Author Topic: keycap profile demonstration props  (Read 9446 times)

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Offline jacobolus

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keycap profile demonstration props
« on: Sat, 07 February 2015, 20:43:00 »
Before the most recent Bay Area keyboard meetup, I made a bunch of little one-column steel keyboard plates with sides/legs made from 1/4" transparent acrylic.

They’re pretty nice for demonstrating various keycap profiles, because you can see exactly what’s happening from the side, and compare a few of them by holding them next to each other in your hands, which is hard to do with full keyboards.

Anyway, I thought I’d post some pictures here. First a whole bunch in one shot:


Edit: I made this compilation showing all the flat-board profiles a couple days after this thread, but it’s more useful for some purposes than the larger single-profile images, so I’m promoting it to also sit in the first post:



Approximation of a manual typewriter, rows in stairsteps:


Simple flat keycap profile (in this case from an Apple //c); DSA is somewhat similar though this one has cylindrical tops:


What you get when you try to make something typewriter-like using a flat plate (in this case, some spherical-ish Alps doubleshots from the mid-80s). Personally I think this is a big improvement over the simple flat version, but still not ideal:


Sculpted spherical doubleshots from a Canon typewriter; these are a straight-switch approximation of the profile from a Selectric / Beam Spring / Honeywell / etc. Lots of keyboards in the 70s and early 80s used a profile like this, sometimes on switches with straight stems, like this, and other times on switches with tilted stems.


When you use keycaps designed for angled-stem switches (Signature Plastics SA = “spherical angled” correction: actually SA stands for “spherical all-rows” as compared to SS, “spherical sculptured”, but I still maintain that SA makes most sense on switches with tilted stems), then you get something like this. As I’ve described elsewhere, I think this is a mistake. Notice that there’s no real height step between the far side of one keycap and the near side of the next one, as you reach for further-away rows, and as a result your finger doesn’t get clearance to press the further key down without colliding with the closer keycap (Compare to the picture above):


IBM (and Honeywell rubber domes, and some other boards) tried to make it cheaper to get a sculpted profile while using uniform keycaps by using a bent plate. Here’s my Model F approximation using standard cylindrical Alps caps, home row. This is not quite right (I need to go cut a V2 of the acrylic sides, and might need to use bottom-row caps instead), and one switch is also not seated properly in the plate in my picture, but it gives the idea:


edit: Partly fixed buckling spring approximation:


And now a few sculpted cylindrical profiles, first ones that double-up the number and F rows (making it necessary to keep some space between those rows to avoid the finger collision problem):

Cherry doubleshots:


Cylindrical Alps dyesubs:


Unknown-producer doubleshots from a Laser keyboard (keyboard used MX-mount SMK switches):


Now some profiles where I have an extra-tall F-row keycap:

Alps dyesubs from an Apple Extended Keyboard II (notice the F row keys use switches mounted sideways, to reduce front-to-back wobble from being so tall):


Tai-Hao doubleshots (from an MX-mount Futaba board):


Signature Plastics DCS:


If anyone has a keyboard with an F row directly adjacent to the number row, I highly recommend using a keycap profile with an extra-tall F row.

* * *

The basic idea was to make a physical version of this chart:
« Last Edit: Thu, 26 February 2015, 09:08:40 by jacobolus »

Offline jdcarpe

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Re: keycap profile demonstration props
« Reply #1 on: Sat, 07 February 2015, 20:48:48 »
Very nice!

Can you possibly do a uniform SA profile, all row 4 (bottom row) for me? Stairstep style. :)

Offline jacobolus

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Re: keycap profile demonstration props
« Reply #2 on: Sat, 07 February 2015, 20:51:30 »
JD: Sure, but not until I have some more light here for taking a picture, so tomorrow or monday.

Offline Evo_Spec

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Re: keycap profile demonstration props
« Reply #3 on: Sat, 07 February 2015, 20:52:55 »
This is very cool! thanks for sharing!
                     
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Offline jdcarpe

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Re: keycap profile demonstration props
« Reply #4 on: Sat, 07 February 2015, 20:54:55 »
Thanks! Great little visualization aids.

Offline ideus

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Re: keycap profile demonstration props
« Reply #5 on: Sat, 07 February 2015, 20:55:35 »
With this now there is no question which is the right profile overall, isn't it?

Offline quake4mhg

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Re: keycap profile demonstration props
« Reply #6 on: Sat, 07 February 2015, 21:02:04 »
Awesome reference!! Thanks!

Offline jacobolus

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Re: keycap profile demonstration props
« Reply #7 on: Sat, 07 February 2015, 21:06:25 »
With this now there is no question which is the right profile overall, isn't it?

