Saturday, 4 October 2014

Top 3 tips for an improved typing experience - part 3

In this final part of my 3 keyboard improvement tips, let's look at an idea which is designed to allow the hands to adopt a more comfortable typing position when using standard keyboard hardware.

Tip #3: Use a Wide Keyboard Modification.

This tip is based on the Colemak Wide layout, but in fact will work well regardless of the layout being used. When I first heard of this idea, I was sceptical. But now, having tried it out for a while, it has become one of my favourite keyboard mods. Below are examples for both the Qwerty and Colemak layouts. There are Microsoft Keyboard Layout Creator files available if you want to try it out - these particular examples assume a UK keyboard.

The Qwerty-wide layout introduces greater separation between the hands and allows easier access to keys on the right-hand side, such as Return.
The design of most standard keyboards cause the hands to be unduly cramped together. This is especially the case with many smaller laptop keyboards. This modification addresses this design flaw by moving all the letter keys on the right-hand side of the keyboard by one space to the right. As a result, it introduces a greater separation between the two hands, as the home position of the right hand is now further to the right.

My laptop keyboard, using the Colemak layout combined with the Wide modification.

This change also provides the additional benefit that the commonly pressed keys on the right edge of the keyboard, such as Return, Backspace and Right Shift, become more accessible, and require a much reduced movement away from the home position.

The possible drawback though, is that to make room for the moved letters, the keys [ ] / = need to move to the central column of the keyboard, which may look strange at first sight. Despite the unusual aesthetics, in reality these keys are rarely typed, and if necessary can always be remapped to more convenient positions e.g. by using something like my AltGr Programmers mod.

A difference of one key-width may not seem like a huge difference, and in an ideal world it would be better yet to have an even greater separation. But nevertheless, having tried if for myself, I have found it does make a noticeable difference. For those who are touch-typists and have control over the equipment they use, and I am now convinced of its merits as a worthwhile change.

Download: Example scripts for all three tips are available from my keyboard-tweaks GitHub repository.