Author Topic: Critique my split hand ergo design  (Read 1864 times)

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Offline TD22057

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Critique my split hand ergo design
« on: Tue, 28 April 2015, 22:50:46 »
I pseudo-built my first (and only) custom keyboard in this thread (https://geekhack.org/index.php?topic=44831).  I liked the design a lot but I could never get a case made correctly and didn't make the plate large enough to use as the top piece of case so it never came together as an actual keyboard.  After reading the thread about "fixing" the ergo-dox, it inspired me to revive and update my design, re-make the plate, and finally get the keyboard I want.

I thought I would go through my design iterations and see what feedback people have.  I like a ~10 deg angle on the rows and a minimum of thumb keys.  All of the designed have more keys in the upper, outer corners and the lower, inside corners because that minimizes the horizontal space needed with the 10 deg rotation angle.  I tried a Kinesis and it killed my thumbs (tendonitis) so I also don't need a big thumb cluster like the ergodox. 

Here was my initial design (complete w/ dsa retro cap coloring).  I like a lot about it but I didn't like the lack of an arrow cluster and the placement of the quote key and the slash key were a real pain.  They're largely an artifact of my desire for a symmetric layout.

Design #1:
98795-0

After reading the tread on the ergo-dox thumb cluster, I realized that I could greatly reduce thumb travel by using an arc'ed set of keys for the space bar and Fn keys (my primary thumb keys) and add one more key (backspace?) without much worry.  I also added some vertical offset to the finger columns as well.  My thumbs rest perfectly on the space bars and it's only a small move to hit the key to either side.  This design still has no arrow cluster and the quote and slash keys are still in bad locations.

Design #2:
98797-1

The easiest way to fix the quote and slash keys was to go back to the qwerty layout.  I figured out that I can make the enter key 1u wide and get very close to a standard keyboard layout on the right hand with this change without making it much larger.  That allowed me to add in an arrow cluster on the right hand and another nav cluster (probably not that important to me) on the left hand.  Increasing the arc of the thumb keys also helped with thumb placement.  I don't think hitting a 1u enter key is a problem and I may use one of the extra thumb keys as a enter key as well.

Design #3:
98799-2

After studying that design, I realized that I could get back to a symmetric design if I use 1u keys for the left side tab and ctrl.  I'm not sure why I like the idea of a symmetric design so much and it doesn't really add that much functionality (I don't actually need those keys) so I'm not sure about this one.

Design #4:
98801-3

So I'm leaning heavily towards design #3 with some small thoughts about #4 right now.  I'd love to hear any ideas, thoughts, and criticisms that people have of these.


Offline jacobolus

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Re: Critique my split hand ergo design
« Reply #1 on: Tue, 28 April 2015, 23:09:49 »
Have you considered staggering the columns a bit? IMO it is a very substantial improvement over a rigid grid. (Edit: I just realize that you did in designs #24. Derp. You might want to pick a more visible color scheme for those pictures. The outlines are pretty much impossible to see in the thumbnails. Also, you might want to put larger pictures in your post.)

* * *

Id recommend dropping the pinky columns further. The pinky is dramatically shorter than the ring finger. My personal preference is a 3/4u stagger from ring finger to pinky finger, but in some user testing I got feedback from a few people that 1/2u stagger was better.
« Last Edit: Tue, 28 April 2015, 23:13:09 by jacobolus »

Offline TD22057

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Re: Critique my split hand ergo design
« Reply #2 on: Tue, 28 April 2015, 23:12:44 »
Have you considered staggering the columns a bit? IMO it is a very substantial improvement over a rigid grid. (Edit: I just realize that you did in designs #24. Derp. You might want to pick a more visible color scheme for those pictures. The outlines are pretty much impossible to see in the thumbnails. Also, you might want to put larger pictures in your post.)

Did you click on them?  They should expand to a decent sized picture.  Let me know if they don't and I'll try and fix them...

Offline TD22057

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Re: Critique my split hand ergo design
« Reply #3 on: Tue, 28 April 2015, 23:13:42 »
ps: Thanks for all the work you did in the ergodox thumb cluster thread - that really inspired me to improve my design and get moving on this project.

