Author Topic: Do you think the 3/4" spacing between keys is optimum?  (Read 24193 times)

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Offline kurplop

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Do you think the 3/4" spacing between keys is optimum?
« on: Thu, 29 August 2013, 17:25:40 »
I'm currently planning a new keyboard design and it occurred to me that the standard 3/4" key spacing may not be ideal. Too closely spaced might feel cramped but larger than necessary requires unnecessary reaching and moving from home position.

I think that my hands are probably average size for an adult man. When I place my fingers tight together they fall about a third of a key short of home position spacing. That makes the current width of key spacing great for me and likely adequate for all but the biggest paw; I wouldn't want to mess with that.  My interest is in the vertical spacing.

The typical fingertip is wider than it is thick (nail to pad). That makes  me question the need for an unnecessarily tall (front to back) cap.

Try this. Place your fingers in home position, then strike a key on the number row. Did your whole hand have to move or could you reach it just by moving that finger? Now reach 2 rows down. Would it be easier to reach if that row was a half a key closer? Shortening the spacing .15" could be done with Cherry switches and would be even easier with Alps style switches (of course standard keycaps wouldn't work), and that would bring the bottom and number row almost a half a key closer.

One thing I have learned in my two year quest for the perfect ergonomic set up is that our needs are not the same; what works for one may not help another. Because of that I'm curious, do you think you would benefit by having tighter columns? Besides lack of keycap availability in that size, what are the downsides of a closer vertical spacing?
 


Offline nomaded

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Re: Do you think the 3/4" spacing between keys is optimum?
« Reply #1 on: Thu, 29 August 2013, 18:14:37 »
Try this. Place your fingers in home position, then strike a key on the number row. Did your whole hand have to move or could you reach it just by moving that finger? Now reach 2 rows down. Would it be easier to reach if that row was a half a key closer? Shortening the spacing .15" could be done with Cherry switches and would be even easier with Alps style switches (of course standard keycaps wouldn't work), and that would bring the bottom and number row almost a half a key closer.

While resting on home row, I need to move my whole hand to hit any key in the number row. But my whole hand is moving to hit any key in the row above home row. I also need to move my hand to hit the spacebar with my fingers. My hand does not appear to move to hit the row below home row, because I can curl my fingers enough to hit them.
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Offline spiceBar

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Re: Do you think the 3/4" spacing between keys is optimum?
« Reply #2 on: Sat, 31 August 2013, 19:20:15 »
I'm currently planning a new keyboard design and it occurred to me that the standard 3/4" key spacing may not be ideal. Too closely spaced might feel cramped but larger than necessary requires unnecessary reaching and moving from home position.

I think that my hands are probably average size for an adult man. When I place my fingers tight together they fall about a third of a key short of home position spacing. That makes the current width of key spacing great for me and likely adequate for all but the biggest paw; I wouldn't want to mess with that.  My interest is in the vertical spacing.

The typical fingertip is wider than it is thick (nail to pad). That makes  me question the need for an unnecessarily tall (front to back) cap.

Try this. Place your fingers in home position, then strike a key on the number row. Did your whole hand have to move or could you reach it just by moving that finger? Now reach 2 rows down. Would it be easier to reach if that row was a half a key closer? Shortening the spacing .15" could be done with Cherry switches and would be even easier with Alps style switches (of course standard keycaps wouldn't work), and that would bring the bottom and number row almost a half a key closer.

One thing I have learned in my two year quest for the perfect ergonomic set up is that our needs are not the same; what works for one may not help another. Because of that I'm curious, do you think you would benefit by having tighter columns? Besides lack of keycap availability in that size, what are the downsides of a closer vertical spacing?

I need to move my hand to reach the number row, but I don't think I would type faster if the keys were 3/4 in height.

However I just hate to shoot someone's idea like that and I think you should create a mockup of your layout in PDF that we could print to scale in order to try it virtually. Then we could give a more reliable answer.

Offline kurplop

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Re: Do you think the 3/4" spacing between keys is optimum?
« Reply #3 on: Sat, 31 August 2013, 20:23:40 »
Good point. Here is what I'm working on.
* ergoplop 8-30 2 pdf.pdf (24.96 kB - downloaded 412 times.)
The blue represents full size keys.

I decided not to wait for opinions. I know I will benefit from it so I started making keycaps today.

Here are pictures of a rough mock up I assembled before latest changes
33691-133693-2

Offline spiceBar

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Re: Do you think the 3/4" spacing between keys is optimum?
« Reply #4 on: Sun, 01 September 2013, 06:20:47 »
Good point. Here is what I'm working on.
(Attachment Link)
The blue represents full size keys.

I decided not to wait for opinions. I know I will benefit from it so I started making keycaps today.

Here are pictures of a rough mock up I assembled before latest changes
(Attachment Link) (Attachment Link)

OK... I completely missed the fact that you were working on a layout for an ergonomic keyboard...  :-X

Offline Oobly

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Re: Do you think the 3/4" spacing between keys is optimum?
« Reply #5 on: Wed, 04 September 2013, 04:46:09 »
I think this is a fantastic idea! I agree that the horizontal spacing is pretty good, but the vertical spacing is too big. A tighter vertical spacing would be great on an ergo board. Just need "flatter" keycaps.

I prefer to have a split keyboard so I can arrange the spacing and angle for each hand independently, but otherwise your layout looks very nice.
Buying more keycaps,
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Offline kurplop

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Re: Do you think the 3/4" spacing between keys is optimum?
« Reply #6 on: Wed, 04 September 2013, 06:40:08 »
Thanks. I think it's worth the trouble to try it.

