Jeff mentioned the Colemak keyboard layout on Twitter. Seems pretty cool - most of the benefits of Dvorak, but a much less drastic change from the standard QWERTY layout. For instance, control-z, control-x, control-c, and control-v all stay the same.

Anyone tried it?

+3  A: 

Teifion said he did in his question about alternative layouts.

Peter Coulton

I'm going to try it tomorrow. Tried Dvorak yesterday, did ok. I'll see how quickly i get up to speed with colemak after an hour and then commit to learning one over the next 3 months.

Darren Kopp
+1  A: 

I've been using it a little and have been doing the TypeFaster lessons. I'm surprised how quickly I'm picking it up.

Jon Galloway
+1  A: 

I have found it to be quite good, the similarities to Qwerty are an advantage, both in learning Colemak and remembering Qwerty.

I suggest using it in a place you can see the keys then hide the keyboard so you cannot see it, this will force your mind to remember where the keys are.

+1  A: 

I used it for a week and I've just dropped it today cause I need the speed that I'm used to and after a week a only got to like 30-40 wpm, with a 1-2 wpm increase. But it just hurts to much :). Plus I'm so used with my speed on QWERTY that I just can't handle to keep with it.

Mihai Lazar

Been using Colemak for about a month. I am almost up to my old QWERTY speed, but my accuracy is lower. However I only used a training program for the first week, so I believe if I start doing that for an hour a day I can surpass my QWERTY speed and accuracy within a few more weeks.

I have found Colemak much more tolerable than Dvorak. The transition from QWERTY was easier and common hotkeys are in the same place. Dvorak is a good layout, but it was invented long before the PC and I think it shows. Colemak is a nice re-evaluation that takes common PC needs into account.

Compared to QWERTY there is no contest. My wrist pain has subsided dramatically. I find myself wanting to keep my hands on the keyboard more than before; Something about normal typing having much less travel distance magnifies how awkward it is to reach for the mouse.

Finally CapsLock->Backspace switch is the best change to any keyboard layout ever.

+1  A: 

I've been using Colemak for about 8 months and like it. A lot. Colemak just makes more sense than QWERTY. With Colemak, the keys you use the most are in the most convenient positions, for instance 'S' and 'T' are directly under your strongest fingers. Pretty smart. Having Backspace mapped to the Caps Lock key is an enormous benefit all by itself.

I've found that after the initial adjustment, I type much faster with Colemak and my fingers have to do awkward things a lot less. I plan to be typing for another 50+ years, so over that period I'll end up saving significant time as well as reducing strain on my hands.

But there is a down side. The biggest negative is the painful two weeks it takes to adjust. IMing at 1/3 your normal speed is annoying for everyone involved. So it takes a commitment to switch. The second negative is that it can be a little hard to go back and forth between Colemak and QWERTY. Not that hard, but you won't be as good in QWERTY. This means that when working on other peoples' computers, you might look a little clueless as you hunt and peck (until you explain that it's because you use Colemak, at which point you'll look like a genius). If you work on another period for any length of time, it's easy to install Colemak and just switch the layout.

I haven't used Dvorak, so it's hard to compare. But it makes sense that the closer to QWERTY you can get, the easier it will be to make the transition, and the easier it will be to switch back to QWERTY when needed. There are also some slight advantages to Colemak over Dvorak, the biggest being the remapping of Caps Lock.

Gabriel Yarra

I've been using Colemak for about a month and a half now, coming over from Dvorak, but for some reason I'm actually experience more hand pain with Colemak than I ever did with Dvorak... I might be because I was a Dvorak typist for over 2 years before. Maybe getting my accuracy back up to snuff makes a big difference as well.... For sure try it out though and make a good decision, numbers wize, Colemak is superior.

Out of the three, it was the only keyboard designed after the invention of the computer as well.


I can't say that I agree with the "Colemak was invented with the computer in mind arguments" since most typing is based on english and Colemak is designed to preserve some of Qwerty's key placements. It is certainly easier to transition from Qwerty to Colemak but I consider this a superficial advantage in the long run. That said, programmers may want to reassign some of the non letter keys but it is a no brainer for the tech savvy to do this.

After trying both Colemak and Dvorak, I found Colemak to be a massive improvement over qwerty but Dvorak's comfort of use and basis on the english language are what made me decide stick with it. Something about Colemak bothered my hands and I suspect it was the way it makes you type more characters consecutively with the same hand. Dvorak never bothers my hands, even though there is a slight bias towards the right hand and my left hand is my stronger of the two. I also find Dvorak's hand alternation much more pleasant than Colemak's "roll".

Finally, the repositioned del key is a nice touch but personally I prefer to reassign caps-lock to be a better placed command key for easier shortcuts but this is purely a personal preference.

+1  A: 

I've been touch typing QWERTY for almost 30 years (I'm 43). I type 110 wpm. However I was having some finger fatigue for a month and wanted to try something different.

Initially I tried Dvorak. After 2 weeks I was doing 40 wpm. I did learn Dvorak briefly 30 years ago. However Dvorak is NOT optimal -- the letter i, all vowels on the left hand, control-C, V, X all need to be ONE-handed.

So I tried Colemak. I LOVE IT. Getting up to speed took longer since I had to unlearn Dvorak. After 2 months, I do 60 wpm. The first two weeks were really tough -- doing only about 20 wpm. However it was worth it.

I expect to get back to 110 wpm, but it'll take a while -- maybe a year? 60 is okay for now.

PROS: finger fatigue is gone -- fingers travel only 30% the distance as QWERTY. Optimal key placement IMHO.

CONS: learning curve (which is better than Dvorak mind you). Mentally switching between QWERTY and Colemak can be tricky. My spelling has gotten worse since I spell letters mentally in QWERTY.

I should have switched years ago.

+1  A: 

Colemak places some often used keys at the middle two homerow keys which forces side to side movement. Some people find the placement of T and H annoying. A layout called the Workman layout was designed as an improvement over Colemak to purposely reduce the lateral movements.

Check it out:

+1 as I find this new design to be well-thought-out, with all the analysis. The only problem is that it's difficult for obscure keyboard layouts to become popular. Should an effective and ergonomic keyboard layout be popular? I think it should (for the good of the public), but the status quo qwerty is most likely to remain dominant indefinitely if there is no promotion by influential people and hardware from manufacturers for an alternative layout.
It would be best if an international team of ergonomists and representatives from various keyboard-using industries worked to design a new keyboard layout, or evaluate the non-qwerty alternatives and recommend one, just one. It's probably a pipe dream though.