you're doing, you're having less contact with each other. A tablet (laying down) is better, and is accepted. A small keyboard with a phone would be even better. Is doesn't stand between you and your conversation partners.

Given my use case, the keys would have to be "not too noisy". The quieter the better.
« Last Edit: Fri, 19 December 2014, 09:24:59 by PieterGen »

Offline vivalarevolución

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Re: Writer's portable keyboard
« Reply #5 on: Fri, 19 December 2014, 09:21:43 »
Couple small suggestions:

1.  Bluetooth capabilities, for those that wish to avoid wires altogether
2.  You probably have enough inspiration for the layout, but If you need more inspiration for 3-row typewriter layouts, I recommend checking out the Corona 3 Special and Blickensderfer.
3.  I had some thoughts on the key cap profiles, but I was getting too wordy.  Basically, picking DSA or SA over DCS sacrifices typeability (is that a word?) for retro styling, but we all know that styling is an important part of product appeal.  SA will raise costs, change the "springiness" of the key switches, and might turn off many customers with the odd look.  Also, I have found SA to not be the best for smooth typing, although SA is the most similar to some older electric typewriters (Selectrics, pre-Selectric IBM electrics).  Considering your quote "using a familiar interface that aids the process rather then getting in the way," SA profile has the possibility of getting in the way.

The strength of the device that you have proposed is the focus on simplicity, functionality, and flexibility, compared to other devices that attempt to emulate the styling and simplicity of the typewriter (Hemingwrite, Qwerkywriter), but have a high price that seems is out of alignment with their limited functionality.

« Last Edit: Fri, 19 December 2014, 09:28:57 by prdlm2009 »
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Offline PieterGen

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Re: Writer's portable keyboard
« Reply #6 on: Fri, 19 December 2014, 09:26:56 »
@prdlm2009 - do you feel that DCS has the best "typability" ?

Offline vivalarevolución

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Re: Writer's portable keyboard
« Reply #7 on: Fri, 19 December 2014, 09:49:00 »
@prdlm2009 - do you feel that DCS has the best "typability" ?

I should clarify that term.  By typeability, I mean the best profile for smooth, fast, mistake-free touch typing, at least in my experience.  I like SA profile, but it takes some adjustment and the heavy weight of SA key caps affect the return of a spring to its resting position after it has been compressed.  DSA is visually appealing, but I find the smaller surface area on each key top and uniform profiles to be a slight hindrance when touch typing.

But that's just me, and I am not everyone.
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Offline suicidal_orange

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Re: Writer's portable keyboard
« Reply #8 on: Fri, 19 December 2014, 16:39:27 »
I was thinking the same thing in that "typewriter" thread - why not just carry a nice really small keyboard?  I'm yet to form any opinion on key profiles or switch types but I am used to an ISO enter key so the tiny one proposed here would take a lot of getting used to.

I'll be watching this project with interest.
                               
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Offline Oobly

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Re: Writer's portable keyboard
« Reply #9 on: Sat, 20 December 2014, 17:06:48 »
I'll answer in more detail when I have a bit more time, but I thought I'd mention my progress quickly. I have wired up and programmed my GON with the layout and I find the default layer works very well (I'm typing this post with it :) ). I have very quickly become used to the Enter, Shift and backspace positions, but the Fn layer keys (FIG and SYM) feel a little awkward and are taking a bit of time to get used to and that may be an issue since I'd like it to be as easy to start using efficiently as possible. In that light I've come up with another possible layout: http://www.keyboard-layout-editor.com/#/layouts/0d72e6076373ce8dc126e394a43c92a4

Unfortunately it requires a new PCB or plate to be made for further testing, and the positions of the FIG and SYM keys may need to change.

@PieterGen, the layout you propose is not "familiar" enough on the main area to really not be a hindrance. I believe the dimensions are also not ideal for a portable keyboard, since it is a good deal wider and less tall than my proposed layout and the dimension we really need to minimise is the width. With 4 rows it's already "short" enough.

About the Enter key, I am also an ISO user, but have become used to both ISO and ANSI layouts. I found myself hitting the right hand edge of the key initially, but quickly got used to the position and size of it, so I don't think it'll be a hindrance. I actually find the new Shift positions to feel very natural and have less fatigue on my pinkies due to the position. All the keys being closer in actually seems to increase my confidence when typing and reduce fatigue. I'm really enjoying using this layout so far.

I'm using Nuclear Data SA profile caps for testing and really enjoy the feeling of them. In fact I have decided that for me at least, SA profile is the least fatiguing and most "ideal" profile for a correctly angled modern "flat" keyboard. I posted about it here: https://geekhack.org/index.php?topic=63052.msg1533265#msg1533265

Of course it's also largely personal preference and most people are more used to stepped angled caps like OEM, DCS and Cherry profile. I find DSA a little awkward to use due to the smaller tops, but it's decent. Fully contoured SA feels best to me and most like an old school typewriter, but in the case of this concept perhaps DCS / Cherry profile would suit best since it is low profile and should feel familiar enough to the largest majority of users.

Some pics and more specific answers later... Thank you for your posts and interest.
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Offline dorkvader

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Re: Writer's portable keyboard
« Reply #10 on: Sat, 20 December 2014, 23:43:59 »
@Dorkvader: Looks like a 1 row LCD display - is that right?
It is a VFD but yes, one row.

Offline vivalarevolución

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Re: Writer's portable keyboard
« Reply #11 on: Sun, 21 December 2014, 07:07:37 »
Thanks for the update, Oobly.  I agree that SA is a great profile and probably my personal preference.  Those big, sculpted keys feel as warm and comforting as being wrapped in a blanket next to a fire.  I guess that it depends on your intentions for the project, whether you are doing it for your own use, our little community, or with the intention of selling to consumers beyond these forums.

That same principle applies to the layout choice.  Consumers don't like their interfaces to be drastically different than what they are accustomed to using.  So changing the position of common keys like Shift, quotation marks, Tab, or Enter will be an adjustment and could be a hinderance if the user is regularly switching between the Writer's keyboard and a regular keyboard.  It may make more sense from our supergeek perspective to change the location of those keys, but it may turn off many potential buyers from using the keyboard.  I imagine that you aim to simplify writing and coding for the writer or coder, rather than create the slight inconvenience of some different positions for commonly used keys.  A person might be instantly repulsed by the "too weird and different" factor with just the first glance.

Of course, I say all this without any research to support my statements, but that's the way it seems sitting from my armchair based on how people in my life react to my keyboards with crazy layouts. There are many people out there that are actual entrepreneurs and have brought products to market (maybe you have already), and their advice probably is more useful.  But I have my opinions, and this forum lets me share them.

Regardless, I plan to offer encouragement along the way, because I would love to see your vision turned into a marketable product.  Owning all these keyboards and typewriters, I can definitely vouch for the value of "LESS IS MORE" when comes to the ideal writing environment.  The fewer things we have to distract us, the more productive and focused we will be on the simple of task of unadulterated writing.
« Last Edit: Sun, 21 December 2014, 08:13:35 by prdlm2009 »
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Offline PieterGen

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Re: Writer's portable keyboard
« Reply #12 on: Sun, 21 December 2014, 14:06:00 »
@Oobly I guess you are right in terms of design. I was trying to find a way to use the thumbs more, your new layout looks nice.

I still find the standard stagger dumb (not your fault, I mean the general public is dumb). I don't know how you guys hands are but my left hand looks different from my right hand, it looks kind of mirrored now that I think about it....  :)) :))  It must be me, of course, the industry can't be that dumb, can they ? And of course the stagger is there to make room for you know, all those levers and metal bars on our typographers  typing machines computers  ;) ;)
« Last Edit: Sun, 21 December 2014, 14:07:37 by PieterGen »

Offline Oobly

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Re: Writer's portable keyboard
« Reply #13 on: Sun, 21 December 2014, 15:27:44 »
Updated layout: http://www.keyboard-layout-editor.com/#/layouts/6ea4940de47c6c871cc0efab9f8fded8

I'll explain the decisions made on the key placements in another post, with images. Time is unfortunately very short for me at the moment. From my intial testing with the GON and some "simulated" testing with my thumbs the layout should be very easy to get used to and require very little adjustment time when coming from a "standard" QWERTY board.

