Author Topic: About fully optimized keyboard (eg. BEAKL)  (Read 3919 times)

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Offline akaibukai

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About fully optimized keyboard (eg. BEAKL)
« on: Fri, 10 April 2020, 13:43:33 »
Hello everybody,

Some couple of days ago I started to use my DIY ergodox (built at least one year ago if not more - but never had the chance to practice).
Something that surpised me a lot is that I was literally blocked to type.
The keycaps are blank so at first I thought that it might be that but even with regular keycaps I had too much difficulties.

After analyzing why, I just noticed that I was always typing without really keeping my fingers to their dedicated keys cluster.
I mean sometimes my right index could press B or even G while it's also true for my left index is pressing sometimes Y or H (and this is also applicable to middle fingers pressing neighbor keys).
For reference, I'm typing on a qwerty around 50 wpm (not that much but this is almost without looking at the keyboard).

So since I'll need to practice a lot to get rid of that muscle memory, I see here a great opportunity to switch to an actual true optimized layout!

I'm not concerned about likeness toward qwerty (which Colemak claims) because since I have to start over with that split keyboard the learning curve will be steep anyway.
I'm also not concerned about numbers row and symbols since the keyboard is programmable, I'll probably end up having dedicated layers.
However, something I'm more concerned about is my pinkies. I have some little pain on them particularly on the proximal phalanges (third phalanges from the tip).

Besides Dvorak and Colemak, I have heard of Carpalx QGMLWB and MTGAP, and AdNW (but for this one I failed to find english ressources and even english layouts without the german letters).
But I also heard that some of these designs are somehow arbitrary and only focus for example on raw letter frequencies and maybe at least alterning hands but not on rolling fingers and not taking into account bigrams, trigrams etc.

And meanwhile I also discovered BEAKL (which the official author's site seems down btw!)
Here a link from the wayback machine; Here a wiki page about the layout(s), there are many variants; And here an excellent blog from someone who's tinkering with the layout (and he has some great keybs too!).

Then, I did many tests (really a lot) using the keyboard analyzer from keyboard-design.com.
Regarding the results (mainly efforts, distances and finger usages), they are somehow very close to each others, but BEAKL variants have a very low pinky usage which I tend to prefer.
I also tried many top layouts from the lists at keyboard-design.com, like seelpy..
But I'm not a fan of having a letter and its capitalized version on different keys, even if the results are awesome. I'm not yet so cybernetically enhanced  :cool:

Now before I continue on, I have a question for the people using one of these layouts or even a customized version of one of them, do you see real benefits?
Also to begin with, does it make sense to want a perfect an almost perfect layout? Or is it something I'm overly complicating?

I assume that in any case, efforts and time will be necessary but since I'm willing to put the efforts anyway, I'm particularly concerned about the end results.
In my case the main reason is to gain more confort and I know that before the layout itself there are more important things around, like the keyboard itself (hence the switch to an ergodox - and I'll probably go with a dactyl later), the mouse (I'm using a big trackball actually), the chair, and so on..
So regarding the layout, since I will stick with it, I want to invest to the right one (at least right for me but I want to be sure that the direction I take makes sense).

Regarding the layouts I tested, here are the results from the keyboard analyzer (linked above).
239737-0

And here the associated heatmaps:
239739-1
Edit: Picture in original size

Something I wasn't aware and that I learned here (down below) is the notion of Easyblock keys cluster and Homeblock Keys cluster.
239741-2
239743-3

Some of these layouts (particularly BEAKL varaints) almost match with the Easyblock and Homeblock cluster but not for both hands for example.
So I tried to relocate (arbitrarily) in some of these layouts some keys to end up with a heatmap that matches as much as possible the Easyblock or Homeblock clusters.
But I think that doing it arbitrarily will completely ignore all the notions of rolling, alterning, same finger press etc., really all the actual things that can bring comfort (because I'm more concerned about comfort than WPM score).

It was a long post, so thank you very much for taking the time to read!
Any comments or advice will be much appreciated!  :rolleyes:
« Last Edit: Fri, 10 April 2020, 13:56:52 by akaibukai »

Offline squizzler

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Re: About fully optimized keyboard (eg. BEAKL)
« Reply #1 on: Fri, 10 April 2020, 14:58:28 »
I am using the RSTHD layout discussed on this thread.

