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Should the "6" key be pressed with the left or right hand?

Posted: 03 Feb 2015, 12:40
by mondalaci
Hi guys,

I've just realized that Americans (and probably most countries) press the "6" key with their right hand, but back in high school in Hungary I was taught to press it with my left hand.

Google image search "touch typing" which yields right-handed images

Google image search "gépírás" (which means touch typing in Hungarian) which yields mostly left-handed images

Are touch-typing rules country-specific? Is this an ANSI vs ISO thing? Can anyone point me to some definite resource regarding this issue?


Posted: 03 Feb 2015, 13:03
by Findecanor
mondalaci wrote: Google image search "touch typing" which yields right-handed images
I see many left-handed images as well. I think there are different schools.

The original Scholes and Glidden QWERTY layout used the letter I as the digit 1 so the numeric row started with a 2, the whole row shifted one step to the left compared to modern keyboards, which means that the digit 6 was originally truly on the left hand's side.

Most split staggered keyboards put the digit on the left side, while others put it on the right side, but I suspect that that is mostly because they are mimicking Microsoft which put the key on the left side. Once, when I counted my collection of ergo keyboard pictures, the ratio was precisely 2:1 for the left side.
All columnar layouts and most symmetric stagger keyboard I have seen put it on the right side, though.

Kinesis is a bit special, because their columnar contoured Advantage keyboard has it on the right but the staggered Freestyle and Maxim models have it on the left, and the staggered Kinesis Evolution has the key on both sides.
The MicroTron keyboard is also unusual in that even though it has a symmetric stagger, the numeric row is shifted one step to the left so that the #6 key is on the left side. Columnar TRON keyboards have it on the right.

Posted: 03 Feb 2015, 13:21
by andrewjoy
its closer to the left so i say left

Posted: 03 Feb 2015, 13:37
by mondalaci
My hats off to @Findecanor for the exhaustive explanation and historical tidbits! Given the standard staggered layout from an ergonomical perspective I totally agree with @andrewjoy.

When I designed the layout of the I didn't think about this issue very deeply to be honest. I simply assumed that the "6" key should be pressed with the left hand (because the way I was taught in school) so I split the keyboard this way. Even though I was clueless about all the above issues I'm still happy with my decision because 1) from an ergonomical perspective it's better and 2) the shape of the keyboard would be very uneven if it was split between the "5" and "6" keys.

Posted: 03 Feb 2015, 14:12
by Muirium
I bop it with whatever hand, and finger, is free. But then I really need to learn how to type polite style…

Posted: 03 Feb 2015, 15:15
by CeeSA
right hand only - carved in stone.

I use a split keyboard so 1-5 left and 6-0 right. In my matrix layout 6 is above y.

Posted: 03 Feb 2015, 17:15
by Mal-2
CeeSA wrote: right hand only - carved in stone.

I use a split keyboard so 1-5 left and 6-0 right. In my matrix layout 6 is above y.
This is why I'll never use a split keyboard. I cross over all the damn time. To me, every key in "no man's land" is to be taken by whichever hand has the least to do at the moment. In QWERTY terms, that means 6YGHB. In Dvorak terms, it means 6YFGX.

I also get out of ideal position a lot and take pinky keys (which Dvorak has a lot of) with the ring finger simply because while my pinky fingers are not weak, they are still shorter than the others. Trying to use all fingers as equals means having to curl the other three (particularly the middle two) to an excessive degree. About the only thing the pinkies are really good for is holding down modifier keys.

Posted: 04 Feb 2015, 08:18
by jacobolus
I recently wrote a post about this over at Geekhack, which I’ll repost in here ... msg1566004

(go to that link if you want to see full size images; deskthority’s forum software is incapable of resizing images, one of many ways it sucks [to be fair basically all forum software sucks])

* * *
Matias wrote: That's true, but it is consistent with the typing textbooks I've seen. It's been a while since I researched this stuff. We can get a quick & dirty estimate using Google... ... e&tbm=isch
When I search for “touch typing” in Google images (this query is a bit more effective than the one you suggested, which quickly devolves into irrelevant images after the first page or so), the first several examples are either on Wikipedia or copies of images that originally came from Wikipedia / Wikimedia commons. After that, there seem to be a bunch of examples each way. A sampling of the ones with 6 on the left hand:

(Again, there is a similar variety of diagrams that put 6 on the right hand.)
While there are a few guides that deviate from the standard approach, the trend is pretty clear. Again, I'm not disputing anyone's particular technique (whatever works for you) but there is an established standard. You can choose to follow it or ignore it. I chose to follow it. Microsoft ignored it.
To be as generous as I can: you’re greatly exaggerating how “established” this “standard” is.

On the one hand, the original touch typing book from 1889 does put 6 on the right:

On the other hand, here’s a book from 1893:

As for my personal technique.... The way I type on a QWERTY/ANSI/IBM keyboard – and I would strongly advise anyone else to use a similar fingering – is roughly like this:
Typing “Z” with the ring finger, “X” with the middle finger, and “C” with the index finger allows the left wrist to stay straight, with the arm coming toward the keyboard at an angle, and makes it dramatically easier and more comfortable to press all the keys on the left of the bottom row.

But this mainly serves to highlight how terrible the QWERTY/ANSI/IBM layout is. On the upside, it’s ubiquitous. On the downside, almost everything about its design is anachronistic nonsense.

Side note: this is sure a funny method:

Posted: 11 Feb 2015, 11:18
by cookie
I type it with my right hand, my typing style is pretty "strainght" like on this picture:

Posted: 11 Feb 2015, 12:08
by Muirium
Strainght, eh? Apparently so!

