28 July 2008

alternative keyboard layouts (NOT Dvorak)

Started fiddling with alternative keyboard layouts a few days ago.

I strongly dislike the Dvorak keyboard that seems to be so popular with the type of people who use Linux as their OS, prepare their shopping lists with LaTeX, and think [snarl]lojban[/snarl] is tolerable. The Dvorak layout is fantastically ugly, an artifact of a mind that had fair engineering skills and little or no humanity/aesthetics.

I'm working on something that would be much easier for QWERTY users to learn. My layout is optimized for right-handed Anglophones.

In English we spend a lot of our time typing THE, AND and -ING over and over again. My layout makes typing THE a quick, easy inward sweep of the right hand's strongest fingers and moves high-frequency letters such as E, T and N into the "home row." My goal is to change only 9 or 10 keys, leaving the remainder of QWERTY intact.

Here are some other alternative keyboards I found on the web:

a less-than-brilliant alphabetical layout

a more intelligent alphabetical keyboard (but what the hell did they do with the space bar?)

FrogPad (a one-hand keyboard)


Anonymous said...

Ugly? Aesthetics? What? It's a *keyboard layout*, not a work of art. It's not meant to *look* good. Is that even possible? It's a collection of letters.

Your argument that Dvorak is difficult for users corrupted by QWERTY to learn is probably true, but completely irrelevant. Deliberately crippling something to avoid breaking compatibility with something that's in common use but even more crippled is rarely a good idea. If not for this, we may as well simply use the alphabetic layout -- after all, all English-speakers know the alphabet already.

Your keyboard layout seems to be attempting to fulfill the purpose of the Colemak (http://www.colemak.com/) layout. Beware of inventing the wheel.

Lojban too is a fairly acceptable language; I've only seen trivial arguments against it to date ('the phonology is ugly', 'the Latin orthography doesn't look good').

ti se finti mi se pi'o la .dvorak. .e la .linuks.

R.K.Harrison said...

Thanks for the link to the Colemak layout. I like mine better, although I'm not actually using it.

As for arguments against lojban, I don't think anyone has written a proper debunking of the project as a whole. Its claim to be suitable for use as an auxlang is tackled here and its claim to be suitable for use as a machine translation interlingua is debunked here. The lojban milieu is analyzed here. —RH

데이빛 / Mithridates said...

Hm? That's a weird reason to not like Dvorak. I use it and don't use Linux either. For the rest of it I pretty much agree with the first anonymous poster. It's a collection of letters. There's no reason to bind ourselves to a keyboard layout that was arranged in part so that salesmen could type 'typewriter' using the keys on the top row to impress potential buyers.

Anonymous said...

Preparing shopping lists with LaTeX -- what a great idea! I'd been using XML, but that just feels too "industry standard". I predict I'll be able to reduce my typing by 20% by switching to LaTeX. And combined with my Dvorak keyboard use, it'll be almost like I'm not typing at all!

Thanks, Rick!

Anonymous said...

The antihuman pro-industral efficiency-expert attitude of the vile creature who created the Dvorak layout is sufficient reason to avoid it. Do you guys think you can use that monster's key layout without being somewhat contaminated by his evil gestalt?

MTGAP said...

I agree with Anonymous. Also, your keyboard may look good, but you can't just throw together a keyboard like that. There are quite a few problems with it. First, it's very important to have easy keys on the home row. It requires much less movement. The eight most common keys are ETAOINSR; you might be able to get away with putting H, L or D on the home keys, but none of the really good alternative layouts do it. Second, you don't want to have to use the same finger twice in a row. TO and HI are both common digraphs, as are EM and EG, and to a lesser extent MY (and this one is extra uncomfortable because you have to move so far).

Unknown said...

Have you ever lived with inflexible people? It's hard. Well, i was tired of inflexible software and an inflexible keyboard. Therefore, i use linux which is more human, and i'm more productive. Also, dvorak was easier and far more memorable. Still, i agree that dvorak's method was not for the modern electronic keyboard.

please take a week to investigate and understand the CarpalX website.
carpalx can optimise a layout, depending how we tweak the variables. I am preparing to do this with my own layout. I invite all to do this and share the results.

Anonymous said...

haha. you just criticized dvorak, linux, and lojban in a single post!

what did you expect? you criticize 3 of the most logical and smart things humanity has created recently, so of course you get barked at by all the smart people out there.

Anonymous said...

The continuing ubiquity of the QWERTY layout is very annoying, but as a programmer who has been touch typing for years I am used to it and not overly bothered by it when writing normal English text (I am sure I would be if I were doing this all the time, rather than the odd few paragraphs): what really frustrates me, though, is the inaccessibility (relatively speaking) of the non-alphabetic keys I use (or would like to use) a lot, and the complete wastage of thumbs - this is the most powerful and one of the most agile digits, could easily be used to operate a few modifier keys on each side, multiplying available keys/combinations by several times, yet both thumbs are given just one, shared role, manning the space bar. OK, the space bar is much used, but really... There are a few alternatives, but they are so rare as to count as 'freaky' for most people, and they are either unnecessarily large and very expensive, or flimsy and eccentric in other ways...