I was originally attracted to separated halves but later realized that the split angle and tenting addressed all of my ergo needs and in a neater arraignment; less exposed cables. I thought it might also be disorienting if the halves weren't always the same distance apart. And last, I really like the flexibility of a tray and the greater the separation the bigger the tray.

By the way, welcome to geekhack. I read that you're working on an ergo board. keep us posted on the progress.

Offline Oobly

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Re: Do you think the 3/4" spacing between keys is optimum?
« Reply #7 on: Thu, 05 September 2013, 02:39:14 »
Thanks for the welcome!

I see. I guess it's a tradeoff between flexibility / customisation and clutter / inconvenience. I am still in the design stages of my board, but it's coming along nicely. I will play with a few options, wish I could try tighter vertical spacing, but for my proto I am using a hacked up plate from a Ducky so I don't have to cut 14mm holes / order a custom plate. I noticed how the horizontal stagger almost matches my ideal vertical stagger when using my left hand (from highest to lowest: middle, ring, index, pinky) so I figured I could use 2 sections of the plate for the main sections, with the 2nd one flipped over for my right hand. I'll add a cluster of 3 keys to the side of the index finger for each and a separate cluster of thumb keys at an angle.

In the picture you can see the added navigation clusters and Esc and Del keys, too.

I may start a thread if it proves a worthy project.

By the way, I think your ErgoDock and wooden rests are works of art! Great work!
« Last Edit: Thu, 05 September 2013, 02:43:53 by Oobly »
Buying more keycaps,
it really hacks my wallet,
but I must have them.

Offline Findecanor

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Re: Do you think the 3/4" spacing between keys is optimum?
« Reply #8 on: Thu, 05 September 2013, 08:54:13 »
I'm currently planning a new keyboard design and it occurred to me that the standard 3/4" key spacing may not be ideal. Too closely spaced might feel cramped but larger than necessary requires unnecessary reaching and moving from home position.
Spacing between fingers don't matter too much. It could even be larger, like on vintage TRON keyboards.
I think that spacing between rows, between index finger columns and between pinky columns could benefit from being smaller, though. That is especially true for the pinky keys.

If I were making a flat columnar keyboard from scratch, I would increase the column offsets a bit. Look at this M-system layout:


By the way, really nice thumb keys! Sculpey?
« Last Edit: Thu, 05 September 2013, 08:56:27 by Findecanor »
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Re: Do you think the 3/4" spacing between keys is optimum?
« Reply #9 on: Thu, 05 September 2013, 09:37:20 »
Good point. Here is what I'm working on.
(Attachment Link)
The blue represents full size keys.

I decided not to wait for opinions. I know I will benefit from it so I started making keycaps today.

Here are pictures of a rough mock up I assembled before latest changes
(Attachment Link) (Attachment Link)

IT WILL BE VERY INTERESTING TO SEE THIS KEYBOARD ONCE IT'S DONE!
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Offline yasuo

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Re: Do you think the 3/4" spacing between keys is optimum?
« Reply #10 on: Mon, 09 September 2013, 03:09:20 »
Spacing between fingers don't matter too much. It could even be larger, like on vintage TRON keyboards.
I think that spacing between rows, between index finger columns and between pinky columns could benefit from being smaller, though. That is especially true for the pinky keys.

If I were making a flat columnar keyboard from scratch, I would increase the column offsets a bit. Look at this M-system layout:
(Attachment Link)

By the way, really nice thumb keys! Sculpey?
:p i like the keyboard :p
this photo,he start with bottom row,can you explain
http://museum.ipsj.or.jp/computer/word/images/0027_02_l.jpg
« Last Edit: Mon, 09 September 2013, 04:27:02 by yasuo »
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Offline kurplop

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Re: Do you think the 3/4" spacing between keys is optimum?
« Reply #11 on: Mon, 09 September 2013, 06:09:20 »

By the way, really nice thumb keys! Sculpey?

Sorry it took me a while to figure out what you meant by Sculpey. :-[

The caps in the picture was a first attempt at urethane casting. Based on the outcome, I hope there's truth in the saying "practice makes perfect".

Offline SeriouSSpotS

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Re: Do you think the 3/4" spacing between keys is optimum?
« Reply #12 on: Tue, 10 September 2013, 07:53:39 »
Good point. Here is what I'm working on.
(Attachment Link)
The blue represents full size keys.

I decided not to wait for opinions. I know I will benefit from it so I started making keycaps today.

Here are pictures of a rough mock up I assembled before latest changes
(Attachment Link) (Attachment Link)

That is a nice looking design, looks like it would be comfortable
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Offline CPTBadAss

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Re: Do you think the 3/4" spacing between keys is optimum?
« Reply #13 on: Tue, 10 September 2013, 14:28:09 »
Good point. Here is what I'm working on.
(Attachment Link)
The blue represents full size keys.

I decided not to wait for opinions. I know I will benefit from it so I started making keycaps today.

Here are pictures of a rough mock up I assembled before latest changes
(Attachment Link) (Attachment Link)

Hm, I think I might like that layout your proposing. I'd love to try it.

