Thumb Keyboard Layouts

By Xah Lee. Date: . Last updated: .

This page collects keyboard layouts for physical keyboards that has dedicated thumb keys, such as • Kinesis Advantage2 KeyboardErgodox Keyboard .

Maltron (~1977)

The Maltron Layout is specially designed for the Maltron Keyboard, a design copied by the more well-known Kinesis Contoured Keyboard .

Maltron keyboard layout US 2624f
Maltron keyboard layout US

The distinguishing feature of Maltron layout is that the key e is positioned for the thumb. You will need a keyboard with a thumb key to use the Maltron layout.

Also, the Maltron layout is more efficient than Dvorak or any other, simply because it places the mostly frequently used key e on the thumb.

[see Maltron vs Dvorak keyboard Layout]

[see Maltron Keyboard]

Kinesis Keyboard Layout

Kinesis Advantage2 QWERTY 2021 5mtQm
Kinesis Keyboard Layouts

Xah Layout D14

Xah Kinesis Layout d14 2021-05-20 KTFhN
Xah Kinesis Layout D14. See Kinesis/Ergodox Layout for Xah Fly Keys

Standard Gergo Layout

gergo default layout L0 2020-06-21 8kp2x
Gergo Keyboard

Xah Gergo Layout

gergo xah fly keys layout L0 2020-06-27 sjfb2
Xah Gergo Layout

RSTHD (2016)

Created in 2016 by Xuming Zeng. Designed by using a probabilistic algorithm to find optimum. Home page at

rsthd layout 3zP9f
rsthd layout

Hands Down Layouts (2020)

Hands Down Elan layouts, created in 2020 by R Alan Reiser. Home page at

The Hands Down layout is not just a layout, but a input system.

They have several versions.

Hands Down Gold layout 2021-08-04 Hands Down Silver 2021-08-04 Hands Down Bronze 2021-08-04
Hands Down layouts: Gold, Silver, Bronze. 2021-08-04
Hands Down Elan layout 2021-05-19 Hands Down Elan 2021-08-04
Hands Down Elan layout, version 2021-05-19 and 2021-08-04
Hands Down Neu 2021-08-04
Hands Down Neu 2021-08-04

The Hands Down layouts seem silly and unprofessional. First they put 5 variations on their site. That's like: “come join us, we have 5 ways to swim in arctic ocean for healthy life.”.

Then, you look at their layouts, putting letter in thumb, but none of the variation has the most frequently used e on thumb.

Then, the worst problem is that it require you to type 2 keys together to input some letters. For example:

Given the very exotic layouts and non-trivial ways to type z, and requiring fancy batman thumb keyboards [see Do-It-Yourself Keyboards] that requires advanced keyboard firmware such as QMK [see QMK Configurator Tutorial], you find that they don't talk about placement of Backspace ⌫ Delete ⌦ nor Ctrl, Alt. (they advocate that modifier keys be placed on homerow (not shown in their diagrams), so you have Dual-Purpose keys, which by itself introduces other problems. [see Problem of Dual-Purpose Keys (home row mods)] ) The issues of key shortcuts that are far more critical for hand health and software operation efficiency than letter layouts.

When you press +f+m fast, it becomes +f+l. Because Hands Down has a system it calls Adoptive Keys, which they think makes typing certain 2 letter combination easier. Quote:

Hands Down Layout Adoptive Keys 2021-08-04
Hands Down Layout Adoptive Keys 2021-08-04

You see that Hands Down Layout is no longer a keyboard letter layout, but input system. It requires software that essentially take your input and transform to produce other keys. Also, certain letters such as z, q, no longer has a corresponding key.

When you get into this level of complexity, you need to compare to not other keyboard layouts, but other input systems. For example, abbrev system (such as Microsoft Word auto correction, or emacs's various function templates and name completition [see Emacs: Abbrev Mode] ) , shorthand system (such as the statistics based word completion used in every smart cell phones), math input system [see Design of Math Symbols Input System] , or even comparable to Chinese Input Methods and Japanese Input Method . Also, if you require complex hardware that support Dual-Purpose keys on home row and chording, , then, what stops you from comparing to chording systems such as Stenotype Machine or Using Piano to Type Text?

For example, let's say, you design a keyboard, such that, there are 4 extra dedicated keys under thumb. Each one, are used to insert 4 of the most frequently used words, such as “the”, “and”, “have”, “that”. Will this system, already be more efficient than the Hands Down system?

Xah's conclusion: Hands Down layouts is another ineffectual layout for a handful nerds.

ergodox layout diagram svg template

ergodox layout 32011
ergodox layout 32011
ergodox layout em09628
ergodox layout em09628

Keyboard Layouts



Layout Efficiency