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Keyboard Layouts for the 21st Century? 1044

jules asks: "Trying to do some programming on an iBook the other day brought to my attention the fact that despite the constant improvements to the design of computer hardware and software, the keyboards we use are still a throwback to the early 1980s. I mean - my Mac doesn't have room for page up/down or home/end keys, but it devotes a whole key to a sort of double-S shape that I will never press. And my PC keyboards all waste plastic on a backwards-apostrophe key and a scroll-lock (+ LED!), while functions that you use all the time, such as switching between windows, cut/copy/paste, back/forwards, undo/redo etc, all have to double-up with other keys.. Have any organizations actually tried to re-invent the keyboard recently? (..not counting the manufacturers who stick a few 'multimedia' keys along the top for consumer PCs). Would this be doomed to failure because of the tens of thousands of legacy apps that expect things to be the way they are? What sort of keys would you include in your fantasy keyboard layout?" It's not just the keys on your keyboard that are important, it's also how you arrange them. What kind of keyboard arrangements might we see in the future?
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Keyboard Layouts for the 21st Century?

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  • My Vision (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Dictateur ( 638553 ) on Saturday February 15, 2003 @09:50PM (#5311348) Homepage
    I think what I would like to see is a keyboard wich changes contextually. Something like a screen with different kind of keys in differents applications. Of course there would still be some always there keys.
  • YESS!!! GIMME SLACK! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 15, 2003 @09:54PM (#5311379)
    Oh damn. I've been draeming about this for a few months now.

    I want a keyb that has pry-out keys which each contain a resistor/whatever to mark what they are.
    Then I can remap my keyb without confusing my coworkers (well, some of them) and I don't have to wonder which mapping is in effect. Also I want to be able to "break" teh numpad off and move it to the left side and back, or even leave it totally seperate.

    And I want a pony.

    Alternatively, an LCD touchscreen wouldn't be half bad.

    Hey IBM, if you make either of these things can you please give me a big fat check? Or at least a demo unit? You b'stards seem to make things I think of whether I keep the idea to myself or not... and god knows that simply thinking of an idea on your own proves that you own it. ;-)

    okay i luv you buh bye
    ~the alternating coward
  • Sys Req (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ejaw5 ( 570071 ) on Saturday February 15, 2003 @09:54PM (#5311383)
    Anybody care to explain the purpose (if any) for the Sys Req button (shared by Print Screen). My impression of it is that it may have had some use way back in the day before my time, but can't think of any purpose today.
  • by A_Duck_Named_Ping ( 612873 ) on Saturday February 15, 2003 @09:55PM (#5311384)
    Realize that the PC revolution was fueled by worprocessing and spreadsheet software, which both lend themselves to keyboard/keypad input devices. At some point -- aren't we living in the future yet? -- the input devices must make an evolutionary leap. If you look in the video editing and medical imaging field, the input devices reflect the nature of how the work is done (dials, sliders, toggle buttons). A fictional example of one possibility is the type of 3d input device used in Minority Report. We still are mostly creatures of the keyboard (damn blogs!), but at some point, the next killer app may bring about the emergence of a better input device. Oh yeah, and voice recognition might not suck so much someday ;-) -duck
  • Stupid iBook Fn Key (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Flamesplash ( 469287 ) on Saturday February 15, 2003 @09:55PM (#5311385) Homepage Journal
    I borrow an ibook from work every now and then and it's frustrating to have the fn (function) key be the bottom left most key where on my Sun and PC keyboard it's Control. I've made many a Vim error due to it, good thing there's undo.:w
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 15, 2003 @09:56PM (#5311395)
    As a software developer, my keystroke volume is not really huge, and I end up using the mouse very frequently.
    Therefore for many months I have been on the mailing list, waiting for the "coming soon" X2 version of the half-keyboard.

    The core principle - I WANT to be able to do the alphabet, the underscore etc, and the cut/copy/paste with my left hand only. This would produce so much "consumer surplus", that I think folks might then switch. ANY new keyboard design should incorporate this general principle, even though the details might not be a-la-Matias.

  • by I'm a racist. ( 631537 ) on Saturday February 15, 2003 @09:59PM (#5311418) Homepage Journal
    I'm American, and only fluent in English, but I travel a bit, and end up using foreign keyboards for months at a time. I'm rather irritated by how these are all set up. For example, why make two keys (one for the character and one for its accented form), when a combination would be much more space efficient (and nicely compatible for a few different languages)? For a lot of the non-alphanumeric characters, foreign keyboards require the use of the 'Alt Gr' key.