In other news, THAT MOCKUP LOOKS AMAZING.
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Offline bedrift

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Re: Do you think the 3/4" spacing between keys is optimum?
« Reply #14 on: Thu, 05 December 2013, 04:51:47 »
Very good initiative!
I would like the key spacing to decrease both horizontally and vertically, but I'll take what I get! :)

I agree with Oobly and Findecanor. Spacing between the hands would preferably be adjustable and I, for one, would like bigger separation between the hands than the picture. But don't let something like that demoralize you, since smaller key spacing is priority #1.
« Last Edit: Thu, 05 December 2013, 05:00:44 by bedrift »

Offline jeffgran

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Re: Do you think the 3/4" spacing between keys is optimum?
« Reply #15 on: Sat, 07 December 2013, 13:16:05 »
Hadn't seen this thread until now. Kurplop -- I think you're on to something. I hate typing numbers on a normal keyboard because only my middle finger is long enough to hit them without moving my whole hand (so I can type 9 and 3 correctly but that's it). I had gone down the path of the 40%-like board where there is no number row and you type numbers with a function layer. But if you were able to make keys that were a little shorter, as you describe, that could be a very nice alternate solution. I've been aiming towards a setup where I don't have to move my hands of wrists at all -- all keys would be within easy reach of the "home row" position. I love your thumb keys too. It makes perfect sense to put them on an arc like that since  your thumb moves in an arc.

Offline kurplop

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Re: Do you think the 3/4" spacing between keys is optimum?
« Reply #16 on: Sat, 07 December 2013, 15:39:54 »

I agree with Oobly and Findecanor. Spacing between the hands would preferably be adjustable and I, for one, would like bigger separation between the hands than the picture. But don't let something like that demoralize you, since smaller key spacing is priority #1.

I understand your desire for separated halves, I use to think I would prefer that also. When I started experimenting with my ErgoDox however, I discovered that tenting and splaying was all I needed to correct my pronation and ulnar deviation concerns inherent with a standard flat keyboard. This keyboard will also be used with a tablet for portable use and split halves would add a less portable dimension to the equation.

Hadn't seen this thread until now. Kurplop -- I think you're on to something. I hate typing numbers on a normal keyboard because only my middle finger is long enough to hit them without moving my whole hand (so I can type 9 and 3 correctly but that's it). I had gone down the path of the 40%-like board where there is no number row and you type numbers with a function layer. But if you were able to make keys that were a little shorter, as you describe, that could be a very nice alternate solution. I've been aiming towards a setup where I don't have to move my hands of wrists at all -- all keys would be within easy reach of the "home row" position. I love your thumb keys too. It makes perfect sense to put them on an arc like that since  your thumb moves in an arc.

Jeffgran, nice to hear from you. I've followed your progress on the ergo56 and can identify with the path you have been on. A lot of good ideas. Keep it up, we all benefit from each other's concepts and methods.

I had to set my project aside for a while for several reasons but will soon have the time to get back to it.

Offline bedrift

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Re: Do you think the 3/4" spacing between keys is optimum?
« Reply #17 on: Sat, 07 December 2013, 23:30:19 »
I understand your desire for separated halves, I use to think I would prefer that also. When I started experimenting with my ErgoDox however, I discovered that tenting and splaying was all I needed to correct my pronation and ulnar deviation concerns inherent with a standard flat keyboard. This keyboard will also be used with a tablet for portable use and split halves would add a less portable dimension to the equation.

I airtyped to try it and it feels like you're right.

I had to set my project aside for a while for several reasons but will soon have the time to get back to it.
I'm looking forward to it and its fruits!
« Last Edit: Tue, 04 February 2014, 09:15:09 by bedrift »

Offline kurplop

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Re: Do you think the 3/4" spacing between keys is optimum?
« Reply #18 on: Wed, 29 January 2014, 19:42:42 »
I finally took some time and hooked up some metal working tools I bought last summer. Because they are old. It took a while to repair and get them in shape to use. I thought I'd jump right in and start milling one of the halves to the ErgoPlop.  I began by locating and drilling holes in the center of what will be the switch cutouts. Then I flipped it over and roughed out the underside. After I square out the switch holes I'll clean up the inside and trim the outer sides to spec.
 52660-052662-1

The overall design is pretty much what I was considering earlier in this thread. This will be a travel friendly unit with the vertical key spacing changed from the typical .75" o.c. spacing to .65". It will make the 5 row cluster a half inch tighter than standard. The rows are arched about twice as much as the ErgoDox's and I'm using all 1x caps to make the footprint as small as possible. Because the completed keyboard will be permanently tented, there will be room to have a separate board to mount the Teensy and other components beneath the switches. This will further reduce the overall footprint of the keyboard

Offline jacobolus

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Re: Do you think the 3/4" spacing between keys is optimum?
« Reply #19 on: Fri, 31 January 2014, 20:34:22 »
One thing that’s nice about Alps switches is that they’re rectangular, which (since you seem to be making your own keycaps) means you can easily reduce vertical spacing.

I think typical horizontal spacing is okay, assuming you want a solid block of keys. [In the keyboard I’m making, I increase average horizontal spacing, but make the columns splay out a bit, to follow the directions fingers actually move.]

Offline kurplop

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Re: Do you think the 3/4" spacing between keys is optimum?
« Reply #20 on: Fri, 31 January 2014, 20:53:33 »
A little more progress on the right case. Things are coming together as well as can be expected but I did make a few mistakes cutting the rectangular holes for the switches. You can see the mis-cuts in the center of the board. My brother in law offered to TIG weld in the blunders. After that I can re cut the bad holes. 
A view of the underside.
52911-0
You can see the half inch shorter columns compared to conventional vertical spacing.
52913-1
The ErgoPlop will be about 5/8" narrower than the ErgoDox body (less thumb cluster) because of the 1x side keys instead of 1.5x,  but almost 1 1/2" shorter because of the Teensy mounted beneath the keyboard.
52915-2

The switches all fit snugly in their holes but I think I'll cut rings around the perimeter of each hole to make them thin enough for the switches to lock in. Right now the hollowed out plate is about 3/32" thick and I think I need to bring the edges down to 1/16".

