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Ask Slashdot: Keyboard Layout To Reduce Right Pinky/Ring Finger Usage?

Soulskill posted about a year ago | from the try-upgrading-the-firmware-on-your-hands dept.

Input Devices 165

Tooke writes "I've developed focal hand dystonia from playing clarinet. It affects my right pinky (and my ring finger, but to a lesser extent). My pinky isn't totally unusable when typing; however, it isn't nearly as agile as it used to be. When I must press a key with it, I tend to keep the whole finger rigid and move my entire hand instead. I also use my ring finger to press the P and semicolon keys (on QWERTY) which is a bit awkward but better than using the pinky. Thus my question: are there any keyboard layouts that are optimized to reduce right pinky/ring finger usage? I switched to Programmer Dvorak a few years ago, but Dvorak seems to make me use my right hand significantly more than my left. I'm considering mirroring the letter keys so my left hand would be used more. I also came across the Workman layout which looks interesting. I might try using that after switching the numbers and symbols around to be more like Programmer Dvorak. Has anyone been in a similar situation? What else could I do to make typing more comfortable? I've got a long career ahead of me as a programmer (I'm currently a high school senior) and I'd like to take care of my hands as much as possible."

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Left-Handed Dvorak (4, Informative)

SaXisT4LiF (120908) | about a year ago | (#42916917)

Re:Left-Handed Dvorak (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42917205)

Left and right-handed Dvorak is great when you lose all use of one hand, but it's not designed to favor one or the other when using two hands. The 'money' keys are toward the middle of the keyboard in both layouts, but thanks for the quick google search without actually reading the wiki page.

If this guy switched to left-handed Dvorak, his right hand would wither and die. Unless, perhaps, he learns to play clarinet with only his right hand.

I'll echo everyone else's suggestion to look into sensorimotor retraining, except without being a jerk about it. I always thought that was a bad term since the idea isn't to retrain what you're currently doing, but to counteract the effects with opposing exercises/movements. I don't think you'll figure out a way to play the clarinet differently to prevent the finger problems so best to try to counter the development of dystonia with opposing movements.

Re:Left-Handed Dvorak (1)

Ol Biscuitbarrel (1859702) | about a year ago | (#42917387)

Unless, perhaps, he learns to play clarinet with only his right hand.

Actually special instruments adapted for the disabled to play one-handed aren't unheard of. Here's a one-handed flute [loc.gov] made for a veteran of WWI who had an arm amputated; this one is left handed and there's a right handed version at that site as well. And here's a whole page [flutelab.com] of instruments adapted for the disabled in this manner. Mind you, these are all woodwinds, I'm not sure how you'd play a guitar with only one arm.

Re:Left-Handed Dvorak (1)

mrbester (200927) | about a year ago | (#42917539)

(Rick Allen) The drummer from Def Leopard's only got one arm. Bloodhound Gang notwithstanding, if you didn't know you probably couldn't tell.

Re:Left-Handed Dvorak (4, Interesting)

s.petry (762400) | about a year ago | (#42918435)

Don't take this the wrong way, I admire his will to retrain himself and continue drumming.. but....

If you are very tone deaf you may be fooled, but any musician can tell the difference between acoustic and electronic percussion. Any drummer I consider "good" uses all 4 appendages. Yes, there are many drummers that make a living using 3 but I don't consider them "good". Rick Allen plays better than them while physically missing a limb.

Compliment him on his will to continue doing something he enjoyed and made a profession. Compliment him on having a big pair and coming on stage after working his ass off to relearn the drums. But don't claim that people can't tell he's only got 1 arm. Many can, and still think he's a great drummer.

Re:Left-Handed Dvorak (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | about a year ago | (#42917665)

I think, unless you either use a piano-like keyboard, or some rather advanced technology (like a chording keyboard connected to a computer with special music software), it'd be pretty much impossible to make a one-handed instrument that plays chords. Woodwinds are all single-note instruments; you can only play one note or tone at a time. Guitars are multi-note instruments, like pianos, and let you play many notes at once. So it makes perfect sense that you could adapt a monotone instrument to be played with one hand, likely by reducing the instrument's range, since you now have half as many fingers available to press valves or close holes, though you might be able to make better use of the thumb than is normally done with these instruments--the thumb is usually used to hold the instrument in place, which could be done with a mechanical arm or fixture instead. With a piano, each key is actuated by a finger, so you're limited by how wide your hand can span if you only have one hand. With a stringed instrument, it's probably impossible; you need one hand to fret notes, and another to pluck the correct strings, unless maybe you limit yourself to playing 6-string chords and rig up a foot pedal which activates a mechanical arm which strums the strings. But you can forget about precision picking of particular strings if you do this, but I guess you could play most country songs just fine that way.

Re:Left-Handed Dvorak (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | about a year ago | (#42917599)

I'll tell you what this guy needs to do: he needs to put his pinky finger (and maybe the ring finger too, if it's also causing problems) in a splint, the kind you get when you break your finger. Then retrain himself to type while having these fingers unusable. I've had to do it before when I sprained a finger; it wasn't hard at all to adapt to typing without the one finger.

