Author Topic: Non-staggered keyboard with touchpad for a 17.3" laptop  (Read 2867 times)

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Offline v6ak

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Non-staggered keyboard with touchpad for a 17.3" laptop
« on: Sun, 08 February 2015, 15:47:47 »
When developing a keyboard for tablets and phones, I noticed there are some non-staggered keyboards for computers and started considering to buy one…

When considering keyboard alone, I like both Ergodox approach and Truly Ergonomic approach. Both of them have their advantages and disadvantages (Linux support, F? row, …), while the price seems to be barely the same.

But there is at least one more thing to consider: touchpad. I like touchpad for its big advantage compared to mouse: there is almost no latency when moving my fingers to touchpad. I've created some hacks for touchpad and control it mostly by my right thumb. (Thanks to two finger emulation for Synaptics, I can emulate two fingers by my right thumb :).)

As you can see, I mainly use keyboard and sometimes for many small amounts of time use touchpad. Switching to mouse would take more time than switching to touchpad, which is undesired in such scenario.

For Truly Ergonomic, there seem to be only one way for using with touchpad: Buy an external touchpad and create a palm rest for it. Creating a palm rest for TECK seems to be a challenge, since I've no experience with 3D print so far and there are no exact specifications for that. Moreover, their support is very unlikely to help with this, they are known for non-responsing, as I have read.

For Ergodox, there seems to be another ways, both of them will require a hard board on my laptop:
a) Try to use the laptop's touchpad. This seems to be rather hacky. This will require having a hard board on my laptop with a hole for touchpad. Moreover, the touchpad would be on much lower level than the keyboard. One more issue, the left part of the keyboard seems to overlap my 17" notebook. (The touchpad is excentric: http://laptoping.com/dell-inspiron-17r-n7110-review.html#attachment_15926 )
b) Buy an external touchpad. In this case, I am less likely to overlap, since I can center the touchpad. First, I don't want a wireless one for security (encryption, MITM, …) and convenience (charging) reasons. I want either having three buttons or two buttons very close to each (so it is easy to press them simultaneously by one finger). There are few USB touchpad and many bare touchpad with PS/2 interface (without buttons). Using bare touchpads does not seem to bee so easy if I insist on having buttons. It is hard to find a good USB touchpad – most touchpads with satisfying buttons have big margins.

I hope there must be a good solution. Touchpad seems to be superior for programming and many Ergodox users seems to be such geeks, so I hope I am not the only solving such issue. Well, I've seen one example of touchpad usage, but Magic Trackpad does not fit my needs (it is wireless, it does not seem to have buttons and it may be too large to fit on a 17.3" board with Ergodox.)

(There is one more potential issue: Synaptics driver compatibility. I hope the touchpads are compatible, so I can use the same hacks (like two finger emulation) for them. I am, however, not sure if these hacks will be needed when the touchpad would be moved between the keyboard halves, so it would be no longer controller by mi right thumb. It would be rather controlled by my right index finger, maybe with also with right middle finger.)
« Last Edit: Mon, 09 February 2015, 03:25:07 by v6ak »

Offline v6ak

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Re: Non-staggered keyboard with touchpad for a 17.3" laptop
« Reply #1 on: Wed, 11 February 2015, 04:14:40 »
It seems I've found a way: A board + Ergodox keyboard + Ergonomic touchpad (medium size, button-less).

The Ergodox keyboard would have a TMK firmware in order to emulate 3rd mouse button, since it seems to be impossible with the Ergonomic touchpad. I will have a small (no full-hand) case with maybe some external palm rest.

Ergonomic touchpad has no margin and reasonable dimensions. Moreover, it seems that smaller dimensions than my current touchpad are not a problem, because the touchpad supports repositioning. That is, when you reach the edge when doing a drag&drop, you can leave the touchad surface, quickly reposition the finger and continue dragging.

I've done a paper concept of the layout on the board, it seems to fit in my laptop size:


(The SUSE is just a cleaner, I don't use SUSE :) )

Offline davkol

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Re: Non-staggered keyboard with touchpad for a 17.3" laptop
« Reply #2 on: Wed, 11 February 2015, 06:05:50 »
IIRC cubuanic was planning to make an Ergodox-based keyboard with an integrated touchpad; I actually sent him a Cherry G80-11800 last year. Perhaps try to get in touch with him?

