What is important for you in an ergonomic keyboard?

What is important for you in an ergonomic keyboard?

Poll ended at 01 Jun 2014, 19:54

Function key row
5
14%
Thumb keys
11
31%
Inverted-T arrow cursor keys
3
8%
Navigation keys (Home, End, Page Up, Page Down)
3
8%
Dedicated macro keys (or for any other use) on left side
2
6%
No custom keycaps. All keys must be compatible with old sets/contoured caps.
2
6%
Numeric row must be column-perfect for each finger, with 6 on right hand
3
8%
Regular Return key on right, not on thumb or elsewhere
2
6%
Symbol keys ([, ], \, <, etc.) in their regular places
3
8%
Place left and right together in one case.
2
6%
 
Total votes: 36

Findecanor

25 May 2014, 19:54

I have a few ideas for an ergonomic keyboard, and I would like to do some "market research" before I finalize the design. ;)
Please select all options that correspond to your preferences. If you don't select an option, then I interpret that as if you are not interested in that feature.

I assume that you already want: programmable firmware (ATmeta32u4), n-key rollover, on-the-fly remapping, on-the-fly macro recording, support for both Cherry MX and Alps, mod'able switches, keyboard split for each hand and with adjustable inclination and tenting etc.

Thanks!

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Hypersphere

25 May 2014, 20:30

For me, "ergonomics" is more a function of my remembering good keyboard posture (e.g., keeping hands and wrists in a straight line; keeping hands and wrists elevated while typing rather than resting on any surface) than a function of keyboard design.

However, efficiency of design is important to me in my work. Nevertheless, I am already so accustomed to the standard QWERTY layout that I would not be interested in changing to something that is arguably more efficient, such as Colemak or Dvorak, but having a fully programmable board would enable layout changes for those who want them.

What I have found to be important to me is the ability to change the layout (and swap keycaps to match) to that of the HHKB Pro 2. In particular, I like to have Control to the left of A and Backspace directly above Return. Here again, a programmable board would take care of the layout, but not all boards have keys or keycaps that can be swapped accordingly.

Existing keyboards that work well for me include the IBM Model M-101, IBM Model M-SSK, IBM Model F-XT, IBM Model F-AT, and the HHKB Pro 2. Currently, I change the layout on the IBM boards using software, but soon I would like to make use of Soarer's Converter. The HHKB Pro 2 is of course good to go out of the box.

A new keyboard that can be switched to an acceptable layout via DIP switches and keycap swapping is the Kul ES-87, but this board is not yet available. In any event, I doubt I would adopt it because it uses Cherry mx switches, which I do not particularly like. However, it is available with Cherry mx Clears, which I have not yet tried.
Last edited by Hypersphere on 25 May 2014, 20:38, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
Muirium
µ

25 May 2014, 20:35

I'd actually like to both tick and untick all of the above. The tradeoffs really depend on the exact design. Got any hints to what you're thinking, Fin?

kzhk

25 May 2014, 22:55

What is important for me :
1) capability to change key location
2) key rows verticaly aligned
3) capability to tent (split design or tented keyboard)

Findecanor

26 May 2014, 00:49

Muirium wrote:The tradeoffs really depend on the exact design.
Well, the poll was supposed to help me choose between tradeoffs... :P

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Muirium
µ

26 May 2014, 01:15

Well, I voted for thumb keys, and that was it. Everything else has good arguments for and against. We'd know better if we saw it!

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Vierax

26 May 2014, 03:12

Thumb keys is really an improved feature, others are irrelevant to me.

I voted Function key row too because TUI like ncurse programms use them a lot. Moreover it's important to have them in direct access for switching tty easily (Linux user here) But this row can be removed if there is a sticky Fn key (a modifier acting like a dead key) to type those special combinations without pressing three modifiers in the same time.

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Hypersphere

26 May 2014, 19:59

Findecanor wrote:I have a few ideas for an ergonomic keyboard, and I would like to do some "market research" before I finalize the design. ;)
Please select all options that correspond to your preferences. If you don't select an option, then I interpret that as if you are not interested in that feature.

I assume that you already want: programmable firmware (ATmeta32u4), n-key rollover, on-the-fly remapping, on-the-fly macro recording, support for both Cherry MX and Alps, mod'able switches, keyboard split for each hand and with adjustable inclination and tenting etc.

Thanks!
This is a good idea. You might get more useful information if you could redesign the poll using a Likert scale; i.e., a scale of 1 to 5 for each statement, with 1 = strongly disagree; 3 = neutral; and 5 = strongly agree.

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Muirium
µ

26 May 2014, 20:01

Don't think the forum poll system offers such a feature. And I'm just the kind of daft bugger to find those things impossible. "It depends on the circumstances, for goodness sake! The art is in the balance! Is nothing sacred!"

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Icarium

26 May 2014, 20:12

I think where the symbols are and where enter is and such don't really have anything to do with ergonomics. You can just remap them as you please anyway.