In addition to that, he needs to switch to Dvorak, and maybe make his own altered version of Dvorak (the Wiki article notes that Piers Anthony does this himself). I'd recommend moving the S, L, and N and maybe R keys to the left side, to replace Q, J, K, and B (or maybe P or Y). Or, since the standard Dvorak keyboard does indeed favor right-handedness as has been pointed out here, he could remap all the keys so that left and right are swapped entirely. This would probably look like this:
(number row stays the same)
Tab L R C G F Y P . , ' / = \
Caps S N T H D I U E O A - Enter
Shift Z V W M B X K J Q ; Shift

This way, he'd mainly only use the right hand for vowels and punctuation, plus the rare letters like Q and J, and the left hand would be used for all the most-used consonants.


Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42917459)

I lost the use of my left pinky in a childhood accident. After I graduated and starting programming professionally I found that the lifeless finger really interfered with my typing. So I quit programming and became a gangster. After a few years I got involved in the lucrative black market whale meat trade, necessitating a move to Japan. Fifteen years on I was, despite my lily-white ass, trusted by the locals and initiated as a full yakuza. The next day I called the boss a cunt and he required me to cut off my left pinky to atone.

Finally rid of the useless digit I moved back to the States and resumed my career as a programmer. Don't be wasting your time with non-standard keyboards.

Re:Left-Handed Dvorak (2)

steelfood (895457) | about a year ago | (#42917643)

There are coder layouts, and typist layouts. Most layouts are for typists. Even DVORAK for one hand is a typist layout. The most used symbols when writing code? Semicolon, period, equals, parenthesis. In some languages, the dollar sign is prevalent too.

The Workman layout is interesting, but the analysis of each key's reach difficulty is a bit off of what I'm used to. And it's not a programmer's layout either.

If I had very specific special needs, I'd go with creating a keyboard layout of my own. Start with a key difficulty analysis like the one done for the Workman layout, and change the values to something suitable for my particular situation. Then assign keys from there. Just remember that in addition to symbols, writing code will make use of certain letter characters more than when typing a document.

Working around a treatable condition... (4, Insightful)

tlambert (566799) | about a year ago | (#42916945)

Working around a treatable condition is pretty silly. How about just treating the dystonia? Standard treatment is sensorimotor retraining.

Re:Working around a treatable condition... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42917135)

I've developed focal hand dystonia from playing clarinet.

Yeah, clarinet, uh huh, suuurrrreee.

Guess that's less embarassing than admitting you injured your hand from all that jacking off!

Re:Working around a treatable condition... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42917215)

That was my thought as well. When you do this sort of work around you just end up making things worse in the long run as the relevant parts of the body and brain adapt around it. Sure, it takes time and the help of a professional, but unless you can't find any professionals that can treat this, avoidance is just going to make it worse.

Focal Dystonia (2)

northTbone (1976238) | about a year ago | (#42916997)

How exactly is your Dystonia affecting your typing? Focal Task Specific Dystonia, by definition, rarely affects tasks other than those where the the symptoms originate. What treatments have you been seeking to deal with your dystonic symptoms? There are several potential treatments. It seems more productive to deal with your symptoms, rather than try to work around them. I'm a member of the Performing Arts Medicine Association, and can recommend several authors/doctors if you are interested. There are also several treatments you could try without medical supervision/assistance.

Re:Focal Dystonia (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42917043)

Playing the clarinet, is that what the kids are calling it these days?

Re:Focal Dystonia (1)

hawguy (1600213) | about a year ago | (#42918309)

Playing the clarinet, is that what the kids are calling it these days?

"Oh Bernadette, please play my clarinet."

Re:Focal Dystonia (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about a year ago | (#42918675)

I'm a member of the Performing Arts Medicine Association

Wow, I feel happy to know that such a thing even exists!

Re:Focal Dystonia (2)

northTbone (1976238) | about a year ago | (#42919257)

http://artsmed.org/ [artsmed.org] also http://www.sciandmed.com/mppa/ [sciandmed.com] its a Pubmed referenced, peer reviewed journal. Focal Dystonia is a pretty specific disorder, and is more common among musicians than most other occupational groups. Finger splints are an effective mode of sensorimotor retraining. I can see how this could be applied to both your typing and clarinet symptoms.

so... just don't use them? (4, Insightful)

X0563511 (793323) | about a year ago | (#42916999)

I almost never use my ring or pinky while typing, on either side.

Just type so that it feels natural to you. Nothing forces you to use any specific fingers.

Because I learned to type in such a "natural" form, instead of learning home rows and specific zones for each finger, I find I can easily adapt to different typing positions and injuries. Eg, if my index finger on either hand had a cut on it, it only takes a few minutes for me to adjust and type at a near full speed without that finger.

While I'm not the -fastest- typer around, I still type pretty damn fast and with little fatigue.

Re:so... just don't use them? (1)

X0563511 (793323) | about a year ago | (#42917017)

(watching myself, I actually noticed that if I stop using my index finger, the "assignments" move over a finger. Meaning my middle finger takes over, and the ring finger picks up the slack).

