Minimak: The Intuitive Alternative to QWERTY

Minimak 4-key Layout
The Minimak layout gives 60% of the benefit of Dvorak while changing just 4 keys from QWERTY.


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: Minimak provides 60% of the benefit of Dvorak by switching just 4 keys! By prioritizing the most frequently used keys first, practice becomes ingrained very quickly. You can start using it in your daily routine almost immediately.
  • 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 a substantial improvement over QWERTY. 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 and provides little more improvement.
  • Is Very QWERTY friendly: If you go with the 4-key layout, you're still going to be able to type QWERTY without practice, perhaps just a little more slowly. Even the 12-key layout is easier to maintain alongside your QWERTY skills compared to most layouts, which share nothing with QWERTY. But Minimak never moves more than 3 keys to different fingers, in any of its configurations. Because of this, you learn to correct your mistakes quickly. Since most keys stay on the same finger, you don’t have to pause and remember which other finger to try.

Minimak 8-key Layout
The Minimak 8-key layout gives about 75% of the improvement of Dvorak

Minimak is simple for any typist to learn, is extremely QWERTY-friendly and still provides considerable improvement in the important metrics for performance (finger movement distance, same-finger repetition and same-hand row jumps).

What Makes Minimak Unique

The difference is simple. Most keyboard layouts make little or no consideration of how hard it is to learn a new layout. They aim to eek out the "best" performance, nevermind the fact that performance is highly subjective and difficult to quantify.

It's amazingly hard to learn a new keyboard layout. It takes days, weeks even, just to get to a speed at which you can perform work…barely and with frustration. Not only that, learning a new layout actively impairs your ability to type the old layout. It's a double whammy on your productivity for months.

Not only that, other layouts assume that you'll never want to type QWERTY again. This is simply unrealistic in today's world where computers abound. You can't switch them all to a new layout. QWERTY skills are still important even when you learn an alternative keyboard layout.

Minimak looks at things the other way around. What's the most efficient way to learn a new layout that approximates the performance of the other layouts and lets you type QWERTY without difficulty? While I couldn't have guaranteed a good solution at the outset of the design process, I found that the happy fact is you can create a layout which does all of these things successfully.

Consider the following metrics:

Metric Minimak 4-key Minimak 12-key Dvorak
Keys changed 4 12 25
Fingers changed 3 3 23
Weighted Improvement 60% 83% 100%
Cost/Benefit Ratio      
Improvement/Key 15% 6.9% 4%

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 Layout
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.

For the best results, I recommend the Minimak 8-key layout. It is learned in two steps, first the 4-key layout then the 8-key layout. It is simple to alternate with QWERTY and still provides the majority of the performance of other layouts (75% of Dvorak).


There are downloads which support adopting Minimak on several platforms in the downloads section. Please read the caveats which explain a number of issues with changing layouts that you'll want to know about.

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 a combination of the improvement in finger distance (2/3) and same-finger repetition (1/3), and is normalized so that 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.