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Emacs Pinky (wikipedia.org)
33 points by rickdale on June 2, 2011 | hide | past | favorite | 28 comments

I maintain that if you're not remapping key you shouldn't be using Emacs -- not just to avoid RSI but also because the whole point of a customisable editor is to well... customise it to suit you better.

Pro tips:

- Don't press multiple keys with one hand. If you're pressing Ctrl-A, press the A with your left hand and control with your right hand.

- Remap common functions onto function keys. They're easy to press and will give your hands a break.

- Look into a Maltron/Kinesis keyboard. I have a Maltron and it pwns hard any other keyboard I've ever used.

I don't subscribe to your second "pro tip". I find the function keys especially hard to reach, because I have to move my whole hand on an ordinary keyboard, or press that stupid "fn" key on my netbook.

But also I'd be interested to hear which functions you put there?! I'm sure you put different functions on the keys depending on the mode, but I couldn't even say which functions I use most often - besides self-insert (haha) probably the navigation commands (C-f, C-b, M-f, M-b C-v, M-v etc.), but I'm sure you mean more specific functions.

I do remap mode-specific functions every now and then, so I agree that it can be a good thing. But I usually bind them to C-c something or similar stuff, which I find easy enough to type.

I thought people would disagree w/ the use of function keys. Sure they cost a few keystrokes to hit but I don't find the cost that significant; usually I hit something I've mapped to a fn key when my train of thought has come to an end or been interrupted.

My global binding are below. M-F9 (compile) is the only one I regularly rebind for different modes.

(define-key global-map [f1] 'vc-dir)

(define-key global-map [f2] 'undo)

(define-key global-map [f3] 'find-file) (define-key global-map [(meta f3)] 'switch-to-buffer)

(define-key global-map [f4] 'set-mark-command) (define-key global-map [f5] 'kill-ring-save) (define-key global-map [(meta f5)] 'kill-region) (define-key global-map [f6] 'yank) (define-key global-map [(meta f6)] 'yank-pop)

(define-key global-map [f7] 'save-buffer) (define-key global-map [(meta f7)] 'kill-buffer)

(define-key global-map [f8] 'start-kbd-macro) (define-key global-map [(meta f8)] 'end-kbd-macro)

(define-key global-map [f9] 'execute-extended-command) (define-key global-map [(meta f9)] 'compile) (define-key global-map [f10] 'eval-expression)

(define-key global-map [f11] 'shell)

(define-key global-map [f12] 'planner-create-task-from-buffer) (define-key global-map [(meta f12)] 'remember)

Swapping caps-lock and control was one of the best decisions I made when starting on Emacs, first item on Steve Yegge's list - http://sites.google.com/site/steveyegge2/effective-emacs

Only having one easily-reached Ctrl key strikes me as a bad idea. Rather than chord a left-hand key with a right-hand Ctrl, you're likely to contort your left hand to do both (I know I used to), which has gotta screw up at least your touch typing habits if not your hand.

Yup, I still have my right-hand Ctrl key on guard for my right pinky. Like the comment below, I just swapped the left-hand Ctrl key and Caps-lock, that's definitely helped me.

I actually believe that the Emacs Pinky is really a Shift Pinky: with CTRL remapped to Caps Lock, it's quite easy on my hand, because I can keep the pinky in more or less the same position (almost stretched out) most of the time. It's just when I hit the left Shift key that I have to bend the finger, and alternating between Shift and Control is what I find stressful on my Pinky.

Does anyone have similar experiences?

Exactly my experience as well

I didn't swap them, I made caps-lock an extra control key.

You can't be to thin, have too much money or enough control keys. :-)

(There is always capitalize-region. Or I can change back, if I need to write a lot of upper case, which is very unusual.)

You should probably remove being too thin from that list...

It is an idiom. (I stole the joke from an old Ernie cartoon, which added "or have too many toasters").