Actually I think none of these are right! :P

Offline jacobolus

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Re: keycap profile demonstration props
« Reply #8 on: Sat, 07 February 2015, 21:42:19 »
For those who haven’t seen these, SP used to make two spherical profiles for straight-stem switches (SS and DSS), but they haven’t done any in 15 years, and the profiles are now “retired”:

Online exitfire401

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Re: keycap profile demonstration props
« Reply #9 on: Sat, 07 February 2015, 21:44:38 »
This is really cool! Thanks for making these!
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Offline DrHubblePhD

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Re: keycap profile demonstration props
« Reply #10 on: Sat, 07 February 2015, 22:39:57 »
very cool man, I hardly knew the difference with some of these :p
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Offline hwood34

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Re: keycap profile demonstration props
« Reply #11 on: Sun, 08 February 2015, 00:22:35 »
Wow, these are really cool :thumb:
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Offline CPTBadAss

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Re: keycap profile demonstration props
« Reply #12 on: Sun, 08 February 2015, 00:27:16 »
This is amazing. Thanks for doing this jacobolus :D
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Offline jacobolus

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Re: keycap profile demonstration props
« Reply #13 on: Sun, 08 February 2015, 01:26:48 »
By the way, if anyone wants to give/sell me a single 1x1 Cherry doubleshot (or blank is fine) in each of row A and row F shapes, I’d appreciate it. Cf. this classifieds thread https://geekhack.org/index.php?topic=68346

For reference:
« Last Edit: Sun, 08 February 2015, 01:28:51 by jacobolus »

Offline ideus

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Re: keycap profile demonstration props
« Reply #14 on: Sun, 08 February 2015, 10:11:30 »
With this now there is no question which is the right profile overall, isn't it?

Actually I think none of these are right! :p

Smartass.
« Last Edit: Sun, 08 February 2015, 15:06:11 by ideus »

Offline drewba

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Re: keycap profile demonstration props
« Reply #15 on: Sun, 08 February 2015, 14:21:20 »
3 thumps up! I'm saving this thread.

Offline Joey Quinn

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Re: keycap profile demonstration props
« Reply #16 on: Sun, 08 February 2015, 14:23:55 »
These are so sick, I would buy a set of them for a desk toy.  :thumb:
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Offline jacobolus

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Re: keycap profile demonstration props
« Reply #17 on: Sun, 08 February 2015, 14:34:09 »
These are so sick, I would buy a set of them for a desk toy.  :thumb:
If someone wants one, I can make another batch of these. Note though that the waterjet time cost me about $150 (I’m guessing I could cut that down by 30% with more careful design), plus about $30 for the steel and acrylic, and you’d have to supply your own switches and keycaps. :-)

Anyhow, thanks everyone for the compliments!

Offline jacobolus

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Re: keycap profile demonstration props
« Reply #18 on: Sun, 08 February 2015, 15:39:33 »
If anyone has any questions/comments/suggestions/criticism, I’d love to answer and iterate.

I’m pretty busy this week and then I’ll be out of the country for 2 weeks, but when I get back I’m going to try to fix the buckling spring approximation, cut one approximating one column of the Maltron / Kinesis Advantage, and also make a couple to reflect my own design ideas.

I also bought a broken ($5) Apple aluminum keyboard, which I’d like to chop a column out of and mount between acrylic.

Then the ultimate goal here is to figure out some kind of video setup, and take a short video of my index finger pressing various keys, to show what finger/hand movements are required for various profiles.

I want to write a proper website about keyboard ergonomics sometime. One page should be about keycap profiles, with those videos embedded, and ideally also a couple videos showing straight-down top view and diagonal view of the hands typing on a few different profiles. so the effect of the profile on the amount of hand reaching can be shown.

Offline kurplop

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Re: keycap profile demonstration props
« Reply #19 on: Sun, 08 February 2015, 16:41:57 »
They look great. Did you make them primarily as a reference to show the different caps and their orientation, or to determine an ideal arrangement by hands on testing? If this isn't strictly an MX affair and you are interested, I'd be happy to donate some ML switches and caps for the cause.

Offline jacobolus

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Re: keycap profile demonstration props
« Reply #20 on: Sun, 08 February 2015, 17:39:18 »
First: JD, I took pictures of several more profiles: “OEM”, DSA, uniform SA row 4, uniform SA row 1 flipped, a uniform low cylindrical profile from a Bondwell laptop, the profile from the Apple IIGS keyboard, and a fixed photo of the 'curved backplate' prop.

I’m not sure if I’ll get to process these photos today though; I’ve got a bunch else to do.

