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I designed my very own keyboard structure. Was it value it?

I designed my very own keyboard structure. Was it value it?

2023-11-02 07:32:18

See this post for a full reference of how the structure seems in the mean time.

Virtually two and a half years in the past I launched into the journey to alter keyboard structure.
At first I attempted out current ones, however it didn’t take lengthy earlier than I figured it’s higher to develop my very own—and issues went downhill quick from there.

(Some) horizontal combos of the T-34 layout.

However now that I haven’t made any modifications to the structure for over a yr, I believe it’s time for some introspection and ask the dreaded query: was it value it?
And do you have to—the expensive reader—do the identical?

I primarily had two huge objectives with my structure:

  1. Relieve my RSI

    I had began to develop RSI in my proper hand that I actually wished to treatment.
    Particularly within the space of my proper thumb, I wished to alleviate my proper hand generally.

    I additionally wished to cut back pinky utilization—notably for my proper pinky that I had damaged earlier and felt very weak.

  2. Optimized for my utilization

    I had three essential use-cases I wished to optimize for:

    • Vim utilization
    • Write Swedish and English
    • Coding in a myriad of various programming languages

For the primary I can say that together with the Ferris—a cut up keyboard with 34 keys—my RSI did certainly get loads higher.

The Ferris, my keyboard that helps with RSI.

As for the second—if it’s optimized for my utilization—I don’t actually know find out how to reply.
After I was in the course of designing the structure I most likely would’ve identified the low SFB values (Similar Finger Bigram), the redirects and generated interesting graphs and heatmaps.


However now I’m glad with saying that it simply feels actually good.

It’s fairly excessive to design your individual structure and I believe you need to be a bit of loopy to do it.
I do know I used to be.


There I used to be; awake in the course of the evening carrying our child in a harness, standing in entrance of the pc making an attempt to study this new stinking structure whereas ignoring his cute smile, hoping he would go to sleep quickly.

I used to be making an attempt to study the BEAKL 15 structure however it simply wasn’t working for me.
Perhaps I may tweak it a bit of—so I did.
Perhaps I may tweak it some extra? I did that too.

Ultimately the sleep deprivation took over and I deserted it and began to design my very own structure.

And that’s how I largely designed my structure: I designed, tweaked and discovered it in the course of the evening as I used to be making an attempt to get our little child to sleep.


I don’t assume you need to be loopy to design a keyboard structure—however it most likely helps to beat the wholesome worry of overoptimization and diminishing returns.

I’m not motivated to make any giant modifications or experiments with the structure now, however there are some issues I want I had tried out extra:

  1. One shot shift on the thumb as a substitute of E.

    The one shot shift looks as if such a incredible characteristic, however that will require me to maneuver E away from the thumb, which might snowball into a wholly totally different structure.

    Utilizing a combo for one shot shift is one other factor I’d wish to strive that wouldn’t be too invasive.

  2. Home-row mods.

    Home-row mods is one other very fashionable characteristic that will unlock a variety of further house on the keyboard (as it could permit secondary results on long-press as a substitute of shifting and cut back the quantity of combos I’ve).

    I did strive it out a bit of bit, however perhaps I may get used to it with extra effort?

  3. 32 keys as a substitute of 34.

    It might be pretty easy to go right down to 32 keys, with solely a single key for every thumb.
    The concept appeals to me, however I don’t assume there are any sensible advantages for me to take action.
    I’d do it sooner or later if/after I construct a brand new keyboard.

  4. Extra follow.

    I’m not near my previous QWERTY pace of +120 wpm just because I obtained bored of training typing.

Let’s summon Betteridge’s law of headlines that claims:

Any headline that ends in a query mark will be answered by the phrase no.

I wouldn’t go fairly that far, however you should understand that there’s very actual diminishing returns of utterly designing your individual structure.

Within the huge majority of instances it could be ok to change to one thing like Colemak-DH or Hands Down, and relying on what you’re after switching to a extra ergonomical keyboard would most likely suffice.

Or perhaps not do something in any respect. Lot’s of individuals have been pleased with a daily keyboard and QWERTY.

When should I make a change?

I believe it comes down to 2 issues:

  1. What advantages are you in search of?
  2. How motivated are you?

First an vital observe: altering the structure since you wish to kind sooner will most likely not work out.
Likelihood is you’ve been utilizing QWERTY for a few years and the quantity of follow you should catch as much as and surpass your QWERTY pace might be staggering.
Most will burn out lengthy earlier than reaching that time (together with me).

The most important profit I see with another structure is consolation.
In the event you’re nervous about RSI, and also you foresee your self spending just a few a long time extra in entrance of the pc, then switching structure is perhaps a good suggestion.

One other profit is in case you have some particular necessities together with your structure.
In my case for instance I wished to have the ability to comfortably kind Swedish on a tiny keyboard, and simply utilizing Colemak-DH or one thing wouldn’t actually help that effectively as a result of I couldn’t match åäö on the bottom layer.

However with my very own structure I may have åäö easily accessible (by toggling between ()_ and åäö with a layer).

