Author Topic: A thumb-friendly, stab-free 60% layout  (Read 393 times)

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Offline Aydo

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  • Posts: 3
A thumb-friendly, stab-free 60% layout
« on: Fri, 12 February 2021, 11:28:55 »

So I've been thinking about the perfect 60% layout based on the HHKB for quite a few years now and would like to share an initial design. Notice that this post is not about layout in the sense of "which switch sends which keycode", but rather about the physical layout without the semantics aspect of it.

To start off, here are are some (highly connected) things that are important to me:

  • The home row. My hand leaving for a key that is further away than what a 60% has to offer is a sign that I need to bring the functionality of that key closer.
  • Little Cursor usage. Keybindings > Cursor. In a Linux + tiling window manager environment, this is a great way to boost movement efficiency and therefore productivity. If cursor usage is unavoidable, I still prefer a TrackPoint over a mouse, although there are exceptions.
  • Custom modifiers. A consequence of the above point. I think people are somewhat indoctrinated into thinking they need dedicated arrow, home, page-up keys. This is largely because a) that's how they have always learned it and 2) because common operating systems just don't allow easy remapping. "I don't want to break my hand for weird modifier + key combinations" is a valid argument, but that's only because the prime real estate on the ANSI layout for modifiers is already reserved for shift key.
  • Quietness. I like my board quiet, which is why (even with switches like Sakurios or lubed/silenced Topre) stabs are my biggest enemy.

So with these quirks of mine, here are the main issues with the typical 60% ANSI layout:

  • Terrible thumb access. One might think it looks cool, but we can surely agree that having a 6+ U spacebar wastes a lot of valuable space. Yes, we are used to that thing being gigantic, but it doesn't have to be. Pay attention to where you hit the spacebar. I highly doubt you use all 6Us of space for that. It wouldn't be an issue, if one consequence wasn't that the surrounding modifier keys (CTRL, ALT, SUPER etc) get pushed further to the side and are therefore not easily accessible in a home row resting position. You have two (I'm sure) beautiful thumbs, why not make proper use of them?
  • Stabs. Stabs are a solution to a problem that doesn't need to exist. As mentioned above, there is absolutely no reason to have large keys that require individual stabilization. Stabs are not only prone to rattling, but they are also never really 'silent'. I've tried many methods of lubing, padding and using silicone gel (including, which is a great idea, but just doesn't do enough.), but I can always hear the stabs one way or another. I wish someone would manufacturer silent stabs much like silent switches, I'd be willing to pay good money for that.

With that out of the way, here is the proposed design that should address all of the issues mentioned:

(Again, don't pay too much attention to the actual bindings, it's mainly about the physical layout)

  • You can use your thumbs to access modifiers. With smart bindings, you can easily do single-hand modifier combinations.
  • No more rattling stabs, because there are none. This also makes building a plate easier.
  • All critical modifiers are still at least 1.5U, so still easily accessible.
  • Includes a TrackPoint i.e. you can operate the cursor without ever leaving the home row. (Obviously this can be done with normal ANSI too.)
  • Aside from mods, does not deviate drastically from the default ANSI layout, so getting used to it shouldn't require much effort.
  • Regarding keycaps: I use blank OEM keycaps, so, aside from 1.5U R3 capslock, finding the correct 'row profile' for each row isn't that hard (~20 EUR for on aliexpress). I think most full sets should be compatible, with inaccurate legends that is. Again, 1.5U R3 is tough:
    • 1.75U R3 capslock as enter
    • 1.5U R4 alt/ctrl as shifts
    • 1.75U R4 shift as space
    Obviously using a uniform keycap profile makes this less of a problem.

I will definitely build a board with this design later this year and update this post (or make a new one). I already got all the components (tools, controller, switches, keycaps for this exact layout, harvested TrackPoint), though am still undecided on how to manufacture a fitting board and case.

Feel free to leave feedback on the design. :)


« Last Edit: Fri, 12 February 2021, 11:37:21 by Aydo »

Offline parablol

  • Posts: 91
Re: A thumb-friendly, stab-free 60% layout
« Reply #1 on: Mon, 15 February 2021, 08:27:10 »
This looks like a step in the right direction. I like the tighter bottom row, thumb-accessible function keys, and minimization of finicky stabilizers.

Offline 4sStylZ

  • Posts: 127
Re: A thumb-friendly, stab-free 60% layout
« Reply #2 on: Mon, 15 February 2021, 10:45:52 »

Just want to say that I love your efforts for disabled people that don't have Palm on their hands !

Thank you !

Bépo user here : AEK64 White linear dampened, XD75 Cherry Blue Jailhoused, TypeMatrix2030 black skin, Lenovo 0B47200 w/ trackpoint, G13, G512. Kensington Expert Trackball & Orbit, Magic touchpad 2.

Offline Krunchy

  • Posts: 24
Re: A thumb-friendly, stab-free 60% layout
« Reply #3 on: Mon, 15 February 2021, 12:52:59 »
The more I look at this layout, the more it makes sense and the more I like it.  Having to do wild pinky gymnastics is never fun and wears out my hands pretty quickly.  The only thing that jumps out at me is that based on where the shiny spots on my spacebar are, I can tell I'm always pushing it off-center enough that I would be hitting Fn more often than not on this layout.  I tried forcing myself to push only the center of the spacebar and found it less comfortable than just letting my thumbs press 'where they lie' which still doesn't require the full 6u spacebar.  I have to imagine I'm not the only one who pushes the spacebar further off-center.  What would you think about having two 1.5u or 1.75u spacebars side by side in the center, eliminating two Fn keys but still avoiding a stab, and then replace one of the two Win keys with Fn instead?
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