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  1. #1
    WS Lounge VIP Lugh's Avatar
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    Keyboard Layouts: Dvorak or Colemak, anyone?

    It's been on my very long finger for decades to give Dvorak a go sometime. This BBC article Our stubborn reluctance to change keys reminded me, and introduced Colemak which I'd never heard of.


    Any English-language typists here use anything other than QWERTY? How is/was it?


    Links:


    Is it actually worth switching from QWERTY to Dvorak or Colemak? - good Reddit thread.


    Remapping Keyboards to DVORAK and COLEMAK in Windows


    Alternative Keyboard Layouts Explained: Should You Switch to Dvorak or Colemak? - How-to Geek, useful comments.


    Colemak


    Minimak - "provides 60% of the benefit of Dvorak by switching just 4 keys"


    TypeMatrix 2030 keyboard - ergonomic, switch layout, straight key columns, vertical Enter & Shift


    My reading of the links suggests that if you use different computers, then don't switch from QWERTY, since you'll be lost on others' computers—assuming it's not practical to carry your custom keyboard around & change it in Windows settings everywhere. If you mostly use one keyboard, it's not a slam dunk but definitely worth considering.

    ETA Jim's reply reminds me that one of the links mentioned that on-screen keyboards are currently mostly/all QWERTY, so obviously that's an issue for all happy texters.
    Last edited by Lugh; 2018-05-25 at 19:34. Reason: ETA
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  2. #2
    WS Lounge VIP mrjimphelps's Avatar
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    I have thought about this issue for a long time. I would never want to switch from QWERTY to anything else, because then I will be stuck using a keyboard layout that is found almost nowhere. QWERTY is on 99.99% of all computers, slider cell phones, and everything else you can think of. I have never seen any other English language keyboard layout on any computer. Therefore, I will stay with QWERTY.

    Besides, I can type really fast in QWERTY.

  3. #3
    WS Lounge VIP Lugh's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mrjimphelps View Post
    QWERTY is on 99.99% of all computers, slider cell phones
    Thanks Jim, I added an ETA above re the mobile problem.

    I guess it's like Esperanto, RSS, DAT tapes etc — too much inertia in the network effects of the entrenched solutions.

    Seems like the most practical might be the Minimak 4-key—they also have 8-key and 12-key, latter claiming 83% of Dvorak advantage. The 4-key would mean you could retain QWERTY ability for when needed, while gaining 60% of Dvorak.

    I have never seen any other English language keyboard layout on any computer
    I guess the ideal hardware would be a backlit keyboard, with a physical switch to toggle between layout choices, which would illuminate the keys of the layout chosen. Expensive, since it would presumably need 2 lights under each keycap, shielded from shining thru the 'wrong' characters.
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    I read somewhere that old typewriters (early 1900's) were built with the DVORAK key layout. Typists got so good and could type so fast that the mechanical typewriters couldn't keep up and would jam. The QWERTY key layout was invented to slow typists down so as to help prevent the jamming.

    Of course with the advent of electric typewriters and computer keyboards, the QWERTY layout was no longer needed, but it had become the accepted layout and continues to this day. If you can type fast on QWERTY, you could really fly on DVORAK had you learned it in the first place and it was brought back into popularity.
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  5. #5
    WS Lounge VIP Lugh's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CEScott View Post
    Typists got so good and could type so fast that the mechanical typewriters couldn't keep up and would jam. The QWERTY key layout was invented to slow typists down so as to help prevent the jamming.
    Yes, that's what I've read too. QWERTY is designed to make it nearly impossible to type words without having to leave the middle row of keys—this movement off the 'natural' horizontal placement of the fingers slows typing. Only 'A' of the vowels is in the middle row, and 'T' [2nd most frequent letter in English, after 'E'] is also in the top row.

    If you've ever wondered why computer keyboards have offset or staggered 'columns' of letters—ie 'S' is offset to the right of 'W', and 'X' right of 'S'—that's also a throwback to 100+yo design. It was so the mechanical levers under the typewriter keys would have clearance from each other. Afaik there's no good reason why computer keyboards can't have the more efficient vertical layout of the TypeMatrix KB in my OP.

    Pity the poor Slovaks with 46 letters in their alphabet!

    Fyi the frequency of letter usage in English is somewhat debatable, but a good approximation is:
    ETAOINSHRDLCUMWFGYPBVKJXQZ
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    WS Lounge VIP mrjimphelps's Avatar
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    Actually, QWERTY was invented to evenly distribute the keystrokes on a mechanical typewriter.

    I guess the ideal hardware would be a backlit keyboard, with a physical switch to toggle between layout choices, which would illuminate the keys of the layout chosen. Expensive, since it would presumably need 2 lights under each keycap, shielded from shining thru the 'wrong' characters.
    The problem here is that a fast typist doesn't look at the keyboard; it will slow them down to do so.

  7. #7
    WS Lounge VIP Lugh's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mrjimphelps View Post
    Actually, QWERTY was invented to evenly distribute the keystrokes on a mechanical typewriter.
    In that case, why is it that so much more work is done by the left hand than the right in QWERTY? Surely distributing the keystrokes would require even typing load on both left & right, rather then the approx 10x load on the left hand.

    Quote Originally Posted by mrjimphelps View Post
    The problem here is that a fast typist doesn't look at the keyboard; it will slow them down to do so.
    True. The purpose would be so the user could function adequately with hir secondary layout when needed.
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    Gold Lounger wavy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lugh View Post

    Fyi the frequency of letter usage in English is somewhat debatable, but a good approximation is:
    ETAOINSHRDLCUMWFGYPBVKJXQZ
    ooo ooo good to know if you are gonna be on the Wheel of Fortune !!

    BTW the issue was not to slow down typists but to keep the keys from jamming together. Keys pressed that are too close will jam.
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    WS Lounge VIP mrjimphelps's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lugh View Post
    In that case, why is it that so much more work is done by the left hand than the right in QWERTY? Surely distributing the keystrokes would require even typing load on both left & right, rather then the approx 10x load on the left hand.
    The idea was to make the mechanics of the typewriter work better, not to make the typist have an easier go of it.

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    5 Star Lounger RockE's Avatar
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    To learn more of why the QUERTY layout exists: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/QWERTY
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    Gold Lounger wavy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mrjimphelps View Post
    The idea was to make the mechanics of the typewriter work better, not to make the typist have an easier go of it.
    Keeping the machine from jamming IS gonna make it an easier go for typists.

    as an aside I recall with the formula my teacher used I had a negative typing speed in high school, I think that means that given enough time I could erase all the libraries of earth.

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  12. #12
    5 Star Lounger RockE's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wavy View Post
    Keeping the machine from jamming IS gonna make it an easier go for typists.

    as an aside I recall with the formula my teacher used I had a negative typing speed in high school, I think that means that given enough time I could erase all the libraries of earth.

    Probably not with a typewriter...
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