Posted: 15 Aug 2015, 14:30
by izk666

I have 2 ergonomic keyboards: The first one was brandless (but better). The second one, is the M$ natural ergonomic 4000.
Both of them had the 6 on the left side, but that doesn't mean that it is better. It seems pretty logic to press it with the right hand... but I can't test it

As UHK has the numbers and F-keys on the same key, consider that the MS keyboard has the F-keys splitted between the F5 and F6.

PS: Sorry for my bad english..... :(

Posted: 15 Aug 2015, 15:36
by fohat
Great thread! Thanks for the vintage diagrams!

But "6" should be entered with the right hand on the numpad, the numbers above the letters are for decoration only.

Posted: 15 Aug 2015, 16:01
by Muirium
When your keyboard is split, you have no choice. Press it with the hand Microsoft chose for you! Seriously, crossing the divide is apalling form. You're better off with a traditional flat keyboard than using an ergo wrong.

Posted: 15 Aug 2015, 18:48
by jacobolus
Or better, 6 should be put on a layer near the home row, and both the numpad and the dedicated number row should be scrapped. :-)

Posted: 15 Aug 2015, 18:54
by Muirium
I wouldn't scrap the fourth row. (40% is too fiddly even for me.) But I'm closer to your opinion than Fohat's!

Posted: 15 Aug 2015, 18:59
by zslane
When I was taught to type (in junior high), I'm pretty sure I was taught that the left hand is used with the 5-T-G-B column, and the right hand is used with the 6-Y-H-N column. Not sure why this would be controversial; presumably both of one's hands are already used to heading "northwest" to reach row 2 anyway... (I'm assuming a standard ANSI/ISO QWERTY layout)

Posted: 15 Aug 2015, 19:03
by Muirium
Ask for people's opinions, and controversy you shall have!

The Matias Ergo Pro taught me and Andy (and who knows how many other people still to come on the tour!) that we type B with the "wrong hand". Its viciously stupid placement of Num Lock to the left of the N key really slaps you on the head every time you make that mistake. I never realised just how annoying a misplaced key can be.

Posted: 15 Aug 2015, 20:35
by zslane
Yeah, I know exactly what you mean. A misplaced \ on a cheapo keyboard that I owned until recently is what got me on this kick to find a better keyboard. I don't want to even think about how much that dang \ has cost me now...

Posted: 16 Aug 2015, 14:07
by hrvoje
I'm going to go with the right hand, because 1-5 left, 6-0 right to split it 50:50, and when you're typing numbers, there's often more than one so it's reasonable to split. I just tried it and I apparently use my left hand to type 6.

My hand ignores my mind. :)

Posted: 16 Aug 2015, 14:47
by Muirium
Heh, I get a similar thing whenever I try Colemak. The middle row starts ARSTD instead of ASDFG. That means S is displaced to the right by a single key. That, of all things, drives me crazy! Colemak's a nice layout in most ways— many keys are exactly where they are on Qwerty, to make learning easier — but I'm sorely tempted to make some changes so I can adapt it quicker. That S chief among them. All the fighting slows me down and I forever wind up back on Qwerty in frustration.

The downside would be that I'd be a minority of one. That's fine on my programmable mechs, like my SSK, which can handle the conversion to a common layout internally. But on my USB boards, like the HHKB, I'd always need a software layout. That's easier said than done in the real world.

@Zslane: Yup, you're seeing it now! I advise setting aside a nice enough pile of cash so you can quickly get to buying your unicorn keyboards. That's the only way you can calm a good hardware addiction down. It's actually more expensive to go incrementally. Well, depending on the route.

If, however, caps are stealing your mind, then there's only one thing for it: get off MX, fast! There are always, always new caps to snatch your fancy. You need to render them superfluous (or rather incompatible). You need to go to other mounts.

Posted: 16 Aug 2015, 17:01
by Chyros
I'd always use the left hand myself, but then again my typing is shit xD . Most of the time I'd use the numpad 6 instead of the alphanumeric one, though.

Posted: 16 Aug 2015, 18:16
by zslane
Muirium wrote: If, however, caps are stealing your mind, then there's only one thing for it: get off MX, fast! There are always, always new caps to snatch your fancy.
All those glorious close-up images that the DT top banner rotates through are partly responsible. So is and /r/mechanical. The SA and DSA caps that people have been putting on their keyboards have utterly sold me on sphericals. However, luckily for me, nearly all the color schemes I see are butt-ugly, and I'm not the least bit tempted by them. A few with a classic timelessness have caught my eye however, your Honeywell sets chief among them (along with Dolch and the Space Cadet set). Which is why I am so gung-ho about Round 5a. I don't think I've seen a classier SA set than the Honey set, and I'm desperate to get my hands on it (my itch for Dolch having already been scratched thanks to the DSA set Signature Plastics appears to keep in general stock online). But I honestly only want/need one keyboard for home and one for work, with a "backup" for each. Unicorns are not in my future (yeah, famous last words, I know). :mrgreen:

Posted: 16 Aug 2015, 18:28
by Muirium
As curator of that header gallery, you can tell I like sphericals the best of all. Those Topre cylindricals are quite nice too, mind…

Posted: 17 Aug 2015, 06:12
by Sugoi
mondalaci wrote: ...I was taught to press it with my left hand.
Same here.

In the end it doesn't really matter I think. Just do what's most comfortable/convienient for you.

Re: Should the "6" key be pressed with the left or right hand?

Posted: 07 Aug 2019, 20:49
by snacksthecat
When doing normal typing, I seem to use my left index finger

When typing just numbers, I seem to use my right index finger

But I hunt and peck when it comes to most numbers so it's probably a big messy mix

Re: Should the "6" key be pressed with the left or right hand?

Posted: 07 Aug 2019, 21:08
by Lanrefni
Given that I use a split board and have my mouse in the middle I'm going to go with right index finger as reaching over my numpad and mouse with my left hand would be annoying.