 I'll be building a prototype from a Cherry G80 PCB and a piece of wood :)

@PieterGen: I agree completely! Standard physical layout of keyboards is a legacy of decisions made for mechanical devices which are absolutely obsolete and quite horribly unergonomic. The character layout was already obsolete by the time the 2nd Remington typewriter model was made (it was designed to prevent jamming of the gravity-returned striking levers, the 2nd version had spring return). The physical layout was obsolete as soon as they started to use electrical switches instead of levers. The only reason they're still made this way is familiarity and tradition. See my avatar for one half of my solution :)  For this project I'm using the standard layout in order to take advantage of that familiarity to provide a product that doesn't require a steep learning curve and very quickly gets "out of the way" of entering text when inspiration strikes.
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Offline vivalarevolución

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Re: Writer's portable keyboard
« Reply #14 on: Mon, 22 December 2014, 06:55:20 »
Down with QWERTY!  Down with QWERTY!
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Offline jacobolus

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Re: Writer's portable keyboard
« Reply #15 on: Tue, 23 December 2014, 01:55:51 »

Offline PieterGen

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Re: Writer's portable keyboard
« Reply #16 on: Tue, 23 December 2014, 07:14:13 »
Yes, they used to exist. I remember those gadgets, guess they have been replaced by the multi functional/ polyvalent/ jack of all trades) laptop. If I were a professional writer I would want a good mono functional tool though. Like OObly's Mono Functional (OOMF)

Maybe it asks for a modular approach.
Writing on the go = OOMF + smartphone
Writing a your desk = OOMF + micro computer (raspberrypi? arduino?) + big screen (ISP? or even a big e-ink screen, like the Sony DPTS1?)

@prdlm2009 - Yes, qwerty must die  >:D

Offline PieterGen

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Re: Writer's portable keyboard
« Reply #17 on: Tue, 23 December 2014, 07:36:30 »
@Oobly - how about shifting the q row 0.25 to the right? That way those who like the dumb standard stagger will still feel at home:


But those who want sym stagger could remap the keys to this:



Just an idea, needs refining.

Offline jdcarpe

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Re: Writer's portable keyboard
« Reply #18 on: Tue, 23 December 2014, 09:14:07 »
Oobly, I think this is a great little project. Much more practical than that Hemingwrite, and with the features of a (smaller) Qwerkywriter.

I like your non-rectangular layout just fine, but for some reason I am partial to this layout:




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Offline vivalarevolución

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Re: Writer's portable keyboard
« Reply #19 on: Tue, 23 December 2014, 10:34:47 »
Oobly, I think this is a great little project. Much more practical than that Hemingwrite, and with the features of a (smaller) Qwerkywriter.

I like your non-rectangular layout just fine, but for some reason I am partial to this layout:

Show Image



;)

I wonder why you are partial to that layout...

By the way, proper old-school typewriter emulation shall not include symbols on the first layer, except punctuation marks.
« Last Edit: Tue, 23 December 2014, 10:36:42 by prdlm2009 »
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Offline jdcarpe

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Re: Writer's portable keyboard
« Reply #20 on: Tue, 23 December 2014, 11:50:00 »
By the way, proper old-school typewriter emulation shall not include symbols on the first layer, except punctuation marks.

Oh, you and your rules. :))

http://www.keyboard-layout-editor.com/#/layouts/1f7ad32d2ef4bd6b661564449dbffd07
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Offline KRKS

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Re: Writer's portable keyboard
« Reply #21 on: Tue, 23 December 2014, 12:15:19 »
So I've played around with it a bit, and this is the result:

http://www.keyboard-layout-editor.com/#/layouts/c097f702511008bc1f242595f1182c2c

There's still space for something like pairing bluetooth or switching between documents(if it's gonna be a part of a bigger unit).
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Offline vivalarevolución

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Re: Writer's portable keyboard
« Reply #22 on: Tue, 23 December 2014, 13:10:25 »
By the way, proper old-school typewriter emulation shall not include symbols on the first layer, except punctuation marks.

Oh, you and your rules. :))

http://www.keyboard-layout-editor.com/#/layouts/1f7ad32d2ef4bd6b661564449dbffd07

Yea, I just made those rules up on the spot. 
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Offline jacobolus

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Re: Writer's portable keyboard
« Reply #23 on: Tue, 23 December 2014, 14:08:05 »
It’s weird to me how many suggested split-spacebar layouts (or keyboard layouts in general) have the spacebars not centered with the home row hand positions. The center of a keyboard as most people use it is between G and H, but few keyboards align the spacebar with that.

Offline jacobolus

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Re: Writer's portable keyboard
« Reply #24 on: Tue, 23 December 2014, 17:33:12 »
How about: http://www.keyboard-layout-editor.com/#/layouts/b826ca534c1b76e7dc364d7575b7d036


Or with some of Matias’s new split spacebar keycaps from their ErgoPro:
« Last Edit: Tue, 23 December 2014, 18:04:09 by jacobolus »

Offline vivalarevolución

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Re: Writer's portable keyboard
« Reply #25 on: Wed, 24 December 2014, 06:32:55 »
It’s weird to me how many suggested split-spacebar layouts (or keyboard layouts in general) have the spacebars not centered with the home row hand positions. The center of a keyboard as most people use it is between G and H, but few keyboards align the spacebar with that.

Most people seem to use the same hand for spacebar.  However, the opportunity to use the hand the I prefer would be nice.
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Offline Oobly

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Re: Writer's portable keyboard
« Reply #26 on: Wed, 31 December 2014, 07:01:56 »
Thank you all for your input and suggestions!

The Corona and Blickensderfer compact typewriters are amazing! The "scientific" layout on the Blickensderfer in particular is very interesting. It looks better than Dvorak or Colemak in terms of efficiency, although it seems the bottom row is used as the home row, so in terms of comparison, the top row would become the bottom row on a modern board I guess. I like it a lot!

I like some of the layouts proposed by others in the thread, not such a fan of others. After using the GON version for a little while, my KBT Pure 60% feels too big :) The most important thing I need to change is getting the Fn and EDIT keys into more accessible positions as this is hindering my typing on the GON. The main layer feels awesome to use, though, with the slightly narrower layout proving to take less effort to type, as I was hoping (and causing my right pinkie in particular to be less strained).

@PieterGen: I don't think it's a good idea to alter the stagger. It will be unfamiliar to both the normal QWERTY user AND the symmetrical stagger user, so will not appeal to either group. IMHO, if you're going to fix the layout, go the whole hog ;) https://geekhack.org/index.php?topic=49721.0
It's not the primary goal of this project to make something more ergonomic than a standard board, although I am keeping ergonomics in mind for all the changes from standard layout that I'm doing and due the compactness and design decisions it WILL be more ergonomic to use than a standard board.
The primary goal is familiarity along with compactness and ease of use. It must be something that immediately feels good to use and simply allows the user to get their thoughts down without getting in the way. Hopefully it will become a trusted tool, something like a favourite typewriter as many authors, playwrites, etc tend to have.
I would love for it to enhance rather than hinder creativity.

For this reason I really would like to use contoured SA keycaps as I believe they are the most homely and familiar to someone who's used to typewriters and familiar enough for someone who's used to computer keyboards.

If you look at a list of famous writers and their favourite typewriters (such as these listed here: http://site.xavier.edu/polt/typewriters/typers.html), most of them have spherical semi-matte or gloss keycaps.
Of the more recent writers on the list who have had access to word processors and computers, most still prefer to use a typewriter and of these, a few models stand out as being most popular: The IBM Selectric (I, II and III), Hermes (2000, 3000, Baby and Rocket), Olympia (SM3, SM4 and SM9), Smith-Corona (Portable, 2200, Silent Super, etc) and Olivetti (Lettera 22 and 32).
The Selectric has a profile identical to SA and all the others have spherical top smooth or semi-matte keytops. SA is the only profile that even comes close the feel of these. DSA's matte surface is simply too rough.

I guess I'm sort of refining the definition and target market of this product as the discussion continues, so please bear with me as we go through the process. And again, thank you for your input.
So at the moment I'm definitely leaning towards SA keycaps, despite their overall height and the increase in "thickness" it will cause to the product.

@jdcarpe: Your JD45 layout is really nice! I like the overall design of the 45 a lot more than the 40!

@jacobolus: Using spacebar / Fn keys larger than 1,5x makes the Alt and EDIT just a little too awkward to be used with the thumbs comfortably, but I do like the overall design of your layouts.

While including Bluetooth would make it a little less kludgy and simpler to use in some cases, it will increase the complexity and cost and reduce the usage time of both devices (and you're then dependent on whichever one runs out of power first), whereas with a little setup time (unhooking the USB cable and connecting it), it integrates the two devices into one, increasing the usage time and keeping things simpler. Also, if it gets as far as requiring certification, having BT will increase both the cost and time.

Buying more keycaps,
it really hacks my wallet,
but I must have them.