Right now, the case is 3/4" thick with plenty of room for wiring. If I can get by with less I will likely mill the bottom down as much as reasonable to thin it down.

I'll probably make the other side and the thumb cluster before cleaning up and polishing this side. Who knows how it will all fit together and I will likely have to tweak things a bit.

Offline kurplop

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Re: Do you think the 3/4" spacing between keys is optimum?
« Reply #21 on: Fri, 31 January 2014, 21:06:55 »
One thing that’s nice about Alps switches is that they’re rectangular, which (since you seem to be making your own keycaps) means you can easily reduce vertical spacing.

I think typical horizontal spacing is okay, assuming you want a solid block of keys. [In the keyboard I’m making, I increase average horizontal spacing, but make the columns splay out a bit, to follow the directions fingers actually move.]

I thought the Alps style switches would help the vertical spacing but it probably doesn't really. The Alps are .50x.60" compared to Cherry's .55" square. Sounds good but the Alps are a lot fatter above the plate compared to the Cherry's. The Cherry's pyramid in, giving you more room to fit a smaller keycap around them.

I'd like to see your keyboard. Have you posted any pictures of it?

Offline bedrift

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Re: Do you think the 3/4" spacing between keys is optimum?
« Reply #22 on: Tue, 04 February 2014, 20:58:29 »
*Dreaming that someone would mass produce this*

Offline Findecanor

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Re: Do you think the 3/4" spacing between keys is optimum?
« Reply #23 on: Tue, 04 February 2014, 22:28:37 »
You can see the half inch shorter columns compared to conventional vertical spacing.
The Apple aluminium keyboards that you are comparing against does not have conventional vertical spacing. It is a tiny bit smaller on the vertical than on the horizontal. ;)

I am jealous of you for owning a mill... Looks awesome! I'm looking forward to seeing your progress.
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Offline kurplop

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Re: Do you think the 3/4" spacing between keys is optimum?
« Reply #24 on: Wed, 05 February 2014, 13:56:12 »
You can see the half inch shorter columns compared to conventional vertical spacing.
The Apple aluminium keyboards that you are comparing against does not have conventional vertical spacing. It is a tiny bit smaller on the vertical than on the horizontal. ;)

I am jealous of you for owning a mill... Looks awesome! I'm looking forward to seeing your progress.

Thanks for pointing that out, I never noticed before. The Apple keyboard is 3/32" shorter over 4 keys than standard 3/4" spacing. I wonder why they did that?

You're jealous? You should hear my wife. "Where's Kurt." "Oh, He's probably out in the shop playing with his new toy."

I am having fun with my mill but it is taking some time to get use to turning the cranks in the right direction. I'm sure it will become natural in time but in the meantime I anticipate a quite a few oops.
« Last Edit: Fri, 02 May 2014, 23:44:48 by kurplop »

Offline kurplop

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Re: Do you think the 3/4" spacing between keys is optimum?
« Reply #25 on: Tue, 18 February 2014, 22:31:50 »
One of the biggest obstacles in making a non standard spaced keyboard is what to do about the smaller caps. I was experimenting with making keycaps out of aluminum and was pretty happy with how it came out. I don't know if I will make them all out of aluminum or just make the 6 different profiles I need and then cast the rest in urethane.
54819-0
54821-1
54823-2

I left a brushed finish on the tops and polished the sides. The caps are standard width but 0.1" shorter front to back and shorter (height) to minimize overall size for portability.

Offline Oobly

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Re: Do you think the 3/4" spacing between keys is optimum?
« Reply #26 on: Thu, 20 February 2014, 03:45:14 »
Those caps are beautiful! I'd make molds and cast some urethane caps. Good consistency and I think less work per keycap.

Quite jealous of your mill right now, but I have plans of my own to end up with machining tools :) This site: http://www.5bears.com/cnc.htm has given me big ideas. Slowly buying the needed parts as funds are available each month. Long term project.
Buying more keycaps,
it really hacks my wallet,
but I must have them.

Offline kurplop

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Re: Do you think the 3/4" spacing between keys is optimum?
« Reply #27 on: Thu, 20 February 2014, 07:05:32 »
Those caps are beautiful! I'd make molds and cast some urethane caps. Good consistency and I think less work per keycap.

Good points. I have yet to be satisfied with my casting technique but it is still probably the best way to go.

Quite jealous of your mill right now, but I have plans of my own to end up with machining tools :) This site: http://www.5bears.com/cnc.htm has given me big ideas. Slowly buying the needed parts as funds are available each month. Long term project.

Isn't it funny how our interests branch out into other seemingly unrelated disciplines? All I wanted 2 years ago was a keyboard that was comfortable to use. Somehow, that led to spending 6 months with my face in several books on machining and filling up a garage with a bunch of 'needed tools'.

Your mill plans look impressive. I wish you the best with them. Some have questioned my getting a manual mill vs. a CNC mill. The speed and repeatability is desirable but I know it would probably take me a long time to figure out the CAD-CAM process and I wanted to get my hands greasy as soon as possible. At my age you don't buy green bananas.

