OT: keyboard layouts

Henry Spencer henry-lqW1N6Cllo0sV2N9l4h3zg at public.gmane.org
Sat Dec 13 19:46:12 UTC 2003

On Sat, 13 Dec 2003, Taavi Burns wrote:
> > Similar tests, on a smaller scale, have been done by modern ergonomics
> > researchers.  Same uninspiring results -- at most, a small advantage.
> But if it's a distinct, statistically valid advantage, is there any good
> reason to avoid learning, using, and/or promoting the use of a marginally
> superior layout?

Mainly, the very high costs of conversion, including a lengthy period of
operating both.  As with a number of other things, having everybody do
things the same reasonably-good way is much more important than finding
the absolutely optimal way. 

> what does a Maltron layout look like?  Is it even physically similar to
> the keyboards we use today?

Only very loosely.  It's closer to the "natural" keyboards.  On each end,
there is a sort of shallow bowl of finger keys.  Below and inward from
that, tilted backward, on each side is a small array of thumb keys (which
includes assorted shifts and movement keys, the space key, and the E key). 
In the center above the thumb arrays is a numeric keypad -- accessible to
either hand -- and some other odds and ends.  It's a very sculptured
layout with a very different key pattern, a full redesign rather than a
trivial remapping of an ordinary keyboard.  There's a picture at
<http://www.keytools-ergonomics.co.uk/keyboards/maltron.asp>, although
it's not quite large enough to make out all the key markings.  (Google
on "Maltron keyboard" for more references.)

You might perhaps be able to come up with a vaguely Maltron-ish remapping
of the standard layout.  The thumb areas would be tricky.

> Perhaps Dvorak is a step in the right direction,
> if only as a stepping stone, showing peole that There Is More Than One
> Way To Do It.

The cost of conversion, however, suggests that at most one switchover is

> Don't forget that there are also left- and right-handed Dvorak layouts
> which I think would be unarguably superior for one-handed typists.  They
> use four levels of letters, with the numbers all off to one side.

<http://www.keytools-ergonomics.co.uk/advice/onehanded.asp> concludes that
unless a one-handed typist was previously a fast two-handed typist, the
overwhelmingly best choice is one-handed typing on a standard Qwerty
keyboard, simply because it avoids needing special accommodations for that
one person.  (And if he or she was a fast two-handed typist, there are
one-handed variants of Qwerty which may be preferred.)

In any case, if you're buying a custom keyboard, there are one-handed
Maltron keyboards which are probably preferable over anything Dvorak.

                                                          Henry Spencer
                                                       henry-lqW1N6Cllo0sV2N9l4h3zg at public.gmane.org

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