Author Topic: Symmetric typing technique with layouts to match  (Read 2853 times)

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Offline kennetchaz

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Symmetric typing technique with layouts to match
« on: Wed, 29 July 2015, 08:49:15 »
Hello Geekhackers,

For a long time I have typed using a non-standard technique, especially on the left-hand, which involves using my index finger for C, middle for X, ring for Z, and pinky for shift. I have long thought this technique is far superior to the traditional, so-called "correct" method. I realize I'm far from unique in this, casual observation has shown me that in practise many people do this, especially for the C key.

Now, recently I became interested in alternative layouts, especially Colemak. The thing is though, these layouts tend to be designed assuming the traditional fingering technique. This has consequences of course for how layouts decide to place letters, especially when it comes to avoiding consecutive same-finger key presses. In my experience, I also found some flaws in layouts like Colemak, notably where they place common keys in the middle of the keyboard (in Colemak's case H, D, B), which are away from the hands' natural home columns.

After much research into this subject, I decided to develop layouts which are optimized for the technique I use, which for want of a better name, I have called the "symmetric typing system", as it makes the finger motion of both hands nearly symmetrical, at least compared to the traditional method. The layouts therefore have no letter key in the lower-row left-pinky position. I also wanted to keep Z, X, C, V unchanged, for shortcuts. And of course, using this technique it makes the relatively common C very easy with the left index finger, something I also wanted to preserve.

I believe that by starting from assuming this typing technique, it makes it possible to create a more comfortable and ergonomic layout, while at the same time prioritizing ease-of-learning.

There is now a github project which is designed to promote the use of the non-traditional, more symmetric typing method, and also for layouts which conform to these principles. A choice of three layouts have been developed, which borrow heavily from Colemak, with ideas from Workman and Asset too.

Although designed to be comfortable on a standard ANSI board, I would just say of course these layouts can still be perfectly well used on a matrix-like board, you just need to keep Z, X, C on ring, middle, and index fingers respectively.

Main Page:    http://kennetchaz.github.io/symmetric-typing/

Layout Design Principles:   http://kennetchaz.github.io/symmetric-typing/layouts.html

Layout Comparison:   http://kennetchaz.github.io/symmetric-typing/results.html

Here are some images of the layouts:

Solemak


Hein


Niro


Interested to get your feedback!

Chaz

Offline jacobolus

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Re: Symmetric typing technique with layouts to match
« Reply #1 on: Fri, 31 July 2015, 21:07:12 »
On a standard keyboard, I use fingering something along the lines of:


If you’re going to the trouble of making an entirely new layout, I highly recommend shifting your right hand to the right by one key, to move some of the burden from your right pinky to your index finger(s). Making right shift, return, and delete easier to reach is a big improvement.

(Or if you can afford it, just get a better physical keyboard layout, and worry about the logical layout only after you have a physical layout that you like.)
« Last Edit: Fri, 31 July 2015, 21:13:28 by jacobolus »

Offline Oobly

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Re: Symmetric typing technique with layouts to match
« Reply #2 on: Tue, 04 August 2015, 02:58:10 »
...

(Or if you can afford it, just get a better physical keyboard layout, and worry about the logical layout only after you have a physical layout that you like.)

^^ This.. I see people putting quite a lot of effort into making the standard layout better in increments, with limited results and very little real world benefits. Putting the same effort into deciding which of the properly ergonomic designs out there suits you most is more beneficial, although I admit there aren't many good examples commercially available.

This thread may help you decide which factors are important to you: https://geekhack.org/index.php?topic=73447.0

