Author Topic: Thoughts on "The Ultimate Ergo Keyboard"... for YOU  (Read 9054 times)

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Offline wolf

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Thoughts on "The Ultimate Ergo Keyboard"... for YOU
« on: Sun, 07 March 2010, 17:05:19 »
OK, I've read a lot of great posts and opinions on various ergonomic keyboards - both real and imagined - and people's remapping of various keys and rethinkings of finger-to-key assignments.

Figured I'd start a thread for discussions on how you would lay out a keyboard if you were making your ultimate design.

Obviously, we have our QWERTY, Colemak and Dvorak proponents - and possibly ARENSITO and other layouts as well, but I was thinking more in terms of ignoring those distinctions and focussing on how you would lay out the various sections of the board - letters, numeric pad, function keys, cursor control keys, various modifier keys (shift, ctrl, alt, meta etc) - and why.

If you'd prefer your pointing device integrated with the keyboard, then mention that too.

My ideal design would remove the duplicates of shift, ctrl, alt and meta and just have one of each, other suggestions I've read on here have certain letter and number keys duplicated so they can be used by either hand as required.

For my part, I'd want the right and left sides separated and adjustable so that they can be positioned at the most comfortable angle and location.

Number pad would be separate and to the right, cursor control keys would be located on the left so I can navigate around spreadsheets with my left hand and enter numbers with my right.

Shift, Alt and Ctrl keys would be controlled by thumb so all my fingers are free to hit the letter and number keys while the modifier key is pressed - left thumb so I will be able to shift-click or ctrl-click while my right hand is using the pointing device.  Space and Meta key would also be under the left thumb.

Backspace, Tab, Enter, Caps lock and Context menu keys can go under the right thumb.

Additional punctuation (square brackets, \, ~ etc) would be arranged around the letter and common punctuation keys in such a way that the pinkies do not have to reach more than one key to the side - unlike conventional layouts that expect you to reach up to three keys to the side.

Would put the function keys close to the top row of the main keyboard for ease of access.

Del key would be on the left hand side near the ctrl and alt keys to allow the "Vulcan Nerve Pinch".

Scroll lock would be omitted.

Ideally, I'd like to incorporate a thumb-controlled trackball with scroll wheel into the right-hand side so I don't have to move my hand a great distance to move the pointer - honestly, if I could move the pointer by mind control or train my feet to do it, I'd do so... due to the software we have to use at work, my right hand switches between keyboard and mouse at an alarming rate.

So, what are your thoughts on the ideal ergo board for you?
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Offline Hubbert

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« Reply #1 on: Sun, 07 March 2010, 17:58:27 »
Using opposite hands for the modifier and the key is a fundamental tenet of ergonomics. Using the thumbs more is good, but you have to account for combining modifiers.
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Offline Rajagra

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« Reply #2 on: Sun, 07 March 2010, 20:31:53 »
I might take this old idea of mine but split it into three parts. I would try to do something different with the ten navigation keys - the traditional 6+4 arrangement is so well known it may be worth preserving even though it isn't 100% logical.



Quote from: Hubbert;162368
Using opposite hands for the modifier and the key is a fundamental tenet of ergonomics. Using the thumbs more is good, but you have to account for combining modifiers.


I think I would apply this principle to a trackpoint too. Left hand operates buttons, right hand controls mouse movement. Or vice versa. Or duplicate everything on both sides (extravagant, but covers all tastes.)

Offline fastbuck

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« Reply #3 on: Sun, 07 March 2010, 20:47:17 »
Most interesting ergonomic designs do away with traditional notion of layout keyboard, like say Datahand, or 3D layout in Maltron and Kinesis Advantage and non-staggered rows in Datadesk and TypeMatrix.

As far as traditional keyboards, Colemak maps backspace key to caps lock - I find that to be a big improvement. But beyond that I don't think traditional layout could be improved much. Like spacesaving designs without numpad and such - they have their place, but all in all just another spin on the same old.