Offline Oobly

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Re: Writer's portable keyboard
« Reply #27 on: Wed, 31 December 2014, 07:04:51 »
Here is the GON board I've been using:

85947-0

And here is the current progress on my next prototype (after some pretend typing on it, I have determined that the Ctrl keys will need to be moved further outward by half a key or so):

85949-1

I have revised the layout a little and here is the latest version.
Base:
85951-2
http://www.keyboard-layout-editor.com/#/layouts/38c04c5c9802077db5c1bf30bde77e8b


Fn:
85953-3
http://www.keyboard-layout-editor.com/#/layouts/b397455422df3e2762e2b79358ae631f


EDIT:
85955-4
http://www.keyboard-layout-editor.com/#/layouts/7aa5754ca95c31aa4ee5a454afe3a3d7
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Offline Oobly

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Re: Writer's portable keyboard
« Reply #28 on: Wed, 31 December 2014, 07:07:34 »
Sorry for the wall of text, but here is my description and justifications for the layout decisions so far (both physical and character):

First off, the entire layout including Fn and Edit layers will be programmable, so a user can relocate any character, function or symbol, but the defaults should and will be very comfortable and familiar to use, except perhaps for the F-keys and a few special cases such as some of the symbols, but these should be easy to get used to.

The physical layout is not flexible, though, so it needs to be really easy to use and feel both natural and comfortable.

The way the layout is designed, and the positions of the keys decided, is by how most users will "look for" those keys and how they confirm by feel that they're the correct ones.

Backspace: Top rightmost key on the key block. Indexed by the upper right corner.
Enter: Rightmost key on centre row, up and right for ISO version. The 1x key on my layout is the only one in this position. If you're used to ISO you may start by hitting the top right corner of the key, but you quickly adjust.
Left Shift: It's in the standard position for ANSI layouts. For ISO it's the leftmost key on that row, found by moving down and left from 'A', indexed by the leftmost edge.
Right Shift: Rightmost key on bottom row, found by moving down and right from ';' (which is actually '"' on my layout). Indexed in this case by the right hand edge. I have actually found this to be surprisingly easy to get used to, it's just like the normal movement, but without stretching so far.
'"' key: It's in the same position relative to right Shift for creating '"' and it's just left of Enter. It's used more often than ';', so I've placed it on the main layer instead of ';' (with ';' in the same place on the Fn layer). In my testing I have found it to be more convenient and easier to use than the standard position and again, surprisingly easy to get used to, it felt natural immediately.
Ctrl: Bottom extreme corners of the keyboard. I still have to test the precise positioning of these, particularly for Ctrl-Z -> Ctrl-V combinations, but they will be the left and rightmost keys on the spacebar row.
Fn key: Using the unused thumb for this key makes it very easy to use in combination with the normal keys without having to twist your hand or use a "normal" typing finger to enable the layer. It allows you to use the "correct" finger for the number row and frees up the pinkie for hitting shift+number and other combinations.
Tab: Found by moving up and across from 'A', 2nd row from the top. Since there's no key to the left of Q, the Tab key now gets indexed by the upper left edge since it's the last key in that direction and the furthest left on the 2nd row.
EDIT key: To the right of space in an easy-to-reach position for the right thumb. Allows the use of all modifiers in combination with the edit keys and other keys on the layer.
Alt: Left of the double "spacebar", easy to press with the left thumb. This position also needs some testing to decide if it should remain there or be moved.

Symbols on number keys: Accessed by Fn+Shift+top row. Positions are Q=1, P=0. Other symbols are on the bottom row of the Fn layer. Indexed by being the top row, positions are quite intuitive, for instance '!' = Fn+Shift+Q with Fn being pressed by the thumb and Shift+Q feels very much like Shift+1 on a normal board.
Other symbols: '/?' is to the left of Shift, '-' is on the right index finger as it is an often-used character. '\' is positioned in order to be familiar to both ISO and ANSI users, to the right of the left shift and above the Enter key. '[{' and ']}' are duplicated for ease of access when coding.
EDIT layer: OKL;=arrow keys, I=Home, P=End, U=PgUp, J=PgDn. This is similar to what many 60% boards use (arrow keys are the same on KBT Pure and Ducky Mini, KBP V60 uses PL;') and it makes holding the Edit and right Shift keys while using them a quite easy (for selecting text for instance). This layer will also contain the remaining "missing" keys such as Print Screen, Insert, Pause, etc.
ESC: None on the default layer. This is to allow the Tab key position indexing to work correctly / easily. Esc is now on the Fn layer TAB position.

There are no keys between Alt and Ctrl or between EDIT and Ctrl. The reason for this is twofold. Firstly, the positions between these keys are very awkward to reach with either thumb or pinkie, so I don't see any point in placing keys there. Secondly it allows some internal space for adding batteries / weights to the front area of the case without increasing the size.
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Offline Oobly

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Re: Writer's portable keyboard
« Reply #29 on: Wed, 31 December 2014, 09:00:51 »
Alternative EDIT layer that allows you to use Ctrl ZXCV shortcuts without releasing the EDIT key: http://www.keyboard-layout-editor.com/#/layouts/1094b257fc9cecfdb4ca0f4c1effa7bd
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Offline vivalarevolución

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Re: Writer's portable keyboard
« Reply #30 on: Wed, 31 December 2014, 12:10:26 »
How would the modifiers be positioned for a Mac OS user?

By the way, nice list from Richard Polt's website.  I met him at the International Typewriters Collectors Convention in August.  He's an interesting guy with plenty of information in his head.
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Offline Oobly

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Re: Writer's portable keyboard
« Reply #31 on: Wed, 31 December 2014, 13:30:54 »
How would the modifiers be positioned for a Mac OS user?

By the way, nice list from Richard Polt's website.  I met him at the International Typewriters Collectors Convention in August.  He's an interesting guy with plenty of information in his head.

I guess the defaults would map Ctrl=Ctrl, Alt=Option. We could assign one of the Ctrl keys to Win and that should then map to Cmd by default. I guess a lot of people would use it with iOS devices, so perhaps the default mapping should be a bit more Mac and iOS friendly. Perhaps with the bottom row being: Ctrl, Win, Fn, space, EDIT, Alt so that Cmd will be left of Fn and Option on the right "Ctrl" key.

The downside is that Windows and Android users who don't use the Win key much would have to remap the keys with a PC or Mac, but then again most of those users are more amenable to doing some tweaking / setting up to get stuff they way they want, so it could be the way to go. Another option is to have 2 default firmwares available when ordering or even offer a custom layout service when building them depending on the way things progress.

It's certainly an interesting list, even with pictures and videos of the respective writers with their machines. Great that you've met the compiler of it!
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Offline jacobolus

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Re: Writer's portable keyboard
« Reply #32 on: Wed, 31 December 2014, 19:34:37 »
@jacobolus: Using spacebar / Fn keys larger than 1,5x makes the Alt and EDIT just a little too awkward to be used with the thumbs comfortably, but I do like the overall design of your layouts.
When using a split spacebar, if each spacebar is any smaller than 2u then the spacebar becomes uncomfortable to reach for many people. I would in general recommend either 2u or 2.5u split spacebars (assuming the split is centered under the G/H boundary). 2.5u split spacebars also work pretty well with an extra column added in the middle of the keyboard between TGB / YHN.

Speaking only for myself, I find it’s comfortable to use my thumbs for any keys that are directly below A or semicolon (in ANSI/QWERTY layout) or closer. Keys directly below caps lock / apostrophe are a bit too far over to reach comfortably.

Offline Oobly

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Re: Writer's portable keyboard
« Reply #33 on: Fri, 02 January 2015, 05:32:58 »
@jacobolus: Using spacebar / Fn keys larger than 1,5x makes the Alt and EDIT just a little too awkward to be used with the thumbs comfortably, but I do like the overall design of your layouts.
When using a split spacebar, if each spacebar is any smaller than 2u then the spacebar becomes uncomfortable to reach for many people. I would in general recommend either 2u or 2.5u split spacebars (assuming the split is centered under the G/H boundary). 2.5u split spacebars also work pretty well with an extra column added in the middle of the keyboard between TGB / YHN.

Speaking only for myself, I find it’s comfortable to use my thumbs for any keys that are directly below A or semicolon (in ANSI/QWERTY layout) or closer. Keys directly below caps lock / apostrophe are a bit too far over to reach comfortably.