1. The ErgoDox is decent, but suffers from a poorly designed thumb cluster (hard to reach far keys, closest are the only comfortable ones) and not enough stagger on the pinkie columns, among other things.
2. The Axios is not available yet. Seems to be trying to accommodate too many different people's wishes, so may be a bit too "generic" or having too many features when released, with some of the same issues as the ErgoDox, despite being modular, but better in terms of thumb cluster being both modular and movable. Good overall design by an active GH member.
3. My own design will eventually become a product, but I can't make any promises as to the timing yet, so it's probably best not to consider it being available for at least 6 months.
4. Kinesis Contour / Advantage. Rubber dome F-keys, curves not quite tight enough, thumb cluster angle not optimal. Fixed splay and tent angles, relatively large.
5. Maltron. Expensive. Also fixed splay and tent angles, but they're chosen well and in all regards besides price it's better than the Kinesis.
6. Truly Ergonomic. Not truly ergonomic. Small and fixed splay and tent angles, not optimal by any means. Lack of keycap replacement options. Some people have had issues with the newer versions, AFAIK they're using clone switches now, too. Not enough stagger on pinkie columns. One nice thing is the placement of arrow and edit clusters.
7. Keyboardio. Matias switches, custom keycaps and very few replacement options, but it's a nice design. Flat thumb clusters, relatively expensive, semi-fixed splay angle and limited default tent options, but you can make your own supports, so it's a lot better than the Truly Ergonomic in this regard. More accessible thumb keys than ErgoDox.
8. King's Assembly. NOT ergonomic, so it shouldn't even be on this list, but I thought I should mention it so you know about it, since it claims to be an ergonomic design.
9. Katy (K80CS). Very nice design, but not commercialised yet.
10. Atreus. Great little 40%-ish ergonomic design for a good price and some of the proceeds go to a good cause. Some may find the number of keys limiting. Fixed splay angle and not tentable, but very compact.
11. Various other "in the pipeline" or extinct designs. Not available, but useful for seeing boards based on different ergonomic or supposedly ergonomic factors: https://geekhack.org/index.php?topic=55099.0 and https://geektimes.ru/post/258534/

So, IMHO, the best options currently are the Atreus for a portable, Maltron if you can afford it, and probably the Keyboardio or Axios when it finally gets released, but it all depends on your own personal requirements for a board. I'd promote my own design, but as I say, it's not quite ready for productisation. If you're up to DIY, I highly recommend it, though :D

Then we get to character layouts... that's a whole other kettle of fish, but not as important as the physical layout. Best discussed once a physical layout is chosen, since the optimisation is very dependent on the placement of physical keys.
Buying more keycaps,
it really hacks my wallet,
but I must have them.

Offline Oobly

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Re: Symmetric typing technique with layouts to match
« Reply #3 on: Tue, 04 August 2015, 03:06:59 »
I think your thoughts on typing technique on a standard layout are very good. I recommend to continue typing the way it feels best for you on a standard board, while investigating ergonomic physical layouts.

What most people consider "proper" typing technique, as taught by some typing tutors and school programs (at least when I was younger) is really very unergonomic, especially the ones where you're supposed to keep returning your fingers to the home row keys. Most people's fingers rest naturally on or around AWEF / JIO; or QWEF / JIOP when in good typing posture with index fingers on F and J.
Buying more keycaps,
it really hacks my wallet,
but I must have them.

Offline kennetchaz

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Re: Symmetric typing technique with layouts to match
« Reply #4 on: Wed, 05 August 2015, 08:44:16 »
The lack of commercial readily available ergonomic keyboards of the type you describe is significant.  I wanted to design a layout that work with keyboards that are commonplace and readily available everywhere, yet use the more comfortable symmetric-like fingering system I have used for years.

But it's important to note that this fact does not hinder moving to more ergonomic hardware as it becomes more available. In fact, because the layouts are *specifically designed* to be more symmetrical than is usual, the transition to ergonomic symmetric keyboard designs will be easier!  Take the ErgoDox for example, the Z X C V keys in particular are going to be easier to transition to if you use the "symmetric" rather than "traditional" fingering system, with these layouts.

The point about moving the right-hand keys one space to the right on a standard keyboard is a good one. I will add that as an optional variant.

« Last Edit: Wed, 05 August 2015, 08:47:52 by kennetchaz »

Offline davkol

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Re: Symmetric typing technique with layouts to match
« Reply #5 on: Wed, 05 August 2015, 09:20:38 »
I don't see how these layouts are ready for symmetrical keyboards. For example, it's impossible to press (QWERTY) Z with the left middle finger on, say, ErgoDox without completely breaking typing flow.

Offline kennetchaz

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Re: Symmetric typing technique with layouts to match
« Reply #6 on: Wed, 05 August 2015, 10:51:50 »
I don't see how these layouts are ready for symmetrical keyboards. For example, it's impossible to press (QWERTY) Z with the left middle finger on, say, ErgoDox without completely breaking typing flow.

You wouldn't. You would use the same finger regardless of whether it was a traditional board or matrix-like one.
For example:

ANSI board:


ErgoDox-like board:


Note the similarity in relative positions of the keys for each finger.