>>> Scroll lock would be omitted.

 - would not do that. A lot of KVM switches rely on it to switch between PCs. I use all day long.

And I would not mess with punctuation keys either, although even with Colmak they are a bit of a nuisance when you doing programming, but I don't want to learn another layout just for programming.

As far as pointing devices - trackpoint is pretty good, and integrated trackball could be useful, though right now I use roller mouse that is placed right bellow the keyboard and I like it a lot. Most often though, I just use keyboard shortcuts and a full size trackball with my left hand when I need to mouse around.
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Offline kishy

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« Reply #4 on: Sun, 07 March 2010, 20:59:18 »
Quote from: Rajagra;162396
...duplicate everything on both sides (extravagant, but covers all tastes.)


IBM had a concept design of this, IDK if they ever implemented it. Saw it earlier on one of their archive sites.
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Offline EverythingIBM

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« Reply #5 on: Sun, 07 March 2010, 21:19:16 »
I personally think a typical layout is "ergonomic" enough. All of these weird curves don't really do anything. This is probably the worst I've seen:


I type informally, so, that means my right hand will sometimes elapse into the area where your LEFT hand should be typing (I sometimes just do it for fun too; typing should be enjoyable). A keyboard which has the two halves distanced would be chatoic for me. Not to mention annoying and big. My model M already sucks up the whole part of my desk, barely enough room for my mouse pad.

However, the best "ergonomic" design I can think of, is how the question mark button is right beside shift. I asbolutely love this, becase, I can simply slide my middle and index finger to switch to a question mark. I think, if I would change anything to the already perfect layout, would be to place something beside the left shift so it could have the same swipe effect. That's also one reason why I never changed to DVORAK; they moved the question mark button AWAY from shift; which doesn't make sense to me (it takes more travelling time that way).
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Offline Hak Foo

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« Reply #6 on: Sun, 07 March 2010, 22:25:51 »
Three or four columns of programmable keys on the left side.  HARD programmable, like the higher-end Cherries, not with a OS-dependent tool.

Snap-on trackball on either side.  With wheel.
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Offline keyb_gr

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« Reply #7 on: Mon, 08 March 2010, 05:10:59 »
Quote from: EverythingIBM;162407
A keyboard which has the two halves distanced would be chatoic for me. Not to mention annoying and big.
True, that's a traditional problem of split ergos - they really need a pointing device in the middle. And yes, they aren't that much use to us non-touch-typing folks.
Quote from: EverythingIBM;162407
My model M already sucks up the whole part of my desk, barely enough room for my mouse pad.
M13?
Quote from: EverythingIBM;162407
However, the best "ergonomic" design I can think of, is how the question mark button is right beside shift. ...
PHP guy or somesuch?

(Oh, and it doesn't take a Dvorak layout to move the question mark away from Shift. A number of non-English QWERTY-based layouts also do that.)

As far as the ultimate keyboard for *me* is concerned, one thing it would definitely have is some nice big, contrasty, non-abrading key lettering on a not-too-shiny key surface. Not too sure about the other details though.
« Last Edit: Mon, 08 March 2010, 05:18:02 by keyb_gr »
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Offline ds26gte

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Thoughts on "The Ultimate Ergo Keyboard"... for YOU
« Reply #8 on: Mon, 08 March 2010, 08:10:07 »
Quote from: wolf;162354
If you'd prefer your pointing device integrated with the keyboard, then mention that too.

I use a laptop keyboard about 99% of the time, and while I am OK with using the trackpad to move the cursor, clicking is a chore.  The clicking buttons are either too far away (Dell), or are too close to the spacebar (Thinkpad).  I tried setting pad tap to register a click, but given how close the thumb is to the pad, many unintended clicks result.