    With the migration to larger character sets/encodings (UTF8, UTF16, various Unicode schemes), keyboards should be better designed to access all the characters.

    I happen to be using a French keyboard as I type this, and it's not even properly set up, so the mappings from keys into the character set is a big mess, and I need to do some trial and error to find the right keys.

    Anyone ever try one of those "chord boards" where you only have 5 or so keys, on each of two hand held devices, and you type by pressing the keys in the right combinations? Those seem nice for mobile devices (I hate typing on laptops and cell phones).
  • by eyefish ( 324893 ) on Saturday February 15, 2003 @10:04PM (#5311451)
    I think the original poster is right about we needing keys for the most frequently done operations. My take is that we need extra keys that do the following:

    - Copy
    - Cut
    - Paste
    - Undo
    - Help

    Optional keys:
    - Volume up
    - Volume down
    - Mute/Unmute
    - Play
    - Stop
    - Record
    - Fast forward
    - Fast rewind
    - Next (chapter/song/video)
    - Previous (chapter/song/video)

    I also wonder how many people actually use the ALT, CTRL, SHIFT and similar keys on THE RIGHT SIDE of the keyboards (for as long I can remember I have NEVER pressed any of those keys on the right side, I only used their sister keys on the left side of the space bar).

  • Re:future keyboards (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MikeFM ( 12491 ) on Saturday February 15, 2003 @10:05PM (#5311459) Homepage Journal
    Naw. Future computers will operate by direct brain link. You'll swollow a pill and a lil computer and wireless connection will be intergrated with your wetware and allow you to mentally commuicate with any electronic devices around you just by thinking. Sounds farfetched but I'd be willing to bet the little money I have that we'll start seeing direct brain computing before voice recognition reaches a human to human level or nears anything close to the speed of typing. We are the Borg. You will be assimilated.
  • by Malc ( 1751 ) on Saturday February 15, 2003 @10:07PM (#5311476)
    Will that work with the right hand only, instead?
  • by maynard ( 3337 ) <j...maynard...gelinas@@@gmail...com> on Saturday February 15, 2003 @10:07PM (#5311477) Journal
    Had to buy a PS/2 to USB converter so I could keep using my Kinesis [kinesis-ergo.com] keyboard. Bunches of people I work with swear by the Mac pro keyboards but they drive me nuts. I absolutely love my Kinesis I made it a requirement for employment when I started at my current job. My boss thought it was weird but didn't have a problem laying out the $300 or so for the keyboard to get me onboard.

    Frankly, this is a career. I fuck my fingers/wrists up and I don't have a job. And I swear, that keyboard has saved my wrists. I had all sorts of problems after years of using a normal keyboard, but after taking the time to get used to the Kinesis I found my tendonitis receeding and the pain going away. I still have to take breaks while doing long keyboarding sessions, but that keyboard saved my career. I like it so much I bought one for home. I can't recommend it enough for the serious typist.

    I would liken the keyboard to keys shaped along the inside of a bra... and that always helps when I'm typing away. :)

  • by Xtifr ( 1323 ) on Saturday February 15, 2003 @10:12PM (#5311511) Homepage
    On my Debian box, those are assigned to Meta, and I use them all the time.
  • I used to have... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sawilson ( 317999 ) on Saturday February 15, 2003 @10:29PM (#5311619) Homepage
    A keyboard with completely blank keys. Sure pissed
    of co-workers wanting to borrow my system, which
    was the problem and the point. It took a few hours
    with some 200 grit sandpaper. I even sanded off the
    little home key nubbies. :) I'd have to mentally
    remember "ok, pink goes on key next to capslock,
    skip two from left pointer, put right pointer there".