Offline davkol

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Re: Symmetric typing technique with layouts to match
« Reply #7 on: Wed, 05 August 2015, 11:42:14 »
The similarity is an illusion. There's a 0.5x relative offset on the staggered bottom row. If I do the exact same movement on both physical layouts, I hit the key in the center in one case, and on the edge in the other one.
« Last Edit: Wed, 05 August 2015, 11:44:00 by davkol »

Offline jacobolus

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Re: Symmetric typing technique with layouts to match
« Reply #8 on: Wed, 05 August 2015, 17:20:15 »
That’s not quite right IMO, davkol.

More realistically, a split, column-staggered keyboard will be angled differently, yielding more overlap in finger motions than you might expect.


Or maybe a bit easier to see for the right hand part:


An Ergodox is not quite like this layout, but loosely comparable.

Offline davkol

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Re: Symmetric typing technique with layouts to match
« Reply #9 on: Wed, 05 August 2015, 17:44:45 »
I fail to see how that's relevant.

I'm actually switching between an ISO thinkpad keyboard and my ergodox, while typing this comment. My fingers are aligned with columns on the latter and move simply forward/backwards, when jumping between rows; there aren't any lateral movements (except for pinkies, index fingers and thumbs, when moving between columns).

OTOH even if my left hand was angled to simulate symmetrical stagger on the bottom/home row of my thinkpad, asymmetrical lateral movements would still be necessary to hit left-hand-side top-row keys in the middle. It isn't angled though, because I'm shifted a bit to the right—to (1) simulate straight columns on the right-hand side, and (2) comfortably lay the hand on a trackball next to the keyboard.

Offline jacobolus

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Re: Symmetric typing technique with layouts to match
« Reply #10 on: Thu, 06 August 2015, 04:50:25 »
On a standard row-staggered keyboard, the hands attack the board in at an angle (at least for the technique I use), making simple flexion of the fingers from the home positions roughly line up with bottom row keys. Top row keys on the right hand take straight-forward extension to reach (though I use the ring finger for both O and P), whereas on the left hand, E and R keys need some lateral motion as well.

This is relevant because it makes the OP’s layouts less different between column-staggered vs. row-staggered keyboards than they might first appear.

Obviously there’s still some substantial difference, but “there's a 0.5x relative offset on the staggered bottom row” is an exaggeration.
« Last Edit: Thu, 06 August 2015, 04:54:26 by jacobolus »

Offline kennetchaz

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Re: Symmetric typing technique with layouts to match
« Reply #11 on: Sat, 08 August 2015, 07:37:11 »
Yes, Jacobus has it. To help clarify, let's suppose you have a Ergodox and position the left hand side so that it is angled.
Now, overlaying your finger positions onto a standard keyboard, you would get something like this:



The distance from the center of your finger to the centre of the key is always less than half a key. This obviously wouldn't be the case if you use a layout designed for the traditional system.

Offline davkol

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Re: Symmetric typing technique with layouts to match
« Reply #12 on: Sat, 08 August 2015, 08:22:53 »
0.25x key, to be precise, if you go with a compromise, and assume a row-staggered physical layout, that isn't ISO, and keys, that react well to off-center keystrokes (while keycaps don't have too sharp edges for regular contact with fingertips).

Online tp4tissue

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Re: Symmetric typing technique with layouts to match
« Reply #13 on: Sat, 08 August 2015, 14:23:19 »
@ kennetchaz


Essentially, there's nothing wrong with optimizing the position of the few keys you use more often..

For example on Qwerty  instead of the  apostrophe, i have the "P" key there,  and the apostrophe above it.


But OVERALL,  layout is not the bottleneck to speed.  being human is.


Many of us in the 135+ range have hit a wall..

It really doesn't come down to layout..




As far as "ergonomics"..   the standard flat keyboard simply ISN'T ergonomic whatsoever.   the main problem being the fact that you need to turn your wrist downwards to properly mate with the flat profile.

Even with the best side strike technique,  you can not come close to the comfort of a split keyboard that is "tent-able"  such as the ergodox...


Best of luck on your quest..


I am merely mentioning that many of these methods have already been tried, and the end is quite clear..

Offline DrDan

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Re: Symmetric typing technique with layouts to match
« Reply #14 on: Sat, 15 August 2015, 18:38:03 »
One must appreciate that the "QWERTY" keyboard layout became the de-facto standard in the same way that "snooze" became the default at 9 minutes- it came from a different age, before things were electronic, when things were purely mechanical.  The keyboard key layout we use today was actually designed to SLOW DOWN typists, because a problem with mechanical typewriters, back in the day, was that they would jam if the typist was too fast.  True story.  There were a few other keyboard designs that allowed for significantly faster typing, however, they would jam the keys, so the "solution" was the qwerty layout, to slow people down. 