Keep me posted on the construction of your CNC mill. Exploring the world of stepper motors, ball screws and zero backlash sounds intriguing. You have a creative and resourceful mind. I'm looking forward to seeing what you come up with next.

Offline bedrift

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Re: Do you think the 3/4" spacing between keys is optimum?
« Reply #28 on: Fri, 21 February 2014, 19:04:14 »
I suppose that it is positive that the upcoming matias ergo pro features 25 regular width, decreased height keycaps. They are arrows, copy, paste, home, end, function keys and so on. Hopefully someone will dare to make alphanumerical keycaps in the same dimensions soon.
http://matias.ca/ergopro/pc/viewer/2.jpg

Btw has it been pointed out how smaller keycaps decrease the distance of finger movements result in faster typing? That is, as long as the increased precision requirement doesn't slow down the fingers enough to erase the speed win. I know for me, the speed win is not erased.

Best of luck on your project.

Offline kurplop

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Re: Do you think the 3/4" spacing between keys is optimum?
« Reply #29 on: Fri, 21 February 2014, 19:28:20 »
Thanks for your encouragement.

I  suspect that the smaller caps have more to do with keeping the keyboard footprint as small as possible, which is a worthy goal on it's own, however, having smaller spacing on the middle rows would influence all the keys. Also, having the smaller spacing in the center should be easier to accurately hit because it is so close to the home keys. I wonder if that is why many outer keys are often larger?

I think that the Matias board is a good marketing direction to go and I hope it's a commercial success.  It should attract ergo-minded people who just won't invest the amount of time necessary to learn a radically different layout.

I have talked to many women who really like the idea of tighter spacing between keys. Their typically smaller hands are even less suited to standard spacing than men. 

Offline jacobolus

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Re: Do you think the 3/4" spacing between keys is optimum?
« Reply #30 on: Fri, 21 February 2014, 21:03:37 »
I think outer keys are larger because the first Sholes typewriters had all round keys plus an enormous spacebar across the bottom. Then subsequent tyewriters ended up with round or rectangular keys, again all the same size, but with a ragged edge at the right and left sides because of the wacky horizontally staggered layout. Then at some point typewriter/computer makers wanted to fill in the extra space and end up with nice rectangular blocks of keys. Some of these designs just used the key top to fill the available space, and some designs made the pressable key-top a square but had a stagger and let a lower part of the keycap fill for the rest of the space (I think partly to avoid the stabilizer problem? that prevents off-center presses).  At some point those went out of fashion when people figured out that the associated gaps between the pressable key areas led to people missing the keys, and so keyboards all just ended up with stabilizer bars on the larger keys, instead.

Basically, at least 95% of every popular keyboard layout was just copied straight from the previous generation, and no mainstream manufacturer has really questioned the main design features like 1/2 – 1/4 – 1/2 key stagger, 19mm spacing, large keys on the side that fill all available space in a rectangular block of keys, qwerty or similar key layout, one big spacebar with few other tasks for either thumb.

There have been some mass-market ergonomic keyboards, like Microsoft’s, but they only make a few small changes from the standard keyboard.

* * *

If keys are going to require overall hand movement to reach, then I’m sure there’s some advantage to having larger keys (e.g. tab, return, backspace, control), but I’m fairly convinced that it’s ultimately better to stick to small keys, and just make them all trivially reachable without much overall hand movement.

Offline jacobolus

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Re: Do you think the 3/4" spacing between keys is optimum?
« Reply #31 on: Fri, 21 February 2014, 21:08:12 »
I have talked to many women who really like the idea of tighter spacing between keys. Their typically smaller hands are even less suited to standard spacing than men.
Me too. I’m curious if you know any women (or men) with small hands who have tried the μTron. I tried it at HaaTa’s Bay Area meetup a couple weeks ago, and I found that the smaller key size made it a bit tricky for me to accurately hit the keys. But I suspect that the issue there is (1) the horizontal stagger, and (2) the narrower-than-usual width of the key. My guess is that reducing the depth of a key, especially on a keyboard with roughly vertically staggered columns, will not cause the same issues. Although perhaps women with small hands would also prefer keys closer together horizontally.

Offline kurplop

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Re: Do you think the 3/4" spacing between keys is optimum?
« Reply #32 on: Sat, 22 February 2014, 08:24:14 »
Most of the women I asked were not necessarily aware of the variety of keyboards available. They did think tighter spacing would be beneficial, some were enthusiastic about the possibility. I think small hands could benefit from closer horizontal and vertical spacing but larger hands could feel confined with reduced horizontal spacing. I think only the largest hands would suffer from a 15% reduction in vertical spacing.

I suspect you are right about the reason for larger outer caps. it makes sense to fill in the gaps. The ease  of striking the keys are a secondary benefit.


Offline berserkfan

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Re: Do you think the 3/4" spacing between keys is optimum?
« Reply #33 on: Sat, 22 February 2014, 18:42:51 »
Good point. Here is what I'm working on.
(Attachment Link)
The blue represents full size keys.

I decided not to wait for opinions. I know I will benefit from it so I started making keycaps today.

Here are pictures of a rough mock up I assembled before latest changes
(Attachment Link) (Attachment Link)

Hm, I think I might like that layout your proposing. I'd love to try it.

In other news, THAT MOCKUP LOOKS AMAZING.

Looks like a stealth bomber.
Most of the modding can be done on your own once you break through the psychological barriers.

