Does the asymmetry bother you?

Wendell

08 Aug 2013, 20:00

When I moved from typewriters to PCs in the late 1980s, one of the things I really disliked was the huge asymmetry of the 101-key layout. With the alpha keys directly in front of me, the movement keys are next door, the numpad is down the street, and the mouse is a block away.

It is impossible for me to set the keyboard so that I have a feeling of balance. Either the keyboard body is centered on the computer or the alpha keys are centered on me. Even after many years, I find that no matter how deliberate I am about centering the alpha keys on me, after working for a while I notice I have unconsciously shifted the keyboard so that the body is centered on the screen and my hands are typing off to the left.

For this reason, I have generally preferred typing on a notebook, even though the keys are inferior. Now, though, we have most notebooks with built in numpads and the problem is worse, since you can't shift the keyboard in relation to the screen. I now have a lot of mis-position typos moving back and forth between desktops and notebooks.

Since this design has persisted for so long, I'm guessing that it just doesn't bother others as it does me, so I thought I'd ask.

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Muirium
µ

08 Aug 2013, 20:13

To answer your title: YES!

It's right up there with saving desk space as my reason for preferring small form factors. Can't stand having my keyboard jutting off to one side of me. And these modern PC laptops sound like a nightmare! Guess the extra width of a widescreen was too much of a temptation for the designers. I couldn't use that at all.

The only big keyboard I really like is my XT. It's practically symmetrical, thanks to the weird layout.
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Nothing that can't be fixed.
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Otherwise, real keyboards are 60% as far as I'm concerned.

Findecanor

08 Aug 2013, 20:26

I learned to type on large computer keyboards, so no. At least, it works for my typing style.

The staggering and angle is almost just right for my right hand behind right in the middle in front of the computer screen. The situation for the left hand is worse: it has to cope with a juxtaposed matrix layout.

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Vierax

08 Aug 2013, 20:28

For a left-handed, the classic keyboard layout is a pain : The left hand seems bored but the right one is melting because it handles the moving key, the numpd and more alpha key than the left. IMO this asymmetry is as disastrous as the two right-handed staggering.

davkol

08 Aug 2013, 22:03

Don't forget that QWERTY puts lots of work on the left hand, at least in case of typing in English; and you can use some pointing devices with your left hand.

But yeah, asymmetry bothers me. That's why I've switched to matrix layout (TypeMatrix, ErgoDox, POS keypad) and compact keyboards in general.

Burz

19 Aug 2013, 10:08

Yes it bothers me. I wanted to get a matrix keyboard for a while, but decided against it because I knew I would be typing a lot on laptop built-in keyboards also. So I got tenkeyless/compact boards instead: I have 2 MiniTouch's and now a Mini Quiet Pro.

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ماء

19 Aug 2013, 10:23

Yes,even symmetric, still bothers me
matrix might be better for me

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Muirium
µ

19 Aug 2013, 11:38

Interesting that a topic about asymmetry in full size keyboards (huge numpad on the right of the alpha area, but nothing on the left) turns to stagger. They can both be "symmetric", but that's where the similarity ends. Both are worth talking about though.

ماء, what symmetric stagger keyboard have you tried? What about it didn't feel right? I've tried straight matrix, but not symmetric stagger yet. Very different experience to standard stagger. Some keys really do feel further away. P especially. It takes some accommodating.

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ماء

19 Aug 2013, 11:57

Sorry actually I yet tried :? but my right hand(pinky particulary)far enough to key P
I have to rotate a little to achieve it :lol:

But,Right now I'm interested in trying the symmetric keyboard :lol: I'll give it a try 8-)

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ماء

22 Aug 2013, 09:00

Muirium wrote:Interesting that a topic about asymmetry in full size keyboards (huge numpad on the right of the alpha area, but nothing on the left) turns to stagger. They can both be "symmetric", but that's where the similarity ends. Both are worth talking about though.

ماء, what symmetric stagger keyboard have you tried? What about it didn't feel right? I've tried straight matrix, but not symmetric stagger yet. Very different experience to standard stagger. Some keys really do feel further away. P especially. It takes some accommodating.
Murium, i've tried syemtric keyboard with my prototype keyboard,quite nice,i wear utron style, my pinky more better ;)
than use straight keyboard style.For achieve key on dvorak(pinky particulary),My Lefthand (') and My Right hand (L).
That quite easy to achieve, 8-) but Number row fixed difficult :?

