Minimak: A layout that fixes QWERTY and isn't impossible to learn
The Minimak layout gives 60% of the benefit of Dvorak while changing just 4 keys from QWERTY. Think about that for a moment.
Minimak is designed to give you the benefits of other keyboard layouts without sacrificing your ability to type QWERTY as well. It approaches layout design differently:
- Dramatically cuts the learning curve: Don’t want to invest months into learning a foreign layout? Get 60% of the benefit of Dvorak right now by switching just 4 keys! Because two of them are the most frequently used letters in the alphabet, E and T, you’ll have them down in no time.
- Compares favorably with other layouts: While 60% is a huge benefit for 4 keys (what is Dvorak doing with those other 21 keys anyway?), you can further improve your typing experience with layout “upgrades” which achieve up to 83% of the benefit of Dvorak.
- Upgrades incrementally: Each upgrade changes only 4 keys at a time, ensuring your learning experience is as quick and painless as possible. You can learn each upgrade without having to practice much before adopting them into your routine. This speeds the process as a whole, because your learning can mostly be done while you’re on the job.
- Changes fewer keys: If you decide that the original 4-key Minimak layout feels good enough, then stay with it. It’s still a huge improvement. If you go to the final upgrade however, you’re getting 83% of the benefit of Dvorak for only 12 keys. That’s less than half the keyboard. Dvorak changes 13 more keys than that, just to eke out that last 17%.
- Has multiple dimensions of QWERTY friendliness: If you go with the 4-key layout, then there isn’t even a discussion. Once you’re proficient, you’re still going to be able to type QWERTY, maybe just a little slower when you switch between QWERTY and Minimak on occasion. Even the 12-key layout is easier to maintain alongside your QWERTY skills compared to most layouts, which share nothing with QWERTY. But that alone doesn’t explain Minimak’s QWERTY friendliness. In all incarnations, Minimak only moves 3 keys to different fingers. The rest mostly just swap rows. Because of this, you correct yourself by trying the same finger on a different row and it works in most cases. This becomes an automatic reflex when you make a mistake, which tremendously speeds both the initial learning process as well as the mental switch back to QWERTY when necessary.
My WPM 5/2/13, day 193:
M12: 61wpm 96%, QWERTY: 69wpm 97%
The Minimak 8-key layout gives about 75% of the improvement of Dvorak
All of these elements combine to form a layout that is manageable for anyone to learn, is extremely QWERTY-friendly and still provides considerable improvement in finger movement distance, same-finger repetition and same-hand row jumps.
Consider the following metrics:
|Metric||Minimak 4-key||Minimak 12-key||Dvorak|
While it may seem remarkable that Minimak’s per-key improvement is better than that of Dvorak, it’s not really. Per-key improvement is highest with the first 4-key layout and goes down from there. This makes sense because if you’re designing the layout correctly, you’re using the best key changes first.
What’s remarkable is that with only 12 keys you get most of the improvement of Dvorak at nowhere near the expense of its learning curve. This shows that you don’t need to throw out QWERTY, you just need to fix it.
Minimak 12-key layout
More importantly, you don’t need to learn the full Minimak to benefit. You can choose the 4-key layout, never learn the rest and you still get 60% of the reduction in finger travel and same-finger repetition offered by Dvorak. Anyone can handle that without losing their investment in QWERTY, even if you don’t practice maintaining your QWERTY skills.
It’s not a no-brainer, but it’s close. Put another way, you’d be better off with QWERTY if you just left your fingers on the E and T keys and only let them travel to the home position when you have to type D and F. Why not just change E and T to the home position? That’s what Minimak does, it just puts them where they do the most good.
These results were generated with the keyboard layout analyzer using Chapter 1 of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland as the sample text, but they also bear out against a number of other samples representative of everyday English usage. “Weighted Improvement” is combination of the improvement in finger distance (2/3) and same-finger repetition (1/3), and are normalized so Dvorak is 100%. Note that these metrics have nothing to do with typing speed, only with finger movement and repetition.
Key counts for Dvorak were calculated by only considering the keys which were considered eligible for change when developing Minimak. These are the 27 letter keys and semicolon. Dvorak actually changes more keys outside this set (punctuation), but the count was limited to that domain in order to keep the comparison more apples-to-apples. This is the conservative perspective which actually favors Dvorak.
There are downloads for Windows that make adopting Minimak as easy as possible in the downloads section. Please read the caveats which explain a number of issues with changing layouts that you’ll want to know about.