Xah Keyboard

By Xah Lee. Date: . Last updated: .
xah keyboard layout v6
Xah Keyboard

Features

  1. Letter key arrangement based on Dvorak Keyboard Layout.
  2. Key location are based on the map between key's usage frequency and location comfort.
  3. One single key press for frequently used operations. For example, {Copy, Cut, Paste, Undo}, and {close tab, close window}.
  4. The 2 scroll wheels, are physically same as well-designed mouse wheel. One of the scroll wheel should send same signal as {⇞ Page △, ⇟ Page ▽}. The other should send should send {F16, F17} signals, to be programed for one of next/prev {tab, app, window}.
  5. Wheel is also used for sound level control. No need to press Volume Up key 10 times or take several seconds to hold it down.
  6. Rotary switch for sound level eliminates the need for a extra Mute button.
  7. Keys for numbers arranged in a square in the middle. No need to hold ⇧ Shift key. No need to turn on Num Lock. Faster touch-type numerical data entry than the traditional top row.
  8. Major improvement over conventional keyboard for programers. Most frequently used symbols do not need ⇧ Shift key. Symbols arranged according to use frequency in computer language source code. 〔➤see Computer Languages Characters Frequency
  9. Split key groups for each hand, so you don't have to bend wrist. Similar to ergonomic keyboards design. 〔➤see How to Chose Ergonomic Keyboards
  10. Each hand can reach all keys easily without stretching. (In traditional PC keyboard, the right pinky has to strech to reach several keys: ⌫ Backspace ' - [ ] \. 〔➤see Computer Keyboard Design Flaws〕)
  11. The vertical column is straight. Allows straight up/down finger movement. They are not staggered in a irregular way like in traditional PC keyboard.
  12. Designed for English and other major world languages (For example, Chinese pinyin, Spanish, Portuguese, German, French, other Euro langs that relies on a Latin based alphabet with extra characters.). (one of the Alt should be AltGr for inputting special chars such “è ü á ñ ç € ¿”. The exact character map for AltGr yet to be designed) This layout should be more efficient than any local language layout. 〔➤see International Keyboard Layouts
  1. {Caps Lock, Num Lock} are eliminated. These are annoying, rarely used, and introduces state complexity.
  2. No obsolete keys such as {Pause/Break, SysRq, ScrLk, Insert}.
  3. No keys for {Sleep, Power}, that are confusing and never used or used at most once a day.

Notes:

  1. The key is OS system key (Windows logo key or Apple's ⌘ command key.) 〔➤see Unicode Keyboard Symbols ⌘ ⏎ ⇥ ⌫ ☾ ⎋
  2. The 2 wheels position and orientation need to be thought about.
  3. The close key is designed to close current tab, or current window if there's no tab. (and if there's a dialog box, it's same as pressing Esc for Cancel.)
  1. The little gabs in various places are critical. Must not be removed. They make it possible to feel the key location without visual contact. When manufactured, the different sections of the key must be easily distinguished both by touch. Also, the little positional offsets on some key groups are critical for the same reason. The keyboard must not become a uniform grid such as the TypeMatrix Keyboard nor eye-candy like the Apple Keyboards.
  2. The special keys, such as {F1, F2, Copy, …}, must be actual keys. They must not be some rubber buttons.
  3. The labels for the letters should be lower case, not caps.
  4. There should not be a QWERTY version. This makes it simple. (QWERTY version should probably be available, else there's no business.)
  5. This physical layout is designed to be improvement over existing Ergonomic Keyboards, yet not too radical.
  1. This is not intended to be radical keyboard. It is intended to be cheap and mostly compatible with PC keyboard, but offers major improvements by some simple changes of the worst aspects. The keyboard overall shape should be flat, not curved or bowl-shaped as Kinesis Keyboard. The layout improves 80% of traditional keyboard, but acceptable for average people to adopt.
  2. Should work out of the box for mom and pop. However, for tech geeks, all keys are exposed to OS and can be remapped anyway they want. There's no hardware-wired keys such as Fn.
  3. This keyboard must not rely on software to work for basic functions. It should be plug & play without installing any software or the need to switch to a different keyboard layout in OS. All keys has standard USB scancode.
  4. Aimed at mass production to the mass market, using cheap components. Perhaps no more than $40. This makes it possible for mass adoption. For example, similar to Microsoft Comfort Curve Keyboard that was about $20.
  5. Possibly a high-end model, using full-height keys with Cherry MX brown/blue switches, selling for under $240. 〔➤see Guide to Computer Keyboard Key Switch Mechanisms
SMK-Link VP6310 VersaPoint Keyboard wheel
wheel on keyboard

More examples: Keyboards with Volume Wheel

TODO

  1. possibly add keys for {Browser, calculator, app1, app2}, and a {zoom in, zoom out} teeter knob as in Microsoft Keyboard 4000.
  2. Do research to find out all non-ASCII chars used in other langs. Their frequency. Consult the NEO, Bépo, pt-Nativo … layouts, also check International Keyboard Layouts. The goal is to create a letter layout such that it is more efficient to type frequently needed non-English letters but more efficient than any local layout, for the top 7 most popular languages.
  3. Do research on letter frequency of other languages. Pinyin, Spanish, Portuguese, German, French. 〔➤see Pinyin Letter Frequency on Dvorak Layout. 拼音字母頻率, Dvorak 鍵盤佈局