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xbla

23 Aug 2013, 10:27

Hello,

this is my first post on Deskthority!

In answer to the OP question: the asymmetry of "normal" keyboards is what got me started into the world of exotic ergonomic keyboards. I've always felt kind of fatigued by the motion needed to grab the mouse (on the far right) and back. I did like the split layout of the MS Natural, though, so when I finally got a job whose salary gave me some leeway for experimentation, I bought a 2nd hand GoldTouch -- and boy!, what a relief!

The funny thing is that, shortly after that, I've started feeling the fatigue of the weird finger motion needed to compensate for the staggered layout. The fatigue, really, had always been there, but it had been shadowed by the right-arm-reach problem. Conveniently enough, the blocking mechanism of the GoldTouch started wearing off after a year, so I took the plunge and bought my current TECK - compact, symmetric, and matrix! It's been a blessing, and will continue to be so until my ErgoDox arrives :)

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Muirium
µ

23 Aug 2013, 11:29

Great stuff. Beware though: we'll get you unhealthily interested in caps and other costly things besides what really matters! Like integrating a pointing device into the keyboard layout to be rid from "the reach" once and for all…
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Hypersphere

25 Aug 2013, 17:53

Yes. Asymmetry can be disturbing. Moreover, the imbalance of the standard modern keyboard creates ergonomic problems. e.g., right-handers using the mouse with the keyboard. Things didn't start out this way, at least for Mac users. I ran across a wonderful post chronicling the history of the Mac keyboard and describing ideas for new improved layouts. http://www.avernus.com/~gadams/hardware ... ayout.html
Here is an image from that post of the first Mac keyboard, the M0110:
FirstMac.jpg
FirstMac.jpg (46.25 KiB) Viewed 5222 times
Note the symmetry! The bottom three rows are symmetrical and the top two rows are mirror images of each other. I think it is even nicer than the HHKB Pro 2, which it resembles.

To help solve the ergonomic issue with mouse placement, people are moving from full-size to TKL boards, and from there to the 60% form factor. However, some of us miss the dedicated navigation keys that are absent in the smallest boards, and so we have mini boards occupying the twilight zone between 60% and 80%.

One of the best mini boards is the Leopold FC660M (or FC660C), but it has a jarring asymmetry in its partial navigation key cluster. The symmetry of the cluster is completed in TKL boards, making them more pleasing to the eye. Other mini boards such as the Race, Choc Mini, and Keycool 84 attempt to include all the navigation keys by jamming them up against the main typing area, creating a wall of keys that erases the demarcation of these functions into a separate symmetrical island. Nevertheless, aesthetic and functional balance could be restored to the mini designs by moving the top-heavy F-key row into the Fn layer as Leopold has done with the FC660 models, and perhaps using color to differentiate the navigation keys from the others.

Burz

01 Sep 2013, 08:42

rjrich wrote:Yes. Asymmetry can be disturbing. Moreover, the imbalance of the standard modern keyboard creates ergonomic problems. e.g., right-handers using the mouse with the keyboard. Things didn't start out this way, at least for Mac users. I ran across a wonderful post chronicling the history of the Mac keyboard and describing ideas for new improved layouts. http://www.avernus.com/~gadams/hardware ... ayout.html
Here is an image from that post of the first Mac keyboard, the M0110:
FirstMac.jpg
Note the symmetry! The bottom three rows are symmetrical and the top two rows are mirror images of each other. I think it is even nicer than the HHKB Pro 2, which it resembles.

To help solve the ergonomic issue with mouse placement, people are moving from full-size to TKL boards, and from there to the 60% form factor. However, some of us miss the dedicated navigation keys that are absent in the smallest boards, and so we have mini boards occupying the twilight zone between 60% and 80%.