Re:so... just don't use them? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42917619)

You should write a book.. Typing for Libertarians

Re:so... just don't use them? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42918259)

"How to die in a fire" - by A. Coward

Re:so... just don't use them? (2)

corychristison (951993) | about a year ago | (#42917799)

I, too, seem to share the same typing style as you.

I'm in my mid twenties and have been coding since grade 5 (roughly age 10). Starting with HTML, Css and JavaScript/ActionScript.

I remember learning home row in grade 4 and completely abandoning it when I realized it was so inefficient for the stuff I enjoyed to do. On an unrelated note I was banned from school computters in grade 6 thru 8 (highscool starts in gr 9 here) for "hacking".

Re:so... just don't use them? (1)

X0563511 (793323) | about a year ago | (#42918289)

On an unrelated note I was banned from school computters in grade 6 thru 8 (highscool starts in gr 9 here) for "hacking".

Sounds like a fun story. Care to share the details?

I never had any problems like that - but I'm sure a good part of that was, being a rural school, the 4 staff who knew anything about computers thought well of me.

Re:so... just don't use them? (2)

corychristison (951993) | about a year ago | (#42918513)

Not a particularily fun story. I'm a little fuzzy on the exact details(this was almost 15 years ago), but I am certain it was because the school relied on Active Directory (or something, I really dont know... whatever it was back then on Win98) and I discovered you could unplug the ethernet port, type in any random username and password and it would fail to login, but then still allow you to gain a desktop. Plug the ethernet port back in and voila, you had access to the internet.

I also recall the good ol' local Administrator account in highschool had a blank password (this was XP). So you could essentially do the same thing, without needing to unplug the Ethernet port, by simply choosing Local machine in the Domain setting at the login prompt.

Re:so... just don't use them? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42917813)

Why does no one ever want to go back to the alphabetical layout? Or number pad/phone-text typing? It's maddening being stuck with all these "layouts" instead of being able to program your own keys to your own specific character choices.

Playing Clarinet? (5, Funny)

Art Challenor (2621733) | about a year ago | (#42917005)

Who knew that learning to reed in school could be harmful.

Re:Playing Clarinet? (2)

dyingtolive (1393037) | about a year ago | (#42917133)

I C your sense of humor is pretty sharp.

Re:Playing Clarinet? (1)

Rob the Bold (788862) | about a year ago | (#42918637)

I C your sense of humor is pretty sharp.

Just try to make me play more than 2 sharps on a clarinet, you insensitive clod. There's a reason God created the A clarinet.

Re:Playing Clarinet? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42917177)

Playing Clarinet? Is that what they're calling it these days?

A tough call (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42917013)

As a Dvorak user myself, I'd say a Dvorak is probably not the way to go, what with the 's' right under the finger you are trying to avoid using. I think, of the most common keyboard layouts, QWERTY is the one that will use your right pinky the least in normal everyday typing, but as a programmer you would be using the semicolon and quote marks a lot too, depending on the language. Maybe Colemak? ( http://colemak.com/ )

Resting hands (1)

jfisherwa (323744) | about a year ago | (#42917019)

I learned the 'home row keys' much too late to be disciplined with them, and probably have slightly longer than average fingers, but I generally only use my left pinky for the Left-Shift key and my right pinky only for the Enter key.

From left to right:

Left-Shift, A, W, D, Space - Space, between J and K, between O/0/P, resting on [ but with my fingertip on +, Enter

playing *cough* clarinet *cough* (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42917025)

Yeah right we all believe you.. this is slashdot..
we know about focal hand dystonia and you don't get it by playing the clarinet..
so you better improve the quality of your pr0n or else your hand will fall off.

What you call all of us... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42917077)

that can use only the index finger on the right hand then?

Re:What you call all of us... (1)

Spiridios (2406474) | about a year ago | (#42917293)

that can use only the index finger on the right hand then?

I've been a software developer for more than a few years now. Most developers I've worked with type with some semblance of a home-row and using all their fingers. I can also tell you I've worked with more than a few decent developers that index-finger type. Proper software development is more planning and figuring out what to type and less manual typing. So long as you can solve problems and your typing method, no matter how wacky, doesn't interfere, then it's a non-issue.

Re:What you call all of us... (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | about a year ago | (#42918245)

it's a non-issue.

A lot of 50+ developers here in Oz never leaned to touch type, like me they were not allowed to take typing classes at HS. Most schools classified typing and home economics as a girls only subjects in the 70's. Thing is I was too interested in getting my hobby programs to work in the 80's that by time I went to uni at age 30 I had to slow down to learn touch typing, consequently I never did. I only really notice my sloth when sitting next to my wife who can fly along at 100wpm, I can peck out ~35wpm at best. However, since typing speed has proved to be totally irrelevant in my 20+yr career as a software developer. Obviously it's a useful skill but I have no need or desire for the long and boring grind required to reprogram my finger muscles. For me it's just not worth the effort.