  • Re:future keyboards (Score:2, Interesting)

    by rizzo420 ( 136707 ) on Saturday February 15, 2003 @10:30PM (#5311630) Homepage Journal
    i will love to see an office full of cubicles and people programming by talking to their computers... you try and convince me that the voice recognition software won't get confused by an office full of people talking. i don't know any company (well except microsoft maybe) that has the money to give everyone their own soundproof office so that they can talk to their computers and get their work done.

    i don't see any drastic changes to computer keyboards coming in the near or relatively distant future. the world types on qwerty, it'll probably stay that way for a while. sure there's better key layouts, but you try giong from 100 wpm on a qwerty keyboard and learning an entirely different layout without killing your efficiency at work. it won't happen. what i do see happening is some company creating a keyboard with extra keys that do things like cut/copy/paste, maybe a single ctrl-alt-del key for windows users, and maybe a close program key. things taht we use 2-3 key combinations for right now. i used to have a crappy keyboard that had power buttons on it. it was the cheapest keyboard i could find at compusa. it had power, sleep, and wake buttons right under the del, end, and pgdwn keys. it was kind of weird. it had a function key in the upper right hand corner to use those keys and it also had volume symbols and lock/unlock on the function keys so i could raise and lower the volume and lock and unlock the keyboard. i thought that was kidn of weird and dumb. i don't think i needed to use the function button to put my computer to sleep, which got annoying because i woudl accidentally hit it.

    the problem with creating a new keyboard design and layout is that the world is so used to what we have now that adding/changing anything won't make life easier for us unless we completely switch to it both at home and at work.
  • by jaavaaguru ( 261551 ) on Saturday February 15, 2003 @10:31PM (#5311639) Homepage
    My preferred keyboard [sun.com] has things like cut, copy, paste, home, end, undo, help. I find it quite useful.
  • New input technology (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Gyorg_Lavode ( 520114 ) on Saturday February 15, 2003 @10:34PM (#5311655)
    New input technology is going to be gesture based, probably on gesture technology so that rather than push 2 buttons to cut and paste, you move your hand in a specific gesture to cut and paste, (think Minority Report).

    There are attempts at this right now, but the best solution so far is probably the 2 dimensional equivelant from www.fingerworks.com [fingerworks.com]. They have keyboards, mouse pads, and number pads all that combine both traditional input buttons and gestures to do things like cut and paste. Of course, like all new technologies, it's on the expensive side, but hopefully in the next 10-20 years we're controlling a 3 dimensional display by waving our hands. (Will make playing spell casting games a lot funner.)

  • Dvorak (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Tyreth ( 523822 ) on Saturday February 15, 2003 @10:35PM (#5311662)
    Seems to me that it would be worth someone making a dvorak keyboard on the hardware side. ie, it sends the buttons as qwerty, but the layout is dvorak. That way you can take this keyboard and use it on a computer set up for qwerty.

    It's probably already been done I'm guessing. Be nice to have a toggle too to switch between dvorak and qwerty layout.

    I wish there was an easy way for us to switch everyone over.

  • Several points (Score:3, Interesting)

    by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Saturday February 15, 2003 @10:37PM (#5311676) Homepage Journal

    1. Developing a keyboard layout for the 21st century is like developing an incandescent lightbulb for the 21st century. Keyboards (and incandescent light bulbs) both work but neither one is necessarily optimal.
    2. If you aren't using the tilde key, you're short on imagination. Not only does it provide the backtick character (which most non-Unix types will admittedly never use) but the tilde is used to designate an approximate figure.
    3. Keyboards with fixed characters are cheap and so will be around essentially forever, or for at least 20 more years. It would be nice to get a keyboard with an LCD or OLED on each key cap so they can be reprogrammed and have the layout actually show up. Unfortunately any keyboard which came out with this layout today would be USB, and USB 1 sucks, while USB 2 is too expensive at the moment. (USB implementations have latency problems.)
    4. Ultimately we should be leaving the keyboard behind and move to some other method of text input. I suspect that we will get some combination of pupil tracking, voice recognition, and somatic cues that when put together will end up being much more efficient than current input methods. If you are truly looking to the future, then forget the keyboard entirely. If you are looking to, say, tomorrow, just use a dvorak layout, switch around your key caps, and get it memorized before you try using someone's qwerty.
  • by MrByte420 ( 554317 ) on Saturday February 15, 2003 @10:39PM (#5311685) Journal
    And my PC keyboards all waste plastic on a backwards-apostrophe key

    This guy is Obviously not a BASH scripted - I love my backwards apostrophe key each an every time I want to use the results of a command as a parameter in another command!