Findecanor

26 May 2014, 21:24

Icarium wrote:I think where the symbols are and where enter is and such don't really have anything to do with ergonomics. You can just remap them as you please anyway.
It is not whether it is more ergonomic or not, but about people's preferences. Many people would avoid a keyboard that is too unusual.
The question I need an answer to is really whether or not I could trim away keys from the right hand side, and that would also affect the left hand side because both hands should be the same height when the keyboard is tented.

jacobolus

29 May 2014, 07:52

I want lots of thumb keys, and I’m indifferent about keycap compatibility (as long as there are some keycaps which fit... it’s hard to type on bare switches). All the rest of those items on your list are negatives, which I’d prefer to get rid of if possible.

I think you’d get a better response if you sketched out 10 example designs, and asked people to pick their favorite. It’s really hard to analyze “features”, in the abstract.

Findecanor

29 May 2014, 13:56

Indeed. I am going to do that when this poll has closed. Thanks for answering the poll.

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Icarium

29 May 2014, 15:37

I think the ErgoDox is pretty good but could use one or two extra rows or columns. :)

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alinh

29 May 2014, 19:43

Icarium wrote:I think the ErgoDox is pretty good but could use one or two extra rows or columns. :)
I could do without the bottom row - except for the innermost keys.
What I'd like more is for the pinkie keys to be 3mm lower...

Still I don't like to use normal keyboards now; as soon as I use one I miss the thumb keys from ED.

Findecanor

02 Jun 2014, 13:12

OK then... Poll over, and the only thing that stood out from the poll was to have thumb keys. :)
The most important thing we got out of it is that it is much easier to reason about a real proposal ... so here it is:

The idea is to create a split symmetric stagger keyboard, like a western answer to the µTron but with Cherry MX switches and regular key spacing.
westron.jpg
westron.jpg (35.48 KiB) Viewed 1005 times
The µTron has non-standard diagonally slanted thumb keys. To make up for that, I instead rotated the keys, and I picture that they would be mounted upside down so that they would slant towards the thumb instead of away.
The only unusually-sized keys in this layout would be the 2u Tab and the 1.25u home-row keys.

However... if you instead value function keys higher than thumb keys, you could rotate the keyboard 180° and mount a more traditional layout:
trad.jpg
trad.jpg (35.7 KiB) Viewed 1005 times
I picture the internals as being much like the ErgoDox. A double-sided 8×6 key PCB for both left and right with support for both PCB-mounted and plate-mounted switches, through-hole or SMD diodes. You practically get support for Alps automatically with a double-sided PCB - only the rotated keys and a possible ISO Return key option would be tricky.
A Teensy in one side, mounted under the next-to innermost column, but with the port sticking out. An I/O expander in the other side, but not at the opposite position of the Teensy but at the opposite position of an EEPROM chip for storing macros.
That is the idea anyway. I anticipate that there will be a few tweaks here and there to make it work.

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Muirium
µ

02 Jun 2014, 18:01

Smart. I like the look of this better than the ErgoDox, which is too big for my taste. In fact, I'd lose the number row and put that on a function layer instead, but I am one of the more aggressive minimalists around.

A separate EEPROM chip to increase the Teensy's storage, eh? Interesting idea, but seems a challenge. I'm no engineer, but it sounds like a big increase in complexity.

Have you tried Soarer's controller? There's a fair bit of space left over on the Teensy's stock EEPROM for macros, which I have not come close to using up on my 60%. The numbers sound crazy small, but the community firmwares are quite efficient at using it with care.

davkol

02 Jun 2014, 22:20

About that layout, it looks like a quite good compromise between the "standard" (or at least common keycaps) and making the thing more compact. I considered designing something like that (much more rad though) by myself a while ago, but then I realized I wouldn't want to use it, because the symmetry of keyboards like the ErgoDox is just too awesome and I like my non-alpha keys around the edges, so that
  • one-handed modifier combos like Control+Alt+Shift (or any subset of that) are easy to press without curling fingers or bending wrists horizontally, I like them in the corners, which allows me to press them with the front outer edge of my palm;
  • Escape is close to the home position—to avoid the Vi Esc key Syndrome;
  • navigation keys can be pressed by thumb of a hand resting next to the keyboard (like on Noppoo Choc Mini w/ revised layout);
  • both Shift keys are on the home row, unless the keyboard is curved like Maltron and alikes.

Findecanor

22 Jun 2014, 16:56

Muirium wrote: A separate EEPROM chip to increase the Teensy's storage, eh? Interesting idea, but seems a challenge. I'm no engineer, but it sounds like a big increase in complexity.
There is firmware for the ErgoDox that already supports it. You put the EEPROM on the same I²C bus as the I/O expander and the µC accesses it with a different address.
Muirium wrote: There's a fair bit of space left over on the Teensy's stock EEPROM for macros, which I have not come close to using up on my 60%.
There is only one kilobyte of internal EEPROM. There is more in the program Flash, but you want to keep that for program code that is separate from user-defined macros.
Last edited by Findecanor on 04 Oct 2014, 14:09, edited 1 time in total.

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Muirium
µ

22 Jun 2014, 16:58

True. Soarer's using it very efficiently though, so I've not had any problems. Different story when I try to make my Teensy powered keyboard converter box store several whole classes of layouts at once.

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