Would you consider a button below the semicolon as usable by the thumb if you also need to press OKL; or IJKL as arrow keys while it is pressed? For me that's not comfortable at all, I even find Alt keys to be a PITA to use with thumbs. I find "," position to be still comfortable while using OKL; for extended periods, but that's the limit for me. If I want to use IJKL for arrows, "M" is as far out as I'd want to put the "EDIT" key, especially if I have mapped a character/function to EDIT+"H" or "Y". So that's where it is. I want the positions to feel comfortable and natural, with myself as a starting point, but using friends and colleagues as a small focus group.

From a brief poll at the office it's mainly the people who press space with their left thumb that press it further out and could require a larger key or perhaps swapping the 1x and 1.5, since they seem to centre their press around 0.25 into the posiition of "V" from left to right, directly under the divider between "R" and "T".

I'm also interested in how the size of the board affects the position, though, as I believe in some it would tend to encourage them to press it more centrally, particularly those who index their hand postions from the outside of the shift keys.

Once it is complete (and can be used to enter text to the computer) I will pass my latest prototype around the office and get feedback on this. I'll program both left and right keys as space and leave out the Fn layer, just to get feedback on the basic alpha area, EDIT key and layer, Shift keys, Enter, Backspace, Tab and Spacebar positions / ease of use. If people consider either spacebar position awkward to use I will modify the design further. This actually brings up a design point. It may be worthwhile to include a left/right switch so if someone sees someone else using one and wants to try it out, the Fn / Space can be swapped in case they use the opposite thumb to the owner of the board (good for marketing / promotion, demos, etc).

I'd like to avoid using stabilisers if possible, though. No individual really needs a larger than 1.75x key, but it may be needed if there is too much variation in comfortable positions for the key. Another solution is to offer a few layout options for the people who press it on more extreme positions, although this is undesirable for a number of reasons.

<EDIT> There is one advantage to using 2x size keys for the spacebar/FN keys, though. SP makes 2x size relegendable SA profile keycaps, whereas they don't make 1.5x :) </EDIT>
« Last Edit: Fri, 02 January 2015, 09:18:43 by Oobly »
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Offline Oobly

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Re: Writer's portable keyboard
« Reply #34 on: Fri, 02 January 2015, 08:40:07 »
Just thought I'd add that many people seem to be able to get used to the tiny spacebar on Realforce and HHKB JIS layouts easily enough and that's only 1.25x either side of the middle of "B" (2.5x total). Also the Filco Minila spacebar is 3x, but it's centered quite far to the right (between "B" and "N").

So maybe 1.5x either side could still work, especially with the smaller overall size... Will see next week I guess. I prefer to keep the "EDIT" and "ALT" keys in easy reach of the thumbs to make using the EDIT layer really easy. I find the position of Fn on all 60% boards to be awkward and difficult to use, especially for editing text and would love to have a key in one of these positions rather.
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Offline jacobolus

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Re: Writer's portable keyboard
« Reply #35 on: Fri, 02 January 2015, 12:00:34 »
From a brief poll at the office it's mainly the people who press space with their left thumb that press it further out and could require a larger key or perhaps swapping the 1x and 1.5, since they seem to centre their press around 0.25 into the posiition of "V" from left to right, directly under the divider between "R" and "T".
I press the spacebar directly under the center of the F key. I know people (just from looking around at what parts of the spacebar are shiny) who press the spacebar directly under the center of the J key.
« Last Edit: Fri, 02 January 2015, 12:02:32 by jacobolus »

Offline Oobly

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Re: Writer's portable keyboard
« Reply #36 on: Sat, 03 January 2015, 15:31:53 »
From a brief poll at the office it's mainly the people who press space with their left thumb that press it further out and could require a larger key or perhaps swapping the 1x and 1.5, since they seem to centre their press around 0.25 into the posiition of "V" from left to right, directly under the divider between "R" and "T".
I press the spacebar directly under the center of the F key. I know people (just from looking around at what parts of the spacebar are shiny) who press the spacebar directly under the center of the J key.

Interesting, thank you for your feedback. Well, I have made a little more progress:
86214-0

It's rough and ugly (and flexes in use due to the bendy PCB of the donor board and no plate or case), but functional:
86216-1

Preliminary testing shows that the layout truly suits me, although I'll find out more from others at my office on Monday:
86218-2

(please excuse the potato pics...)

It's very easy for me to use, including the Fn and Edit layers and I'm hesitant to move the EDIT key further out unless it really is necessary, since it's so much more accessible than any other Fn layer key I've ever used and feels very natural. In fact, I'd rather use this board than my 60% for certain tasks already and once I'm more familiar with the layers, I'm convinced it could replace it as my board for work. :D

P.S. - this post was typed in its entirety on the prototype ;) I've also had some great ideas for the case design, including the device holder / cover flap and a swing-out support for the back to help keep the assembly stable. I tried it with Nuclear Green SA Row 3 caps and GMK Dolch and I think the lower profile Dolch actually seems easier to use and both feels and looks good. The SA caps were a bit odd-feeling, despite the fact that SA is my favourite profile. Perhaps it's something to do with the size, but Cherry profile seems to suit it better than SA, which is somehow a bit disppointing to me TBH.
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Offline jdcarpe

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Re: Writer's portable keyboard
« Reply #37 on: Sat, 03 January 2015, 15:55:35 »
You liked the GMK better, because your Nuclear Data SA set is uniform Row 3 profile. :)

Nice little board you have there, Oobly.
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Offline Oobly

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Re: Writer's portable keyboard
« Reply #38 on: Sun, 04 January 2015, 15:24:21 »
You liked the GMK better, because your Nuclear Data SA set is uniform Row 3 profile. :)

Nice little board you have there, Oobly.

Could be, could be... but my PuLSE set hasn't arrived yet ;)

Thank you very much, it's a little flexible, but I'm finding it a joy to use.

86343-0
« Last Edit: Sun, 04 January 2015, 15:30:23 by Oobly »
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Offline Oobly

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Re: Writer's portable keyboard
« Reply #39 on: Mon, 05 January 2015, 09:13:31 »
I know some people aren't going to like this idea, but I am seriously considering using ML switches for the next prototype. Considering the use case of this being as compact as possible so it is easy to carry around for those moments of inspiration while still being mechanical and really nice to type on, lubed ML switches are hard to beat.

They feel somewhat like short-throw ErgoClears with the tactility starting right near the top of the stroke. Of course the keycap options are very limited, but SP are able to make keycaps with ML mounts, although the only profile I know of that definitely fits is LP. Their LP caps can be made in PBT with dyesub legends, too. I will enquire if DSA profile can be made to fit ML switches, too. I think they can since the profile document mentions they can be made with 11 different switch mount styles. Just wish they were semi-matte or gloss and not just matte.

The switches would need to be lubed, though, as unlubed new ML switches are even more scratchy than the current batches of MX switches and you can feel it more when typing, too.

There is one style of gloss/semi-matte spherical top keycap for ML switches made by Cherry for the Tandberg company which I would LOVE to use, but I don't think they sell them to the public :( One thing the spherical top caps would help with is off-centre hits which ML seems to be a little more sensitive to than MX (although I'm not sure it's still an issue with lubed switches). And of course it's more typewriter-like:



As always, feedback is welcome. What do you guys think about using lubed ML switches?
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Offline jdcarpe

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Re: Writer's portable keyboard
« Reply #40 on: Mon, 05 January 2015, 09:18:53 »
I think ML are underrated. Keycap options are somewhat limited, though, which is the main reason I don't incorporate them into my projects.
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Offline jacobolus

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Re: Writer's portable keyboard
« Reply #41 on: Mon, 05 January 2015, 12:38:15 »
I definitely want to make a folding ML keyboard at some point. Should be possible to get it very compact.

MLs are really bad about off-center presses (ML keys with stabilizers work much better than ones without, because the stabilizer forces the key to press straight down) and I think those Tandberg caps might help substantially.
« Last Edit: Mon, 05 January 2015, 12:40:45 by jacobolus »

Offline CPTBadAss

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Re: Writer's portable keyboard
« Reply #42 on: Wed, 07 January 2015, 07:07:49 »
Really into that board Oobly. It's so cute and I love how it was spurred from the Hemmingwrite discussion.
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Offline vivalarevolución

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Re: Writer's portable keyboard
« Reply #43 on: Wed, 07 January 2015, 12:44:51 »
I know some people aren't going to like this idea, but I am seriously considering using ML switches for the next prototype. Considering the use case of this being as compact as possible so it is easy to carry around for those moments of inspiration while still being mechanical and really nice to type on, lubed ML switches are hard to beat.