Offline jacobolus

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Re: Critique my split hand ergo design
« Reply #4 on: Tue, 28 April 2015, 23:19:08 »
Did you click on them?  They should expand to a decent sized picture.  Let me know if they don't and I'll try and fix them...
I guess it depends what size screen youre anticipating someone to look at this thread with. Im on a 27" screen, so Id love to see big pictures that I can compare:

(Id still suggest a different color scheme though.)

Offline TD22057

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Re: Critique my split hand ergo design
« Reply #5 on: Tue, 28 April 2015, 23:20:50 »
Id recommend dropping the pinky columns further. The pinky is dramatically shorter than the ring finger. My personal preference is a 3/4u stagger from ring finger to pinky finger, but in some user testing I got feedback from a few people that 1/2u stagger was better.

Interesting. It seems like a lot but maybe just because I'm used to not having it all.  I'd be a little worried that it makes hitting the shift key with the pinky harder since that's another row lower again.   I'll have to try that and see. 

Offline Niomosy

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Re: Critique my split hand ergo design
« Reply #6 on: Tue, 05 May 2015, 17:36:01 »
Just noticed... is that double tilde keys?

It's an interesting layout.  Always fascinating to see what others come up with for themselves. 

Offline TD22057

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Re: Critique my split hand ergo design
« Reply #7 on: Tue, 05 May 2015, 21:46:07 »
Just noticed... is that double tilde keys?

It's an interesting layout.  Always fascinating to see what others come up with for themselves.

Yes - but only by mistake.  The right one should be the standard -/_ key. 

I've been experimenting w/ different vertical staggers recently but I can't decide on which I like best.  Running some numbers through bigbluesaw shows that the symmetric layout is far cheaper since I need 2 keyboards (work/home), if I can have them cut 1 part 4 times (actually 5), it's much cheaper than a non-symmetric layout where I'd only need 2 parts made.

Offline rsac

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Re: Critique my split hand ergo design
« Reply #8 on: Tue, 05 May 2015, 22:20:15 »
I thought that those types of economies of scales applied more to PCBs than laser cutting. But yeah, symetry is nice.

About your design, very nice. Are you sure that you can precisely aim for the F-keys w/o any tactile cue, like a bit of separation in groups of a few keys each? And have you tough about shifting with the thumbs? Then you don't have to worry about shifting being too low.

Offline Niomosy

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Re: Critique my split hand ergo design
« Reply #9 on: Wed, 06 May 2015, 19:08:26 »
I thought that those types of economies of scales applied more to PCBs than laser cutting. But yeah, symetry is nice.

About your design, very nice. Are you sure that you can precisely aim for the F-keys w/o any tactile cue, like a bit of separation in groups of a few keys each? And have you tough about shifting with the thumbs? Then you don't have to worry about shifting being too low.

Ahh, gotcha.  For cost's sake, the symmetric boards do make more sense for you.

I keep toying with the idea of a symmetric keyboard.  The problem for me ends up being that every symmetric layout I've seen thus far has decisions of sacrifice to make (brackets being the most obvious).  That or I'm going to end up with symmetry based on the right-hand side, not the left-hand side.

Offline TD22057

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Re: Critique my split hand ergo design
« Reply #10 on: Wed, 06 May 2015, 21:17:19 »
I keep toying with the idea of a symmetric keyboard.  The problem for me ends up being that every symmetric layout I've seen thus far has decisions of sacrifice to make (brackets being the most obvious).  That or I'm going to end up with symmetry based on the right-hand side, not the left-hand side.

I totally agree.  In order to get symmetry in my first designs, the right hand was a lot different than the standard layout and that made the keyboard hard to use.  So my current designs use the right hand as the basis and make the left symmetric to that.  If a single 1u key is ok for the return key (right hand), tab & ctrl (left hand), then it really isn't too bad and looks like it will work well.  These designs have the brackets in the "proper" place which I like better. 

About your design, very nice. Are you sure that you can precisely aim for the F-keys w/o any tactile cue, like a bit of separation in groups of a few keys each? And have you tough about shifting with the thumbs? Then you don't have to worry about shifting being too low.