And naturally, for those who discover the concept of designing your individual structure fascinating or enjoyable, you must completely do it!
I actually thought it was actually enjoyable (although studying it was a ache).

A layout is more than alpha characters

Symbols are essential for a programmer.

One thing that folks appear to overlook with different layouts—even individuals designing them—is {that a} structure is rather more than the place the alpha characters goes.

I’ve spent rather more time on the place to place the symbols, find out how to handle numbers, what kind of modifiers I need, a navigation layer, and shortcuts than the bottom layer, and that’s additionally the place a lot of the advantage of my structure comes from.

Symbols for instance are very depending on the programming languages you utilize, so there’s plenty of profit to a symbols layer optimized for these. It’s rather more productive to spend time on optimizing symbols placement than to attempt to enhance Colemak-DH, which is already fairly darn good.

Even easy issues like including a navigation layer (with arrow keys underneath your fingertips) or shifting Escape are massively helpful.
And naturally, avoiding the gymnastics of urgent Ctrl within the decrease left nook with the pinky is an enormous win.

My recommendation

If you wish to make a change to your setup, these are my suggestions sorted from least to most effort:

  1. Get a programmable keyboard.

    For instance, shifting Escape to Caps Lock and behave like Ctrl when held are nice modifications for a daily keyboard. (You may be capable of try this on the OS stage too.)

  2. Get a extra ergonomical keyboard.

    I believe a cut up keyboard with tenting is a superb begin.
    If you wish to go the additional size attempt to make it smaller.

  3. Tweak the massive buttons to keep away from giant and awkward motions.

    For a Vim person, remapping Escape is a basic.
    Ctrl, Shift, Alt, and Enter are additionally good candidates for shifting to a thumb button, a combo or a Mod-Tap.

  4. Add a navigation layer (or two or three).

  5. Begin tweaking the symbols and numbers (and different issues you possibly can give you).

  6. Use another structure akin to Colemak-DH, Hands Down or MTGAP 2.0.

  7. Make your individual utterly customized structure.

    See Also

You don’t should do every thing without delay and you may check out the totally different ranges to see how painful and time consuming the modifications are.

The T-34 base layer. There’s not a hint of QWERTY left.

Say that you just’ve determined to study a brand new structure. Now what?

The straightforward reply is that you just simply must follow.
However listed here are some tricks to make the method extra environment friendly:

  • Don’t take a look at a reference of the structure and use clean keycaps.

    Being compelled to recollect is painful however recall helps you study sooner.

  • Apply in small bursts.

    Small and frequent classes are higher than few however bigger ones.

  • Be taught to the touch kind.

    Would possibly as effectively study it correctly from the beginning.

    Word that you just don’t should be tremendous strict.
    I press the higher corners with my ring fingers as a substitute of the pinky for example (as a result of I’m bizarre and it feels higher).

  • If you wish to retain the power to kind QWERTY, use a special setup.

    A unique keyboard for a special structure may help maintain them separate.
    Urgent house with a special thumb is one other trick which will assist.

There are superb on-line instruments that will help you study a structure.
Listed below are some I like:

  • keybr: Nice for studying the preliminary characters.
  • Monkeytype: Nice while you sort-of know the place the characters are.
  • ngram-type: Apply the widespread ngrams. Nice web site, though I didn’t discover it fascinating sufficient to make use of as a lot as I perhaps ought to have.
  • typelit: Apply by retyping complete novels. Superior concept, although I didn’t handle to get via the Rely of Monte Cristo like I deliberate to.

It’s vital to emphasize how a lot motivation issues.
Despite the fact that I really feel that I wish to choose up the follow once more after I’m scripting this,
I don’t assume that can really occur as I’m probably not motivated sufficient.
However for those who begin utilizing a brand new structure you have to follow, and you need to follow quite a bit no less than initially.

My follow died off exhausting a yr in the past after I obtained ok, round 70 wpm.
(A few of this was spent training numbers and symbols.)

  • You dodged the query; Was it value it?

    Hell sure it was.
    The large quantity of nerd factors alone is sufficient.

  • I nonetheless wish to use QWERTY on a daily keyboard

    In the event you proceed utilizing it often you’ll be high-quality.
    After 2 years I can nonetheless kind sooner with QWERTY on my laptop computer than with my very own structure on my ergonomical keyboard, and I can use each an English and Swedish structure (symbols transfer round and åäö are added).

  • How lengthy does it take to study a brand new structure?

    Unimaginable to say as we’re all totally different.
    The primary structure I discovered took ~16 hours of follow time on keybr till I obtained as much as ~40 wpm and with the second structure it took ~12 hours.
    At ~40 wpm I felt I may write with out eager to throw the keyboard via the monitor.

    Past that it relies on how diligent you might be with follow.

  • Seems like an enormous effort, I don’t assume it’s value it?

    If this sounds an excessive amount of for you, it most likely is.

    I rationalized it by saying that I’ll spend just a few a long time extra programming, so an enormous funding now pays for itself with time so long as there’s some profit.

    (That is certainly the trick on find out how to waste time on Very Productive™ issues like rewriting your Neovim setup.)

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