Keyboard Layouts

People ask me a lot about keyboard layouts, why I don’t type on QWERTY anymore, and other random stuff about that. I am writing this to just shed some light on keyboard layouts, my personal opinions on them, and other random stuff like that.

This site was definitely inspired by Siglemic’s keyboard site, which can be found here, and a lot of information on here will also probably be from his site as well.

Downloads for each layout will be coming soon.

You can join my Discord server to talk about keyboard layouts and anything keyboard / typing-related.


Reasons to learn a new keyboard layout:

Comfort and ergonomics

A more delightful typing experience

QWERTY hurts your hands

Possibly even higher typing speed (it’s a possibility, but not guaranteed)

Flex your grey matter and IQ on some people


Reasons to not learn a new keyboard layout:

You use other computers (though you could get Portable Keyboard Layout and then bring your layout on a flash drive everywhere)

You share a computer with other people

You don’t want to risk the chance of not achieving your full potential on QWERTY at some point.

You quit things that are at all difficult, or are easily irritated

If you play games, have fun resetting your keybinds

You don’t want to forget QWERTY (you may forget the layout after extended usage of an alternate layout, and you may become slower if you still retain your QWERTY typing)


I would run through all the terms that you may encounter, but I’ll just go through the ones that you may not know, and leave the rest up to Google or common knowledge.

Roll: Typing two or more letters in succession of each other on the same hand, in a “rolling” motion. On QWERTY, the letters “er” would be an inward roll, while the letters “io” would be an outward roll.

Alternation: Typing letters on opposite hands in succession. The word “sock” on QWERTY is a good word with full alternation. Alternation reduces hand fatigue or stress / strain by having the workload distributed between hands somewhat methodically.


Text that I used for analyzing layouts can be found right here (11,687 words, 64,588 characters – via wordcounter.net) | analyzing text mirror

The website that I use for getting heatmaps and data about layouts is here


Layouts

QWERTY:

QWERTY Heatmap

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QWERTY was invented in 1873 with one purpose: to stop typewriters from jamming. Nowadays, it’s a much less than optimal keyboard layout that is still the most used mainly because of seniority. Overall, the traits of this layout are really bad and it causes great hand strain. There are many derivatives from this keyboard as well for other languages, most can be bundled under the tag “QWERTY-based”. Just like QWERTY though, all of them have very bad traits, and are never really ergonomic. And of course contrary to belief, QWERTY was not invented to slow the typist down.

 

Dvorak:

Dvorak Heatmap

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The current king of alternate layouts and the second most used layout in the world, Dvorak. Dvorak was invented by hand in 1936 by August Dvorak and his brother-in-law, William Dealey. The design had alternation and hand physiology in mind to create a great ergonomic layout for the masses. Though it is great and the method is tried and true, take a small grain of salt when looking at August Dvorak’s studies, as they had some bias in them. The traits of this keyboard though once adjusted to means that your hands will never really become strained or fatigued while using proper form. The only complaint is that the right hand is used much more than the left, and the right pinky sees over-usage which could accidentally cause some strain.

(There is a great community on Discord rich with knowledge specifically for this layout with some of the currently world’s fastest Dvorak typists AND the world’s fastest current Dvorak typist, which you can join here)

 

Colemak:

Colemak Heatmap

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Colemak is a keyboard layout that was designed as a modern alternative to QWERTY and Dvorak specifically for English typing and is the third most used layout in the world. Created by Shai Coleman in 2006, it boasts very good scores all around for English typing, and a lot of good work balance between fingers. It also keeps many of the keys from QWERTY the same for easier learning, and the reason is that the keys that are in the same spots as before actually work somewhat well where they are. There are also many mods for Colemak, which makes it more suitable for each individual. Colemak and Dvorak are different it that they both use two different methodologies for typing. Colemak uses rolls, while Dvorak uses hand alternation. Though the only complaints I would say for Colemak is that index finger usage on both hands is quite high, and as a result you could strain your hands from it. Consecutive finger usage on the left hand is virtually non-existent and on the right hand it is only marginally higher than the left. Out of all the layouts, this one is king when it comes to consecutive finger usage.

(There is also a great community on Discord that is rich with knowledge for the Colemak layout that you can join here which has some of the fastest Colemak typists in the world, and the fastest Colemak typist in the world sometimes stops by)

 

Norman:

Norman Heat Map

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Norman was published in 2013, and for a layout that the creator boasts about how good it is, it lost in all regards to all of the competition. It scores significantly lower than the rest of the alternate layouts, and has horrifically high consecutive finger usage, and high travel distance throughout all the fingers besides the left ring finger. The only thing that it has that could be a desirable trait is that it has somewhat equal hand usage, 50.7% on the left hand and 49.3% on the right hand. The creator seems to be very egocentric and always tries to ream on the rest of the competition, even though his layout is pretty much worse in every regard, even when he tried designing a layout that was for right hand dominance, the left hand dominates this keyboard just a tad more. In my personal opinion, I wouldn’t want to learn this keyboard layout and think anybody would be better off learning a different one, even TNWMLC.

