Monday, July 13, 2009

Colemak


Ergonomics is possibly one of the biggest markets in the computer industry. Many ergonomic keyboards are generally more expensive than standard keyboards and some are more expensive than the very useless "gaming" keyboards and other game board type things. There are even ergonomic mice on the market, which range from strange vertical mice to trackballs. In the end, however, not everyone can afford this stuff and heavy computer users or people who have carriers based in computers end up with arthritis or RSI, and normally the first solution is ergonomics.

I'm all for ergonomics because I use computer's pretty much wherever I go and I use them all day long. I am in the market for an ergonomic keyboard and I recently received my first trackball mouse. I wasn't sure how I would handle the trackball, or if it would be a significant change, but I ended up enjoying it quite a bit and am excited to continue using it, even though I still need a little more getting used to and I have yet to play any games whatsoever with it.

For about a year, I suffered from mild tendinitis which I solved by swearing off games and computers for a day or two at a time. However, this is only temporary and so my problems would return rather quickly and other times I would just ignore them. This got pretty bad but ultimately it just became a constant in my life that I would feel minor wrist pain for most of the day.

About six months I started to use a keyboard layout called Colemak. It is a keyboard created just for ergonomics, but for computers. You may be confused about that last bit that I said, but that would mean that you don't know much about layouts. I'm referring to Dvorak when I say that.

This is Dvorak. As you may notice, it is very difficult to understand but it has proven to be one of the best layouts ever made. This layout, however, was made for typewriters and not for computers. If you take a look at Colemak, you'll notice that it is very similar to QWERTY (which is the standard layout in the US and other countries). This similarity makes it easier to learn as well as good for computer shortcuts. ZXCV are in the same place for Undo, Cut, Copy and Paste. There is actually a chart for the similarities on Colemak.com.

However, I digress. In the last six months I have felt no wrist pain at all and I am very happy about this. There is an estimated 3000 users for Colemak right now and the crowd is only growing. I, myself, am trying to get others to notice it and it's advantages. Try it today if you can. It's not too difficult to learn, but learning anything that is anything like a keyboard layout is going to be difficult if you have used the same one for many many years, so just give it time. It took me one day to memorize the keys but it's taken me months to get my WPM up to where it was. I, of course, didn't really try that hard to do so since I didn't mind a slow WPM, but it eventually worked itself up with time.

Colemak is easy to learn and much better than QWERTY and you'll always be able to get Colemak in some way on most any computer, but you won't unlearn QWERTY if you know it well enough, but your hands will feel better while using Colemak.

Also, caps lock is switched with backspace (well, replaced), but the change isn't as bad as it sounds. Caps lock is a useless key to me anyway and having backspace at my pinky has made typing easier on most any keyboard; some keyboards have tiny backspace key, but no keyboard moves the caps lock key.

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