The Symmetric Typing Project

More comfortable typing technique. Better keyboard layouts.

Alternative Layout Design

For some, using the symmetric typing system alone is not enough - the actual layout of the keys - QWERTY - is still a barrier to comfortable, ergonomic typing. There are many alternative keyboard layouts out there, the most well known being Dvorak and Colemak. But these layouts have been created with the traditional typing system in mind. If we start from the assumption of using the symmetric system, we may (and indeed will) make different choices in the layout design.

The alternative layouts in this project have been developed according to these design principles:

1. Key frequency.
- The most common keys should be in the easiest positions. That means the 8 "home position" keys.
- Moderately common keys should occupy the easy-to-reach positions on a strong finger (index or middle). In the symmetric system, that means the Qwerty keys E, I, C, M.
- The hands can more easily adopt an up-down motion to reach rows above and below the home row, compared to the lateral motion required to reach keys in the centre columns of the keyboard, and so these keys should not be assigned to frequently typed letters. The Qwerty B key in particular is out of range when using the symmetric system, and should only be used for a rare character or symbol.

The preferred key locations - the best and easiest to type keys are blue (the home keys), the next best green, then yellow, and finally orange. More frequently typed keys should be placed on the higher value keys. Opinions may differ on the relative values of keys, but we think this is a reasonable approach.
2. Same-finger bigrams.
- Successive keys typed with the same finger should be avoided. Also known as same-finger bigrams, these cause disruption the typist's natural flow. Our target is that layouts should aim for an avarage occurrence of same-finger pairs of less than 1 in 50 bigrams typed (2%).

3. Hand and finger balance.
- There should be a fairly even split between the amount of work done by the two hands. There should not be excessive load on a single finger, especially a weaker one.

4. Shortcut preservation and ease of learning.
- Important shortcut keys (Z, X, C, V) should be kept in place. The same goes with other Qwerty keys which are fairly well placed given their frequency, such as A, S, Q, W. The fewer keys that change, the easier it is to switch to the new layout. Making the transition as accessible as possible to a new users is an important consideration in the layout design.

On the issue of hand alternation vs rolls, we consider this to be a less important factor than simply having most keys easy to reach, good overall hand and finger balance, and low same-finger repetition.

Instead of a single alternative layout, we have developed two for you to choose from! Depending on your personal preferences and priorities, you may decide one layout better matches your requirements more than the other. The layouts we provide are:

Both layouts offer an ergonomic, comfortable typing experience, and have many similarities between them. Of course no layout is perfect and they each have their advantages and disadvantages, but nevertheless we strongly believe they match or exceed the best of the other layouts out there, while also being compatible with the symmetric typing system.

So which one should you choose? If ease of learning is your top priority, you should consider Niro. If you want the best possible experience and are willing to accept a slightly longer learning process, choose Soul as our best, most optimized layout.

For a comparison of layouts and results scores, see the Results Page.