Designing a keyboard layout, part 3

This is a follow-up article in a series about alternative keyboard layouts. See part 1 and part 2 for more.

I have now pretty much settled on a keyboard layout. By settled, I mean that I keep trying to make tweaks but my tweaks inevitably end up making the layout as a whole worse, so I return to the version which I am currently using.

This is what the layout looks like:

q w h f k j p o u /
r s n t m y c a e i
x b l d v z g . ' ,

keyboard layout

Lineage and bias

This layout has a lot in common with the Hands Down reference layout, which was the first alternative layout that I properly switched to and learned to use. Did I end up returning to it because it is genuinely the best layout I've tried, or did it influence my further experiments?

I know that others who have started with Dvorak and then tried other layouts eventually returned to Dvorak, despite it being statistically inferior to newer alternatives. With that in mind, I suspect that the early choice of HDr ended up creating a bias for me personally.

(I'll note that I did try Colemak and not liking it before settling on HDr)

The biggest departure from the hands down layout to mine is the right index finger, which I got from the Whorf keyboard layout. Recurva has a similar index but on the left hand, and you can see the Whorf layout in the Recurva description.

This index is not the best at first glance; C is not one of the most common letters, and CY, PY, GY are all somewhat common same-finger-bigrams. However, the effect that this index has on the other fingers is nice enough to make up for these shortcomings. I also have a personal quirk; a finger injury which makes my right index finger a bit less agile than my other fingers, so reducing the total usage of the index and the upper index position (the letter U in the standard qwerty layout) is very comfortable to me.


To optimize this layout stat-wise, it would be possible to rearrange the punctuation like so:

q w h f k j p o u ,
r s n t m y c a e i
x b l d v z g ' / .

Many modern layouts use this vowel arrangement and punctuation arrangement. However, after using this for a while I simply didn't find it comfortable. Having period on the pinky means typing .. a lot when working in the shell, and I doubt that the gains in SFBs outweigh the increased pinky use. I have found that the weaker fingers really don't like repeating letters.

With that in mind, having R on a pinky seems suboptimal.. especially for swedish. For english it isn't too bad, though, and I mostly type code or english prose.