I tried the Dvorak keyboard layout in late 2000.  Hated it. It’s definitely designed for mechanical typewriters not electronic keyboards, since it attempts to maximise alternating between left and right hands. That’s great with physical levers moving around in a typewriter, but is counter productive in an electronic keyboard.

Back in 2000, there were very few other (documented) options.  But I did find the Maltron layout.  It’s cleverly designed to put common pairs of letters together, so you can just “roll” you hand and type them in a single motion – for instance “TH” can be typed in a single motion.

The problem with the Maltron layout is that it places ‘E’ on a special thumb key – which is only present on Maltron’s specialist hardware. (Very good hardware, apparently, especially if you have RSI, but beyond my budget at the time.)

So, I programmed the Maltron layout into my much cheaper Kinesis contoured keyboard, and then moved ‘E’ into a more normal place (because E just didn’t work for me on the Kinesis thumb keys, which are different from those on the Maltron.)  The change required moving a few other keys around to make room  After some analysis and testing, here’s the layout I ended up with. (The number row remains standard, and is not shown):ModifiedMaltronLayout

The key design ideas were to retain Malton’s ease of typing common letter combinations, to work the left hand slightly harder than the right (I had discomfort in my right at the time), and to keep things really simple for my pinky fingers, by giving them little to do except press home row keys. I even moved the Shift keys to the home row.

The layout has worked well for me ever since.  I like it, and typing no longer seems tedious. I don’t know how “optimal” the layout is, because back then analysis programs like Carpalx didn’t exist then – and I became hooked on the layout before I finished writing my own analysis program.  I’m sharing it now just in case anyone finds any of its ideas useful (and because, unlike in 2000, Maltron’s patent has now expired so I believe it’s fine to publish a modified version).

Warning: I am not an ergonomic expert.  In particular, note that I have put F and G into positions on the bottom row where the ring finger needs to curl to reach them.  Compared to the Maltron layout, mine therefore presumably puts more stress onto the tendon that is shared by the ring and long fingers.  The result feels fine to me, but had I known about the issue at the time, I may have done those keys differently.  I therefore feel obliged to point you that, if you choose to use this layout, you do so at your own risk.

3 comments on “My Keyboard Layout

  • The economist article makes a fatal error of logic. It really only compares QWERTY to Dvorak. On that comparison, I agree. It’s not worth changing. But just because Dvorak offers no worthwhile advantage, does not mean that ALL alternatives offer no worthwhile advantage.

    I’d swear that mine is much better, and I’d never want to go back. (Some of that will be due to the physical grid layout of the keyboard itself, which has vertical columns of keys as per my diagram above, but some will also be due to where each letter has been placed.)

    I bet users of other modern (non-Dvorak) layouts, such as Workman and Colemak, would say the same.

    I feel the article borders on shoddy journalism, by dismissing all alternatives on the basis of just one.

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