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Ergoemacs Keybindings (code.google.com)
38 points by Xichekolas on July 9, 2009 | hide | past | favorite | 20 comments

Some of the suggested bindings make sense to me. I especially like the inverted-T cursor motion keys on I/J/K/L. And as much as I might hate to admit it, the CUA-like cut/copy/paste bindings probably make more sense than the default for anyone but a hardened emacs veteran.

Other stuff seems borderline insane. Like this design principle:

cursor moving commands are placed all for the right hand, while text changing commands are all placed for the left hand. (similar to Dvorak having all vowels in one side)

Dvorak does that because vowels are usually typed alone in a word, so the natural typing pattern is an alternation between hands, minimizing the chance that a single finger might have to type two keys in succession, or a hand might be left in a poor position for the new key. That's completely wrong for this situation! A motion key is likely to be followed by more motion, while if you're modifying text, you're likely to continue modifying text.

Or this one:

Alt is considered better than Ctrl. (Alt is a natural thumb curl, Ctrl is stretched pinky.

This might be true on some keyboards. It certainly isn't on typical laptops, where Alt almost never lives in a consistent position across hardware. Relying on keys without fixed positions is just bizarre, and in direct contradiction to "ergonomics" to my mind. What's worse, this completely ignores the pervasive practice among emacs users of mapping Ctrl to CapsLock, a key which is extremely easy to type and in the same location on all keyboards.

On the whole, I just can't see these bindings actually helping me that much, sorry. It's a good try, and I'm sure the author gets good use out of them. But to my fingers, they introduce as many problems as they solve.

The first link in the description "Why Emacs's Keyboard Shortcuts Are Painful" is a pretty good read. I initially tried to submit it, but it was autokilled it seems.

Link: http://xahlee.org/emacs/emacs_kb_shortcuts_pain.html

I didn't realize I was clicking through to Xah's page, but I knew I was there after only a few paragraphs.

I think he uses emacs as if it were MS Word or Notepad, and customizes his emacs accordingly. That's fine for him, but there is value in the generally-accepted defaults to other people. Control is not hard to type on a good keyboard. C-n, C-p, C-b, and C-f are "unconventional", but very easy to type and get used to. I must hit each combination hundreds of times a day, and my fingers never hurt. (Because of that, anyway; the only time my fingers hurt is when I have to type a lot of keys on the right pinky, ()+|`~=;':"?/ on my keyboard. I have not found a good solution to this problem yet, but it is certainly not specific to emacs.)

Regarding the symbols, I have been playing with Programmer Dvorak lately. It swaps the position of the symbols and numbers, such that you hit shift for the numbers and get the symbols without shift. It also moves commonly used programming symbols around so you use the first three fingers more, and avoid the pinky.

You could do something similar without using dvorak of course.

Link to layout: http://www.kaufmann.no/roland/dvorak/

After using a sun console once with the ctrl and capslock keys swapped, I do it on every computer. I use capslock much less frequently than I use control, so it makes sense for me to put it in a fairly neutral left-pinky position. I end up pushing alt/super with my thumb most of the time, and now my left pinky no longer gets sore after long days.

It's good history (the picture of the Symbolics keyboard is worth it all by itself), but very poor analysis, I think. The stuff about the cursor motion keys is just plain wrong. For a keyboard that has ctrl mapped to the left of A (i.e. "swap with caps lock"), C-{F,B,N,P} is much easier to type than moving one's hand off the home row and over to the arrow keys. I honestly don't know what the author was thinking here, and I strongly suspect that he doesn't actually use Emacs for much in practice.

Some of the criticism is valid, like the lack of C-Shift-[a-z] bindings, and the continued use of weird archaic stuff on easy-to-type bindings. Which is fine. Certainly every serious user is going to have their own tastes and preferred bindings {+}. But trying to generalize from a few nits to say that "Emacs Keyboard Shortcuts are Painful" is very much making a mountain out of a molehill.

{+} For myself, I like M-i for overwrite-mode, so I don't have to get to the Insert key, and M-g for goto-line, which is an xemacs binding I got used to years ago).

People always talk about making caps lock a ctrl key, but I've found making right alt a ctrl is more comfortable. My thumb is far more dexterous than my pinky. Unfortunately on many keyboards the right alt key is unusable due to awkward positioning.

Anyone using emacs would be well served by the Kinesis Ergo keyboard -- Ctrl and Atl (and a bunch of others) are at your superstrong thumbs, not your wimpy pinky:


I remember reading about a study in the UK that found that the thumb had replaced the index finger as the most dexterous digit among teens. This could easily be attributed to mobile phones and video game controllers. It may not be my most dexterous digit, but it certainly can do a lot. Just look at texting speeds and almost any video game controller.

Why then is it relegated to only pushing the space bar? Is there some stigma that it is that ham-handed and awkward? I would rejoice if I could do more things with my thumbs, particularly modifiers, instead of making awkward pinky reaches. The pinky really shouldn't be asked to do so much work.

Sadly, there is so much momentum behind the QWERTY keyboard that it won't be going away any time soon, and alternate keyboards and layouts are limited to enthusiasts, and the transition is awkward at that.

Ive also been eying Microsoft's ergonomic keyboard,


Assuming you can rebind the back/forward thumb buttons to ctrl/alt, I think it would be a great emacs keyboard.

I think the big miss here is any reference to the sexp navigation functions -- forward-sexp and backward-sexp. These are very useful when programming.

I've been using emacs for close to 20 years. I've had more hand pain from too much mouse use than I have with emacs' traditional shortcuts -- assuming the control key is remapped to the caps lock location next to the "A" key.

..:: Rebind CapsLock ::..

Windows users, use SmartKeys[1] to redefine CAPS LOCK to Left Control.

I makes the frequent use of the control combinations a lot more bearable.


[1] http://www.randyrants.com/2008/12/sharpkeys_30.html

Instead of a registry hack (that SmartKeys does), I use Ctrl2Cap - http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/sysinternals/bb897578.asp.... I used to do the registry hack manually, but remember (although not specifically anymore) there were some issues with it not working at certain times or in certain programs.

I don't use emacs anymore, but still find that C-x, C-c, C-v, and C-anything is easier with this setup.

Yes, The shortcuts are painful, countless times I've wished I had more fingers per hand...

But I don't think this will be be any use for anyone who has gotten used to the layout of emacs already... I know I wouldn't. Once those shortcuts are hardwired to your brain, there is no going back. Plus if the shortcut ends up being really too painful, most everyone would just adjust it in their .emacs.

But this is something I will definitely suggest any newcomers to emacs.

"Once those shortcuts are hardwired to your brain, there is no going back."

Tried it?

It's easier than you think.

A fun experiment: Take two keys and switch them, like s and a. See how long it takes to adjust. In my experience, under an hour.

I've tried many times, and I really want to go back (because when I sit at a vanilla emacs, sometimes it's hard to use it without my own customizations)

People switch to Dvorak after decades of touch-typing Qwerty. Switching to a different set of keyboard shortcuts should be no problem if you use emacs heavily every day.

I've seen some people suggest hitting the ctrl key with the 'side' of your hand instead of your pinky. I've found that using the bone directly below your pinky (towards your palm) also works (at least in my case), and is fairly comfortable.

I was inspired to do this by Aikido, where one of the techniques is a pressure-point application using the bones on the inside of your hand to apply specific pressure while holding someone's wrist in a grip.

Ctrl or alt foot pedals are the way to go here -- using caps-lock is a workaround but in proper typing I wish to use the modifier key on the other hand to the letter.

now I'm re-considering the move to programmers dvorak... Everything is almost 100% there, but it's enough to bug you.

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