I maintain that ortholinear keyboards deserve a Malt family layout with letters(s) such as 'E' on the thumb pad, of which RSTHD is an evolution. Uptake of these layouts have been hindered through not being compatible with traditional staggered boards, but if you can live without that I suggest giving them consideration.

One of the later posts on this linked thread has a keyboard analyser table with Malt and a couple of its derivatives which give conclusively lower effort scores.
« Last Edit: Fri, 10 April 2020, 15:07:16 by squizzler »
Running RSTHD on Minidox since 2019

Offline squizzler

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Re: About fully optimized keyboard (eg. BEAKL)
« Reply #2 on: Fri, 10 April 2020, 15:00:18 »
Here is RSTHD ranked with other layouts. The scoring system demonstrates that practically any modern, well designed layout represents a quantum jump over QWERTY, such that makes any difference between the most popular contenders trivial by comparison.

« Last Edit: Mon, 04 May 2020, 11:17:59 by squizzler »
Running RSTHD on Minidox since 2019

Offline Boy_314

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Re: About fully optimized keyboard (eg. BEAKL)
« Reply #3 on: Fri, 10 April 2020, 15:10:27 »
I'm using MTGAP. Learned on qwerty since elementary school, switched to Dvorak a few years back, used it for 1 year, then switched to MTGAP. The difference between MTGAP and Dvorak is insane. MTGAP is way more comfortable. I have no doubt BEAKL will be equally nice. That being said, if you are currently using qwerty, I highly suggest considering Colemak. Even though it's main selling point is "close to qwerty", it's actually pretty well optimized beyond that.

Offline akaibukai

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Re: About fully optimized keyboard (eg. BEAKL)
« Reply #4 on: Sat, 11 April 2020, 10:29:12 »
I am using the RSTHD layout discussed on this thread.

I maintain that ortholinear keyboards deserve a Malt family layout with letters(s) such as 'E' on the thumb pad, of which RSTHD is an evolution. Uptake of these layouts have been hindered through not being compatible with traditional staggered boards, but if you can live without that I suggest giving them consideration.

One of the later posts on this linked thread has a keyboard analyser table with Malt and a couple of its derivatives which give conclusively lower effort scores.

Hello,
In fact I also compared many other layouts including this one even after reading this blog post from the author.
There are many layout with the E (or sometimes I, H, or T or whatever) under the thumb.
But I'm not a fan of having a letter under a thumb key.
I mean I prefer to reserve the spot for a modifier key or a layer switch key which is preferable.
However since it's possible to have layer switch behavior when the key is hold on it might be interesting to test..
In this blog post talkinf about BEAKL, the author ended up having the I on a thumb, and it's even using index home keys for the shift layer which is pretty clever.

After all, after writing this answer and thinking about it, it might be interesting to go with the E on the thumb (combined with a layer key).
If the most pressed key is space (on one thumb) it's even makes sense to have the second most key (E) pressed on the other thumb.

Thanks for the comment..

Offline akaibukai

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Re: About fully optimized keyboard (eg. BEAKL)
« Reply #5 on: Sat, 11 April 2020, 10:38:01 »
I'm using MTGAP. Learned on qwerty since elementary school, switched to Dvorak a few years back, used it for 1 year, then switched to MTGAP. The difference between MTGAP and Dvorak is insane. MTGAP is way more comfortable. I have no doubt BEAKL will be equally nice. That being said, if you are currently using qwerty, I highly suggest considering Colemak. Even though it's main selling point is "close to qwerty", it's actually pretty well optimized beyond that.

Hello,
I know it might be a great investment.
Regarding Colemak I really don't care that it resembles to qwerty.
I used to type on qwerty but first not the good way (I don't dedicate the right (I mean the good ones) fingers to their dedicated keys.
And since it seems that simply switching to a split keyboard require more effort than I had imagine (at least for me), I'm willing to ditch altogether the qwerty and invest on what could be the most optimized layout. I mean while I'm here I just don't want doing half job.

Offline squizzler

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Re: About fully optimized keyboard (eg. BEAKL)
« Reply #6 on: Tue, 14 April 2020, 04:06:00 »

Hello,
In fact I also compared many other layouts including this one even after reading this blog post from the author.
There are many layout with the E (or sometimes I, H, or T or whatever) under the thumb.
But I'm not a fan of having a letter under a thumb key.
I mean I prefer to reserve the spot for a modifier key or a layer switch key which is preferable.
However since it's possible to have layer switch behavior when the key is hold on it might be interesting to test..
In this blog post talkinf about BEAKL, the author ended up having the I on a thumb, and it's even using index home keys for the shift layer which is pretty clever.

