Alternative layouts

Notice: This layout is the first official MTGAP-series layout and it is the layout that I currently use, but it's not the best one that I've come up with. See The New Keyboard Layout Project for the latest keyboards and updates.

MTGAP's Layout for an Ergonomic Keyboard
          UNSHIFTED                          SHIFTED
  [ 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 ]    ||      { ! @ # $ % ^ & * < > }
TAB , f h d k j c u l . /    ||    TAB ( F H D K J C U L ) =
CAP o a n t g m s e r i -    ||    CAP O A N T G M S E R I _
  ~ q x b p z y w ' v ; !    ||      ` Q X B P Z Y W " V : ?

MTGAP's Layout for a Standard Keyboard

Here is the standard layout, inspired by Arensito.
            UNSHIFTED                                 SHIFTED
    q , f h d k j c u l . - = BKSPC   ||      Q ( F H D K J C U L ) _ +
  TAB o a n t g m s e r i / [ ]       ||    TAB O A N T G M S E R I ?
  CAP q x b p z y w ' v ; !           ||    CAP Q X B P Z Y W " V : &
shift 5   3 2   1 4       shift
                         AltGr(is space on QWERTY)

Also inspired by Arensito is the special characters layout, accessed by AltGr. It is very easy to remember.
9 7 5 3 % $ 2 4 6 8 
/ = * 1 \ _ 0 : ; # 
< > ^ + | @ [ ] { } 

I designed this layout using an evolutionary algorithm. See my design process.

MTGAP's Layout is amazing because:

  • It has the lowest finger travel for a standard keyboard, and travel distance for an ergonomic keyboard second only to Arensito.
  • Effort is balanced between hands.
  • Finger balance with finger strength taken into account is close to optimal: 8% 10% 14% 17% // 14% 15% 10% 7%
  • Same finger is comfortably low.
  • My layout breaks the myth that the top row is harder to reach than the center of the home row.
  • Sure, my layout is very good. But is it the best? I compared it to 17 other layouts: (in order of score) Colemak, Michael Capewell's close keys layout, Michael Capewell's Evolved Layout, Arensito, Amuseum's Layout, Michael Capewell's adjacent keys layout, OSTNREAI by Sorenk, Peter Klausler's Evolved Layout, Seruxie's Layout, Asset Keyboard, Carpalx Keyboard Optimizer keyboard, DreymaR's Layout, Dvorak Simplified Keyboard, Asetion, Plum, XPeRT, and QWERTY.
    in the 7 aspects: finger travel distance, same finger, same hand, jumping over the home row on one hand, changing rows on one hand, moving to a center column on the same hand as the previous key, and inward rolls. An outward roll counts as half a roll. Lower scores are better except in the case of rolls.

    Finger Travel

    Best: Arensito by Hakonhal = 66882
    MTGAP's Layout: 68069 (2nd place)
    Worst: QWERTY = 192073

    Same Finger

    Best: OSTNREAI by Sorenk = 0.31%
    MTGAP's Layout: 0.34% (3rd)
    Worst: XPeRT = 3.72%

    Same Hand

    Best: Dvorak Simplified Keyboard = 14.37%
    MTGAP's Layout: 25.45% (13th)
    Worst: Plum keyboard = 27.51%

    Home Row Jump

    Best: MTGAP's evolved standard layout 2.0 = 0.02%
    MTGAP's Layout: 0.02% (1st)
    Worst: QWERTY = 2.67%

    Row Change

    Best: Dvorak Simplified Keyboard = 5.24%
    MTGAP's Layout: 11.71% (14th)
    Worst: Michael Capewell's Evolved Layout = 12.46%

    To Center

    Best: Arensito by Hakonhal = 0.72%
    MTGAP's Layout: 1.16% (3rd)
    Worst: QWERTY = 5.31%


    Best: Michael Capewell's adjacent keys layout = 16.16%
    MTGAP's Layout: 14.48% (4th)
    Worst: XPeRT = 4.37%

    My layout scores the highest on the most stuff. On the 3 most important aspects (finger travel, same finger, home row jumping) my layout gets 3rd or higher. On 2 of the remaining, my layout gets 4th or higher. On the 2 aspects it does badly on, all three of Capewell's keyboards do worse. I'm not sure what this means, probably it's that his layouts don't care about those things.

    But how do I really know that my layout is the best? I'll compare it to 2 other great layouts, Colemak and Michael Capewell's Evolved Layout.

    MTGAP's vs. Capewell's

    MTGAP's wins hands down. It has doesn't win by much in any one aspect, but it wins every aspect except for moving to the center on the same hand.

    MTGAP's vs. Colemak

    MTGAP's wins by a good amount on rolls and to center. It wins same finger, same hand, distance, and home row jumping by a small margin. It loses same hand and row changing by a substantial amount. So my layout wins, but not by much.

    It's still hard to tell if my layout is the best. Really, it all depends on your personal preference. The layout feels really good for me. Some people might like Capewell or Colemak better. My layout optimizes for low finger travel distance, and has high use of the middle finger. It values the top row and avoids the bottom row. You might like that, or you might like something else. I encourage you to learn the Colemak layout. I think it stands the best chance of becoming THE layout, and overthrowing QWERTY.

    Some people may prefer hand alternation over rolls. That's why I have this alternative:

    k l h c b j d u f .
    o r n s g w t e a i
    x q v m z y p , ' ;

    My layout may be very good, but I am trying to find a better one. Part of the problem is, you can't please everyone. Version 2.0 is a layout I made mainly to please me, and I'm pretty happy with it. There are a few issues though, namely high same hand and outward rolls. I like outward rolls, but some people don't. I want to make a layout with better hand alternation, while still maintaining inward rolls.
    I'm planning on making 2 layouts when I do Version 3.0. The first version will be for me and people like me: it will be optimized for a standard (non-ergonomic) keyboard, and make keyboard shortcuts easy to hit. Instead of restraining ZXCV, I will probably give each position a score based on distance from the control key. My other layout will be fully optimized to be the best possible: it will be made for an ergonomic keyboard, and have no restraints. I am not making an easy to learn layout, because I highly encourage that everyone use the Colemak keyboard. I am merely making mine for fun purposes.