They feel somewhat like short-throw ErgoClears with the tactility starting right near the top of the stroke. Of course the keycap options are very limited, but SP are able to make keycaps with ML mounts, although the only profile I know of that definitely fits is LP. Their LP caps can be made in PBT with dyesub legends, too. I will enquire if DSA profile can be made to fit ML switches, too. I think they can since the profile document mentions they can be made with 11 different switch mount styles. Just wish they were semi-matte or gloss and not just matte.

The switches would need to be lubed, though, as unlubed new ML switches are even more scratchy than the current batches of MX switches and you can feel it more when typing, too.

There is one style of gloss/semi-matte spherical top keycap for ML switches made by Cherry for the Tandberg company which I would LOVE to use, but I don't think they sell them to the public :( One thing the spherical top caps would help with is off-centre hits which ML seems to be a little more sensitive to than MX (although I'm not sure it's still an issue with lubed switches). And of course it's more typewriter-like:

Show Image


As always, feedback is welcome. What do you guys think about using lubed ML switches?


Personally, I have my complaints about caps with that stepped structure.  I used Apple IIGS boards for awhile, and I found those types of caps seem to slow down my typing speed.  Maybe it was the smaller surface area for my fingers to feel around on.  But the Apple IIGS keyboard has different switches than ML, so maybe it will different.

Lubed ML's are not bad compared to stock ML, but could they be lubed out the box?  Or is this something the user has to do?
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Offline Oobly

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Re: Writer's portable keyboard
« Reply #44 on: Thu, 08 January 2015, 03:02:26 »
They don't come lubed from the factory, so they have to be lubed either by the end user or the keyboard maker :) I would do the lubing for small production runs and will investigate how a trampoline mod feels with these switches as soon as I get some. I have heard they are a bit quieter than MX switches on bottom out already, though. Will have to wait until I have a G84 so I can test for myself. I think the spring strength is fine from what I've read, so I don't think I'd need to also do spring swaps.

The 1.5x keys have stabilisers. This may prove to be a little difficult, though, as I am having trouble finding sources for ML stabilisers.

I found out that SP makes 2 types of LP caps, Family11 and Family13. Both are 4.6mm tall, same keytop width, but the Family 13 are a little smaller edge to edge. The biggest difference, though, is that Family13 can be doubleshot (ABS and / or PC) and finished semi-matte :) I found an example from an SP crap bag here: https://geekhack.org/index.php?topic=46495.msg999188#msg999188



Family11 can be PBT dyesub, but Family13 doesn't have a PBT option. I'll try to get some quotes from SP.
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Offline Oobly

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Re: Writer's portable keyboard
« Reply #45 on: Fri, 09 January 2015, 01:59:09 »
Well I've ordered a pair of used G84's from Germany. Design work continues...

The layout works well. I have yet to find someone who is not comfortable with the Space / Fn button positions and sizes (I suspect due to the smaller overall size of the board and people's resulting hand positions / angles) and the EDIT key is very easy to use and convenient, too. I will continue passing the board around and garnering opinions and feedback.

For coding I find having the numbers on a Fn layer a mild irritation, but for prose / other text it works amazingly well and I'm quite used to symbol positions already, so the layout seems to suit the primary use case well.

I also remember having some irritation with the Apple IIc keyboard a long time ago, probably also due to the stepped caps, so perhaps it's not so bad that I can't get them.

At the moment I am leaning towards using doubleshot Family13 LP caps from SP if I can get a reasonable quote for them. I have redesigned the layout to show the numbers and primary symbols on the keycaps (so the "." key shows both "." and "/" instead of "." and ">", "T" shows "T" and "5" which means you have to remember what will show when you use Shift), so it's easier to find them, but I'm not sure if it's a good idea since the board should be fully programmable. I think the Fn layout is very logical and functional, though, and it's really nice to have the legends to help confirm a number / symbol before you press it... Anyone has thoughts / opinions on this? I will post the layout mockup when I get home today (it's on my home laptop only).
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Offline suicidal_orange

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Re: Writer's portable keyboard
« Reply #46 on: Fri, 09 January 2015, 02:27:49 »
I like the idea of having keycaps that match what will happen but
Quote
the "." key shows both "." and "/" instead of "." and ">", "T" shows "T" and "5" which means you have to remember what will show when you use Shift
worries me slightly - shouldn't shift and t be T and an FN key be used for 5?  Can you get layer 2 legends top left and layer 3 top right (assuming layer 1 is no FN key used) of the top of the cap?  That would be clearest, if they can make it.

As long as the board is made available without the keys it's up to the buyer.  Your target market is writers not "geeks" so it's unlikely they would want to play about with layouts and would leave it stock, while we would rather not have stock keycaps so could buy our own - everyone wins :)
                               
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Offline jacobolus

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Re: Writer's portable keyboard
« Reply #47 on: Fri, 09 January 2015, 04:09:50 »
By the way, Oobly, you saw this layout idea right?

https://geekhack.org/index.php?topic=59396

As a minimal one-piece flat board, this is still a bit bigger than your proposal here, but I found that it’s actually very comfortable to type on: dramatically better for me than a standard layout board, while being relatively easy to learn coming from a standard layout.

If it ditched the goal of fitting in an existing 60% footprint, then the keys in the top right and top left corner, the key in the middle, and the arrows / nav keys in the bottom corners could all be ditched, and it could be even a bit more compact.
« Last Edit: Fri, 09 January 2015, 04:13:33 by jacobolus »

Offline Oobly

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Re: Writer's portable keyboard
« Reply #48 on: Fri, 09 January 2015, 05:11:04 »
@suicidal_orange: Thank you for for feedback. I believe a picture will make things clearer, so here is the mockup:

86760-0

Still playing with the colours, I quite like how the Dolch looked with the darker side modifiers, so I've also made a layout like that: http://www.keyboard-layout-editor.com/#/layouts/c13a7cb351ced433142d3418d35e6ab9

I'm showing only the unshifted characters (although the letters are capitals) to at least show where to find a particular symbol. When I tried to show more symbols on the keys (it's possible to use 5 on each, four on the top and one front-printed) it started to look way too cluttered and I believe it detracts from the purpose then, by making it harder to find the symbol you want amongst the jungle of printed characters. Doing it this way requires that the user is familiar with what characters match the unshifted ones, but I think it may be a good compromise. For instance, most people know that "=" and "+" are on the same key, likewise "[" and "{" or "/" and "?". Having "." and "/" on that one key may be the most confusing example, though, since it actually prints ".", ">", "/" and "?".

Perhaps I should offer it with either those caps or a set with only the default layer characters for those who will alter the Fn and EDIT layouts. I'm not sure that offering it without caps would be a good option (assuming I do use ML switches), since aftermarket ML keycaps are fairly rare.

@jacobolus: That's a really nice compact ergo layout and I may consider using something like that in a future version of the keyboard, however (quoting myself):

"It's not the primary goal of this project to make something more ergonomic than a standard board, although I am keeping ergonomics in mind for all the changes from standard layout that I'm doing and due the compactness and design decisions it WILL be more ergonomic to use than a standard board.
The primary goal is familiarity along with compactness and ease of use. It must be something that immediately feels good to use and simply allows the user to get their thoughts down without getting in the way."

I do want to release my ergo board as a product sometime and a compact ergo would be a great companion product, but this product needs to be familiar and comfortable straight from the box. It must be immediately usable. I believe a vertical stagger layout is too steep a barrier of entry for this particular device, although I'd love to use a similar layout to yours on a future compact ergo board.

It's already a risk buying a new type of product and users will only take so many risks on a new startup product. The bottom row is enough of a difference to differentiate the product from other similar ones and make it easier to use, while not presenting too great a barrier of entry for the user and therefore also, hopefully, not too great a risk.

I believe the transition to better ergonomic keyboards is going to be a slow process, with acceptance in the market being a key factor. If a company releases a good product that shows they know how to make a good keyboard and how users want to use their boards, there is more of a chance they will try a more radical design from them in future. So releasing a desktop ergo after a "normal" compact will be a good strategy. As would be then releasing a compact ergo after the desktop one.

As always, feedback about the colours and well, anything really is much appreciated.
« Last Edit: Fri, 09 January 2015, 05:17:11 by Oobly »
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Offline suicidal_orange

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Re: Writer's portable keyboard
« Reply #49 on: Fri, 09 January 2015, 17:48:51 »
@Oobly - So T = t, shift+T = T, FN+T = 5 and shift+FN+T = %? that makes sense.  I was thinking that as you have both FN and EDIT layers one large letter at the bottom and two small symbols at the top as in the attached pic wouldn't be too cluttered (left = FN right = EDIT, to match key positions) but that's not possible for some reason.  And I can't actually think of 52 required keys to use the letters twice, let alone 78+ so that's probably pointless.  What are you using the other layer for, is it really any use for a writer or would a bigger spacebar be more useful?

