Poll: Thumb Accessible Modifier Keys



  • The Problem

    As a programmer, I find myself having to use modifier keys, especially Ctrl and Shift, approximately seven billion times per day. Annoyingly, these keys are only accessible using my smallest fingers (pinkies), while I have two big lumbering thumbs sharing a single key between them. In fact, judging by the wear pattern on my spacebar, I'm not using my left thumb at all. :(

    The Proposal

    I propose adding additional modifier keys below the space bar:

    This would allow me to keep the fingers of both hands firmly around the home keys, reducing travel and offloading some of the pinky work onto my freeloading thumbs.

    The keys would need to be recessed to allow normal use of the spacebar, but other than that, I can see no disadvantages. It's rare that space is used in conjunction with modifiers (except auto-complete and such), but for those cases, the regular modifier keys are still available.

    I have also come up with a catchy name:

    The Keyboard With Thumb Accessible Modifier Keys TM

    Have Your Say

    • My $deity, that's awesome!
    • What the hell is wrong with you? Keyboards work fine!
    • Hello


  • I am intrigued by this idea. I like it.

    But I think I'd reorder and change the size of the keys instead. I know I use the thumbs for pressing Alt, I suspect other people may do so too, so we could take advantage of that. Here's what I'm thinking:

    • move the left Control to where the left Alt is, pushing all the other left modifiers on the bottom row to the left so it reads "Super, Alt, Ctrl". You can increase Ctrl's size by "stealing" from the spacebar.
    • move the right Shift to where the right Alt is, moving the right Ctrl to its place. Push the rest of the right modifiers to the right so it's now "Shift, Alt, Super, Menu".

    I choose the central modifiers to be Ctrl on the left and Shift on the right because most of the keys I use with Ctrl are on the left (A, S, Z, X, C, V, even W). You still have left Shift in its traditional place and right Ctrl is now hopefully more confortable to hit as it's bigger and closer to your pinkie's resting position.

    An unfortunate effect of moving keys like this will be some frustration breaking away from old habits. But people adapt.

    In your design you could probably press modifier+space with a single thumb if you wanted to, btw.

    PS: eww, single row Enter key.


  • Banned

    You are not crazy, but there is some prior art in this department :)

    I would also throw in one of these puppies for extra fun:



  • @Zecc said:

    move the left Control to where the left Alt is

    I think I'd rather avoid moving buttons. I had a netbook that switched the location of the left Ctrl and Fn and it drove me mad. I see the extra buttons as bonus keys that won't affect your use of traditional keyboards when you inevitably have to switch to one.

    @Zecc said:

    PS: eww, single row Enter key.

    Thankfully I don't have that, this was just the best image I could find for quick modification. :)



  • @sam said:

    You are not crazy, but there is some prior art in this department

    Holy Jesus...


  • BINNED

    Do what you want, but DON'T FUCK WITH THESE:


    Filed under: Too late


  • Banned

    I had a friend with RSI that really loved that keyboard, it does heavily reduce movement you need to make but takes a pile of training to get used to.



  • @sam said:

    I would also throw in one of these puppies for extra fun:

    That has the potential for awesome. Can it be programmed to offer stamping / kicking actions in PC games?


  • BINNED

    Feature request: add pressure sensitivity (seems like it already has it for activation purposes, just pass it along to the driver) and make a strong kick register as CtrlAltDel


    Filed under: venting



  • I modified your image to express visually what I tried to express verbally:

    @Onyx said:

    Do what you want, but DON'T FUCK WITH THESE:
    Tell me about it. I have a keyboard like this:

    Tiny backspace, huge delete key that occupies the space left over by an exiled insert key. TRWTF is that I was the one who bought this keyboard.



  • @Keith said:

    I had a netbook that switched the location of the left Ctrl and Fn and it drove me mad.

    Specifically when trying to copy or cut and paste something:

    Highlight range
    -> Ctrl + X
    -> wonder why my selection has been replaced with the character 'x'
    -> fume.

    <!-- -->


  • @Zecc said:

    I modified your image to express visually what I tried to express verbally:

    While it makes a lot of sense, I can imagine it being very frustrating when switching between that and a keyboard with a regular layout.


  • BINNED

    @Zecc said:

    Tell me about it. I have a keyboard like this:

    Had pretty much the same. I didn't even register it at the store since that was the first time I ever encountered something like that.

    Since then I mostly go out and buy the cheapest keyboard with decent keys available since anything else that's decent and not stupidly expensive I look at fucks with those keys in some way.



  • Mine:

    Nice mechanical action, small form factor and doesn't screw with those keys!



  • While on the subject, how about vertical keyboards (and mice)?

    (Out of politeness, pictures link to the sites I stole them from. They don't represent any endorsement, they were among the first hits on web and image search)



  • @Zecc said:

    While on the subject, how about vertical keyboards (and mice)?