Re:What you call all of us... (2)

Z34107 (925136) | about a year ago | (#42918469)

Don't sell yourself short! You already know where all the keys are, so learning to touch type won't take you long at all. Just rest your fingers on home row (index fingers on the "F" and "J" keys with the notches, thumbs on the spacebar.) Strike each key with the nearest finger, and return the hand to home row afterwards. Ta da! You're a typist. I'd be surprised if it took you longer than an afternoon to get back to your old speed, and you'll keep getting faster as you continue to type.

And don't say it's "irrelevant"--that's like some naughts gentleman wondering why anyone would pay for broadband when his AOL always worked just fine. Just change where you rest your hands, and you'll get a free broadband upgrade.

Re:What you call all of us... (1)

ACE209 (1067276) | about a year ago | (#42918415)

That actually depends on how exactly you use that finger.

If your hand is soaring over the keyboard while searching for the next key it's called "eagle typing"

If it just takes some time to find the next key it's called "columbus typing", since every key seems to be a new discovery.

take piano lessons (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42917105)

we have 400 years of learning how to make the fingers and wrists strong and reliable; for instance:

only thing I use right pinky for.. (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about a year ago | (#42917113)

is öäå, right shift and enter(').
maybe switch to a finnish/swedish layout and move ' somewhere?-)

point being, you can write in english perfectly with the finnish layout but öäå are right hand pinky characters you'd never use anyhow.
when you're doing a custom layout, think about more than just switching the keys around the kb - you should also reduce the amount of the characters by combining them behind modifiers. on finnish kb there's no > as a separate key for example like on english qwerty.

Just move your hands (2)

ljw1004 (764174) | about a year ago | (#42917121)

Can't you just move your hands all around the keyboard?

I often do that, and type at about 90 words per minute. I'll type both code and prose without using the little finger on my right hand at all, and the ring finger only rarely. It feels much better to have my whole hands flying all over the keyboard. Fixed wrist position always seemed terrible to me from an RSI perspective.

Re:Just move your hands (1)

headcase88-2 (2613991) | about a year ago | (#42917243)

Haven't considered it before, but I reached this conclusion as well, as learning a new pattern would be hard for me personally. Maybe a foot pedal mapped to the shift key, etc would help?

Re:Just move your hands (1)

Fishchip (1203964) | about a year ago | (#42917523)

That's still learning a new pattern, not to mention a little silly. I'm watching myself type this post and notice not only are my pinkies never hitting keys, but they're actually pointing up and out, sorta like the stereotypical tea-drinking dangling pinky. But then, I am also one of those people who never bothered with the home row and proper finger positioning and somehow manage to blaze along at many wpm.

Re:Just move your hands (1)

X0563511 (793323) | about a year ago | (#42917297)

I'll take a stab at it and mention... it sounds like you did not learn traditional typing (home row and all that). I do the same thing you do, and I find I can adapt quickly to impairment of any of my fingers without any thought. Those that I know who learned "proper" typing seem to have a harder time with that.

I should mention that typing doesn't really bother my hands at all, though I do get some forearm fatigue after an extended period of typing. What really bothers my hand(s) are mice. I switch hands, but I still end up with fatigue/aches when using the damn things.

Map right alt to enter (2)

islisis (589694) | about a year ago | (#42917137)

Simplest solution I can think of is to map right alt to enter (which I would do even without injury anyway), and then some comfortable substitution for p, ; and /. Some candidate keys would be capslock and tilde, or probably better some chording combinations like left alt o, l and .

The best solution might involve buying a Kinesis Contoured, which should save stress from pinkies on both hands as it has an extended thumb keywell.

Re:Map right alt to enter (1)

islisis (589694) | about a year ago | (#42917741)

Sorry, ring finger chords aren't your solution, i, k, , or j are obviously much better. Anyhow, it's just an idea to get you started.

Re:Map right alt to enter (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42917843)

The best solution might involve buying a Kinesis Contoured

No, the best solution involves addressing the problem he has with using his finger. Working around it will only make the real problem worse. What he needs is physical therapy. If he can't afford an expert, then I'd personally recommend learning to play an instrument which will strengthen the muscles in a more even fashion and develop proper dexterity. Piano is probably the best for that, and will transfer directly to better typing skills. But I'd recommend consulting with an expert of some sort because his condition is most likely very advanced.

Use a programmable keyboard (3, Interesting)

dshk (838175) | about a year ago | (#42917167)

You can use a Kinesis Advantage [kinesis-ergo.com] keyboard. First, important keys are pressed with the thumb, not the right fingers (Enter, Ctrl, Backspace). Second, the keyboard is programmable, so you can map all problematic keys to the left side and type them together with AltGr (right ALT). I am already using this method, because our national characters take the place of almost every symbol characters, which are important for coding. It is working well.

maybe try ergnomic keyboards/mice too (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42917199)

I would recommend trying out some ergonomic keyboards (Logitech K350 highly recommended) too. I had nerve problems in my back and wrists which basically made me unable to use a computer for a number of years. I solved that problem with better posture (reclining with a keyboard on my lap), some exercises, and having better keyboards and mice. I know it's not the same thing, but it's interesting that my problems would first manifest in those two fingers also (because of the nerve/vein bundle that was getting squashed). It took a long time and the right doctor to finally realize that it was actually a back problem. Frankly, if you have bad posture and use conventional keyboards and mice, I think you're fairly likely to get nerve problems in your hands anyway, 5-10 years down the road. (For me, it started as carpal tunnel, which a lot of people get, and years later, the extreme of that was just not being able to use my hands for months at a time.)