Offline cub-uanic

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Re: Non-staggered keyboard with touchpad for a 17.3" laptop
« Reply #3 on: Tue, 24 February 2015, 20:00:33 »
Hi guys,

Unfortunately, as for now I've abandoned "touchpad on Ergodox" idea.
This is so because I've got Kinesis and for me it's wells is better even than Ergodox's split design.
Also, I'd played a bit with Ergodox and several touchpads - something from old laptop, T650 and MagicTrackpad - and I don't think that Ergodox with touchpad is really good idea.

I'll post results of my "Teenesis" project when I'll finish it or at least when there will be some valuable progress.

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Teenesis - Kinesis Advantage powered by Teensy

Offline v6ak

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Re: Non-staggered keyboard with touchpad for a 17.3" laptop
« Reply #4 on: Wed, 25 February 2015, 06:02:38 »
Thank you for the information.

Kinesis might be good, but does not look like a good option for me.

Why do you think that Ergodox with touchpad is not a good idea? I know it can't be like a traditional touchpad or traditional notebook, but I can't see what is wrong with it. I'd just like to figure out if it is a generaly bad idea or if it depends on usage type.

Offline cub-uanic

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Re: Non-staggered keyboard with touchpad for a 17.3" laptop
« Reply #5 on: Wed, 25 February 2015, 17:48:38 »
I can't say that this is bad idea in general.
Might be it will work well for someone, but not for me.

The reason is ergonomics.
For me ergonomics it's when there is no need to move hand to do something, and everything you need is already "under your hands".

For example, I'm using mouse emulation in TMK.
There is layer-tap key for layer with mouse keys and actions.
I use "D" key (in terms of QWERTY) to tap this layer.
This key is on home row and there is no need to move hand to get access to mouse keys and actions, which are located on right hand (H is for left button click and JKL; for movement Left-Up-Down-Right).
As you see, they are also on home row.
So, to use most often actions - move and click - there is no need to move any hand.

Of course, mouse emulation in TMK is not very comfortable, it's not for designers or photoshopers, it requires some time to get used to it...
But for everyday use it's enough for me.
When I need more - there is usual mouse and T650 near to me.

Compare this with touchpad.
First of all, there is no place to put it into keyboard such as Ergodox or Kinesis.
Well, actually there is lot of space where it will fit by size...
But no one of these places have any relation to ergonomics.
Wherever you'll place it, you'll must to move your hand to use touchpad.
As for me, this is very, very bad practice.
And second.
Why do you want to use touchpad at all, and which kind of actions you can't do with keyboard?

After some thinking on second question I realized that most of time I use mouse in browser, and very rarely use it in other applications.
After this I tried to use Vimium, and now I use mouse once in an hour.

And compare this with trackpoint.
It's small and you could put it whenever it's comfortable for you.
Firmware could be modified to select appropriate layer right when you strat using TP, so you'll have TP on one hand and all 3 mouse buttons on other (for example).
There is no need to move your hands, and everything is under your fingers.
I didn't tried yet, but this have to be both comfortable and ergonomic.

I hope I answered to your question :)

ErgoDox Classic - Stock Clears
Teenesis - Kinesis Advantage powered by Teensy

Offline v6ak

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Re: Non-staggered keyboard with touchpad for a 17.3" laptop
« Reply #6 on: Fri, 27 February 2015, 04:21:46 »
Thank you for such detailed response.

For me, switching from mouse to touchpad meaned increased pointing device usage. I use the touchpad even when scrolling the code, thanks to some hacks. For example, I've turned two fingers emulation (i.e. a big finger is considered as two distinct fingers) on, so I can easily scroll using my right thumb. I use keys like PageDown and PageUp less then I have the touchpad.

With Ergodox, it is going to change, because I can't place the touchpad under my thumbs. I might want to switch to edge scrolling (if the touchpad is placed between the halves of the keyboard) and do some other changes. One drawback might be that it will require to move my index finger from the J key (in terms of QWERTY). Maybe I'll have to try it.

Combining QWERTY with touchpad (like in BlackBerry Passport phablet) might be good, but it is not technically easy. (Not sure if spaces between the keys will do some troubles, though.) It likely would not be very cheap with Ergodox.

Trackpoint might be a good solution, but I am not sure. It is likely to be more comfortable than using an extra layer on the keyboard. There was a reason why I decided not to use it, but it might have been a misunderstanding of TrackPoint. I have no experience with Trackpoint at all, but it seems to be worth trying. Unfortunately, it seems to be hard to find a standalone TrackPoint. I will probably try to ask carlos2014 it he has some more TrackPoints. I'll do that after having an Ergodox or while the Ergodox is being shipped.