Author Topic: Writer's portable keyboard  (Read 12988 times)

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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 shouldnít 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 Iíd recommend sticking the numbers in numpad-like arrangement (since itís 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 F1ĖF10 to be on the same keys as 1Ė0 but with a different modifier, itíll 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 doesnít overlap at all with itís 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.
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Offline sypl

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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

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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
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Offline timofonic

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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
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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.