One of the best mini boards is the Leopold FC660M (or FC660C), but it has a jarring asymmetry in its partial navigation key cluster. The symmetry of the cluster is completed in TKL boards, making them more pleasing to the eye. Other mini boards such as the Race, Choc Mini, and Keycool 84 attempt to include all the navigation keys by jamming them up against the main typing area, creating a wall of keys that erases the demarcation of these functions into a separate symmetrical island. Nevertheless, aesthetic and functional balance could be restored to the mini designs by moving the top-heavy F-key row into the Fn layer as Leopold has done with the FC660 models, and perhaps using color to differentiate the navigation keys from the others.
I agree with some of the points being made about aesthetics, but I think they're being conflated with the ease of locating the core alpha region. I don't need a keyboard to go all the way with symmetry to enjoy its layout, as long as the asymmetry is kept relatively low and I have plenty of visual cues. Positioning my hands on the MiniToch and AT101W was very easy indeed... none of that 1.5 sec of wandering and disconcerting feeling. Moving to the Mini Quiet Pro (all black), however, brings back those disorienting moments. The difference is in the differently-colored modifier keys on the older keyboards.

The khaki-colored modifiers don't make an AT101W much more aesthetic, nor do they help with desk space and mouse positioning. But they do make the keyboard more pleasant to glance at (functionally and repeatedly). Also, the Fkey row being quite far from the alphanum area is a plus. OTOH, the MiniTouch is rife with small asymmetries and this makes the board a bit ugly while remaining easy for the functional eye to behold. The Fkey row is a solid khaki stripe of half-depth keys so their presence doesn't hurt the alphanums' visual cohesion.

The Mini Quiet Pro has Fkeys that are neither a different color, nor far separated from alphanum, nor differently-shaped. I've already asked Matias about creating a grey or blue modifier set.

As you might have guessed by now, however, I don't agree with the full-tilt anti-Fkey sentiment. With modern systems, having to always use an extra modifier with Fkeys would drive me crazy almost as much as going without dedicated arrow keys.

The Apple 0110 keyboard is great. I'm glad they made their statement and I would love using it... on MacOS... in the mid-1980s. I feel much the same about some 8bit computer keyboards, too.

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Muirium
µ

01 Sep 2013, 09:21

Differently coloured mods are something many of us still enjoy. Quite why they went missing from so many mainstream boards I do not know. A cheap trick to cut costs or a lingering fashion that cost usability…

http://deskthority.net/marketplace-f11/ ... t6400.html

Islands are the way to locate keys. I dive straight to home row on my Model F, despite its left hand function block (all reassigned!) because the gutter between them is where it should be. Right hand took a while to learn with that keyboard's notable absence of the same sensible thing on its other side! But just accommodation as always. Besides: it has dual tone caps so it's not like being lost on a black board.

Function keys are just useless to me and I'd guess most all Mac users. Apple redefined them to default to media and window management ten years ago. Functions free from mods. I never use F1 etc. at all besides my occasional encounter with a PC. They're not nearly as dead over there.

Meanwhile, now I'm giving my fresh Model M a spin, I'm mousing with my left hand just so I don't drop the damn thing off the far end of my desk! I need one of these in a 60%
Image

JBert

01 Sep 2013, 15:35

Muirium wrote:Islands are the way to locate keys. I dive straight to home row on my Model F, despite its left hand function block (all reassigned!) because the gutter between them is where it should be. Right hand took a while to learn with that keyboard's notable absence of the same sensible thing on its other side! But just accommodation as always. Besides: it has dual tone caps so it's not like being lost on a black board.
While islands are great for the many different blocks, the issue with the right hand is what always got me when using the model F. In the end, I taped some plastic bits to the front of the T / N keys (that's F and J for you non-Colemakers) and I haven't looked back since.

So as long as you can find your way home, there's no problem with the assymetry.

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Muirium
µ

01 Sep 2013, 15:49

The F and J nubs on my Model M are really spoiling me. But the asymmetry is absolutely front and centre. Or off centre, I should say. I keep the 60% block in line with the middle of my screen, or I'll crick my neck! Guess I'm improving my left hand mousing skills at least.

hurting_hands

01 Sep 2013, 17:13

Funny to hear that, I've always felt that way too, I just like symmetry. Since I also have suffered from RSI issues I use ergo keyboards, which has the advantage that since they are reinventing the keyboard anyhow, they often will make them symmetric.

The Kinesis is physically symmetric, but the thumb keys are mapped differently.