Here is an option that adds spacing for the function row by dropping a key from the top row in each.  Not bad since I had extra keys anyway.  This also has a lot more vertical stagger than I was originally planning.  I made a cardboard prototype of this and it feels pretty good.  I'm not sure about shifting w/ the thumbs - I have some tendonitis of in my thumbs so I don't want to over work them.  One thing I like about this is all of those keys are 1.5 wide so they could be easily swapped if I wanted to try using the thumbs for various things.

99668-0

Offline berserkfan

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Re: Critique my split hand ergo design
« Reply #11 on: Wed, 06 May 2015, 23:04:31 »
looking at your latest picture, you can just use one PCB and flip it right?
Most of the modding can be done on your own once you break through the psychological barriers.

Offline Niomosy

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Re: Critique my split hand ergo design
« Reply #12 on: Wed, 06 May 2015, 23:39:56 »
That newest layout is pretty solid if you either don't make heavy use of the \| key or can train your brain to use it in its new location.  You're right in that the smaller enter key does make a noticeable layout difference for the right hand.

Offline suka

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Re: Critique my split hand ergo design
« Reply #13 on: Thu, 07 May 2015, 07:14:21 »
Just a little more vertical stagger for the outer columns and you'll arrive at the RedTilt arrangement I've been using for more than a year now  :)
Note that my inner 4 columns are tented upwards 12 each, eliminating the need for an index finger stagger. That way I could arrive at a rectangular base shape that makes case building easier, too.

99746-0

Offline berserkfan

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Re: Critique my split hand ergo design
« Reply #14 on: Thu, 07 May 2015, 08:07:35 »
Just a little more vertical stagger for the outer columns and you'll arrive at the RedTilt arrangement I've been using for more than a year now  :)
Note that my inner 4 columns are tented upwards 12 each, eliminating the need for an index finger stagger. That way I could arrive at a rectangular base shape that makes case building easier, too.

(Attachment Link)

To be frank with you I dont appreciate the layout. Alt is too hard to reach, the numpad is partially staggered making it hard to get used to, you have semicolon in a fairly prime spot above A, your right thumb keys puzzle me (am I reading the shift key right? And your right thumb gets to use numlock and escape?).

All these is subjective so dont let me discourage you. But as a guy who has his own (non German I noticed the ess-test beta sign) layout I am quite attentive to my needs and definitely your layout would not be good for me.
Most of the modding can be done on your own once you break through the psychological barriers.

Offline suka

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Re: Critique my split hand ergo design
« Reply #15 on: Thu, 07 May 2015, 10:25:10 »
The actual character layout was not the point I was trying to convey, but rather the amount of vertical stagger in the physical arrangement of the outer columns. I was referring to this:
... This also has a lot more vertical stagger than I was originally planning.  I made a cardboard prototype of this and it feels pretty good.

Regarding the character layout you will not be able to discourage me at all with your observations  :cool: as it is tried and tested and has been my daily driver for about 2 years by now, and I see hardly any flaws with it in my usage (software development, mainly on Linux).
  • Alt is way off, you're certainly right there, but I hardly use it, and it would be easy to put at space or any of the additional pinky columns not show on this pic.
  • The numpad stagger you're mentioning is one of the core ergonomic benefits, as all my fingers rest on the homerow keys in a very relaxed posture this way.
  • Thumb keys are double-usage except for Space, so the green indications are their modifier function when held down for layer switching (shift in the middle not coloured) while Tab, Escape, Backspace and Return are very conveniently located when pressed by themselves (or with other modifiers)
  • semicolon is in a prime spot, but so are all other characters to me on this minimal board  :p


Offline TD22057

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Re: Critique my split hand ergo design
« Reply #16 on: Thu, 07 May 2015, 10:42:18 »
That newest layout is pretty solid if you either don't make heavy use of the \| key or can train your brain to use it in its new location.  You're right in that the smaller enter key does make a noticeable layout difference for the right hand.

I plan on using \| from the Fn layer on the right hand.  I haven't updated the Fn layer key assignments as I've been moving things around.

looking at your latest picture, you can just use one PCB and flip it right?

Yes.  Of course I'm not going to make a PCB - just a plate with direct wiring.  But it's symmetric :-). 

I think I'm really just trying to figure out how much vertical stagger I want at this point.  The current layout feels fine but I'm a little worried about committing to something with a lot more stagger than I use now.  I'll probably go with it, but that's the one thing that I think I could change my mind on in the future...