Author Topic: thumb keys - cluster or arc, concave or convex, or thumb-pad / POV hat switch?  (Read 426 times)

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Offline Sheepy_Gorilla

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Hey guys,
(Not sure if this belongs here or over on Making Stuff together, if it needs to be moved, please let me know!)

I'm looking into some of the ergonomic split keyboard layouts, thinking of (long term) making a curved board like the Dactyl or a variation on it. But I was wondering about the thumb keys. There are a lot of choices for the layout there:

  • I've seen some debate between thumb cluster (ErgoDox) and thumb arc (Keyboardio). I've seen varying responses, so I believe I just have to test both, right? (although, if anyone has some long term comparison between the two, I'd love to hear it).
     
  • Then there is the concave (like dactyl) vs convex (like the Manuform). Do we have a definitive answer of which of the two is better?
     
  • And (originally planned as my main question): What if we replace the thumb cluster with a D-pad, or 4 direction thumb-pad? Or POV hat switch, or some other kind of mini-joystick? I've read that the thumb-pad on the Razer Orbweaver can wasn't good for RSI, but there it was continually used for movement during gaming. I imagine it's completely different when you assign space/enter/PgUp/PgDown to the four sides, which are used far less, right? Do you think this could be something for use during typing instead of separate keys? Or am I missing something else here, that it's always a bad idea compared to normal, even when used less frequently?

Online vvp

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1) Thumb arc is just a selection of the best accessible keys from a thumb cluster. Do you want only the best accessible keys? If so then select thumb arc. Do you want more thumb keys? If so then select thumb cluster.

2) Definitely convex.

3) Try it and let us know.


TP4 will tell you the biggest truth of all keyboards: the only thing which matters is tenting :)

Offline macroxue

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  • Location: New York
It depends on how far you are willing to move away from home position.

My thumb clusters have only four keys total: backspace + alt at left and space + alt at right, so my thumbs are at home almost all the time. To access cursor-moving keys, my left thumb holds down backspace (at home) which switches the keyboard to Fn layer and my right hand uses H, J, K and L on the home row to move the cursor, vi style.

From what I read and responses from my co-workers who own Kinesis Advantage, most people only frequently use 2 or 3 keys in each thumb cluster. Other thumb keys are either too far away or less important.

My suggestion is to try 3 thumb keys in an arc: one at home, one with the thumb moving inward and one with the thumb moving outward.

Online algernon

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  • I've seen some debate between thumb cluster (ErgoDox) and thumb arc (Keyboardio). I've seen varying responses, so I believe I just have to test both, right? (although, if anyone has some long term comparison between the two, I'd love to hear it).

I own both an ErgoDox EZ, and a Model01. The former has been my daily driver for about two years, I switched to the Model01 in late 2017 (but still used the EZ at work). I'm only using the Model01 since late August. I guess I have pretty long experience with both.

My vote goes for the thumb arc, hands down. On the EZ's thumb cluster, I can reach the 2u keys comfortably, and the innermost key on the bottom row. If I stretch, I can also reach the bottommost 1u key on the thumb cluster, but that's not very comfortable. The other three keys require me to lift and reposition my hands, rendering them much less useful. The Model01 thumb arch does not have this problem. It has fewer thumb keys, but we must stop and think if we even need that much. Whether the effort of moving one's hand is worth the extra thumb keys (it doesn't).

  • Then there is the concave (like dactyl) vs convex (like the Manuform). Do we have a definitive answer of which of the two is better?
     

I don't think there's a definitive answer, mostly because it highly depends on how much you tent your keyboard. If the keyboard is flat on the desk, then Manuform's thumb cluster style is better in my opinion. If you tent it high, then a more flat one becomes more comfortable.

  • And (originally planned as my main question): What if we replace the thumb cluster with a D-pad, or 4 direction thumb-pad? Or POV hat switch, or some other kind of mini-joystick? I've read that the thumb-pad on the Razer Orbweaver can wasn't good for RSI, but there it was continually used for movement during gaming. I imagine it's completely different when you assign space/enter/PgUp/PgDown to the four sides, which are used far less, right? Do you think this could be something for use during typing instead of separate keys? Or am I missing something else here, that it's always a bad idea compared to normal, even when used less frequently?

I have a Shortcut prototype, which has two 4-way sticks for the thumbs. It tried assigning modifiers to it, along with space & enter, and it mostly worked. The trouble there is that your thumb is not the most dexterous digit you have, and it is far too easy to move the thumbstick the wrong way. Less of a problem during gaming, but when typing, it is mighty annoying. There are workarounds one can implement to make them more usable, but a 4-way thumb-stick is less practical for typing than keys. I'd say the same is true for a D-pad - might as well use normal key switches then, which would be much less surprising.

Mind you, for gaming, the thumb sticks are awesome. If we had a keyboard where the thumb cluster is an addon module, one that can be easily changed, then one could switch between keys and thumbsticks easily. That would be amazing.

Offline Findecanor

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I wonder if a low-profile thumb-stick in front of an arc of keys would be a good idea. (both keys and stick pointing up) Or would it be too cramped for the stick and/or would the stick be in the way for the keys?
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Online tp4tissue

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1) Thumb arc is just a selection of the best accessible keys from a thumb cluster. Do you want only the best accessible keys? If so then select thumb arc. Do you want more thumb keys? If so then select thumb cluster.

2) Definitely convex.

3) Try it and let us know.


TP4 will tell you the biggest truth of all keyboards: the only thing which matters is tenting :)



Precisely,, Key layout doesn't matter AT ALL..

I agree Dactyl is probably the most scientific/modabble,  but again, the critical ANGLES are what makes it superior,  where the keys are makes no real difference.