It would take a sea-change to get people to learn a new keyboard design.  Probably not going to happen.

That said, I think you have a great idea.  Changing the position, even the shape of the key could make a huge difference.  I've seen a keyboard with different shaped keys by a couple of different manufacturers. 
“Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!”

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Offline davkol

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Re: Symmetric typing technique with layouts to match
« Reply #15 on: Sun, 16 August 2015, 01:58:08 »
One must appreciate that the "QWERTY" keyboard layout became the de-facto standard in the same way that "snooze" became the default at 9 minutes- it came from a different age, before things were electronic, when things were purely mechanical.  The keyboard key layout we use today was actually designed to SLOW DOWN typists, because a problem with mechanical typewriters, back in the day, was that they would jam if the typist was too fast.  True story.
No, it's not a true story. It's BS.

See QWERTY and the search for optimality and the QWERTY People Archive.

Offline jacobolus

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Re: Symmetric typing technique with layouts to match
« Reply #16 on: Sun, 16 August 2015, 12:59:19 »
The keyboard key layout we use today was actually designed to SLOW DOWN typists, because a problem with mechanical typewriters, back in the day, was that they would jam if the typist was too fast.  True story.
That’s totally bogus. When the typewriter was invented, there was no touch typing per se, and the goal was to prevent jamming by splitting up common digraphs on the type basket (the correspondence between keyboard arrangement and type basket order is a bit confusing, so you need to look at a picture to understand it).


Preventing jamming massively sped up typists.

Quote
There were a few other keyboard designs that allowed for significantly faster typing, however, they would jam the keys, so the "solution" was the qwerty layout, to slow people down. 
Also quite wrong. There were other keyboard designs in the late 19th century, but they mostly had inferior layouts and were mechanically inferior to the Remington version.

Several decades later, there were indeed a whole bunch of better alternate layouts proposed, once the whole typewriter mechanism had changed dramatically. By that point, they were competing against decades of practice.

Anyway, this is quite irrelevant to this thread. If you do a search you can find other geekhack threads discussing QWERTY history, etc.
« Last Edit: Sun, 16 August 2015, 13:01:14 by jacobolus »

Offline AustinBrister

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Re: Symmetric typing technique with layouts to match
« Reply #17 on: Sat, 10 October 2015, 20:17:54 »
Where do I buy this!?

Offline ideus

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Re: Symmetric typing technique with layouts to match
« Reply #18 on: Tue, 10 November 2015, 07:54:05 »
On a standard keyboard, I use fingering something along the lines of:
Show Image


If you’re going to the trouble of making an entirely new layout, I highly recommend shifting your right hand to the right by one key, to move some of the burden from your right pinky to your index finger(s). Making right shift, return, and delete easier to reach is a big improvement.

(Or if you can afford it, just get a better physical keyboard layout, and worry about the logical layout only after you have a physical layout that you like.)


I really like this, the totally different layout sounds like a steep learning curve that should be intertwined with having the job done, which is too risky. At the end it would not worth the effort, reaching pretty much the same efficiency level.

Offline batfink

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Re: Symmetric typing technique with layouts to match
« Reply #19 on: Thu, 12 January 2017, 11:21:13 »
Solemak
Show Image


I've heard of a lot of people complaining about the S in Colemak, it seems to be hard to learn because while still on the homerow, it moves one place to the right. So I can imagine this layout being of potential interest to Colemak strugglers. Doubtful on the other two though. 

I wouldn't fancy typing OK frequently on it though. Pinky overkill?  Maybe move the K to the bottom (where the qwerty-B would normally be) and use the right-hand index finger for it?


Offline davkol

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Re: Symmetric typing technique with layouts to match
« Reply #20 on: Fri, 13 January 2017, 05:33:50 »
That's a non-issue. The problem exists for a few weeks at most, while the new layout will be used for years. The R-S swap exists because of same-finger ratio ("fr" bigram in particular).

Offline batfink

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Re: Symmetric typing technique with layouts to match
« Reply #21 on: Fri, 13 January 2017, 11:33:40 »
The R-S swap exists because of same-finger ratio ("fr" bigram in particular).
I guess that's why OP also moved the F then. The blurb for it does say same-finger ratio was taken into account.