 

Workman:

Workman Heat Map

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Workman was published on September 6th, 2010 by OJ Bucao. It was designed as an ergonomic keyboard for people who type for a living, hence it’s name, “Workman”. It was meant as an improved alternative to Colemak primarily, and to eliminate all lateral movements. It was designed with the hands in mind, and that’s also sort of the tagline of his layout. He went into great thought to design a good layout that helps your hands and helps with RSI issues while also being not “too alien” like Dvorak. Overall, it scores well and has some good stats to boast for itself on keyboard analyzers, and seems to have some desirable traits for someone who uses keyboards a lot.

 

Capewell:

Capewell Heat Map

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Capewell was published in 2005 and is the first layout on this list that was designed by an algorithm and not created by hand. The algorithm and thus the keyboard was created by Michael Capewell who was on a quest to create a new keyboard that was supposed to be very ergonomic. The finger usage is very balanced with each other, and seems as though it attempts to somehow manage equal finger usage. Though the equal finger usage ends up to be a double edged sword, as it causes somewhat high finger usage on the pinkies which are more undesirable for most. The left ring finger may be used more than what would be comfortable for most people, and so is the left pinky. Michael Capewell also made other keyboard layouts by hand such as Capewell-Dvorak and QWERF that can be found on his website.

 

Asset:

Asset Heat Map

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Asset was originally created on May 17, 2004 by David Piepgrass, but he later on November 10th to 13th tweaked the layout and published the final version on his blog. It was named after the four keys on the left of the home row, and to “leverage users’ existing asset, their knowledge of QWERTY, to improve learning speed”. Asset was designed to be easier to learn than QWERTY for beginners, easier to learn than Dvorak for those who already knew QWERTY, and to “yield a higher typing speed than QWERTY  for a typical computer user.” The layout overall seems good at first glance, though the stats say another story. The left middle, right index, and right ring see high amounts of consecutive finger usage; finger travel distance is very high on the right index and left index fingers, which could lead to hand strain. The left pinky also sees more usage than the left ring finger.

 

QGMLWY:

QGMLWY Heat Map

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This is the work of CarpalX, the most groundbreaking and extensive keyboard optimizer / analyzer out there currently. Created by Martin Krzywinski in 2005, it has consistently been spitting out optimized layouts that perform well in almost all regards that are designed for ergonomics. The only issues with this layout is that your right index finger is going to get a bit beat up from the massive amount of travel distance and consecutive finger usage that it will be experiencing. Both index fingers travel quite a bit as well. Other than that, the finger usage is great for each finger and appropriate for how strong each individual finger is. The right hand is used around 3.8% more than the left, but that’s more than likely because E, A, U, O, I, and H are all on the right hand.

I would greatly recommend checking out CarpalX for more information about keyboard layouts in general and also to check out the other optimized layouts that are on the website.

 

MTGAP:

MTGAP Heat Map

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MTGAP was created by Michael Dickens in 2012 using an algorithm to create a layout that was optimized and focused on rolling. The algorithm maximized instances where after a two finger roll on one hand, it alternates to the other hand. Overall it has good stats in every regard besides possibly high consecutive finger usage on the pinkies and left index, high finger usage on the pinkies, and high travel distance on the right index finger, left index finger, right pinky, and left middle finger. (Though the right pinky travel distance may just be a fluke because of the shift key, which is completely fixable by having a thumb shift.) Overall though, this layout is very optimized, and there is a second version of it that is located here. I have heard only good things about this layout in my personal findings, and would also recommend looking into it and learning it if you are interested.

 

BEAKL 9:

BEAKL 9 Image

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BEAKL is an ever changing and radical theory about keyboard layouts that was invented in 2016 and has been evolving since then. It was created using an algorithm by Xay Voong and Ian Douglas, two keyboard enthusiasts that were trying to create a very ergonomic layout that still had as many desirable traits as possible. In their findings and testing, they found that the pinkies were slow and not viable even for the home row keys, and thus they began thinking of new ways to incorporate that research. They came up with a “home block” instead of a home row, which was a 3 x 2 block that your fingers would have the most activity. Though this results in higher finger travel and consecutive finger usage, but it is still very comfortable. I personally love BEAKL, and it’s what I use (though I use an edited version of BEAKL Opted1 with influence from Colemak that I call B-BEAKL). Overall, it’s a very desirable layout, scores very well, and I would imagine it is good for anyone who hates using their pinkies while typing. I should also note that BEAKL was intended for usage on Matrix / Ortholinear keyboards, and thus is even better on those keyboards. I use it on a standard keyboard and it still works and feels fine, though. You can find even more information about the layout here. There are very many different versions of BEAKL so that each individual can find the version that works for them the best.