I had somehow forgotten the ML switch part so yes, stock keycaps are a necessity and having two options sounds good.  As to the colours I'd be tempted to say darker would be better for a portable, my thinking being whether it's in a bag or being used outside there's more chance it will get dirty than a board used at home and pale looks dirty quicker.  Having four random keys dark looks a bit strange so prefer the extra dark mods in the linked mock-up, but not backspace as it ruins the symmetry.

Note:  I'm not a writer.  It's very possible that writers are more careful but I understand the point of this is to be able to write when inspiration strikes, clean hands or not.
                               
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Offline Oobly

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Re: Writer's portable keyboard
« Reply #50 on: Sat, 10 January 2015, 15:17:42 »
Yup, you've got it. I found they started to look too cluttered with more than 2 symbols on each. Also, keys like "." would then have to have 4 symbols: .>/?

The EDIT layer contains arrow keys, Home, End, PgUp, PgDn, F1 to F12 and the remaining odd keys like Scroll Lock, Pause, etc.

I suspect many writers would use the arrows and PageUp, PageDn at least for navigating. They're in easier spots to remember than the Fn layer characters, though, and are very easy to get used to, so I don't think there's a need to add their characters to the keycaps. I think all 3 layers are important to keep since all the important functions won't fit on just 2 layers and it allows things to be put in comfortable / sensible positions on each layer.

For my own use I would be happy with the keycaps as I posted them in the previous post and live with the differences if I reprogram the Fn layer, but I'm interested in what others would prefer, so please state your opinions on this.

Semi-gloss ABS caps stay clean very well (certainly a LOT better than the matte PBT caps I have on my ergo board) and the colours are based on the Hammond keyboard in the OP (which is a colour scheme I've been wanting to make for a while now), but I'm open to suggestions for keycap colours and arrangements. I agree that the dark BCKSPC key breaks the symmetry too much and it would be better to have it light like the main area. Of course keycap colours and legends can still be discussed much further down the line as it'll be a long while still before any sets will actually be ordered.

The keycaps will be protected by a (removable) flip-out cover that becomes the support for your phone / tablet / phablet, so you can slip it in a pocket with other objects without fear of the caps getting damaged and I have an idea for making the case close completely so it prevents most dust / pocket lint / whatever from getting in, but I need to test the design.
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Offline jacobolus

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Re: Writer's portable keyboard
« Reply #51 on: Sat, 10 January 2015, 15:53:17 »
Personally I think this is a really uncomfortable way to deal with the numbers and symbols. You probably shouldn’t need Fn + shift + letter, with the Fn and the letter on the same hand (which means most people are also going to use that pinky for shift), an emacs-like hand contortion.

Personally I’d recommend sticking the numbers in numpad-like arrangement (since it’s already familiar to people) on the right hand while you hold some function key with the left thumb or pinky, and whatever symbols could be on right or left hands, but to the extent possible available with using an opposite-hand (instead of same-hand) modifier, and with any two-modifier + letter chords very sparingly and carefully used. There are enough letter keys that you can spread out the symbols that are usually shifted, and mostly avoid those three-key chords.

Also, if you line up F1–F10 to be on the same keys as 1–0 but with a different modifier, it’ll be easier for people to remember.

* * *

One other little piece of advice: some people will thank you if you widen both shift keys to 1.5u; the shift key on the right doesn’t overlap at all with it’s position on a standard keyboard, and from personal experience trying a layout with a 1u shift key in the position you have it, that causes a bunch of mistakes when starting out.
« Last Edit: Sat, 10 January 2015, 15:56:48 by jacobolus »

Offline Oobly

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Re: Writer's portable keyboard
« Reply #52 on: Sun, 11 January 2015, 05:46:41 »
Why would you also use the shift on the same hand? Use whichever is most comfortable, in most cases the one you normally use to get the character you want, I'm only adding the thumb key to the equation, which is really easy to press in combination, considering how close the top row is. For myself and many others, the numpad is less familiar than the top row for numbers and it wouldn't be arranged like a normal numpad anyway if you map it to the board. The point is familiarity, and only adding the easy thumb press keeps things where people expect them to be, with the number reference on the keycaps to make it even easier. For instance, on a normal board if you want the % symbol you press Shift+5. The movement is the same on my layout, just with the thumb Fn button to enable the number / symbol layer. It feels natural and familiar, as was my goal.

Of course, being fully programmable you can map a numpad to one layer if you like, but then where do you put the Shift+number symbols? You may find you run out of space...

F1 to F10 on the number keys makes sense from the point of view of having them on the top row, but there are only 11 keys up there so you can't go all the way to 12. Where do you put those 2? Also, people often reference the F number they want using the default groups of 4, so it's easy to find the one you want with my arrangement. I had thought of putting them on the Fn layer 2nd row, from Tab to Enter, but I realised it makes more sense to keep that layer for the numbers and symbols (since these are going to be used more often and belong all together) and put them on the EDIT layer and since I already have an arrow block there, they have to be arranged the way I did. It's easy to get used to and they won't be used much in the primary use case anyway.

About the 1x Shift keys, did the arrangement you tried have another key outside of the Shift key or was it the last on that row? Being the last one you may hit the outside edge the first few times, but (from my own experience) you get used to it very quickly and it actually starts to feel even more natural than the original position. I plan to taper the case towards the bottom to make the overall size even smaller, so 1.5x Shifts wouldn't fit, but I will see how the 2nd prototype with ML switches is accepted by my focus group. I'll be handing it over to a writer (2 published books) for longer term testing and feedback, too.

Thank you for the feedback, I will keep everything that is said in mind as the project develops. Ultimately it comes down to the testing of the actual physical devices and feedback from users, balanced with the design goals and use cases.
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Offline suicidal_orange

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Re: Writer's portable keyboard
« Reply #53 on: Sun, 11 January 2015, 06:47:28 »
Another random thought - how often does a writer use an exclamation mark or brackets compared to a numeric number?  Extending this to the UK-ISO layout I'm familiar with " is also above number two, and that's used often when writing.  How does telling the OS you're from somewhere else that looks the same affect things?  If you design for US-ANSI I think your Z / key label is wrong for ISO, and if I have to say it's ANSI to get that key to work I have no idea where to find "

Does that make any sense?

It's quite hard to critique the actual layout without actually having it here to test so I would listen to those who've tried it more.  As long as they aren't your friends, or are good enough friends to be willing to criticise where appropriate.  Friendly yes-people make poor acceptance testers...  Your writer may be more tech-savvy than most and he(?) has just one set of hands so while a very good person to ask as he'll use it lots that's not enough.  You probably know know all this though, you seem to be going very fast so I suspect this isn't your first project :)
                               
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Offline Oobly

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Re: Writer's portable keyboard
« Reply #54 on: Sun, 11 January 2015, 07:35:38 »
! and () are used more often than numbers, but they're found in the "normal" places, just with the thumb key to enable the layer. I have designed the layout with both ANSI and ISO users in mind. Fn+z will send "\" and so will Fn+BCKSPC which is found where the ANSI "\" key is. I'm also working on Nordic and Cyrillic layouts, but they are going to be a little more compromised than English ANSI and ISO due to the extra characters used.

The essence of my layout designs is that a user doesn't have to learn a new layout at all (with the exception of [] and -= which is why I put them on the most used fingers of the home row so they're easy to find), but rather just has to learn when the Fn key is needed. In theory at least this makes it usable immediately and a user can be very proficient with the board in a short time.

Some of the testers may well be too "nice" to give proper critique or negative feedback, but there are a good number who will not be afraid to slam any aspects of the design that they don't like or are awkward to use.
« Last Edit: Sun, 11 January 2015, 07:53:56 by Oobly »
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Offline Oobly

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Re: Writer's portable keyboard
« Reply #55 on: Mon, 19 January 2015, 05:55:06 »
My G84-4100 boards (victims, muahaha!) have arrived and I've stripped one of them down and desoldered some switches.

87825-0

A quick height comparison of MX switches with GMK Cherry profile keycaps and ML with stock keycaps:

87827-1

And with contoured SA profile caps on the MX:

87829-2

As you can see, Cherry MX with contoured SA profile caps is... very tall. I love how they feel, though, and if compactness weren't so important a criteria for this concept I'd definitely be using those.