Offline jacobolus

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Re: Do you think the 3/4" spacing between keys is optimum?
« Reply #34 on: Sun, 23 February 2014, 06:52:48 »
Huh. The Datadesk Smartboard apparently had variable sized keycaps http://www.atpm.com/12.05/smartboard.shtml narrower toward the center:

Offline jacobolus

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Re: Do you think the 3/4" spacing between keys is optimum?
« Reply #35 on: Sun, 23 February 2014, 06:54:56 »
By the way, Kurplop, you might be interested in http://geekhack.org/index.php?topic=55099

Offline kurplop

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Re: Do you think the 3/4" spacing between keys is optimum?
« Reply #36 on: Sun, 23 February 2014, 08:10:47 »
By the way, Kurplop, you might be interested in http://geekhack.org/index.php?topic=55099

The extinct keyboard thread is very enlightening. Browsing through it makes me wonder if we are trying to reinvent a wheel that has been spinning down the road for some time. It's too bad most of them wobbled into the ditch. Many creative and good ideas.

It shows how much an uphill battle it is trying to separate people from the death grip they have on their non-ergonomic but familiar traditional keyboards.

Huh. The Datadesk Smartboard apparently had variable sized keycaps http://www.atpm.com/12.05/smartboard.shtml narrower toward the center:
Show Image


The Smartboard seems to use varying sized keys to create a slight radial aspect to the columns. It looks like a good design. How did it do commercially?

Offline kurplop

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Re: Do you think the 3/4" spacing between keys is optimum?
« Reply #37 on: Sat, 14 June 2014, 08:36:08 »
I am finally ready to start casting some of the caps for my undersized layout spacing. I finished milling and sandblasting the 5 masters for the different rows and hope to begin casting today. After some experimentation I think I came up with a process that will work.

I super glued toothpicks to the bottom corners of the caps to create breather holes in the molds and a small syringe at the cap stem. I'll use the cut off syringe to fill the mold and create a head of pressure to assist the flow of resin through the mold.
68009-0

Here are the masters I used to make the molds.
68011-1


Here's a view of the profiles of the caps.
68007-2

I still have to mill the pie shaped caps for the thumb clusters but have finished the switch plate and am almost done with the wood body.

The progress on the keyboard is coming along nicely now. It's amazing what you can get done when you take a few weeks off work. I hope to bring the finished keyboard to Keycon 2014.  See you there!
« Last Edit: Sat, 14 June 2014, 08:39:01 by kurplop »

Offline Zekromtor

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Re: Do you think the 3/4" spacing between keys is optimum?
« Reply #38 on: Sat, 14 June 2014, 12:57:36 »
...
I have talked to many women...

You already have a leg up on most of us then :)

This is a great thread. It's important to note, that keyboards like the kinesis advantage that utilize concavity are already effectively shrinking the the space in between the keycaps at their surface. I've  come to really love the curvature along the Y axis of my kinesis, but I do not like the curvature on the X. I think this has more to do with the angles than the reduced target area, though. Your idea to reduce just the vertical on a flat keyboard sounds like the right choice to me.

I'm apparently one of several boarders currently trying to get their milling machinery up and running to finally produce their dream keyboard. Mine will utilize concavity only on the Y axis, and will have a simplified thumb cluster like yours but with only 3 thumb buttons. I strongly feel that people are trying to have their thumbs do way too much on these ergo boards, and applaud your design. I went with ducky green alps switches, and let me tell you, it was an easy decision. The only downside is the keycaps which are a pain to source...but you wouldn't have that issue.

Just great stuff in this thread from top to bottom. I can't believe youre casting your own keys, that's a level of crazy I don't intend to go to... unless yours turn out really really nice. I am running out of space in my damn garage though. Can't wait to see more! Simply making those caps on a traditional mill is an impressive accomplishment. I upgraded to CNC out of necessity, I didn't have the patience for turning those cranks (though a power driver did help, and controlled the feed speed which is important).
« Last Edit: Sat, 14 June 2014, 13:00:48 by Zekromtor »

Offline kurplop

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Re: Do you think the 3/4" spacing between keys is optimum?
« Reply #39 on: Sat, 14 June 2014, 15:17:37 »
Zekromtor- Thanks for your comments. 

I noticed the virtual closer vertical spacing when I tried the Advantage a few months ago. I liked it but I didn't use it enough to get use to the radial path the curved key wells produce.  I'm looking forward to see what you come up with.

 As I get use to my mill I find that it is a lot of fun to use. It is so much more precise than my wood working machinery. Still, I think it would get pretty boring on repetitive tasks and something more automated would be more appropriate for any kind of production work.

I have enough put together on my keyboard to know that it should be very comfortable for me. Because it has only limited adjustability, it may or may not feel right for others but I still think the reduced vertical spacing would be an improvement for most users.

Offline Zekromtor

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Re: Do you think the 3/4" spacing between keys is optimum?
« Reply #40 on: Sat, 14 June 2014, 16:34:03 »
The step (don't know the actual term) in between keys places a huge role as well -- where the bottom edge of the upper key is higher than the top edge of the key below it. If you ever watch a Korean pro gamer in action you'll appreciate quickly how important that small ledge can be (
note how flat the finger is when using the upper rows). It makes it far easier to hit the top key without accidentally touching the bottom key, and can in turn allow for tighter spacing. Looks like your key caps have a nice step built into them. I'm not a fan of flat keyboards that use caps that have no step built in, your finger has to do more work to hit them precisely. The question for another thread, then, is what is the ideal amount of step? I'm using .2" which is a tad more than average I believe... could be wrong though.