I'd like a keyboard shortcut that simulates a left-click.  Windows uses shift-F10 for right-click, but no OS appears to have a purely keyboard way of registering a left-click (at whatever position the cursor currently happens to be).

On tenkeyed keyboards, with Mouse Keys on, I can use numpad 5, but my laptops are tenkeyless.  Using Mouse Keys with an embedded numpad is terrible.
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Offline Hubbert

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« Reply #9 on: Mon, 08 March 2010, 08:14:53 »
I think Dvorak is a scam: in addition to the research, it was designed to maximize the amount of time you alternate between hands. But I think a large portion of my errors are the result of improperly coordinating my hands (i.e., I often type "teh" but "were" is generally not a problem).
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Offline Hubbert

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« Reply #10 on: Mon, 08 March 2010, 08:20:11 »
Quote from: ds26gte;162526
I'd like a keyboard shortcut that simulates a left-click.  Windows uses shift-F10 for right-click, but no OS appears to have a purely keyboard way of registering a left-click (at whatever position the cursor currently happens to be).


This is one line of autohotkey:
Code: [Select]

!Enter::Click

or

+F9::Click


The first example uses alt-enter, the second is shift-f9.
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Offline ds26gte

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« Reply #11 on: Mon, 08 March 2010, 08:29:37 »
Quote from: Hubbert;162529
This is one line of autohotkey:
Code: [Select]
!Enter::Click

or

+F9::Click
The first example uses alt-enter, the second is shift-f9.

Neat.  Any Ubuntu solution along these lines...?
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Offline microsoft windows

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« Reply #12 on: Mon, 08 March 2010, 15:37:35 »
I'm not really into ergonomic solutions as I don't have an RSI problem. However, that doesn't mean they're stupid. They have those funny layouts and shapes for a reason.
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Offline wolf

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« Reply #13 on: Mon, 08 March 2010, 15:40:10 »
JAY-sus, webwit, is that your collection?  Most impressive array of various keyboards.  Some interesting differences in ideas already, proving beyond any doubt that there will never be an "Ultimate Ergonomic Keyboard" as people have vastly different tastes.

I like Rajagra's idea of burying CAPS and INS off to the side - those are two keys I only use once every 800 years or so, they don't need to be easily accessible.  Most the times I've deliberately hit them of late has been to undo the result of accidentally hitting them a few moments before...

Never had to use the Scroll lock in my life, was not aware it actually had a modern use until fastbuck mentioned one - and it's not one relevant to my use of computers/equipment.

I do take Hubbert's point about using different hands for modifier key and the actual key, but in my particular practice, I've never done that.  Always used the left shift button for all letters and numbers as I found the right one harder to reach (kept hitting the key immediately to its left instead).  This resulted in some strange contortions to "shift" certain keys so I moved the shift key under my thumb and (personally) found it much nicer.  Likewise, for CTRL-C CTRL-V type stuff, I only ever used the left CTRL key.  Only time I used right CTRL was in conjunction with right ALT and the DEL key - doing a Vulcan Nerve Pinch.


As to being able to hit multiple modifiers, the only combination I use is CTRL-ALT - which would be easy enough to do with a single thumb if they were placed adjacent to one another.  Other people's mileage will vary, of course, and that would not be a suitable solution for them.

webwit, what features make the μTRON have "zero hand-travel"?
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Offline wolf

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« Reply #14 on: Mon, 08 March 2010, 15:58:07 »
Quote from: microsoft windows;162590
I'm not really into ergonomic solutions as I don't have an RSI problem. However, that doesn't mean they're stupid. They have those funny layouts and shapes for a reason.

I don't have an "RSI" problem as such but I do have Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (I know, it's congenital and is not caused by using/doing things) which is seriously exacerbated by working with keyboards and mice - even holding a smallish phone handset to my head for any length of time causes numbness/tingling in thumb, index and middle fingers.