  • LCD Keyboard (Score:5, Interesting)

    by iamacat ( 583406 ) on Saturday February 15, 2003 @10:44PM (#5311705)
    Better yet, why not design a future keyboard with a small, backlighted LCD on top of each key? Than each OS or program can customize key labels. So when you change the input language, labels change. And in Quake the numeric keys will really show different weapons.

    Also imagine the pure joy of virus writers when they realize just what they can do with the victim's keyboard.

  • TI Explorer Keyboard (Score:2, Interesting)

    by JChris ( 29377 ) on Saturday February 15, 2003 @11:09PM (#5311856) Homepage
    Don't know about the future, but maybe we could take some lessons from the past. The TI Explorer, a short-lived LISP machine from the 1980s had a great tactile surface, and a RubOut (backspace) key to the left of the 'a' key. This took a little while to get used to, but quickly became automatic to use. It seemed much more natural and efficient than reaching for the top right-hand corner to backspace.

  • Re: Separate keys (Score:2, Interesting)

    by CTho9305 ( 264265 ) on Saturday February 15, 2003 @11:15PM (#5311894) Homepage
    Can someone explain what exactly Meta is supposed to be, compared to Ctrl and Alt?
  • by be-fan ( 61476 ) on Saturday February 15, 2003 @11:27PM (#5311957)
    Dude. Just remap the Windows key to a meta key. In KDE I've got the following keyboard layout:

    Win + Fx = Window operations (minimize, maximize, etc).
    Win + [1:9] = Shortcuts (Run Command, Task Manager, Kill Window)
    Win + [q,w,a,s] = Switch to desktop [1:4]
    Win + keys on right hand side = launch apps
  • by IdahoEv ( 195056 ) on Saturday February 15, 2003 @11:43PM (#5312047) Homepage
    Have any of you programmers actually used Dvorak or Maltron keyboards

    Yeah, every day. I switched to dvorak six years ago. True, the pure dvorak layout is not well designed for programming. But it's advantages in English are astounding.

    I use dvorak layout on a Kinesis contoured keyboard [kinesis-ergo.com].

    Cool thing is, the 'board is hardware macro programmable. A footswitch puts the keyboard into "second layer", which normally maps the right hand keys to a keypad. Instead, I have the second layer activate macros. On my left hand, keys with the footswitch down activate HTML macros, like followed by eight left arrows and a carraige return. On my right, single keys activate macros, like "t" (where K is on a qwerty) gives me a pair of curly braces on two lines, and arrows back up to put me on a line in between them, like this:
    <cursor left here>
    one key in the middle of the board saves me about eight awkward keystrokes.

    footswitch-"f" gives me:
    for (<cursor left here>;;)
    saving me about a dozen keystrokes.

    I've got dozens of such macros. I never ever type "" or "{" or "(" (except I just did :). Every common syntax, keyword, or markup tag is a one-key macro. I rip off HTML/XML and C/perl/java like nobodys' business.

    No carpal-tunnel strain from reaching for weirdly placed "{" and "" keys all the time, because they're all in my macros.

    The 'board is USB and mac/pc switchable and the macros are in hardware, so I can take it with me to group meeting / LAN party / whatever and work with any machine, anywhere, with all my layout customizations and macros.

    And I won't even get started on the kinesis' contour shape, which addresses 8+ major ergonomic concerns where things like the MS Natural and such only address 1.

    I can switch between qwerty/dvorak with a keystroke, without losing my macros, so that friends can try out the keyboard.

    I've been using this setup for half a decade. Kicks ass, I'm telling you.

  • by Miles ( 79172 ) on Saturday February 15, 2003 @11:44PM (#5312048) Homepage
    I use the Dvorak layout for programming all the time. The braces aren't a problem. I mean, do you currently find it a problem typing the underscore, or '==' or '='? The braces and those keys just swap places. They still use the little finger of the right hand, too.

    Depending on your editor, you can also use auto completion of braces, which saves you from typing one brace, and even auto typing of both braces after creating classes/methods/functions/for loops/while loops etc...

    If you really like the dvorak keyboard, there are other options for those braces. But if you are really happy with whatever you're using, then there's no sense fixing what ain't broke (unless you're trying dvorak to reduce RSI, which may or may not work).

  • by Mr. Slippery ( 47854 ) <tmsNO@SPAMinfamous.net> on Sunday February 16, 2003 @12:04AM (#5312144) Homepage
    The fact that QWERTY tends to be slower than other methods is an unfortunate side-effect of this engineering.