I have reduced a lot of unnecessary hand movement by moving the Control keys to either side of the space bar where the Alt keys normally are, and moving the Alt keys to the keys next to those where the Windows keys usually are. With this I can hit all of the modifier keys with my thumbs.

I also have CapsLock mapped to Backspace, and use the Dvorak keyboard layout. All of these combined minimize strain on my pinkies and the rest of my fingers, reduces the need for hand contortions, and lets stronger fingers do more work.

I don't understand how caps lock has been able to maintain it's prized real estate for so long. I understand the inertia behind why hardware manufacturers are loath to move it, I just don't get why there are still otherwise reasonable people who don't remap it. I map mine to control and also use some of the lesser known C- combo replacements (C-h = backspace, C-[ = escape). I'm a vim user, so dvorak is a bit of a non-starter (hjkl gets all goofed, and once you try to un-goof it, you goof up other commands).

I used to remap CapsLock to Backspace, but gave up because I had one machine -- a 1998 PowerBook (this was obviously before OSX) -- on which I didn't know how to remap it, and changing back and forth was a pain. Once I got used to Backspace in the upper right corner, I no longer had much motivation to change back again. And I don't bother remapping CapsLock to Control because I already have two Control keys.

Also, on most full-size keyboards, I swap around the modifiers so that I can press the Control and Alt keys with the sides of my palms. This works very well. (I put Control on the inside and Alt on the outside, the reverse of the usual PC layout.)

So while I don't consider the standard position of CapsLock to be ideal, in the end it hasn't proven worth the trouble to move it.

My CapsLock got fired a long time ago and is now a backspace-delete key. One of these days, I plan to finish the job and turn my 'delete' key into a proper forward delete, which my laptop keyboard lacks.

"With this I can hit all of the modifier keys with my thumbs"

This might sound crazy, but this is my favorite feature of macs. The apple key is next to the space bar so I can use my thumb as you say, and it's used for all major key combos. I also use it with aquamacs for my most common emacs functions.

I use my palm to press control, instead of my pinky. I know it sounds really weird, but maybe it helps others. Im also interested in seeing if Im the only weirdo :-)

I use my palm too. It seems to be much better than pink, but still causes some strain (especially after long coding sessions).

Emacs pinky is mostly a fault of keyboard designs. Emacs' reliance on ctrl-combos exacerbates this (vi has fewer issues, Esc and the colon).

Typematrix.com keyboards ameliorate this, as do the (not shipping yet) keyboards at trulyergonomic.com

Thumbs should be used for common keys, the Maltron, Kinesis and Typematrix keyboards make this possible.

So does the Alphagrips.com device, which I am eagerly awaiting.

For truly ergonomic Emacs, nothing beats a Datahand (www.datahand.com) in my experience.

Those look very interesting! The price seems a bit steep, though...

Rock climbing is the best thing I have found to both prevent and relieve the various problems created by long hours spent coding.

I've found that taking up weights -- firstly deadlifts, later cleans and snatches -- to also eliminate the early symptoms of hand and elbow trouble.

Huh. I've been climbing for nearly twenty years now, and coding for about ten, and I never made that correlation. Guess all those hangboard workouts in my basement are good for something.

Get a Kinesis Advantage (Pro) keyboard. It's by far the best keyboard for coding. It moves all of the control/meta/etc. keys to the thumbs -- yes you can finally utilize both thumbs and it makes a huge difference.

The only downside is that it only comes in one size and so people who have large hands / long fingers might find it too cramped.

Can anyone recommend a keyboard where key presses are very low impact?

I'm getting Emacs Pinky in most of my fingers and could use something to reduce stress on them. dcolgan's suggest key mappings are something I'm going to try, but a better keyboard can't hurt, either.

I'd recommend a keyboard with mechanical switches that activate without bottoming out (e.g. Cherry MX Brown, Cherry MX Red, Topre Capacitive Switch).

For options, I'd suggest visiting the Geekhack WorldWide Shopping Links wiki: http://geekhack.org/showwiki.php?title=Geekhack+WorldWide+Sh...

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