Doing what I can to get my hands in a "neutral" position with the wrists comfortably aligned, no pressure on Carpal bones etc, does help alleviate the symptoms.  I love the bluetooth phone headset I use at work as I don't have to hold a handset but I hate the standard optical mouse as it forces me to close my hand in to grip it.  At home I have a Logitech "Trackman Wheel" which is much better but not perfect.

I personally don't like linear keyboards but a lot of the split keyboards do not have ideal positioning, either.
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Offline Specter_57

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« Reply #15 on: Mon, 08 March 2010, 16:38:48 »
..

As to keyboard layouts, if you haven't already done so...you really should take a look at Quadibloc's keyboard page......

http://www.quadibloc.com/comp/kybint.htm

.........
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Offline wolf

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« Reply #16 on: Mon, 08 March 2010, 17:37:45 »
Thanks, webwit.  I do like the idea of thumb control and smaller keys would certainly remove the need for the average person to move their hands.

One of the things I find most annoying about standard layouts is the huge number of keys in the upper right of the board that fall under the bailiwick of the right pinky.

The \ key - which network geeks such as myself use a hell of a lot - is the fourth and rightmost key used by the pinky and a row up from the home keys.  Even ENTER is the third key controlled by the pinky on the home row, backspace is the 4th two rows up.

Right shift is an annoying stretch down and to the right avoiding the ? (or Z on my Dvorak layout).

Thankfully, the left hand suffers no such penalty unless - like Rajagra - you prefer a different finger assignment pattern (and I must say, his seems a lot more logical and natural than the standard - my kids automatically tried moving their left hands towards the centre as they moved up the rows, mirroring their right hands).

I'd dearly love an arrangement that puts \ ] and += keys no more than one key away from the "default" pinky keys and moves ENTER, BKSP and SHIFT under the thumbs.  Only way I can see my ideal happening is to build it myself.

I like columnar key layouts rather than the staggered layout and I've come up with an idea for two 5-row by 6-column key pads that would cover function keys, numbers, letters, punctuation and the ESC key in a layout that suits my usage of them.  Two groups of five keys for thumb control of modifier keys, shift, backspace, tab etc.


Thumb keys for left hand:

Shift     Space   Ctrl
   Windows     Alt

Thumb keys for right hand:

Tab     Backsp    Enter
    Menu      Capslk
« Last Edit: Mon, 08 March 2010, 17:48:13 by wolf »
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Offline ricercar

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« Reply #17 on: Mon, 08 March 2010, 18:08:51 »
Quote from: EverythingIBM;162407
This is probably the worst I've seen:
Show Image

The Kinesis is the best.
  • Cherry browns for subtle tactile feedback
  • Optional audio feedback tone built in. Taught me not to bottom out the browns.
  • Programmable
  • Dvorak/QWERTY
  • Curved key wells allow me to rest my palms and move only my fingers. This may not be what is recommended, but it solved my RSI problem. EDIT: Zero hand travel. Yah. You can reach everything by stretching fingers or thumbs.
  • Affordable
  • Available, obtainable
  • Repairable
  • Moddable
  • ADB, XT, PS/2, USB
« Last Edit: Mon, 08 March 2010, 18:42:45 by ricercar »
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Offline Rajagra

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« Reply #18 on: Mon, 08 March 2010, 18:40:47 »
Behold: The Belkin Nostrergotype N104te (typing edition.)


Offline ricercar

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« Reply #19 on: Mon, 08 March 2010, 18:44:27 »
Awesome! With mechanical switches, I'd pay money for that.
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Offline wolf

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« Reply #20 on: Tue, 09 March 2010, 14:00:58 »
Quote from: ricercar;162624
Awesome! With mechanical switches, I'd pay money for that.