    The assertation that QWERTY is significantly slower than Dvorak or other layouts also seems to be a myth [utdallas.edu].

  • by MidnightBrewer ( 97195 ) on Sunday February 16, 2003 @12:52AM (#5312336)

    Think about the keys he mentioned and check to see how often you use them as a writer. Since we're all writing in the English language here, it's likely we're also all using the same number of keys regularly. Do you honestly use any of the keys he mentioned? You might want to check them again.

    He never mentioned the 26 alphabet letters, nor the top row of numbers and their associated shift characters, which I assume are the ones that a writer is going to use the most. One of the keys he mentioned is an accent key (reverse apostrophe), which isn't really useful in writing if it's not part of the associated character.

    Most of the special characters a writer may need access to on a daily basis can be accessed through OSX's KeyCaps application, or Windows Character Map. Most English typers don't need, for example, access to German or French characters, and if they need them that badly, can order a French or German keyboard. I type in both German and Japanese, and find the input methods available with a standard US keyboard under OSX acceptable (I have a Japanese keyboard as well, and it doesn't differ significantly, except in the realm of punctuation.)

    Finally, he also never said he was going to take your keyboard away; he just wants to have alternative choices available. I don't think this is unreasonable. Has the existencee of the Dvorak keyboard rained on your parade lately? What about ergonomic keyboards; are those evil, too?

  • by cjmckenzie ( 602090 ) on Sunday February 16, 2003 @01:01AM (#5312365)
    If 3 modal bits aren't enough to make you screw up everey day on your keyboard try 101 modal keys with 7 possible bits on each! This new advanced design will guaruntee to decrease your accuracy more then trying to type with your elbows!
  • by TheWanderingHermit ( 513872 ) on Sunday February 16, 2003 @01:02AM (#5312374)
    I think one reason the Dvorak keyboard hasn't effected keyboard layout overall is that the numbers to justify switching just aren't there. Back in the day when I bought my first Apple //e and was programming on it in assembler (and realized I could write a program to re-map the keyboard), I read up on Dvorak keyboards and found that for every test that showed improved speeds on the Dvorak, there were 2 tests taht disagreed. If it were really that good, it would be more widespread.

    I agree that it's likely you wouldn't see a remapping of the alpha and number keys, but I find I use other keys often enough that shifting them around (keys like alt, control, shift, symbols) would be enough to distract a touch typist.

    As for taking away a keyboard -- no, he isn't. But, on the other hand, if all he is doing is trying to have choices, why doesn't he just remap the one he has?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 16, 2003 @01:09AM (#5312401)
    The way I heard it, way back when, was that the calculator layout was chosen for speed. For the typical phone user, speed wasn't as important as making it look natural, so Ma Bell put the low digits up top.
  • by X_Caffeine ( 451624 ) on Sunday February 16, 2003 @01:45AM (#5312526)
    The problem is, the current keyboard design wasn't designed for Most Users, it just sort of evolved.

    There aren't 12 function keys because it's a good idea. In the late-eighties, there was a one-upsmanship contest going on to see who could squeeze the most in the space; for a long ten was the standard, but enough keyboards were marketed as "better" because they had 12 keys that it eventually became the standard.

    (is there a single application that uses all 15 F-keys on a Mac keyboard??)

    Let's go back to you. As a writer, what do you do with back-tik and Scroll Lock? Wouldn't it be great if you could depend on PrtScn to print? Wouldn't replacing the mess of F-keys with standard commands like Cut/Copy/Paste/Undo be beneficial to your work as a writer? (forget for a moment that you've memorized ctrl-x etc.; wouldn't have been better not to have to?)
  • by sean23007 ( 143364 ) on Sunday February 16, 2003 @02:12AM (#5312635) Homepage Journal
    I use an old IBM metal keyboard that I've been using since the mid 80s. The keys haven't worn out and it feels very solid and professional. Not bad for something that was free and has been around for well over 15 years. And I'd call that much more cost effective than the Kinesis keyboard (free amortized over 15 years vs. $375 ... hmm...)
  • by TheWanderingHermit ( 513872 ) on Sunday February 16, 2003 @02:16AM (#5312650)
    Using the function keys means moving my hands from the home key positions. While I have to do that for control or alt, it's not that far a move. The numbers are far enough from home for me. Beyond that is more than I want to have to reach while I'm writing.