Get a second medical opinion (1)

linear a (584575) | about a year ago | (#42917203)

Get a second medical opinion. Focal dystonia appears to be extremely specific to the activities that caused it. You might have something else going on instead.

HUH? (1)

hurfy (735314) | about a year ago | (#42917239)

Is this even possible? I don't see anything that one needs to use the right pinky for except possibly /.
Swap the 'P' with something, perhaps 'Z' ?
Shift your home keys over one? If you're learning new layouts anyways, this seems easier.

There is only one letter involved, swap 'P' with ',' and there are none. Not sure how you can avoid it more changing all the other letters around.

Besides, whatever works for you. Not like i used more than 4-5 fingers to type this. Like someone else above my hands move more than my fingers.

Starting to wonder about Ask Slashdot myself....

Re:HUH? (1)

amicusNYCL (1538833) | about a year ago | (#42917417)

Is this even possible? I don't see anything that one needs to use the right pinky for except possibly /.

How about [ ] \ ' ; etc? Or the Enter key?

Re:HUH? (1)

Rob the Bold (788862) | about a year ago | (#42918653)

Is this even possible? I don't see anything that one needs to use the right pinky for except possibly /. Swap the 'P' with something, perhaps 'Z' ? Shift your home keys over one? If you're learning new layouts anyways, this seems easier.

There is only one letter involved, swap 'P' with ',' and there are none. Not sure how you can avoid it more changing all the other letters around.

Besides, whatever works for you. Not like i used more than 4-5 fingers to type this. Like someone else above my hands move more than my fingers.

Starting to wonder about Ask Slashdot myself....

What do you type to, uh, you know, enter something? Or to, say, return to the left side of the space you're editing?

Angle Your Hands ... and ... (1)

rjstanford (69735) | about a year ago | (#42917267)

First, I strongly suggest sticking to QWERTY. You'll find yourself typing on large numbers of other people's keyboards over your career - switching all over the place is hard enough when its something little like someone else's pipe sign being in a silly place.

Even on a laptop you can angle your elbows somewhat out so that your wrists are "straight", using an ergonomic-keyboard position even on a regular flat keyboard like a laptop's. This by itself changes your finger motion significantly. I don't know if that's why, but I basically never use my pinky fingers when I type - and I've been in software professionally since '92 with no particular typing deficiencies.

Re:Angle Your Hands ... and ... (1)

xaxa (988988) | about a year ago | (#42917529)

First, I strongly suggest sticking to QWERTY. You'll find yourself typing on large numbers of other people's keyboards over your career - switching all over the place is hard enough when its something little like someone else's pipe sign being in a silly place.

And I strongly recommend against that.

Well over 99.9% of what I type is on a keyboard I control (my own computer, or a computer at work under my login). Using Dvorak over 99.9% of the time is well worth the lack of practise I have using Qwerty.

Shell users complain about ls (etc) on Dvorak. I have some aliases:
alias 'h=ls'
alias 'hh=ls -l'
alias 'ha=ls -a'
alias 'hq=ls -q'
alias 'hr=ls -R'
alias 'lrt=ls -lrt'
alias 'hrs=ls -lrS'
(I also have no problem hitting Ctrl-C, X, V or Z, although they aren't all in a line. Essentially, I don't see the point of Colemak.)

Re:Angle Your Hands ... and ... (1)

DarwinSurvivor (1752106) | about a year ago | (#42919107)

It may be anacdotal, but even typing plain english (reports, homework, etc), I've found my fingers get MUCH less tired. On querty I had to take breaks every half hour or my fingers would completely seize up. On Colemak I can type for 8 hours straight and still have 80% dexterity in my fingers.


UltraZelda64 (2309504) | about a year ago | (#42917291)

No joke. Look at the below picture--the pinky is so under-utilized in QWERTY it looks looks like it has been cut off in the diagram!
http://infohost.nmt.edu/~shipman/ergo/fig4.jpg [nmt.edu]

But really, probably any decently-designed keyboard layout spreads the workload relatively evenly across the fingers. Dvorak does use the pinky and ring fingers quite a bit though, as a result of its design to favor the right hand. I have switched from QWERTY to Dvorak back in early December, and am currently learning Colemak as a second layout... I haven't used Colemak enough to come to a personal opinion on its finger usage, but from what I read it's pretty well evenly split between the fingers.

Maybe you could go to the CarpalX site and download the program, try setting it up to minimize the use of those fingers and run it yourself to see what it generates. The pre-made fully-optimized CarpalX layouts would probably be of little use, because they were not designed to avoid those fingers at all costs... they were made with the idea of having eight fully-functional fingers, while only slightly reducing the load on those fingers due to their natural weakness.

