Giving up on Colemak

Mar 01, 2016

I don’t really feel like giving up on the Colemak layout, but it seems like the easy way out of all the typing errors I keep making by switching devices.

In an ideal world, we would have alternative keyboard layouts on devices like the MacBook Pro, Surface Pro and iOS devices. They keep having these standard layouts like Qwerty US, Qwerty International and Azerty that are not even that good. What is worse is the way the keys are placed, in an alternating pattern that doesn’t make sense, it’s not even symmetrical. Give me a matrix keyboard over this any day!

In 2011 I switched to the Colemak layout in an effort to learn to touch type again (I learned Azerty once) and benefit of all the advantages of the Colemak layout. I bought a mechanical keyboard and loved to type again. Not much later I build my own ErgoDox keyboard and all was good for a while. Then I had to go to clients again.

The clients didn’t really like the noisy mechanical keyboards and it was annoying to drag them along. I can type on a normal keyboard for sure, but it was far from ideal. I came to love my ErgoDox that I didn’t want anything else.

Then I got the iPad Pro (yeah I predicted it a while ago) and was annoyed to not have the Colemak layout available in iOS or as an option on the Smart Keyboard Cover. The only option was to attach my Colemak configured ErgoDox (outputs as Qwerty) to be able to keep typing on a Colemak layout. This defeats the purpose of the iPad Pro for me completely so I decided to learn to touch type qwerty. I can easily keep up with my typing speed from Colemak with just a subset of fingers, I know all the key locations by heart, but as soon as I try to type blindly, everything becomes a mess of Colemak and Qwerty merged together.

I did notice a lot more travel in my fingers in the beginning, Colemak is really good at keeping your fingers on the home row, but after 2 weeks it was already a lot easier to switch between devices. I can start typing on my wife’s laptop now, she can type on my iMac again .. life is simpler this way.

I bought the new “Magic Keyboard” from Apple as a replacement for the ErgoDox. I’m crazy right? I sure do miss the layer functionality from the ErgoDox to easily switch to a numeric keypad or access some additional keys not available without some hacks.

I kind of like the cleanness of my desk with only the Magic Keyboard and Magic Trackpad on my desk. No extra cables and no huge keyboard. After weeks of having it this way I don’t see myself going back to the ErgoDox.

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Jonas Wouters

Freelance developer @ Just Works. Father, geek, gamer.