 

Balance Twelve:

Balance Twelve Heat Map

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Not much is known about Balance Twelve, besides someone named Sasha Viminitz created it in 2011. (Source, scroll down or use control F and search “Balance Twelve” though that version is also different from the version in this picture) It was designed to “improve on both Dvorak and Colemak’s respective strengths.” It apparently matches Dvorak for hand alternation and improves on inward rotation, all while matching Colemak’s low same-finger count and home row stats. It in fact does have similar stats of Colemak, and slightly beats it overall. It has similar finger usage as Colemak, and is similar in most regards except that it looks far different than QWERTY. Overall, it’s a decent layout that seems to have a lot of desirable traits and seems efficient. Though it does have some shining issues such as: some of the placements seem to be very strange and confusing such as the @, it has high consecutive finger usage on the right and left pinky, high travel and usage of the left index finger, and it’s a bit of a confusing layout. It would probably be used more if only it were more well-known and some of those issues were fixed since it seems overall as though it is a good option.

I’d also like to point out that the picture is wrong, on the number 6 key there should be a / and not another ^. For some reason, the analyzing site has the layout wrong. This doesn’t really effect the results at all, as the text only has two forward slashes in it.

 

TypeHacK Layout:

TypeHacK Layout Heat Map

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The TypeHacK Layout was released on March 12th, 2012 by “typehack”. It was created for the easy switch and inputting of Japanese and English and it drew inspiration from Dvorak by putting the consonants on the right side while the vowels were on the right side for high alternation. Not only is the layout ready for English and Japanese Romaji, they include a download link for the layout on the website in the form of an AutoHotKey script. For a layout that is not really known about at all, I am thoroughly impressed with all of it’s stats. It has great finger usage balance, great distance traveled, and great alternation. The only downside is that it has high consecutive right index finger usage, BUT, it has lower total consecutive finger usage than almost all of the other layouts. I have no idea how it performs in Japanese, but with how these English stats are, I have no doubt that it also performs similarly. In my opinion, this is probably one of the best layouts on this list, and I would wholeheartedly recommend learning this one if you are planning on switching from QWERTY. The stats don’t lie, this really is a great layout.

 

Arensito:

Arensito Heat Map

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Arensito is a very different layout than what most are used to, and was invented in 2001 by a programmer named Håkon Hallingstad. It was named after the 8 most used letters in the English language rearranged into “arensito”. The layout is definitely a tad confusing, but it has solid methodolgy. Instead of each key only having two different states such as 8 on a standard keyboard also being * when you hold shift, each key had three different states, and were controlled by Shift and AltGr. This compresses the keyboard down into a smaller form, reducing the fingers’ travel distance by a large amount. One immediate issue though is that it is a complicated layout to learn, as you need to now memorize up to three completely different characters per key. It was also intended for Norwegian and English, so some keys are completely useless for an English speaker such as Æ. Looking past those issues though, and you have an amazing layout that is very efficient and doesn’t require much movement, as most of the keys are already under your resting fingers. This layout is also very good for programmers once they get used to the layout, though that could be a hassle. It boasts good finger usage and manageable travel distance, but the left middle finger and right index finger have some consecutive finger usage issues, and your thumbs are going to be experiencing a lot of movement and usage.

 

AOEYK:

AOEYK Heat Map

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AOEYK is an interesting layout that turns an average keyboard into sort of a Pseudo-Ergodox type of keyboard by positioning the hands in a different position for a more natural curve of the hands. It was published on September 17th, 2013 by a user on a forum named “Jon in PDX”. Though it seems a bit strange to have your fingers rest on two different rows and may even seem bad, the stats of the layout tell you another thing. The finger usage is very well balanced, and the hand positioning is very comfortable to use, as it turns your keyboard sort of into an Ergodox. Row usage is great, and the travel distance on all fingers are kept somewhat low besides the right index finger. The idea is very good and the keyboard in general has a lot of good desirable traits. One big downfall that is shown in the stats though is the high amount of consecutive finger usage on all fingers but the pinkies and left ring finger. But beyond that, it’s a great choice and I would also recommend trying out this layout.


I will be adding more layouts to this website in the future, but for now, that’s it.

Other things will be added such as downloads to each keyboard layout using Portable Keyboard Layout and some other things and pages.