Contrary to popular belief, alternative keyboard layouts exist that surpass the QWERTY layout. The Colemak layout is likely the most efficient alternative layout in existence; it’s comfortable, designed for touch typing, efficient, fast, and works for over 40 different languages.
Let’s explore the history of the QWERTY layout, then look at the Colemak layout.
The QWERTY Layout
The QWERTY layout is an archaic layout designed for use with early typewriters. Due to the fact that manufacturers have chosen the QWERTY layout for mass production, it’s led most people to the erroneous assumption that there are no better alternatives.
The QWERTY layout came about as a result of several potential layouts for the typewriter starting with that which Christopher Latham Sholes developed in the early 1870s.
In 1873, the rights to manufacture the typewriter that Sholes had developed made its way to Remington. Historical rumors say that they changed the layout so that salesmen could impress potential customers by typing out “TYPE WRITER” in front of them.
The QWERTY layout became the standard layout for most typewriters since the Remington No. 2 became a success in 1878. It’s been in use as the predominant keyboard layout ever since then. Here’s a resource for more information and learning about the QWERTY layout.
History and Development of the Colemak Layout
The inefficient design of the QWERTY layout for computers has been recognized as an ongoing problem. Development of the JCUKEN and DVORAK layouts has occurred in response to this, but many people found these layouts too alien to grow familiar with due to the fact that every key was moved.
The Colemak layout was developed with two ideas in mind. It should be more efficient than the QWERTY layout, and it should retain the majority of shortcuts to facilitate an easier time learning how to use it.
The Colemak layout accomplishes both of these concepts and retains the efficiency provided by layouts such as the DVORAK keyboard layout. It minimizes finger travel distance by making heavy use of the home row keys.
Another difference of the Colemak layout is that it lacks a Caps Lock key, which is replaced with an additional Backspace key on most keyboards.
Who Benefits from the Colemak Layout?
There are a number of professions and groups of people who benefit from switching to the Colemak layout.
Writers, professionals in the field of information technology, legal professionals, students, teachers and office personnel will all find that the Colemak layout feels both more comfortable and tends to increase their words per minute. Anyone who has to type large amounts of text will benefit from switching to a Colemak layout.
You can learn more about Colemak here.