Did you make them primarily as a reference to show the different caps and their orientation, or to determine an ideal arrangement by hands on testing?
Yes!

Mostly as props for demonstrating profiles.

As I said in my little talk about this at the keyboard meetup, the big caveat here is that a single column is obviously not a full keyboard: in practice on a standard keyboard the keys are arranged in staggered rows; the hands/fingers reach sideways as well as straight forward/back; different fingers are different sizes, start at different positions, and are coming from different angles; etc.

But even so, I think that looking from the side at how an index finger (another finger would also be fine, but the index finger makes everything more visible since it’s unobscured by other fingers in a side view) moves to locate and press keys in different rows is quite instructive about some of the trade-offs involved in designing a keyboard profile, either for a flat keyboard or for something more sculpted.

The only real way to figure out an “ideal” profile for any particular keyboard is to test a few alternatives on the full keyboard, ideally over an extended period of time, at least 3–4 weeks (otherwise it’s hard to distinguish beneficial improvement from placebo effects resulting from any environmental change difficulties from unfamiliarity). I would love to see real studies about this, but even just anecdotal evidence and some simple reasoning is better than the studies I’ve seen. There have been 3–4 comparing “flat”, “stepped”, and “dished” profiles, but one of the ones I looked at used totally different keyboards, with different keyswitches and different overall angle... making it close to useless; another “study” just reports with no evidence that the dished profile resulted in faster typing (as part of a broader discussion of various keyboard design choices) but doesn’t explain the methodology at all or share any data. Grumble.

Anyway, I did cut a couple of experimental shapes (not pictured) that I think would make an improvement, but they weren’t quite right, so I want to do another 2–3 iterations before I document them.

Quote from: kurplop
If this isn't strictly an MX affair and you are interested, I'd be happy to donate some ML switches and caps for the cause.
It’s at the moment just an MX-mount + Alps-mount affair. The plates aren’t cut to support ML switches, and I’m not sure I really want to make an ML version: I’d probably have to make a PCB to mount them on, which sounds like more trouble than it’s worth.
« Last Edit: Sun, 08 February 2015, 19:28:11 by jacobolus »

Offline jacobolus

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Re: keycap profile demonstration props
« Reply #21 on: Sun, 08 February 2015, 19:24:55 »
Okay, more pics:

Partly fixed buckling spring approximation:


“OEM” profile (these are backlight-friendly paint+laser caps from one of those MX “gamer” boards):


Signature Plastics DSA:


Uniform row 4, Signature Plastics SA:


Uniform row 1 flipped, SA:


Uniform low cylindrical (these are pad-printed ABS from a Bondwell laptop with MX blue switches):


Apple ADB Keyboard (used with the Apple IIGS, part number 658-4081):

Offline ideus

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Re: keycap profile demonstration props
« Reply #22 on: Sun, 08 February 2015, 19:36:33 »
Dear Mr. Jaco, could you please add a picture of SA row 3.

Offline jacobolus

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Re: keycap profile demonstration props
« Reply #23 on: Mon, 09 February 2015, 00:37:39 »

Offline jdcarpe

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Re: keycap profile demonstration props
« Reply #24 on: Mon, 09 February 2015, 00:47:01 »
Thanks very much!

Looks like Row 1 flipped SA is almost right. I don't know that Row 4 has enough of an angle.

Offline Nai_Calus

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Re: keycap profile demonstration props
« Reply #25 on: Mon, 09 February 2015, 02:18:24 »
These are fantastic, and really helpful to see what's going on with the different profiles. They were really neat to see at the meetup.

I agree with jdcarpe that the flipped SA row 1 looks really good. I liked that one test one you had at the meetup that needed more work, though, the one where you basically pulled your finger back to hit the bottom row. That was kind of neat.
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Offline enddot

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Re: keycap profile demonstration props
« Reply #26 on: Mon, 09 February 2015, 08:52:29 »
Thanks very much!

Looks like Row 1 flipped SA is almost right. I don't know that Row 4 has enough of an angle.

JD, what are you plotting?  :)

Offline jacobolus

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Re: keycap profile demonstration props
« Reply #27 on: Mon, 09 February 2015, 10:37:07 »
One potential issue with using uniform flipped row 1 SA is that it might get wobbly since it’s so tall. Something closer to SS row 3 would work a bit better I think (of course, that’s not an available option). Also I don’t know if the tooling for legends can be easily used on other rows or flipped, so it might be stuck with blanks.

Offline HoffmanMyster

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Re: keycap profile demonstration props
« Reply #28 on: Mon, 09 February 2015, 12:43:00 »
Finally had a chance to check out this thread, and it's awesome. Thanks for taking the time, money, and effort to do this, jacobolus.  :thumb:  this is a great learning tool for people both new and old.

