Midnight Pub

Keyboarding Education


Preface: I'm not in the hobby - I just like to ooh and ahh over pretty arrangements of keycaps and cases.

I subscribe to the mystique of the HHKB. Despite the humorous saddle metaphor, the HHKB is a utilitarian workhorse. It is not without its many detractors who think it's a 60% toy nevertheless.

Whenever I hear someone boast about their 100+ wpm prowess with Qwerty, I cringe because even if they're really good with it an inferior layout has worked its way into their muscle memory.

I don't know how long Qwerty will be with us, but in any case, the keyboard is still the primary interface between us and our computers that we spend a lot of time on. I believe the humble keyboard when raised to the status of a custom (>=$400) has heirloom potential just like many other objects we encounter in daily life.

I keep hearing about how computer literacy is being pushed on kids earlier and earlier and this includes typing class. There shouldn't be many hunt and peck users in the future. Touch typing is essential after all.

At the same time, I think if you're going to be teaching it's important to get it right the first time. Dvorak, Colemak, Workman, etc. are old news and hardly leading edge, but they're all still better than Qwerty.

Instead of working down from the layout standardized by the IBM Model M, people should work up from 60% adding keys they need as they go. 40% is too small to be the lowest common denominator, but it's perfect for a child who's starting out typing less complex inputs. They can learn how to do more with less and get used to layers before graduating to a bigger keyboard.

For a left-handed child, it's important that they get a southpaw board that's largely buy once, cry once. Lefty peripherals nowadays are viable enough. It's better for things to work the way they're wired to do so than risk improper development where both hands are awkward.

But why not split it? It's more ergonomic, and a split spacebar is superior if not quite as satisfying.

I think the standard mouse is harmful excepting trackballs (often placed in the middle between two keyboard halves). That being said, I think a one-handed keyboard and mousing with the other hand makes a lot of sense. I didn't forget about trackpads, pointing sticks, and roller mice, but that's a story for another day.

Keyboards still have a lot of room to become more personalized. What do I mean by that? For example, the Esrille Nisse comes in two sizes to accommodate for Japanese people's smaller hands. The keycaps on the Medium model are milled to be thinner from regular keycaps. There should be some sort of program to figure out from people's hands and a heat map of how they type what keyboard is best for them. From there, it's off to the text editor races.

Of course, this wouldn't be complete without some hot takes.

Stepped keycaps are ugly unless they're on a big board like a battleship.

Winkeyless doesn't look good on small boards.

Symmetrical MX HHKB-like blockers just look better on small boards.

Keyboard people hate on gamers way too much.

It's a shame there isn't a perfectly symmetrical 60% on the market.

Polycarb looks better than acrylic.

Exploded boards look better.

Horizontal encoders > vertical encoders.

Embossed badges are chef's kiss.

Numpads should double as a calculator.

Anything above a 75% never feels quite centered, but sometimes you want weighty unibody construction instead of a flighty numpad off to the side.

ISO is better for typing; ANSI is better for gaming.

It's a shame there isn't a perfectly symmetrical 60% on the market.

Someone definitely made an attempt of that: http://xahlee.info/kbd/katana60_keyboard.html



Thanks. I know about that, but it's not what I had in mind. It's not very aesthetically pleasing, is it? Unless you did something with that blocker smack dab right in the middle of everything...

I can't really get over ortho keyboard with an odd number of columns leading to a centered arrow cluster either.



Are left-handed keyboards really essential for lefty's? I assumed lefthandedness (of which I am one) was a skill-specific thing.

I write with my left. I throw with my left, I kick footballs with my right, I play violin with my right, I click with my right. Isn't handedness just skill-specific?



I get around 80 WPM with a QWERTY layout...but with only my 2 index fingers. Always struggled using all of my fingers for typing for some reason. I had typing classes in elementary and when they tried to make me use the "proper" qwerty layout, I was slowest in the class. But when I was able to just use my index fingers, top of the class. Weird, right?



The layout should work for you and not the other way around. Qwerty is heavily dependent on the left hand, but that doesn't necessarily make it a left-hander's layout.

Most people probably shouldn't force themselves to try a way of typing that they only read somewhere is "the right way" without due consideration to their own physicality and just doing what comes naturally to them, so says Sean Wrona, the fastest typist in the world overall. Orient your hand to hover over keys in a position that feels natural to you, and one which lets you have control over the entirety of your alpha keys the best.

The columnar staggered design was born because of many people having either too short pinky phalanxes or metacarpals so the standard staggered ISO and also ANSI requires frequent movement from the home row or very cramped hand positioning.

Gamers have a resting hand position over WASD (shift + AWD) that differs from the typist's strictly adhering to the home row (ASDF) and yet this works for many when writing and programming. Proper "home row" technique with the 10 finger system may in fact bend the wrists too much. CS GO players even tilt their keyboard just a little bit to reduce pinky pain when running in game (or you could bind to caps lock).



As a 100+ WPM qwerty-er, I think alternative layouts are overevangelized. Qwerty might not be the most efficient, but when I'm writing, my 'board isn't the bottleneck. It's my brain. Alternative layouts don't make the majority of daily typing work any easier or faster. If you do really need the speed, learn to use the right tool for the job, like steno.

Qwerty is going to be around until either brain-computer interfaces become mainstream or the human race dies in a cataclysm. Both options are a bit scary to me, so I hope qwerty sticks around.



I was a 100+ WPM qwerty-er. About eight years ago, I switched to Colemak. My typing speed has never fully recovered, currently sitting around 85 WPM. But my wrists feel a lot better. That, not speed, is the main benefit of alternative layouts.