Best layouts

16 October 2016

The best layout depends very much on what you want to use it for ...
For example:

  • The language ... natural language and computer language, if programming
  • The physical layout (ANSI, Ergo, etc) of the keyboard
  • If programming, which environment you are using, eg EMACS, Vim or a GUI
  • Other tasks, eg data capture or specialised uses

From the above we can see that no one layout will be perfect for every use.
However we can still try to compare layouts, and use the results as a guide to picking one which is best for our needs.

There are different ways of measuring keyboard effectiveness, and each person tackling the problem takes a slightly different approach, leading to different results. It depends very much on WHAT you measure, based on WHICH inputs.

For example, we could measure

  • The distance each finger travels
  • The likelihood that you will need to use the same finger twice or more in a row
  • The 'convenience' of typing certain common strings and words (e.g. "th", "and", "of", "ph", "wh", etc.)
  • The amount of work each finger has to do

These factors are also tied up in the physical layout of the keyboard, of which in recent times there have been a veritable explosion away from the standard ANSI/ISO layouts.

So we have analysed the results from some popular layout analyzers, of which only 1 set is now available, others will be added in due course.

  1. Patrick Gillespie's Keyboard Layout Analyser
  2. ADnW's analyser
  3. Colemak Fanbois analyzer
  4. Michael Dickens' analyser