Brace yourselves. This is gonna be a long one.
If any of you don’t know what I’m on about, this is Colemak. Its an ergonomic keyboard layout designed in 2006 to make life actually easier for the typist.
I’ve personally discussed this topic before in my post – Colemak vs Dvorak – So Hard To Make A Decision
Now let’s be honest. Most people do not suffer from Carpal Tunnel or RSI and the number of cases are quite few than what these sites would have you believe. But the truth of the matter is that most of us purely don’t take stuff like ergonomics into consideration anymore.
Sure when designing the interior of a car maybe, but when it comes to your own workspace at home or at work, how many of us do? Do we even realise if we are having any of the issues mentioned above?
If we think about it, most of us actually spend time adjusting to our workspace than adjusting IT to us.
Most sites and books on ergonomics would state the same thing.
Now why did I choose to learn an ergonomic layout? Simply because its different and I like the idea that I’m doing something that will benefit me in the long run.
The journey has not been easy. After a year of switching, it has been hell. I still cannot type a simple sentence without making tons of mistakes. Its even more frustrating when I see success stories on the forums that users have been able to switch properly and type faster and more accurately in about a month. Maybe its just me.
The more popular alternative layout is Dvorak. Its even recognised by every single operating system. Colemak boasts features that proves its better than Dvorak here. I used Dvorak for a month before trying Colemak and I can honestly say that I made more progress with Dvorak in about a month than what I have with Colemak for this whole year. When my frustrations got the better of me, I did seriously think that it would be better to switch back to Dvorak. But then again that would mean that I will be admitting to being defeated by a keyboard layout.
There is one more thing to note. If you’re a proficient computer user, you’d like to have your left hand on the keyboard using the shortcuts while holding on to the mouse with the right. This is where Colemak absolutely shines.
But, if you were to place both devices in such a way that the reach of both hands is equal and you were using a full-size keyboard, then you end up with this (right).
The actual layout is off-centre to the left so much that it puts the right wrist in funny position.
Mind you, its not an issue if you’re using an ergonomic keyboard like the Microsoft Ergonomic 4000 or the Kinesis Ergonomic keyboards. Thats because those keyboards were designed to make its easier.
The main issue with using an ergonomic keyboard is that you tend to get too used to it sometimes and that means that you may not be able to use normal keyboards that easily. Chris Pirillo talks about this here .
In that sense, using a standard keyboard is something of an advantage. Although I would still love to have a Kinesis ergonomic keyboard. 😛
Some would argue that using a standard keyboard or not, what I have done is not the way a keyboard is supposed to be placed at all. The actual layout should be in front of you like this (left).
The only problem that I have with this is that when using the mouse, on the right, the reach is a bit too much for my taste.
This is one thing that I’ve noticed Dvorak has over Colemak in my opinion. If I was to use the keyboard shortcuts in one hand and the mouse in the other, on Dvorak, most of the common shortcuts have been put on the right, which means that I can use the mouse with the left hand. On a standard keyboard, that means the layout is right in front of me and the reach for both hands on the shortcuts and the mouse is equal.
The only hurdle that I can see is learning to use mouse with the left hand which isn’t much of a problem for me; since I’m left-handed.
As for now though, I’m sticking with Colemak. Even though I don’t like the way I have to reach for the mouse, I will keep my keyboard like this.. (left)
Probably my stubbornness or something, I cannot stand the idea of saying that I was defeated by a keyboard layout and I probably do what I can to make it work. I have noticed that there is some kind of improvement. After all the effort that I have made into finally getting it into my brain, to switch back to Dvorak will definitely be a step in the wrong direction; even though it maybe easier than pie. The comfort and the shortcuts make Colemak a layout worth thinking about for anyone.
Maybe I may just get myself something like a tenkeyless or laptop style one; but having a number pad is just quite handy.