I look forward to that website you're planning.  ;)

Offline jdcarpe

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Re: keycap profile demonstration props
« Reply #29 on: Mon, 09 February 2015, 12:45:33 »
Quote from: jacobolus
One potential issue with using uniform flipped row 1 SA is that it might get wobbly since it’s so tall. Something closer to SS row 3 would work a bit better I think (of course, that’s not an available option). Also I don’t know if the tooling for legends can be easily used on other rows or flipped, so it might be stuck with blanks.

I was thinking the same things. It would seem Row 4 is the best I could do, in that scenario.

Offline greath

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Re: keycap profile demonstration props
« Reply #30 on: Mon, 09 February 2015, 13:42:02 »
These are a fantastic visualization. Thank you so much!

Offline geniekid

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Re: keycap profile demonstration props
« Reply #31 on: Wed, 11 February 2015, 10:46:53 »
Then the ultimate goal here is to figure out some kind of video setup, and take a short video of my index finger pressing various keys, to show what finger/hand movements are required for various profiles.

I want to write a proper website about keyboard ergonomics sometime. One page should be about keycap profiles, with those videos embedded, and ideally also a couple videos showing straight-down top view and diagonal view of the hands typing on a few different profiles. so the effect of the profile on the amount of hand reaching can be shown.

Videos are a really good idea.  I have struggled in the past to visualize the arguments you've made in other threads.  I find myself eventually agreeing with you, but always after a bit of mental exertion on my part :)

Offline ideus

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Re: keycap profile demonstration props
« Reply #32 on: Wed, 11 February 2015, 13:31:51 »
One of the best resources to understand caps mechanics based on profile of the caps. It may be one of the most important factors to understand how the keyboard interact with the fingers, and hands positions. I tend to float my hands over the board without leaning on the front support my keyboard tray has. Thus, the keycap profile is one of the most important factors for the typing precision.

Offline GenKaan

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Re: keycap profile demonstration props
« Reply #33 on: Thu, 12 February 2015, 04:51:06 »
Nice stuff, really think the SP SA set looks interesting. Cant wait to get my "out break" cap to see for myself how it looks :)
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Offline qwack

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Re: keycap profile demonstration props
« Reply #34 on: Fri, 20 February 2015, 12:46:52 »
This is amazingly informative, thanks jacobolus.

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Offline jacobolus

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Re: keycap profile demonstration props
« Reply #35 on: Tue, 24 February 2015, 05:57:23 »
Thanks again for all the kind words everyone. :-)

If anyone has questions/suggestions/corrections/etc. don’t hesitate to chime in.

Offline ideus

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Re: keycap profile demonstration props
« Reply #36 on: Tue, 24 February 2015, 07:16:54 »
Dear Sir Jaco, these pictures of your props should be in the GeekHackWiki

Offline jacobolus

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Re: keycap profile demonstration props
« Reply #37 on: Tue, 24 February 2015, 07:22:30 »
I haven’t looked at the geekhack wiki in 6 months, and I’ve never added anything there. Does anyone use it? I should probably add these to the Deskthority wiki (I’ll try to remember to do that when I have a bit of time in a week or two), but I thought the geekhack wiki was basically dead.

Anyway, if someone else wants to put these somewhere like the geekhack wiki (or any similar use) feel free; just give credit and link back to this thread.

Offline ideus

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Re: keycap profile demonstration props
« Reply #38 on: Tue, 24 February 2015, 07:26:22 »
I haven’t looked at the geekhack wiki in 6 months, and I’ve never added anything there. Does anyone use it? I should probably add these to the Deskthority wiki (I’ll try to remember to do that when I have a bit of time in a week or two), but I thought the geekhack wiki was basically dead.

Anyway, if someone else wants to put these somewhere like the geekhack wiki (or any similar use) feel free; just give credit and link back to this thread.


The DT wiki came to my mind before, I really have not used the GH one ever, and I do not know how to add something, I will explore it tonight, if it is not excessively time consuming I would try to put your props there.

Offline jacobolus

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Re: keycap profile demonstration props
« Reply #39 on: Thu, 05 March 2015, 02:34:02 »

Offline Snarfangel

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Re: keycap profile demonstration props
« Reply #40 on: Thu, 16 April 2015, 09:44:07 »
If anyone has any questions/comments/suggestions/criticism, I'd love to answer and iterate.

I'm pretty busy this week and then I'll be out of the country for 2 weeks, but when I get back I'm going to try to fix the buckling spring approximation, cut one approximating one column of the Maltron / Kinesis Advantage, and also make a couple to reflect my own design ideas.

