Books of Note

Practical Common
LispThe best intro to start your journey. Excellent coverage of CLOS.

ANSI Common
LispAnother great starting point with a different focus.

Paradigms of Artificial Intelligence
ProgrammingA superb set of Lisp examples. Not just for the AI crowd.

Friday, December 16, 2005

More interesting keyboards 

The other day I posted about Das Keyboard being an interesting twist on keyboards, being unlabeled. At Interop this week, I happened to run into a company called Zeomi, who makes a keyboard with an added tab key. Basically, they put a duplicate tab key under the arrow keys, over by the keypad. They say that if you do lots of data entry into either spreadsheets or forms where tab is used to move among fields, this can really speed things up, presumably because you can be flipping through papers with your left hand while your right hand does everything on the numeric keypad. I did find it humorous that they're trying to patent this.

Also, there were lots of comments on my comments regarding Dvorak keyboard layouts. I should give you some background. I'm already a 70+ word-per-minute Qwerty touch-typist (test yourself over at Back in 1997 or so, I actually switched to Dvorak for about a month and I got reasonably good (almost over the hump). I found that I kept running into a few of the various standard problems, basically as documented in this page of Dvorak information. In the end, I switched back. My Dvorak never did get quite as fast as my Qwerty, but I only stuck with it for a month or so. I'm sure I would have been at least as fast on Dvorak as I am at Qwerty if I had only kept going for another week or two. I do admit that Dvorak was much more comfortable than is Qwerty. You definitely can type a lot more words without moving your fingers from the home row. In the end, the biggest pain for me was being able to type Ctrl-X, -C, and -V for cut/copy/paste with my left hand while holding the mouse in my right. Dvorak just messes with that and it was always an annoyance. I'd actually be interested in how people cope with things like Emacs with a Dvorak keyboard, where there are lots of keychords.

Anyway, if you have become a Dvorak convert, I can certainly understand why. Every now and then, I remap my keyboard and type in Dvorak for an hour or two. And then I go back to Qwerty. ;-)


I agree with the copy/paste keychords being harder on Dvorak, but Emacs (where I ten-finger-type anyway) works like a charm after a while.

It took me a while to get fast using Dvorak, but now I love it (I'm using it for a year now).

I can only imagine taking the entire set of keybindings for emacs, and automatically translating them to being the location-identical key combinations.

it is all less of a problem if you actually started with dvorak *before* emacs ;)

also the *true emacs way* is of course, to go as much as possible without the mouse and use ctrl-f/b/n/p instead of the cursor keys. left-handed shortcuts are therefore less of an issue for me.

i do find it weird to do shortcuts on querty keyboards, however querty keyboards always seem a little funky these days.

i think if you are good at touch typing querty it is certainly fine to stick with it. dvorak turned out to be an excellent way to start touch typing for me - which i wasn't even close to before - since i was not even tempted to look down at the keys anymore.

If you want to see interesting keyboards, check out these links:

I'm also a Dvorak typist. There are two things I find anoying in the Dvorak layout. The first one you already mentioned: the problem with often used Emacs keybings like C-x C-s, C-x C-w, C-x C-v etc. The other issue is that the Dvorak layout is strongly biased towards the right hand (I'm a lefty).

Shai Coleman claim to have solved these issues in his "Asetion" layout:

Meanwhile he developed it further and named it the "Colemak" layout:

Seems interesting. I'm thinking about trying it over the hollydays.

I decided to switch to DVORAK about a year ago (I already was a good QWERTY typist) primarily due to wrist pain. The switch was a bit slow, but it was well worth it. I would say the hardest part for me, being an emacs power user, was that my fingers were just conditioned to specific chords. I could have cheated, and remapped the chords to the same keys as someone suggested in this thread, but I opted to stick it out, and I'm happy to report that I'm just as proficient in DVORAK as I was in QWERTY when using emacs.

Kinesis makes some interesting remappable, dvorak-qwerty switchable keyboards.

Misc Dvorak/Emacs tips:

Swapping C-q and C-x:

(keyboard-translate ?\C-q ?\C-x)
(keyboard-translate ?\C-x ?\C-q)

Putting the Control key where it belongs:

setxkbmap dvorak -option ctrl:swapcaps (X server 4.x and up)
echo -e 'keymaps 0-15\nkeycode 29=Caps_Lock\nkeycode 58=Control' | loadkeys (Linux console)

C-h for backspace is nice (h happens to be under the right index in the home position):

(keyboard-translate ?\C-h ?\C-?)
(global-set-key "\C-ch" 'help-command)

Not much more speed for me from switching from QWERTY to Dvorak (~70 wpm to ~80wpm) but hands and wrists are happier.

These jibberish jams are just a bunch of hullabaloo. If you guys came to my town you would sound like a pack of aliens and people probably wouldn't even serve you at the dinner. You doy-yoys.

FWIW, it took me somewhere around 2 months (I don't use the computer professionally, though) to achieve a typing speed with Dvorak comparable to my previous level. I touch-typed Qwerty for quite a few years before that.
I was quite (pleasantly) surprised to see that I was actually a bit faster (600CPM as opposed to the ~420CPM I achieved with Qwerty as measured on when I took a test roughly three months after switching. The wrist pain stopped, and I find typing with this layout more comfortable.

I didn't find Dvorak to make using the Emacs keychords worse (re-learning them took some time, of course), but I did remap the navigation keys in Viper mode to have them on the home row under the fingers of the right hand.

I'm really happy I made the switch to Dvorak. Although admittedly many applications are QWERTY-centric, the increased comfort I find to be more than worthwhile. I went from 50-60wpm to 90+ after a year or so. And I've even broken 200wpm on easy sentences, something I could never hope to do on QWERTY :)

Not related to this post, but I'd just thought I'd state my opinion that Lisp is a nice language for doing a few things, and a horrible language for doing most things. :P

Have any of your seen the new keyboard that is created by means of laser? It's amazing! It projects a keyboard onto a flat surface and by placing your finger on a projected key, it breaks the current which registers in the computer as a key stroke. It's all really cutting edge. I'm surprised this blog hasn't covered it yet!

I mapped the Dvorak keyboard on my old Atari 800XL once and it was very useful (the little stickers I still have on my Atari were the keyboard I used). I reached my QWERTY typing speed in about a week or so of programming. Too bad I had to reload the mapper (and use QWERTY for the reload instruction) every time I had to reset!

The Dvorak layout is nice. Anyone who wants to do a lot of programming will want to use it just for the slight increase of text throughput from brain to computer.

Hi there. This is way offtopic, but I came across your blog on the "New Post s of the Day" or whatever, and saw that you're a Lisp fanatic..

I used to work for a place called Patmos International, owned by a man named James Gatzka.. Old man that was once a part of the Association for Lisp Users. He helped promote the idea of using Lisp in the US Government.. Just curious to see if you ever knew him.. thanks, excellent blog!

I'm trying to use Dvorak exclusively, but the keyboard shortcuts are killing me. Is there any way to tell X to always send the qwerty shortcut, no matter what layout one is in? As I switch between 3 layouts (other languages) this is a must. I'm on Fedora 7, with KDE.

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