After all, after writing this answer and thinking about it, it might be interesting to go with the E on the thumb (combined with a layer key).
If the most pressed key is space (on one thumb) it's even makes sense to have the second most key (E) pressed on the other thumb.

Thanks for the comment..
I enjoyed reading your post, as I was in a similar position not so long ago (last year). Like you, I read widely and heard about all sorts of funky layouts. It is like buying a house: you can look around and ask people what they think, but you will not know how you really get on with it till well after the deal is done.

On that basis I liked the Arensito and RSTHD layouts because the designers were quite articulate in their descriptions of the reasoning and assumptions behind their respective layouts.

Beakl felt like a work in progress and any user who adopted it risked that today's version would be obsolete next week. The user who wanted to stay current would not be making small changes either: the Deskthority wiki shows the 'versions' to be effectively totally different layouts.

MTGAP seems to be a hallway house: the inventor describes that layout and the reasoning behind it well enough, but has come up with subsequent layouts which vary considerably. I can believe MTGAP might improve on the Arensito, because it was able to build upon that already well regarded layout.

Malt style layouts of course are not backwards compatible with 'legacy' staggered boards and have the smaller bugbear of the 'E' being incompatible with off-the-peg printed key caps, but I think there might be another factor at play. Malt-esque layouts just look unnatural to people: on legacy boards we are accustomed to the keys being above the spacebar, all of the same size, and the oddly shaped keys are all 'special' keys or modifiers. It is quite understandable to seek to replicate that on ergolinear boards.

At the risk of labouring the point, consider that the original Malt, which I regard as similar sophistication to Dvorak (both these layouts predate the techniques available to current layout designers), enjoys virtually the same analyser scores as the best possible layouts without letters(s) on the thumb pads. It is almost as if Malt layout and the ortholinear keyboard with separate thumb pads were designed for each other  ;D
« Last Edit: Tue, 14 April 2020, 06:17:14 by squizzler »
Running RSTHD on Minidox since 2019

Offline batfink

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Re: About fully optimized keyboard (eg. BEAKL)
« Reply #7 on: Wed, 15 April 2020, 10:54:10 »
Regarding Colemak I really don't care that it resembles to qwerty.
...
And since it seems that simply switching to a split keyboard require more effort than I had imagine (at least for me), I'm willing to ditch altogether the qwerty and invest on what could be the most optimized layout. I mean while I'm here I just don't want doing half job.

Sorry if this sounds like an advert for Colemak, but I got the impression you thought Colemak is not fully optimized because it (slightly) resembles qwerty. This is not true. The thing about Colemak is, it only changes things from Qwerty where necessary. The things that stayed the same are that way because they among the (very few) things that Qwerty actually got right (such as Q and Z in the corners etc). I'd say Colemak is just as optimized as the other layouts you are considering, and arguably moreso than some. The fact the common shortcuts don't move is really just a bonus.

In fairness, some people do complain about the HE bigram in Colemak, so you could argue that keeping the Qwerty H in Colemak was a mistake in hindsight, but Colemak Mod-DH exists to fix that.

Also, regarding the analyzer you mentioned. I see it is forked from the patorjk one. Is there details published on the methodology this analyzer uses? From when I last looked into it, it was all rather ill-defined and vague. Any analyzer is only as good as the model it uses, and personally, I am highly skeptical on that one. I accept it does make pretty graphics though.


« Last Edit: Wed, 15 April 2020, 11:08:10 by batfink »

Offline squizzler

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Re: About fully optimized keyboard (eg. BEAKL)
« Reply #8 on: Sat, 02 May 2020, 08:20:28 »
I have put a poll on Deskthority where I offer scenario in which you have lost any former typing knowledge and are in a position of picking which layout you would chose to learn from scratch. It would be interesting to see what people choose!

At the time I did not think tho put BEAKL on the poll, you might choose Malt/RSTHD if it has vowel(s) on the thumb clusters (Beakl Zi), or maybe Arensito/MTGAP if it does not. They don't seem to have nailed down the basic letter arrangement!
Running RSTHD on Minidox since 2019