I do like the idea of having uniform key caps and having the switch positioning provide the step... it would never happen on a mass production model, but for my own purposes that's what I'm going with. You'll have more uniform activation force if the key top is exactly perpendicular to the motion of the switch, but it's not enough for anybody to care about except the OCD like me.

Offline jacobolus

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Re: Do you think the 3/4" spacing between keys is optimum?
« Reply #41 on: Sat, 14 June 2014, 17:46:40 »
Ideally, I think you want to decide the axis of switch based on the main direction of finger movement when you’re pressing the switch. In general, I (and I believe most people) press the switch mostly by swiveling the whole finger around the joint at the finger’s base, where it meets the palm, while leaving the other finger joints mostly rigid (the two distal finger joints are used for positioning the finger, but not for actually pressing the keys, in my experience). The direction of motion at the fingertip is therefore pretty close to up-and-down, especially for further-away keys that you have to reach for.

Therefore, I personally find the Kinesis to be noticeably suboptimal because it expects me to be pressing away from my body as well as down for the top rows (and pressing sideways for the side columns of keys). It’s forced to do this by the curved PCB design. But if you can place switches arbitrarily and hand wire them, I think you want the further rows to be a bit higher off the table than near rows, but still angled about the same.
« Last Edit: Sat, 14 June 2014, 17:48:30 by jacobolus »

Offline Zekromtor

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Re: Do you think the 3/4" spacing between keys is optimum?
« Reply #42 on: Sat, 14 June 2014, 18:50:04 »
Ideally, I think you want to decide the axis of switch based on the main direction of finger movement when you’re pressing the switch. In general, I (and I believe most people) press the switch mostly by swiveling the whole finger around the joint at the finger’s base, where it meets the palm, while leaving the other finger joints mostly rigid (the two distal finger joints are used for positioning the finger, but not for actually pressing the keys, in my experience). The direction of motion at the fingertip is therefore pretty close to up-and-down, especially for further-away keys that you have to reach for.

Therefore, I personally find the Kinesis to be noticeably suboptimal because it expects me to be pressing away from my body as well as down for the top rows (and pressing sideways for the side columns of keys). It’s forced to do this by the curved PCB design. But if you can place switches arbitrarily and hand wire them, I think you want the further rows to be a bit higher off the table than near rows, but still angled about the same.

I see what you're saying, and you may be correct. The progamer in the video I linked certainly showed him using the technique you describe. My theory behind curvature on the vertical is that your fingers would actually prefer to hit the keys that are at different distances in a different manner, using more of a stabbing motion on the higher keys and a clawing motion on the very low keys while continuing to do the more typical motion you've described. Less overall motion is required, and none of the motions are alien (unlike some of the thumb motions that are required to make use of all the thumb keys). It feels good to me at least, having typed on it for a month or so, I definitely prefer the shape to that of the MS 4000.

Have you typed on a keyboard with curvature long enough to test it for yourself? I'm not 100% sure curvature is the optimal at this point. I just know it feels good right now.  The kinesis may even be a bad test for pure curvature, as there are some extreme height differences on the columns that were causing me some pretty bad pain at first, and might be to blame for people who have tried and abandoned the kinesis.

Offline jacobolus

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Re: Do you think the 3/4" spacing between keys is optimum?
« Reply #43 on: Sat, 14 June 2014, 20:12:37 »
I’ve never tried a curved keyboard for weeks at a time, so it’s possible I’d just get used to it.

The Maltron seems a bit better in this respect than the Advantage, because it’s hand wired, so it doesn’t need to have keys pointed perpendicular to a curved PCB the way the Advantage does.

I don’t think either has the greatest thumb section, though the primary two thumb keys on the Maltron are oriented pretty well.

Offline kurplop

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Re: Do you think the 3/4" spacing between keys is optimum?
« Reply #44 on: Sat, 14 June 2014, 22:00:53 »
A lot of thought and trial and error has gone into trying to find the best shape, the right angles and amount of stepping between rows of keys.
Having the reduced spacing required that I restrict the angles of the cap sides to the uppermost part of the cap. That was necessary to fit the alps style switches within the cap.

The stepping and top angles started as the DCS spec's then was modified to work with my specific application. I tried to keep the caps as short as possible without compromising function because the amount of wobble inherent in the switches intensifies as it gets taller. The top caps are still pretty tall. The stepping is especially important on the upper row thumb keys where the thumbs lateral orientation makes picking between rows especially difficult.

I'm sure there's room for improvement but it feels pretty nice.

I also tried to provide space on the front angle for some kind of legends. I thought I'd try slide transfer decals. By keeping off the working part of the cap they should have a better chance of holding up. Any thoughts?

As of now, I've made about 30 caps of which I'm happy with about 12. It's nice to see them set in the keyboard.

Offline Zekromtor

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Re: Do you think the 3/4" spacing between keys is optimum?
« Reply #45 on: Sun, 15 June 2014, 05:48:57 »
You have pics of the finished caps? Those top 3 pics are all of the masters, right?

And what switch did you end up deciding on? I'm not an expert, but I know there are at least 2 different mounting methods for alps switches. It may be of no consequence to people using the standard thickness mounting plate, but it made a huge difference in the design of my thick acrylic mounting plates ( http://i.imgur.com/OpnhZLy.jpg ). The ducky alps have tabs centered on the left and right, and the Matias switches and possibly the older alps (i don't know) lock at the corners.