    But that's just me. I map other functions on to the keyboard myself (for example, I write a lot of scripts, and I use alt with different keys for different margin settings and for character names). It would be ironic to think a writer who is more-or-less a part time programmer has a better feel for re-mapping a keyboard than a "real geek" does.
  • by PCanalyst ( 107143 ) on Sunday February 16, 2003 @02:24AM (#5312677)
    Who annoying is it reaching for both the shift and "2" keys when I'm writing someones e-mail address?

    Isn't it time to say to the "@" key: "Come on down" to unshifted status? Dare I even say--the bottom three rows?

  • by jericho4.0 ( 565125 ) on Sunday February 16, 2003 @02:29AM (#5312698)
    I agree that any performance advantage of using Dvorak is going to be minimal, if at all.

    But Dvorak does have one major advantage in that it reduces finger travel (about 70% IIRC) which can be benificial to anyone with hand injuries, or to offset RSI.

  • The "SysRq" Key (Score:3, Interesting)

    by BobStikigreen ( 621661 ) on Sunday February 16, 2003 @03:01AM (#5312804) Homepage
    It's the REAL bastard key on the PC's layout. I always suspected it was for compatibility with an IBM terminal emulation or something. I only remember one program that used it, DESQview. For all of you that are confused, DESQview was a multi-tasker for MS-DOS. If you were an old-school MS-DOS hacker you may have used it. If not, be happy that you were spared the pain =). Can anyone else name an app that used it? I'm talking default mappings here. Please spare me the "you used MS-DOS you infidel! I've been using UNIX since I was in the womb!@#!#" nonsense, some of us were young and had shitty computers.
  • by MickLinux ( 579158 ) on Sunday February 16, 2003 @03:49AM (#5312929) Journal
    Look at that touchpad on your iBook. Now, imagine a keyboard made like that, *ideally with an LCD that can display any layout you like*.

    There was a keyboard like this previewed in slashdot -- but I can't find it today.

    But essentially, it uses the hall effect to tell where your fingers are -- and it reads not only letters, but gestures.

    Do something like this, and every keyboard is completely reprogrammable. Why not have a different key combination for every programming word, for example?

    Of course, there is the issue of the learning curve -- but you can ease into that by allowing the *user* to reprogram his keyboard, and just keep his keyboard layout on the internet, and download it when he begins work.

    That way, for typing English, you use Dvorak. For programming, you use a special programming set, which can alternate to Dvorak for comments or text.

    Indeed, I'm waiting until PDAs wise up to this, and allow input by such a "keyboard" as well. I can type quite quickly. I can't scratch the screen as quickly, and I have to press too hard to do it anyhow, and you can't erase what you've already scratched into the screen [okay, that's a joke].

    Of course, this all makes me wonder if this isn't some sort of a repost.

  • Wrong (Score:3, Interesting)

    by autopr0n ( 534291 ) on Sunday February 16, 2003 @04:13AM (#5312994) Homepage Journal
    Actually [thisistrue.com], the idea that the idea that qwerty is slower then dovrak is a myth is a myth.

    It was written by a bunch of free-market zealot economists who refused to believe the market could make 'mistakes'. Their only evidence was that the original study wasn't adequate. They certainly didn't disprove the advantage.
  • by RAMMS+EIN ( 578166 ) on Sunday February 16, 2003 @05:33AM (#5313141) Homepage Journal
    No use for the backwards apostrophe? Obviously you don't do a lot of scripting and TeX. :-p

    IMHO, you should not depend on the big boys to bring you a good keyboard. They still only ship the purposefully inefficient QWERTY keyboards... Dvorak keyboards are available, but at outrageous prices. My advice is to help yourself, and make your own keyboard and your own key bindings.

    I started by taking a permanent marker and drawing the Dvorak symbols on my QWERTY keyboard. Moving the keys is not an aption, as for some reason they won't fit in places other than the ones they are meant for. Besides, I get a lot of visitors, and I don't expecrt them to learn Dvorak if they just want to use my computer for a while. Leaving the QWERTY symbols in place accomodates those who need them. Be warned though: after you switch to Dvorak, your typing spood will be more awful than you ever imagined. If you persist, you will soon find yourself in the situation that you can't type on QWERTY nor on Dvorak. If you type a lot, however, you will notice that Dvorak significantly reduces strain. Eventually, your typing speed will increase beyond what you had on QWERTY, simply because the upper bound is higher.