Check out this tool to get a nice overview of the hand, finger, row, etc. usage and other stats that might be useful:
http://patorjk.com/keyboard-layout-analyzer/ [patorjk.com]

Re:QWERTY. (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about a year ago | (#42918693)

No joke. Look at the below picture--the pinky is so under-utilized in QWERTY it looks looks like it has been cut off in the diagram!

Unless you're a programmer, in which case you are using braces, brackets and periods all the time. Also, those special characters reduce the utility of dvorak, as well, because they weren't taken into consideration.

Re:QWERTY. (1)

Richard_J_N (631241) | about a year ago | (#42919265)

The right pinky is used all the time for the arrow keys! And these get pressed multiple times to move around.

Re:QWERTY. (1)

UltraZelda64 (2309504) | about a year ago | (#42919321)

What? The arrow keys, as in those ones between the main keyboard section and the numeric keypad? Maybe I'm just weird, but I never heard of that... I use my pointer and middle finger for those. I am lost as to why anyone would use their pinky for that, or whether there is any logic at all in doing it that way. Not to mention, it would feel awkward as all hell.

norman (1)

blindbat (189141) | about a year ago | (#42917305)

http://normanlayout.info/ [normanlayout.info] This is similar to workman, and might be better. I've been experimenting with Dvorak but find I don't like the lateral movement to i and d, as well as the right pinky for s and l. For qwerty, I would only swap f and t for the left hand. The right hand would need a little more substitution. For me, reaching up with the first three fingers (or down with index) is no problem, but I really don't like the heavy lateral index finger movement.

Re:norman (1)

UltraZelda64 (2309504) | about a year ago | (#42917657)

That layout has some killer same hand, same finger, row jumping. The location of P and M in relation to the U will undoubtedly lead to a hell of a bad time, just barely better than QWERTY. Imagine typing "jump" or "hump" or "pumpkin" or many similar words with similar sequences. Hell, even one of the simplest, two-letter words ("up") involves this same hand/finger row jumping! The guy who created the layout made a topic at the Colemak forums where I mentioned these problems, and he never replied. Sad too, because IMO the Workman layout sucks, but in general the Norman layout seems to be slightly better laid out while keeping Workman's one and only redeeming value (reduction of lateral movement), but it's clearly still very flawed...

Re:norman (1)

Announ (1960946) | about a year ago | (#42918617)

The Norman layout is designed to favor right hand use, which is exactly what the OP is trying to avoid.

Smaller format keyboard + minor retraining (1)

Psychofreak (17440) | about a year ago | (#42917327)

A smaller format keyboard that you can allow your pinky finger to do less since the other fingers can reach easily, as well as some minor retraining will allow you to type at nearly the same rate without a large learning curve. You can also look at some of the different brands and ergonomic keyboard types and see if the computer function (return, command, alt, etc) are in more suitable locations for your hands.

With my old EEE I only used 2 fingers for typing since the keyboard was so small.


Carpal X (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42917337)


This guy has written some extensive scripts to find optimal keyboard layouts. You could probably derive a model from his work. Personally, I use Dvorak and find it much more efficient than QWERTY

Do it the American Way (2, Funny)

EmagGeek (574360) | about a year ago | (#42917385)

You have a disability that affects your ability to work.

Go on Disability.

Sue the Clarinet maker and anyone who ever encouraged you to play Clarinet for the difference between your SSDI checks and whatever you would have made as a programmer, including any and all attorney fees and court costs.

Maybe even go for treble damages (har har) since whomever is responsible for forcing you to play clarinet either knew or should have known that there was a significant risk of a permanent disabling injury, and was therefore grossly negligent in placing your entire lifetime career in unreasonable jeopardy.

Then, you won't need to worry about keyboard layouts.

Re:Do it the American Way (1)

SeaFox (739806) | about a year ago | (#42917663)

The OP says he's a high school senior.

  1. I'm doubting he works as a professional programmer for a company yet.
  2. He's likely the one who chose to play the clarinet, and if not him it's his parents who encouraged it (yeah, lets sue them).
  3. He's not likely in his "career" yet.

This reminds me of the stories of star high school athletes who seem to be all lined up for a college sports scholarship and hopes of making it to the pros -- and then have that unfortunate injury that benches them from the sport.

The result: time to rethink your future.

Re:Do it the American Way (1)

EmagGeek (574360) | about a year ago | (#42918735)

None of that matters. As a minor, his is legally incapable of making his own decisions, including whether to play the Clarinet. His parents had a legal obligation to determine whether choosing to play the Clarinet was

    1) safe for him, and that it would not cause him a permanent disabling injury

    2) would not prevent him from pursuing his happiness by engaging in what they knew or should have known by his senior year in high school were his long-term career aspirations

Potential future income is always fair game in a civil trial.

If the child is still a minor, I would seriously consider involving Child Protective Services, since the parents have so obviously proved negligent in their duties of care.