    That looks tiring...



  • If we're going on about esoteric keyboards, one I've mentioned before - track-pad keyboards:

    Apple bought out the company that made them (and stopped that product line) to produce an inferior product for iThings™. The bastards.



  • My hand at rest is at ~20 degree angle on the mous anyway, so a slightly tilted mouse might work very well.



  • @Keith said:

    That looks tiring...
    Well, that keyboard is in dire need of armrests, but I don't think the mouse would be that tiring. Like @dhromed said, a tilted mouse would work quite well I think.
    A comfortable wrist position is at, what, 20 to 45 degrees?


  • Discourse touched me in a no-no place

    @Keith said:

    I propose adding additional modifier keys below the space bar

    Hmm, that's where I prefer to have the touchpad. (My wrists haven't really liked using a mouse for about 10 years now.)



  • I'm using a TrulyErgonomic keyboard, which moves the Shift and Ctrl keys up:
    ,
    and I must say that I really like this layout (my actual layout differs a bit from the one on the picture, since some of the national keys were put in weird places).

    As for vertical mice, I'd love to try them, none of the models I've been able to find had the back/forward buttons in an easy to reach place (I use those a lot, and wouldn't want to lose the functionality).



  • @ender said:

    I'm using a TrulyErgonomic keyboard, which moves the Shift and Ctrl keys up:

    I'm confused and intrigued in equal measure.

    How do you cope with switching between that and a regular keyboard? Also, what are the blanks in the corners?


  • BINNED

    @ender said:

    (my actual layout differs a bit from the one on the picture, since some of the national keys were put in weird places).

    Your link seems to be broken but I'll assume QWERTZ.

    HAAAAAAATE


    Filed under: Alt GrB = }



  • @Keith said:

    How do you cope with switching between that and a regular keyboard?

    Without any problems. I type much faster on TE now than I ever did on a normal keyboard though.@Keith said:

    Also, what are the blanks in the corners?

    This is the 209 model, which by default has those keys set to (IIRC) Japanese kana switch, but in my layout they're the right Windows key and Menu key. Both of my keyboards are actually blank:

    @Onyx said:
    Your link seems to be broken but I'll assume QWERTZ.

    Fixed the link, and yes, QWERTZ (but this wasn't the problem [that's solved by the keyboard layout] - main problem was that Ž was in the left-top corner instead of on the right).



  • @Keith said:

    How do you cope with switching between that and a regular keyboard?

    No more difficult than switching between two games with slightly different mechanics.



  • @ender said:

    Both of my keyboards are actually blank

    Fucking hardcore, brother.



  • @dhromed said:

    Fucking hardcore, brother.

    Amen to that.



  • @ender said:

    TrulyErgonomic keyboard

    I really like that keyboard. I have a few questions:

    I ask about backspace and tab because I would have preferred to have backspace more accessible than tab, so it seems to me (without having tried the keyboard myself) that switching those around would be more convenient.

    Other than that, having ]} to the left and {[ to the right seems counter-intuitive to me, but I'm guessing you're right-handed and have your editor set to auto-close opened braces.@ender said:

    Both of my keyboards are actually blank
    Ah, the old trick to avoid anyone else using your computer. :)



  • @Zecc said:

    The ISO2 key is for getting at Latin-2 characters, right? It's not related to the international standard for direction of twist designation for yarns?

    It's actually the <> key (at least in Slovenian layout).
    @Zecc said:

    How do you hit backspace? I assume index finger, but it could be thumb.

    Right index finger (and I use left index finger for tab - and no, I didn't know this until you asked).
    @Zecc said:
    Between the backspace and tab keys, which is more comfortable to press?

    Can't say, they both seem easy enough to press.

    @Zecc said:

    Other than that, having ]} to the left and {[ to the right seems counter-intuitive to me, but I'm guessing you're right-handed and have your editor set to auto-close opened braces.

    [{ is actually Šš and ]} is actually Đđ (which is not needed in Slovenian, and I might remap it to something useful one day).



  • How do you type braces then?


  • BINNED

    Alt GrB = {
    Alt GrN = }
    Alt GrF = [
    Alt GrG = ]

    Yes, it's horrible. Also, it's extra nice when you stumble onto something that doesn't differentiate between Alt and Alt Gr and has shortcuts mapped to some of those combos...

    Also:
    Alt GrQ = \ - Look ma, two hands!
    Alt GrW = | - Have fun closing all your windows when you try to pipe something!
    (I know it's CtrlW usually, but I saw Alt somewhere... possibly a terminal emulator since those stay away from Ctrl so they don't swallow interrupts).



  • @Zecc said:

    How do you type braces then?

    ??< and ??>


    Filed under: Trigraphs? Really?