First, I want to say this was incredibly informative, jacobolus. Really, really nice work.

Second, did you ever finish the profile of the Maltron? I just got a left hand version yesterday (my right hand version comes today), and I was curious. I'm thinking of trying cylindrical keycaps rather than spherical, but only after I use it for awhile to get a baseline.

/Sorry about pulling up a thread from a couple of months ago, but it really is a nice visualization tool. Keycap manufacturers should hire him for demonstration items. :)

Offline jacobolus

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Re: keycap profile demonstration props
« Reply #41 on: Thu, 16 April 2015, 20:05:12 »
Second, did you ever finish the profile of the Maltron?
Nope. If you can take measurements of the switch positions and angles for one representative column, I'll add it to my todo list though. Might take a few weeks to get back over to a laser cutter.

Also, no worries about bumping the thread. I’m happy to take other questions if anyone has some...

Offline Snarfangel

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Re: keycap profile demonstration props
« Reply #42 on: Thu, 16 April 2015, 21:38:15 »
Second, did you ever finish the profile of the Maltron?
Nope. If you can take measurements of the switch positions and angles for one representative column, I'll add it to my todo list though. Might take a few weeks to get back over to a laser cutter.

Also, no worries about bumping the thread. I'm happy to take other questions if anyone has some...

I can measure distances, but what would be the easiest way to measure angles? The left side looks like this:

Full link to thread here: https://geekhack.org/index.php?topic=71019.0

So it's kind of a sweeping curve, and the curves have different radii (the ones for the middle finger sweeps a wider arc). Plus, not all of the keys are the same orientation as neighboring keys (look at the top keys, like the square brackets), or even in line with the other keys in the arc (the Q and the ? for example, though on the older one the Q is less noticeable).

Which reminds me, I need to post pictures for the right side.

Of course, this is a bit more extreme than the two-handed Maltron, since it has to cram all the keys on one side.  :D

Offline jacobolus

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Re: keycap profile demonstration props
« Reply #43 on: Thu, 16 April 2015, 21:56:34 »
I can measure distances, but what would be the easiest way to measure angles? The left side looks like this:
Ah, yeah, I was talking about the two-handed Maltron. The one-handed one isn’t very interesting to me personally.

Offline berserkfan

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Re: keycap profile demonstration props
« Reply #44 on: Sat, 18 April 2015, 01:40:33 »
This is going to prove a very valuable resource in the years to come. I hope the people managing the wikis will accept the entry. That said, I am not exactly sure if Jacobolus has gotten all the slopes right. Some of them look a bit steep.
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Offline jacobolus

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Re: keycap profile demonstration props
« Reply #45 on: Sat, 18 April 2015, 03:46:19 »
That said, I am not exactly sure if Jacobolus has gotten all the slopes right. Some of them look a bit steep.
Can you explain what you mean? The angle isn’t supposed to be representative of each specific keyboard; the flat plate ones are all at the same angle, to facilitate comparisons between the different profiles.

When you type on any keyboard, you should adjust its angle until the plate is roughly parallel to your forearms, with your wrists held straight. Depending on your desk, chair, body shape, and posture, this might require flipping feet up or down, or propping up the close or far side of the keyboard.

(I don’t believe in palm/wrist rests, per se, but it turns out that those Graffiti foam palmrests are *great* for propping up one side of a keyboard.)

Offline berserkfan

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Re: keycap profile demonstration props
« Reply #46 on: Sat, 18 April 2015, 07:36:32 »
That said, I am not exactly sure if Jacobolus has gotten all the slopes right. Some of them look a bit steep.
Can you explain what you mean? The angle isn’t supposed to be representative of each specific keyboard; the flat plate ones are all at the same angle, to facilitate comparisons between the different profiles.

When you type on any keyboard, you should adjust its angle until the plate is roughly parallel to your forearms, with your wrists held straight. Depending on your desk, chair, body shape, and posture, this might require flipping feet up or down, or propping up the close or far side of the keyboard.

(I don’t believe in palm/wrist rests, per se, but it turns out that those Graffiti foam palmrests are *great* for propping up one side of a keyboard.)

OK, so I understand. Because you had several Apple keyboard models I thought you were trying to replicate common keyboard models.

My own opinion is that the ideal is a tilted board.

Stretch your hands out casually. What do you see? Chances are your hands are naturally tilted at an angle. Mine are at about 30 degrees to the horizontal. So I’m definitely quite keen to have a tilted board.
Most of the modding can be done on your own once you break through the psychological barriers.