The TECK/Truly Ergonomic is also physically symmetric, and both arrow blocks perform navigation function. With the 209 under OS X you get symmetric modifier blocks too (Shift, Command, Meta and Control)

The ErgoDox is symmetric and I'm not sure how the keys are mapped. Anything you want I guess (the TECK can be remapped too).

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Muirium
µ

01 Sep 2013, 17:17

A centred screen above a centred keyboard was one of the first things to catch my eye about the 12" PowerBook ten years ago. My first Mac.

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Vierax

01 Sep 2013, 17:24

I finally got a symmetric layout (a little adaptation of the layout of my future handmade KB) and it will be a complete pleasure after modding the mx black under the 2 units
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(click to enlarge)
Sorry for the bépo layout and for the bad amateurish photographer that I am.

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Muirium
µ

01 Sep 2013, 17:29

Nice music collection! A fellow veteran of the 1990s…

Do you like the straight matrix layout? Without a stagger, some keys are a real stretch. Essentially because pinkies are shorter than other fingers.

I'm experimenting with symmetric stagger next. As the standard stagger works well on the right but poorly on the left hand, where matrix feels more natural for me.

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Vierax

01 Sep 2013, 18:13

Muirium wrote:Nice music collection! A fellow veteran of the 1990s…
thx I didn't bought CDs since 2009 :lol: now I have more than a 56k modem and my taste is more eclectic :o
Do you like the straight matrix layout? Without a stagger, some keys are a real stretch. Essentially because pinkies are shorter than other fingers.
It's better than my cherry g3000 but it's only a step (the typematrix way) to the splitted 1+1=10 (it's up to date : the super keys must be switched with the «» and () macro keys)
From the g80, I only miss the mx clears that I'll switch because the 3000 will be for some gaming (mostly Vegastrike)
I'm experimenting with symmetric stagger next. As the standard stagger works well on the right but poorly on the left hand, where matrix feels more natural for me.
I never tried sym stag but it seemed to be a better improvement for non splitted boards like Suka and 7Bit did.

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Muirium
µ

01 Sep 2013, 18:26

I've seen Suka's work. My symmetric stagger prototype is actually one of his leftovers! But have you got a link to 7bit's? I've seen "7bit mode" layout diagrams but nothing physical.

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Vierax

01 Sep 2013, 21:15

no pics founded but there is a phantom plate named 7bit and his HyperMini so I think he must use them or a branded sym stag.

nisilhum

22 Oct 2014, 16:02

it depends each people for me when i type on mecha keyboard which high travel when long typing i feel my left hand weird and tired, but in short travel like laptop.etc not really feel weird but yeah i prefer symmetric of course

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ماء

22 Oct 2014, 16:25

yup, sym sgg split with tenting, very entertaining 8-)

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Touch_It

22 Oct 2014, 19:35

Asymmetry doesn't bother me. I find that both asymmetry and symmetry are pleasing to the eye to me. I think more important to me are the layout and the actual looks of the keyboard. IMO there are right and wrong ways to do both Asymmetry and Symmetry with keyboards.

jacobolus

22 Oct 2014, 23:37

Look what a high proportion of the keyboard takes either substantial reaching or is awkwardly located between fingers:
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It’s all because we’re still dealing with the legacy of:
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When we slim down all the oversized keys on a standard keyboard, and add some color coding by function and dots to represent the “home row”, we can better see the true design features of the standard keyboard layout. Its origins in the 1870s† become very obvious:

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† The design dates from before much study of human factors / ergonomics, before the concept of “touch typing”, and this was little changed from the first idea that popped into the designers’ heads after their previous design which was a 2-row piano-like layout. Later additions were haphazard, and IBM is mostly responsible for the version we have today.

cf. http://geekhack.org/index.php?topic=61798

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webwit
Wild Duck

22 Oct 2014, 23:55

jacobolus wrote: Look what a high proportion of the keyboard takes either substantial reaching or is awkwardly located between fingers:
Image
Image

The DataHand. If you ask a human, he or she would say it looks alien. If you ask an alien, it would say it looks human.

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Muirium
µ

22 Oct 2014, 23:58

Nice line. Bet they didn't dare say that in their marketing!

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