Which keyboard layout is best for you?

For programming or writing, we use a keyboard. Most of times, we use the layout common in our area (QWERTY in English-speaking countries, AZERTY in France, QWERTZ in Germany, …). Some more advanced users sometimes look in alternative layouts (e.g. Dvorak), but finding the best fit in this jungle without being wronged by what’s fashionable can be difficult.

I just tumbled on a Keyboard Layout Analyzer which, from some sample text you input, analyzes which keyboard layout would be best for you.

For instance, I tried with the source for My latest entry and the analyzer tells me that, to write my English Markdown text, Colemak is the best fit (Colemak is an alternative layout for English, 3rd just behind QWERTY and Dvorak). And AZERTY, my usual layout, is the worst…

The fun facts are interesting: in the “Miscellaneous” tab, you can see I had to use the Alt Gr key 72 times. On any layout other than AZERTY, I would not even have touched it once. Heat maps gives a pretty good idea of the finger moves you’ll have to make, too.

There are limitations nonetheless: only six layouts are available, namely QWERTY, AZERTY, Simplified Dvorak, Programmer Dvorak, Colemak and Personalized (I don’t know this one, maybe a specific built for the author’s own needs?). I dare not test one of my French texts as input, though I would have loved to see BÉPO and French Dvorak ranked against AZERTY.

So, what’s your best fit?

Image courtesy by Alcibiade, CC-BY 4.0

Why are keyboards built the way they are?

Most of us use computers on a daily basis. We are so used to them we take almost everything around them for granted. Even the shape of the keyboard.

Damn, we are so familiar with this shape we even use this keyboard on smartphones! The younger ones do not even know where this shape comes from (some of them are curious enough to wonder).

How was the QWERTY layout (and all others) created? And why are the columns shifted from a row to the next?

Continue reading Why are keyboards built the way they are?

Sonder: a customizable keyboard with e-ink keys

Remember the Optimus, right? A keyboard with a screen for each key, thus allowing for full customization, changing layout, displaying icons, and so on. But in the end, it never got out. Only ever-delayed.

The concurrence may finally be out: an Australian company answers to the Russian concept with something similar, using e-Ink instead of more traditional screens.

Some shortcut configurations on a Sonder keyboard
Some shortcut configurations on a Sonder keyboard

Backlit, customizable, … Just fine…

I wanted an adapter in order to use always the same keyboard (thought of a Das Keyboard or a Code keyboard when they make them as AZERTY), but this could be an alternative solution too.

(via Clubic [FR])

Idea for a keyboard adapter

The case

Keyboard layouts are numerous. Some time ago, friends of mine tried to persuade me to settle for a Dvorak layout. They proposed the BÉPO, though the programmer Dvorak would be more adapted to my professional life.

The idea was attractive. I never settled, though. Why, do you ask? The answer is simple: to be efficient on a keyboard, you need to know its layout by heart and be able to blind-type. This comes naturally after some practice.

However, switching to a keyboard layout has a learning curve. I would not mind if I were able to use the same layout everywhere, but when at work, I must comply with the hardware and rules (“Do not change the configuration of your machine! Get accustomed to your keyboard.”). And sometimes the access restrictions too (“Your rights are not sufficient to configure your clock.”).

In my not-so-long career, I have already had to use several variants of AZERTY and QWERTZ. I sometimes guess type on the Alcibiade‘s laptop, which is an AZERTY configured in international QWERTY. And then I come home and meet yet another variant of AZERTY.

How then to go and try to learn yet another layout?

One time when confronted with a QWERTZ and the explicit order not to change my configuration (as it could mess things up if they ever needed to remote control my machine), I imagined something.

Continue reading Idea for a keyboard adapter