Have you tried splinting your 3rd/4th fingers? (1)

damn_registrars (1103043) | about a year ago | (#42917465)

There might be an obvious reason not to do this, but considering how few keys are typed by the right pinky you might be able to get away with this. It would also have the advantage of being able to easily use other keyboards that you may come across in your regular existence.

One handed rig (1)

egcagrac0 (1410377) | about a year ago | (#42917485)

Have you considered a one-handed wonderbox, like a Twiddler?

Haven't used, and they always seemed dumb to me, but if you're already considering left handed Dvorak, maybe this is what you're looking for.

Re:One handed rig (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42918205)

Bought one years ago. Returned it. If he he has a tendancy toward RSI anyhow, the Twiddler will render hi other hand useless.

Don't leave your fingers on the home row. (1)

bipbop (1144919) | about a year ago | (#42917563)

Pianists move their hands around. So can you! Keeping your fingers on the home row isn't particularly ergonomic or efficient. Typing is like playing an instrument: just keep your wrists relatively straight and relaxed and type with whichever fingers seem most natural. If you don't want to use your pinky, just move your hand over a little and hit a key with your ring finger. If you don't want to use your ring finger either, move over a little further and use your middle finger instead. As long as you stay relaxed and keep your posture relatively neutral, you can hit any key with any finger you want.

Take frequent breaks. Shake out tension with your wrists hanging limp at your sides. Go for walks. No matter how ergonomic or neutral your posture, it's not healthy to stay in the same position forever; no matter how relaxed you try to be, you'll build up some tension over time. Just listen to your body: if something hurts, stop. Take care of yourself. Simple as that.

Since someone talked about suing! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42917587)

People who go on disability and then sue for such frivolous reasons are a waste of life.
Time for tort reform!

qwerty typing (1)

Naut (211748) | about a year ago | (#42917743)

I am a self taught typist , had no formal training . With that being said , I wouldn't give up on qwerty . I barley ever use thoose two fingers to type even the I am right handed . I use my left a whole lot more of the time . I don't' many mistakes , and when I do it's usually hitting the key next to the letter I intend to use .

TrulyErgonomic (Mechanical, Ergonomic) (1)

corsec67 (627446) | about a year ago | (#42917931)

http://www.trulyergonomic.com/store/index.php [trulyergonomic.com]

Unfortunately, this isn't a layout so much as a rather expensive, different kind of keyboard. But this is an ergonomic keyboard with mechanical switches, so it feels better than all of the rubber dome switch-based keyboard out there.

Enter, backspace, and tab are moved to the middile of the keyboard, which changes how necessary the pinkies are.

Programmer DVORAK (1)

brisk0 (2644101) | about a year ago | (#42918057)

I've only used a QWERTY keyboard, and I was originally taught to type how you were saying was uncomfortable for you, with home rows and specific fingers for specific keys. I don't have a specific problem but my pinkies kind of suck so as I've gotten more used to the keyboard layout I've just been more fluid in my typing. 90% of keys I hit with my index fingers, although my other fingers and even pinkies do come in to play every now and again, presumably due to some distance/usefulness tradeoff. I've tested for both formal and informal typing speeds (home row vs. hands shifting about) and found that they are virtually identical speeds at 90WPM for me. Basically, I would say keep to the keyboard you know best but try a different style that's more comfortable.

Layouts aren't important... but Dvorak has issues (3, Insightful)

jaffray (6665) | about a year ago | (#42918095)

Speaking as someone who's still struggling with the extensor tendinitis he developed as a young programmer over 15 years ago, with hundreds of nights of pain and hundreds of thousands in lost earnings as a result...

First: It's a natural hacker impulse to focus on keyboard layouts and hardware and other fun toys like that. Resist that urge. The importance of that stuff is tiny compared to good overall ergonomic habits, good posture, taking breaks, and managing tension. Get all the help that you can on those issues. Watch your own habits. Have someone else watch you. Make adjustments.

Second: Having said that... when I was first having hand trouble, I switched to Dvorak. This was, for me, a very poor decision. As you've noticed, Dvorak overloads the right pinky finger, which is a bad idea on a typewriter, but a horrible idea on a computer keyboard where other often-used keys are on the right edge of the layout.

Moving the entire arm to hit Enter and other right-edge keys with a non-pinky finger helped some, but not enough. After a couple weeks of increasing right-pinky pain, I simply swapped the L and P keys, so the commonly-used L was on the left index instead of the right pinky.

The L/P swap helped with the overloading, but exacerbated my second problem with a new layout, which was greater tension while typing. Even though I felt comfortable with Dvorak on a conscious level, I was still sometimes tensing up before keystrokes as my fingers weren't sure which way to go for an extra few milliseconds. And I was still having to use QWERTY keyboards often enough that I couldn't completely banish that muscle memory. Eventually I just switched back to QWERTY. More finger-mileage, yes, but is finger-mileage really the issue? It wasn't for me.

Third: No, really. Spend your time on the annoying difficult-to-scientifically-analyze meatspace issues like posture, not on keyboard layouts.