  • @Onyx said:

    Alt GrB = {
    Alt GrN = }
    Alt GrF = [
    Alt GrG = ]

    :(



  • (If you've just expanded this post by pressing the "N replies" button under Onyx's post, just scroll down a bit)

    So this doesn't represent your actual keyboard layout?


  • BINNED

    Oh, yeah, forgot to mention, Alt GrV for @

    Also, fun bits:
    ` and ^ are Alt Gr + 7 and 3 respectively. Fun bit is, on every single system I tried, they ALWAYS require you to hit another key before they even show. No, I don't know why.



  • @Zecc said:

    So this doesn't represent your actual keyboard layout?

    This is the hardware layout (and what the layout would look like if I used US English layout in Windows). Slovenian layout is then layered over this.



  • Good grief. I was editing a post #1 I made, as to reply to a post #2 that was made to reply to #1. It made things too weird, because the reply was before the thing it was replying to. At it seemed for a second like my post had been swallowed.

    I'm editing my posts again and replying below:


    @Onyx said:
    Also, fun bits:` and ^ are Alt Gr + 7 and 3 respectively. Fun bit is, on every single system I tried, they ALWAYS require you to hit another key before they even show. No, I don't know why.
    I too need to press space if I want those individual characters, as well as tilde. It's because those are accents that can be used with vowels. Try it, maybe it'll work for you too: àòèìùâêîôûãẽĩõũ.

    This is my layout: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:KB_Portuguese.svg

    @ is AltGr+2 as Shift+2 is occupied by ". To get to / I need Shift+7, usually right pinkie+left index. It's the character that irritates me most, because it slows down typing Linux-style paths.



  • @Onyx said:

    and ^ are Alt Gr + 7 and 3 respectively. Fun bit is, on every single system I tried, they ALWAYS require you to hit another key before they even show. No, I don't know why.

    Look up dead keys. They're like that to âllôw yôu thîngs lîke thîs (however ` isn't dead for me).

    Anyway, all this talk about layouts got me to finally install MS's Keyboard Layout Editor, and now I have <>{[}] in the top-left of the keyboard (and ^ as an undead key on AltGr+R). No more ć and đ for me (WTF is with this editor? I pressed Ctrl+V, and it deleted everything from ^ to the end of line‽)



  • You guys have it really tough.


    Filed Under: Keyboard Privilege


  • Discourse touched me in a no-no place

    Why don't you just use Compose? (Or Alt on OSX.)


  • BINNED

    I get that and it makes sense, generally. But since they aren't used as dead keys by default on a US keyboard we now use them for other useful stuff, like using backticks in bash.

    Of course, whoever designed the QWERTZ layout didn't think about that stuff at all. Yes, they had to cram in those extra characters somewhere, and compromises needed to be made. But some of choices they made really boggle my mind.

    I use QWERTY anyway, and only switch to QWERTZ when I need to type up an officially looking email or something, so I need those extra bits on č, ć, ž, š, đ, and abomination that is dž (can't be arsed to look for the proper digraph, nobody else does anyway).


    Filed under: And then the return mail doesn't use them, wanna bet it's because most people don't know when to use ć as opposed to č anyway?



  • Every time I see Alt Gr my brain reads it as "Alt, grrr", which pretty neatly sums up the frustration I imagine most Europeans must have with all the diacritic marks that are strewn across their languages and the 53 different keyboards they need to support each one.



  • @Onyx said:

    But since they aren't used as dead keys by default on a US keyboard we now use them for other useful stuff, like using backticks in bash.

    Is backtick a deadkey in Croatian layout? Because it isn't in Slovenian one.


  • BINNED

    Pretty sure they are on Windows, but don't have a Windows machine at hand to check. Curiously enough they don't seem to be dead on Linux.



  • @subscript_error said:

    Every time I see <kbd>Alt Gr</kbd> my brain reads it as "Alt, grrr", which pretty neatly sums up the frustration I imagine most Europeans must have with all the diacritic marks that are strewn across their languages and the 53 different keyboards they need to support each one.
    Could be worse.



  • It's still missing a button.

    Turbo!

  • Discourse touched me in a no-no place

    The Bad Ideas thread is over there…


  • BINNED

    Hey, it could kinda-sorta make sense again. What with all the frequency scaling on laptops and all. You could have the Turbo button set the CPU governor to performance.


    Filed under: if you hate your battery life it's great



  • @Onyx said:

    Hey, it could kinda-sorta make sense again. What with all the frequency scaling on laptops and all. You could have the Turbo button set the CPU governor to performance.


    Filed under: if you hate your battery life it's great

    My old Packard Bell laptop had an "Eco" button. I never figured out what it did, since it was always off, but I think it was basically a reverse Turbo button.


  • I survived the hour long Uno hand

    One of my coworkers can only type on two keyboards;He's trained himself to use a whole keyboard per hand. You take one away and his typing speed plummets.


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