The ML switches feel fine to type on as they come from the factory as long as you hit them dead centre. Kind of like a slightly harder MX Brown switch with a bit more tactility (whhich starts at the top of the stroke) and shorter throw. Hitting them off-centre, however, allows the slider to tilt and then they can get very stiff and don't feel anywhere near as nice. A problem with the standard G84 layout is that the spacing is just 18mm compared a "normal" MX spacing of 19mm, so you tend to hit the outside edges of keys a lot near the left and right sides of the board, which of course causing the sticking / grinding horribleness to occur. If I want to use ML switches I really have to solve this issue...

I can confirm that opening ML switches while on a PCB is a very delicate and difficult task, but it's MUCH easier to open them when they're off the board. They are quite a bit smaller and "daintier" than MX modules, particularly the retaining tabs.

I have done some basic experiments in lubing and have found that if you lube ALL the contact points of the slider where they touch the housing AND the springs, they feel much better on off-axis hits. It really helps a lot. I think that combining a more normal horizontal key spacing (I'll experiment with a few spacings, since although 19mm should in theory be best, the compactness may affect the "expected" positions of the keys towards the outer edges), full lubing and good quality doubleshot keycaps will bring ML switches up to snuff enough to be used for this project :) Perhaps not quite as good as plate mounted trampoline modded 62g ErgoClears with contoured SA caps on, but not a whole lot worse, either, and certainly acceptable.

Of course the problem with changing the key spacing is that the keycaps are designed for 18mm spacing, so there'll be larger gaps between the keycaps, although the keycap tops have the same width as SA profile, so I don't think it will be an issue with functionality, just aesthetics. Contributing to this issue is the fact that there isn't much space under the keycaps when the switches are pressed to have a nice decorative plate unless it's really thin. I have some ideas about that, though :)

And the process continues...
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Offline Oobly

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Re: Writer's portable keyboard
« Reply #56 on: Tue, 20 January 2015, 03:32:51 »
ML switches can be trampoline modded to give a softer bottom out :)

The lubed and trampoline modded test switch feels really nice and handles off-axis presses well; there's a slight increase in force needed, but it's much less than an unlubed switch and it doesn't ever have that "stuck" feeling even on extreme corner presses. A thin (0.5mm or so) slice of soft oring works well as a "trampoline" without reducing the travel noticably.

A board full of these would be really nice to type on, so if I can work out effective ways to do these mods relatively quickly (for small production runs), ML switches get the nod for use. Making the "trampolines" is the slowest part of the process at the moment.

Testing the keycap spacing, the standard larger spacing of 19mm actually feels a little too far apart, strangely enough. Also the gap between keycap edges is large, at least with the stock Cherry caps. From testing both 18 and 19mm spacing it feels like 18.5mm would work well, but I still need to make a jig / test board with a full row of switches to test this.
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Offline jacobolus

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Re: Writer's portable keyboard
« Reply #57 on: Tue, 20 January 2015, 06:28:12 »
There are regular-size (i.e. designed to be spaced 3/4 inches apart) ML keycaps, if you do decide you want normal key spacing.

Offline Oobly

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Re: Writer's portable keyboard
« Reply #58 on: Tue, 20 January 2015, 08:32:32 »
There are regular-size (i.e. designed to be spaced 3/4 inches apart) ML keycaps, if you do decide you want normal key spacing.

Thanks for this info, I may well go for full size caps. Keycaps are actually one of the biggest headaches of small production runs of keyboards. It's hard to find a supplier who'll sell relatively few sets at a reasonable price and those that are willing to are usually either not the best quality or VERY expensive, even if you go for stock layouts. With custom / nonstandard legends it gets even more difficult.

One of the reasons I've been considering SP's Family13 caps is they can be doubleshot and semi-matte. Their Family 11 is larger, but can't be doubleshot and comes only in matte finish. Family 11 can be PBT and dyesubbed, though.

Do you happen to know of a supplier other than SP for full size caps?
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Offline Oobly

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Re: Writer's portable keyboard
« Reply #59 on: Mon, 16 March 2015, 06:04:02 »
Progress report 16 March 2015:

Devlin don't have tooling for ML keycaps any more (lost in a fire apparently).

I have got some quotes from SP for ML keycaps. They only do ABS nowadays for ML keycaps and the larger Family 11 caps can only be pad printed, so they're off the table (was hoping to get pricing for Family 11 PBT dyesubs).

That leaves the smaller Family 13 which can be doubleshot and semi-matte finish. I have requested some samples and have been quoted figures for a couple of options (in WCK and TAA). They're not cheap, but I think they'll be worth using for this board as I really don't want to cheap out on keycaps. They need to be high quality, both in terms of feel and looks. Can't wait for the samples to arrive :)

PCB design is progressing slowly, switching to a Freescale processor from the Atmel I am used to, so it's a combined learning and design process right now.

I have found a supplier for switches, but need to confirm the quantities available and the price breakpoints.

The case design is progressing well, but I'm still making adjustments and considering different materials and construction methods for various parts.

NEW FEATURE:  :D I am integrating a form of pointing device, but this still requires some reverse engineering of the pinout and signalling. This is one of the reasons for switching processors. I'm keeping the details mum for now, but will post here once I have a functioning prototype.  :cool:

Feedback request:

Would you be bothered by having the this layout on the keycaps even if you've reprogrammed the layout to your own custom version?

94294-0

http://www.keyboard-layout-editor.com/#/layouts/df0101b82800716a5200da363609f0cf

Should I also offer a "clean" keycap set option with just the numbers on the top row? This will increase costs since the numbers of each set will be lower when I order them, though.

I have changed the [] characters on the default Fn layer of D and F to {} so coders don't have to hit Fn+Shift+M or , to get them. I have resorted to a blank bottom row since these are most likely to be altered by users to their own preference and operating system (such as switching the spacebar and Fn or positioning CMD where CTRL is for instance). The other option is offering a more complete set of caps to cover all cases (2x SUPER / OS / WIN, 2x ALT, 2x CMD, 2x CTRL, 1x EDIT, 1x FN, 1x blank), but this will increase the cost further and in my expereince of the prototype you learn the chosen modifier layout easily without requiring legends. Of course, if anyone has another suggestion for this, please let me know.



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Offline CPTBadAss

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Re: Writer's portable keyboard
« Reply #60 on: Mon, 16 March 2015, 06:06:50 »
For some reason, I'm really attached to 2x backspace and enter. I can't seem to find those keys unless they're that size. Other than that, I could get adjusted to that layout.

...Actually, they don't even need to be 2x. 1800 right shift key size would work for me.
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Offline Oobly

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Re: Writer's portable keyboard
« Reply #61 on: Mon, 16 March 2015, 06:53:29 »
For some reason, I'm really attached to 2x backspace and enter. I can't seem to find those keys unless they're that size. Other than that, I could get adjusted to that layout.

...Actually, they don't even need to be 2x. 1800 right shift key size would work for me.

I've tried a few versions with larger backspace and enter keys, but they tend to lose either the left/right position balance or overall dimensions become too great. For instance, here's one option:

94296-0
http://www.keyboard-layout-editor.com/#/layouts/42ff5ea09b67a624b0908c536c180a6c

It's 1.25x keys wider than the original and I feel it has lost a certain something in the width increase.

Another with only larger keys on the right:

94298-1
http://www.keyboard-layout-editor.com/#/layouts/f70e17b974130700423ffba73598d28d

I crammed an ESC key in there since you can get a 0.8x keycap and with my slightly larger spacing it'll just fit ;)

An issue is that SP only makes stepped 1.25x ML caps and nothing larger than 2.0x, so the only options for the larger keys are 1.5, 1.75 or 2.

I have found the smaller size of the overall board helps to acclimate my fingers to the closer in positions of the little backspace and enter, but I do get that some people may have trouble with this.

Here is another option that keeps the symmetry (and gains a full size ESC), but I feel it has grown a little too wide (considering I am aiming for it to be as compact as possible and able to be slipped into a jacket pocket, for instance), despite the Enter and Backspace being only 1.5x:

94300-2
http://www.keyboard-layout-editor.com/#/layouts/3ba5696eec6924bd37fbe0738ced399d
« Last Edit: Mon, 16 March 2015, 07:06:54 by Oobly »
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Offline CPTBadAss

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Re: Writer's portable keyboard
« Reply #62 on: Mon, 16 March 2015, 06:57:06 »
Ugh...that website doesn't show up on my work computer. All I get is the numpad. :(

Thanks for the reply though :)
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Offline Oobly

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Re: Writer's portable keyboard
« Reply #63 on: Mon, 16 March 2015, 07:02:40 »
Ugh...that website doesn't show up on my work computer. All I get is the numpad. :(

Thanks for the reply though :)

Added images :)
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Offline CPTBadAss

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Re: Writer's portable keyboard
« Reply #64 on: Mon, 16 March 2015, 07:05:41 »
Thanks!! I'd prefer option 3 as it has the larger keys but still a smaller formfactor. But I think option 2 is the compromise I had in my head. I agree the first option is a bit large for this purpose.
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Offline Oobly

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Re: Writer's portable keyboard
« Reply #65 on: Mon, 16 March 2015, 07:21:18 »
Thanks!! I'd prefer option 3 as it has the larger keys but still a smaller formfactor. But I think option 2 is the compromise I had in my head. I agree the first option is a bit large for this purpose.