DataHand (1)

wonkavader (605434) | about a year ago | (#42918119)

The obvious answer is DataHand. Nothing else seems so well designed. But you can't get one anymore, and if you could they'd be more than you could afford. They always were, even when they were making them.

thumb return (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42918227)

A large part of what your pinky does is slam the return key over and over again. Get something like a Kinesis contour or the expensive Data Hand which uses the thumb for return key. It will take a huge load off your right pinky.

Re:thumb return (1)

hawguy (1600213) | about a year ago | (#42918349)

A large part of what your pinky does is slam the return key over and over again. Get something like a Kinesis contour or the expensive Data Hand which uses the thumb for return key. It will take a huge load off your right pinky.

Or just remap the useless caps lock key to act as a return key.

Re:thumb return (2)

Osgeld (1900440) | about a year ago | (#42918535)

its not that useless in programming

Re:thumb return (1)

hawguy (1600213) | about a year ago | (#42918599)

its not that useless in programming

Really? I've never seen anyone use it while programming. Even when I'm typing long stretches of code in ALL CAPS like SQL statements, I never use the shift-lock.

I've tried mapping it to Control or Esc, but found that didn't really help with anything and just made it harder to use a different keyboard that wasn't remapped.

Maybe my distaste for CapsLock comes from the fact that my editor is case-sensitive, and I don't want to have to remember the state of the CapsLock key when escaping into edit mode. Do most developers use caps lock for typing capitlized constants and other things?

Re:thumb return (1)

dshk (838175) | about a year ago | (#42919279)

Do most developers use caps lock for typing capitlized constants and other things?

Yes. Since I have learned touch typing, I use CAPS LOCK extensively. Like in the previous sentence. If I have to type more than two (or one?) upper case characters I always use it.

It was indeed one of the most difficult key to learn, maybe because if I accidentally hit another key, the usual Backspace does not correct it. But it is well worth to learn it. Otherwise I had to switch between LEFT SHIFT and RIGHT SHIFT after almost every character, which drives me crazy. I am not sure, but I assume, that those who hate CAPS LOCK never really learned touch typing well, if at all.

It is by no accident that there was a SHIFT LOCK key on every typewriter (and that was less useful than CAPS lock), which was mostly used by professional typists.

Re:thumb return (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42918689)

no no no! The Caps Lock key is remapped to Control, where God intended it to be. Unless you're using a Kinesis Countour which has thumb keys for Control too.

gloves? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42918393)

Bass player and instructor Scott Devine discovered that wearing gloves while playing his instrument provides an efficacious workaround to the symptoms of focal dystonia.

Most of you have it wrong. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42918553)

Layouts smlayouts... Being a wicked lead guitar player turned wicked IDE rocker, you've all be crammed into a mold.

Consider the difference between virtuoso's who can compose music on the fly, virtuoso's who can write to staff the sounds they hear in their own head, versus the musician that needs both the staff of the music and the staff of the director befor them to perform as a part of the whole. Of course there are execptions to every exception, however, it comes down to something ripping lead guitar players like me learn.

Number 1. try to type with only your thumb and ring finger when they are free and able to hit the target key regardless of if there is another finger closer.
Number 2. use the index and middle fingers to support the thumb and the ring fingers when they are engaged.
Number 3 Use the pinkies for supporting the ring finger and for rocking on the arrow/ insert/delete clusters.

Its not about the finger ZONE, its about the finger ORDER of usage where you have a choice. Very bad example but imagine hitting 'space' t'g'b' by going thumb,ring,middle,index all on the left hand, and almost instantaneous. Pinkies are for rocking the tab and arrow menu subselection of the ide primarily.


Don't be a pussy! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42918609)

Pinky Finger? Seriously?

Colemak (1)

WrecklessSandwich (1000139) | about a year ago | (#42918657)

I tried Dvorak first when ditching QWERTY as well and ran into the same issue. Having to use only my pinky for ls -l was not acceptable. I ended up switching to Colemak instead and haven't looked back. About half of the keys are unchanged from QWERTY so it's easier than Dvorak to switch back and forth with QWERTY in a pinch. I have mine set up with the caps lock key unmodified though, I need it for C macros and PCB layout etc so no left hand backspace for me. In your case, you might want that left backspace key. http://colemak.com/ [colemak.com]

i do desad e pole... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42918765)

qi coplaii i ae e sae isse excep i aecs poie is

Funny you should ask... (1)

jesse (306) | about a year ago | (#42918931)

I designed this just a couple weeks ago:


I've been using it and am fairly happy with it.

Colemak uses less pinky (1)

locopuyo (1433631) | about a year ago | (#42919163)

One of the advantages from Colemak.com "Fast – Most of the typing is done on the strongest and fastest fingers. Low same-finger ratio."

You still have your two first digits, right? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42919259)

So what's wrong with old fashioned two finger Hunt and Peck? Hell you can even throw in the second fingers now and then, and the thumbs for the space bar and the control key.

Realforce with variable force (1)

jcfandino (2196932) | about a year ago | (#42919335)

Some Realforce [deskthority.net] keyboards have variable weight on some keys, for instance 35g for the keys under the pinkies and 45g on the rest.
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