So the question becomes: How hard would it be to modify it to incorporate the mechanical switches of your choice?
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Offline ricercar

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« Reply #21 on: Tue, 09 March 2010, 14:37:21 »
Ripster's been there, done that. Linky
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Offline wolf

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« Reply #22 on: Tue, 09 March 2010, 15:21:20 »
Quote from: ricercar;162799
Ripster's been there, done that. Linky

Ripster's been everywhere, done everything - when the world's gubmints working together finally get a manned mission to Mars, the first thing they'll find is an abandonned base filled with mechanical-switch keyboards and Lego...

Great link, thanks.  So, we know it can be done - and done nicely.
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Offline ricercar

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« Reply #23 on: Tue, 09 March 2010, 18:27:53 »
No grey space saver has asked him out yet. ripster always does the asking.
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Offline EverythingIBM

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« Reply #24 on: Tue, 09 March 2010, 19:23:24 »
Quote from: ricercar;162612
The Kinesis is the best.
  • Cherry browns for subtle tactile feedback
  • Optional audio feedback tone built in. Taught me not to bottom out the browns.
  • Programmable
  • Dvorak/QWERTY
  • Curved key wells allow me to rest my palms and move only my fingers. This may not be what is recommended, but it solved my RSI problem. EDIT: Zero hand travel. Yah. You can reach everything by stretching fingers or thumbs.
  • Affordable
  • Available, obtainable
  • Repairable
  • Moddable
  • ADB, XT, PS/2, USB


I prefer buckling springs over any type of switches (I love the NOISE and the physical CLICK; the best part is when the spring retracts and makes a PONG). I can change the layout on my model M too. I wouldn't want "programmable" unless it was hardware level (I hate stupid background processess running; what if you're in the BIOS when the keyboard driver isn't loaded? It would be in its factory state).

And I'd add in the list: GARGANTUAN. That keyboard is one huge hunk of plastic.
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Offline EverythingIBM

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« Reply #25 on: Tue, 09 March 2010, 22:04:57 »
Quote from: ripster;162847
We should argue over whether it's Grey or Gray.

Show Image


I just calculated my storage space taken up at Geekhack with all my pics.  At $85 a Terabyte it's $.05.


The standard british spelling is "Grey". Although, there should be tolerance for word spellings, just as there was in the 16 & 17th centuries (a lot of the people back then made up their own words).

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Offline wolf

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« Reply #26 on: Wed, 10 March 2010, 01:02:35 »
Quote from: ripster;162847
We should argue over whether it's Grey or Gray.

It's grey all the wey, uh, way.
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Offline HaaTa

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Re: Thoughts on "The Ultimate Ergo Keyboard"... for YOU
« Reply #27 on: Wed, 10 March 2010, 01:13:43 »
gray (Gy) is also a physics SI unit relating to absorbed dose of radiation. Named after Louis Harold Gray.

The colour grey or the color gray. It doesn't matter which one, it's more important to be consistant in spelling forms.
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Offline EverythingIBM

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« Reply #28 on: Wed, 10 March 2010, 01:18:26 »
Quote from: HaaTa;162864
gray (Gy) is also a physics SI unit relating to absorbed dose of radiation. Named after Louis Harold Gray.

The colour grey or the color gray. It doesn't matter which one, it's more important to be consistant in spelling forms.


What about Matt Gray? You know, the guy who did (the music for) Quedex and Last Ninja 2 for the C64. Quedex intro is a pretty good melody.
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Offline wolf

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« Reply #29 on: Wed, 10 March 2010, 03:55:08 »
Quote from: EverythingIBM;162865
What about Matt Gray?

As in 'not glossy or "satin" grey'?
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Offline HaaTa

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« Reply #30 on: Wed, 10 March 2010, 05:06:44 »
Quote from: wolf;162874
As in 'not glossy or "satin" grey'?


That's usually matte I think. But grey mat by the door disagrees.


Quote from: EverythingIBM;162865
What about Matt Gray? You know, the guy who did (the music for) Quedex and Last Ninja 2 for the C64. Quedex intro is a pretty good melody.


Now I have to listen to it...I have on my server somewhere.
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