Actually, now that I stare at it for a while, I'm starting to like option 3... Perhaps with the CTRL keys positioned touch further out:

94302-0

I'll have to get some more keycap quotes and perhaps make 2 prototypes, 1 of each layout to test and send around my "focus group".

What about the rest of you? Which layout do you prefer?

A: the one from that post over there (small enter and backspace): https://geekhack.org/index.php?topic=66836.msg1681958#msg1681958
B: the image in this post above.

Answers on a postcard to:

Oobly, Oobly, Bluebottle and friends
10 Nutting Upstairs
Bucklingspring Hall
MX1A-C1NW

... or in this thread.

{EDIT} Forgot to mention, the 1.5x keycaps are all stabilised, so that will make the larger layout a little more expensive (both in terms of keycaps and actual manufacture), but will improve the feel on edge hits for those keys (although lubing already helps massively, too). {/EDIT}
« Last Edit: Mon, 16 March 2015, 07:26:49 by Oobly »
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Offline Oobly

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Re: Writer's portable keyboard
« Reply #66 on: Tue, 17 March 2015, 03:00:11 »
Okay, okay, no postcards, but if anyone is interested in this design, I'd like some feedback on which layout you would prefer. Thank you.

For now, I will continue planning the second prototype with this layout: http://www.keyboard-layout-editor.com/#/layouts/df0101b82800716a5200da363609f0cf

And with additional contacts to support this layout (same, but with wider CTRL key spacing): http://www.keyboard-layout-editor.com/#/layouts/55c8f732e98a916f969294501d6431d1

If layout B (Option 3 with wider Enter, Backspace, Tab and Shift keys and wider CTRL spacing) proves popular I will also design a prototype PCB for that and see whether it improves the typing experience enough to sacrifice the extra width.

Pointing device hint:
« Last Edit: Tue, 17 March 2015, 03:58:05 by Oobly »
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Offline Oobly

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Re: Writer's portable keyboard
« Reply #67 on: Wed, 18 March 2015, 09:23:46 »
Slow progress in figuring out the pinout and signalling:

94448-0
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Offline sypl

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Re: Writer's portable keyboard
« Reply #68 on: Wed, 18 March 2015, 09:44:08 »
I like this topic and what you've done, I think optimizing for a writer would mean rearranging the keys the most common characters could be typed with no modifiers.

If you analyse the English language the vast majority of writing is encapsulated in letters, numbers and these punctuation symbols: , . ( ) ' " - ? ; : !, in about that order of usage. The layout should be optimised such that I shouldn't have to hit shift to get to ? (no writer uses / more than ?) or have to use brackets.

So I would maybe arrange a keyboard (not compact, but for writers) a little bit like so:

94455-0 

http://www.keyboard-layout-editor.com/#/layouts/2466a4b5e1130e81683eb068d536296e

Numbers would be accessed via Mod modifier, probalby in tenkey block arrangement, or just keep the number row up top, which would be more in line with the modless key philosophy.

Offline hanya

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Re: Writer's portable keyboard
« Reply #69 on: Wed, 18 March 2015, 12:18:53 »
Slow progress in figuring out the pinout and signalling:
Is it based on ADBS-A350 (modular type is ADBM-A350) or relative?
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Offline Oobly

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Re: Writer's portable keyboard
« Reply #70 on: Wed, 18 March 2015, 13:04:44 »
Slow progress in figuring out the pinout and signalling:
Is it based on ADBS-A350 (modular type is ADBM-A350) or relative?

Not sure, it definitely uses TWI / I2C signalling, but I don't see an IO select line so far. I suspect it's made by CrucialTec, though.
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Offline Oobly

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Re: Writer's portable keyboard
« Reply #71 on: Thu, 19 March 2015, 02:33:26 »
I like this topic and what you've done, I think optimizing for a writer would mean rearranging the keys the most common characters could be typed with no modifiers.

If you analyse the English language the vast majority of writing is encapsulated in letters, numbers and these punctuation symbols: , . ( ) ' " - ? ; : !, in about that order of usage. The layout should be optimised such that I shouldn't have to hit shift to get to ? (no writer uses / more than ?) or have to use brackets.

So I would maybe arrange a keyboard (not compact, but for writers) a little bit like so:

(Attachment Link)  

http://www.keyboard-layout-editor.com/#/layouts/2466a4b5e1130e81683eb068d536296e

Numbers would be accessed via Mod modifier, probalby in tenkey block arrangement, or just keep the number row up top, which would be more in line with the modless key philosophy.

I appreciate where you're going with this, but this project's main goals are compactness and familiarity. I want it to be something a writer can easily slip into a jacket pocket to take with them wherever they have their phone or tablet along and to be instantly usable, with at least the main characters in familiar positions. I have found the switch to the first protoype seamless except for getting used to pressing the Fn layer key when needed, but the characters are all in familiar "positions", according to how my fingers "find" them on a normal board, and the characters which require the Fn layer are less used in prose than those on the normal layer.

I don't want to force users to take the time to get used to an unfamilar layout, particularly one that is similar to the normal, as that will then interfere with their normal writing motor memory.

I do applaud the concept of improving efficiency and the whole typing experience overall, but for that purpose I have designed a different keyboard (taking into account English prose character and symbol frequencies), since it's a different use case: https://geekhack.org/index.php?topic=49721.0

@hanya: I think these sensors would be great for many different projects, including tongue sensors for quadriplegics (perhaps bite to click), alternative mouse designs, etc. and they can be found relatively cheaply online. So far nobody has posted a datasheet, proper pinout or signal chart, but I have figured out most of the pins and some of the signalling, so I may do that once I get further. I think they're better than the IBM TrackPoint device and the little trackball previously used by Blackberry.
Buying more keycaps,
it really hacks my wallet,
but I must have them.

Offline sypl

  • Posts: 113
Re: Writer's portable keyboard
« Reply #72 on: Thu, 19 March 2015, 09:45:55 »
Yes, that's fair enough. All layouts are a compromise based on your starting assumptions, and it looks like you've got something pretty decent going on there for your target audience.

Offline hanya

  • Posts: 103
  • Location: Japan
Re: Writer's portable keyboard
« Reply #73 on: Thu, 19 March 2015, 12:48:37 »
So far nobody has posted a datasheet, proper pinout or signal chart, but I have figured out most of the pins and some of the signalling, so I may do that once I get further. I think they're better than the IBM TrackPoint device and the little trackball previously used by Blackberry.
I've never used this type of device but it if good, we could have another choice.
It seems Optical TrackPad is manufactured by CrucialTec: http://www.crucialtec.com/eng/business/business_otp.php#tab2
The following page contains informations analyzed by some people: http://forum.arduino.cc/index.php?topic=61637.0
PFU HHKB JP, Sanwa MA-TB38 trackball

Offline timofonic

  • Posts: 59
Re: Writer's portable keyboard
« Reply #74 on: Fri, 18 March 2016, 00:08:18 »
Is this project alive? I would love one for me e-ink device.

I tried many handwriting, it's not for me. It could be useful for stuff in a dirty way to make them better later, but not for text (I'm a very fast touch typist).

Offline romevi

  • Formerly romevi
  • * Exalted Elder
  • Posts: 8850
  • Location: The Windy City
Re: Writer's portable keyboard
« Reply #75 on: Fri, 18 March 2016, 00:12:21 »
How are all these necro threads found?!

Anyway, this is a pretty neat project. I myself am better at handwriting when it comes to creative writing as it's more organic and I can write notes, etc, more fluidly without the confines of a keyboard and word processor. I'm faster at touch typing, but nothing beats the pen for my imagination.

Offline Bjack795

  • Posts: 16
Re: Writer's portable keyboard
« Reply #76 on: Fri, 22 February 2019, 05:29:13 »
Hi all!
I'm doing this project https://github.com/Bjack795/WemosD32pro_EPD_Typewriter
That seems to be related to your thread, I need a keyboard like that and it could be interesting if there would be a way to cooperate.