    One more note about Dvorak: Dvorak also designed keyboards for people with only one hand. These are highly popular (in as far as people consider anything other than QWERTY, that is) today, because they allow you to type with one hand and mouse|phone|drink| with the other. Their layout could also be useful for PDA's, wihich typically have limited space for keys.

    Besides something radical like changing your keyboard layout, there are various other things you can do, most notably, assigning hotkeys to common events. What is possible and how it can be done largely depends on the software you are running. If yau are using X11, chances are your function keys mostly go unused. In many window managers, they can be bound to window management events, so that you can, for example, use to switch to the next window, to go to the previous one, to maximize the current window, and to iconify it. This is easily done in WindowMaker through the Wprefs app shipped with it. If you want to assign other shortcuts to common operations like use to save a file instead of +, you could supposedly change your keyboard setup so that generates +. If you want to assign keyboard shortcuts to operations that previously hod none defined, for example, Copy and Paste as New in GIMP, you probably need some specialized software, which I think Apple and MicroSoft ship with their GUIs, but I am not aware of any such software for XFree86.

    Those are just a few things you can do to improve your productivity here and now, without waiting for the big guys to do it for you. I've upped my productivity, up yours!

    "When in danger or in doubt, run in circles, scream and shout."
    -- Lazarus Long

  • A good test (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 16, 2003 @06:21AM (#5313211)
    Run a keylogger for a day and then put the text in this applet [vt.edu]
  • by ishmaelflood ( 643277 ) on Sunday February 16, 2003 @08:15AM (#5313372)
    Well,OK I've read that the error rate with the adding machine layout is lower, and the entry speeds are higher.

    Now explain why?

    Shirley, most people visualise numbers as a long stream, like the top row on the keyboard, not a 3 by 3 1/3 matrix as on a numeric keypad.

  • by Bozovision ( 107228 ) on Sunday February 16, 2003 @08:30AM (#5313400) Homepage
    Here's one - http://www.onebamboo.net/ .

    BUT, history shows that it is almost impossible to go up against an incumbent pervasive technology with a similar technology. The new tech has to offer a great deal more for people adopt it in large numbers. This is not to say that there won't always be unusual keyboard variations - but it's likely that these will be marginal.

    And now an advert: I know about One Bamboo because they are members of the Cambridge Hi-tech Association of Small Enterprises. Anyone reading this near Cambridge, UK could be interested. http://www.chase.org.uk/ Two meetings a month - the next is a pubmeet at the Free Press on Tuesday 18th - 8pm.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 16, 2003 @11:41AM (#5313935)
    It came with a compaq that I bought about five years ago. Its a standard keyboard except that the space bar is cut in half. The left side is backspace, and the right side is space. I've looked everywhere to try to find another one, but with no luck. It's not only great for typing, but for Quake-Style games too. Spacebar is jump, and backspace is crouch :)
  • by dghcasp ( 459766 ) on Sunday February 16, 2003 @02:29PM (#5314699)
    One of the saddest days of my computing life was when I retired my last Apollo computer. I can't find a good picture of the keyboard on the 'net, this one [maxnt.co.jp] will have to do.

    Note the extra 23 keys in the keypads to the left of the main keyboard and above the keypad. It's hard to explain what they all did if you're not familiar with the Apollo DM user interface, but basically you had keys for:

    cut,copy,paste: Point mouse anywhere on screen and hit key; cut either selection or whatever was in the area of the mouse

    again: point mouse at any command in a window, hit key, command is executed again (like double-click, drag, middle-click in xterm but without all the gymnastics)

    arrow keys that moved the mouse so you didn't have to take your hands off the keyboard...

    open shell window, open editor window, open editor window read only, ...

    page up, page down (nothing unusual there,) page left, page right for when editing those huge images or documents...

    window system command: think +nw+ret to change stacking order of windows where your cursor is. Anything you could do with the mouse you could do with two-letter commands and the window command key...

    Of course, HP bought apollo and killed the line. And now instead of 23 keys that were actually useful, we all have 12 function keys that almost no application ever uses...

...there can be no public or private virtue unless the foundation of action is the practice of truth. - George Jacob Holyoake