Size tradeoff

This may be a trivial observation, but it’s something I have never noticed before, and I find it quite interesting. I always assumed that those tiny little keyboards are made small either for easy transport or just to make them cheaper by saving on switches. I never really tried them, because all I have ever seen use the regular size switches, and I can’t really use anything that is not low-profile, plus they looked too impractical to buy on impulse.

But a few months ago I decided to build a small keyboard (and yes, I decided on a small one to save on switches) that would also be low-profile and ortholinear, and I was really surprised how convenient it is and how suddenly I could touch-type with all fingers, without moving my hands. I mostly chalked it up to ortholinearity, though. So I decided to build another one, a 65% this time, but still ortholinear, low-profile and split. I just finished that project today and got to try it, and I was surprised how large this keyboard feels, and how I no longer can type without moving my hands. That is after a month of so of using a Planck.

One annoying thing, for instance, is that I no longer can reach the backspace key without moving my hand — my small finger simply doesn’t have that reach. Similarly with the esc key. On the other hand, having all the digits and symbols on non-default layers was definitely annoying, especially while programming. So there seems to be a kind of a trade-off between having every key in easy reach, and having each symbol easily accessible.

I can imagine that at some point the chords required to get the symbol keys will become more natural for me if I keep using the same small layout, and that overall they might even be faster to type then than having to move my hand to reach them. Or maybe not, especially when you need combinations with many different layer keys. It may be a personal thing, additionally affected by how optimized your layout is.

What are your experiences with small keyboards? Do you find them more convenient because of less reach required to use them? At least when writing plain text and not many symbols? Do you use different keyboards for coding and prose? Where is the perfect spot for you?

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When I started using a Planck layout, the chords were the biggest annoyance because my fingers couldn’t move as fast as my brain was outputting words. But after using it off and on for about a year now, the chords feel natural since my speed has increased.

I do program occasionally on a Preonic and it works pretty well for me; having the number keys available makes it much easier.

I think it is a matter of layout (including the logical layout, i.e. keymap), not size. A good layout is efficient even if it is large. A bad layout performs poorly even if it is small.

Attached are two of my keyboards, a 75% ortho and a 40% columnar staggered. Both are good but to be honest, I find the bigger one more efficient.

The 40%

The 75%

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