Offline jacobolus

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Re: Do you think the 3/4" spacing between keys is optimum?
« Reply #46 on: Sun, 15 June 2014, 06:30:54 »
And what switch did you end up deciding on? I'm not an expert, but I know there are at least 2 different mounting methods for alps switches.
Which two methods are you referring to? Alps switches have little plastic clips which hold onto a metal plate, which should have a rectangular hole cut in it the size of the switch. Every Alps-switch keyboard I’ve ever seen used the same “mounting method”. :-)

I don’t recommend using a plate thicker than about 1.5mm, because then the triangular plastic clips won’t be able to clip in. 1/16" acrylic might work, I plan to try it in the near future.

Offline kurplop

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Re: Do you think the 3/4" spacing between keys is optimum?
« Reply #47 on: Sun, 15 June 2014, 06:57:27 »
I'll take pic's of the finished caps when I get a chance. I'm using Matias switches. I think I'll keep the clicky ones on, they really sound great resonating through the case but they are loud.  I am also using 8 cherry reds for the radial thumb keys. They have less play in them and because the radial keys are a bit bigger, I wanted them to be stable without having to use stabilizers. I think they require less force to activate, which may be a good idea considering the thumbs direction of travel.

My plate thickness is currently just over 1/16" so the tabs don't quite lock. I don't know how thin I can mill the 6061 aluminum before it loses the rigidity necessary to prevent flexing. It has been a blessing in disguise during it's development because it has made it easier to remove the switches for testing and adjustments.  I may just make a slight rabbit(sorry for the woodworking term) on each edge where the tabs would engage. Any suggestions are welcome.

I hesitate to post pictures of the entire keyboard yet because it looks a little rough unfinished but it won't be long now.  Except for minor tweaking of angles and dimensions and the addition of a scroll wheel, it resembles the mockup I posted in this thread last summer.

Offline Zekromtor

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Re: Do you think the 3/4" spacing between keys is optimum?
« Reply #48 on: Sun, 15 June 2014, 07:13:17 »
And what switch did you end up deciding on? I'm not an expert, but I know there are at least 2 different mounting methods for alps switches.
Which two methods are you referring to? Alps switches have little plastic clips which hold onto a metal plate, which should have a rectangular hole cut in it the size of the switch. Every Alps-switch keyboard I’ve ever seen used the same “mounting method”. :-)

I don’t recommend using a plate thicker than about 1.5mm, because then the triangular plastic clips won’t be able to clip in. 1/16" acrylic might work, I plan to try it in the near future.

You're referring to the 4 triangular clips near the corners right?

The ducky alps are different. They use a method like the cherry switches with 2 tabs, but whereas the cherry switches have a tab centered on the top and bottom, the ducky alps have their tab centered on the left and right. It makes it work with the method of using a thick mounting plate so long as clearance is machined for the tabs. My image linked above shows the rear side of my mounting plate where this clearance has been provided, kurplop just referred to it as a rabbet which may be the proper term.

Using acrylic thin enough for a uniform mounting plate would probably be pretty flimsy, but still better to have some plate mounting than none at all.

I'll take pic's of the finished caps when I get a chance. I'm using Matias switches. I think I'll keep the clicky ones on, they really sound great resonating through the case but they are loud.  I am also using 8 cherry reds for the radial thumb keys. They have less play in them and because the radial keys are a bit bigger, I wanted them to be stable without having to use stabilizers. I think they require less force to activate, which may be a good idea considering the thumbs direction of travel.

My plate thickness is currently just over 1/16" so the tabs don't quite lock. I don't know how thin I can mill the 6061 aluminum before it loses the rigidity necessary to prevent flexing. It has been a blessing in disguise during it's development because it has made it easier to remove the switches for testing and adjustments.  I may just make a slight rabbit(sorry for the woodworking term) on each edge where the tabs would engage. Any suggestions are welcome.

I hesitate to post pictures of the entire keyboard yet because it looks a little rough unfinished but it won't be long now.  Except for minor tweaking of angles and dimensions and the addition of a scroll wheel, it resembles the mockup I posted in this thread last summer.

I said the ducky green alps were an easy choice, but I should have said that alps in general were an easy choice. It was difficult to decide between the matias clicky and the ducky green alps... so much so that I ordered 90 matias, then changed my mind and ordered a ducky keyboard to salvage. Both have just a beautiful click to them, the only difference being the ducky's resistance become substantially less after the click, likening it more to the feel of a buckling spring. The matias seems to have the same resistance throughout the press, which could actually be a good thing since it will cause the switch to reset faster and may lessen the chance of you bottoming out. My wife is just going to have learn to love the sweet music I'll make as I click away on those bad boys. It's the big ass spacebars that are the real noisemakers, and we, the embracers of opposable thumb design, do not suffer from such a sound.
« Last Edit: Sun, 15 June 2014, 07:14:51 by Zekromtor »

Offline jacobolus

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Re: Do you think the 3/4" spacing between keys is optimum?
« Reply #49 on: Sun, 15 June 2014, 07:47:30 »
So I just have been doing experiments, and one thing that seems to work okay so far is machining a little pocket that snugly surrounds the switch on 5 sides, with a couple of holes cut in the thin bottom for the leads to stick through and trying to as closely as possible match the 3-dimensional switch shape. I’ll try to make another couple experimental holes in the MDF I’ve been using in the near future, so I can demonstrate.

The other thing that works for MX switches, and I believe might work for Alps switches as well, is laser-cutting several layers of 1/16" acrylic: one with holes just like a typical metal plate, and then a couple more layers below allowing some extra space for the little plastic clips so they don’t get smushed (or potentially one thicker layer for this).