The
Hands Down
Layout
and its discontents

Keyboards are different
Texts are différent
Hands are different

It is silly to presume that one layout could be perfect for everyone.

Navigating this site click for a brief description of the site

Hands Down™ Discord Server.

Talk with others about choosing and learning a new layout, modifying a Hands Down™ variation to suite your specific needs, adapting to a different form-factor, or implementing some of the features mentioned here. It's new, so a tiny community. Don't know yet if it will be enough to sustain, but might as well try?

Hands Down was designed
to work Hand in Hand with smart keyboard features:
Home Row Modifiers, Combos (chording),
Adaptive Keys
, Linger Keys, Semantic Keys
click for more info on these smart keyboard typing behaviors

A layout has an intimate relationship with the keyboard is sits on. Hands Down was concieved as an uncompromising layout specifically designed to work with the latest ergonomic, smart keyboards and features, especially Home Row Modifiers (HRM).

The reference design platform is a minimalistic, 34 key split ergonomic smart keyboard, which presents the most difficult scenario for a layout (I have been working with sub-30 key designs, such as the 28 key Ingulish layout for Hummingbird, and Touch/Touché for touch screens, but they are of a seperate design lineage). The designs are then considered for other form factors, including ergonomic keyboards with more keys, ortholinears, and standard row-stagger keyboards (ANSI/ISO/JIS, a.k.a. slab).

The Hands Down design also anticipates, though does not strictly require, smart keyboard controllers capable of other typing behaviors, such as layers, multi-taps, combos, and what I call Adaptive and Semantic keys. Some of these features exist in various on-board firmware OSes (QMK, ZMK), though not all of them (as of this writing). I may have migrated to these built-in features as they became available and supported my needs, though many I originally implemented myself. (Hands Down Rhodium is my personal variation, and absolutely does require all these features.)

  • Home Row Modifiers: All Hands Down variations were designed from the outset with Home Row modifiers in mind. Modifiers, after all, are keys that are pressed (and often held) a lot, and that has a profound impact on the stresses and demands a keyboard makes on the hand and finger's joints.
    While Home Row mods are at the heart of the
    Hands Down design philosophy, these layouts do work very well with modifiers on the thumbs, and all of the statistics cited here are based on shift on thumbs. Some Hands Down variations will also work on keyboards with the modifiers in standard ANSI/ISO/JIS slab keyboard positions on the pinkies (Reference, Alt, Neu), but I strongly advise that you ditch these slab keyboards–they really are objectively harmful due to the unavoidable ulnar deviation. (See my earlier comments about home row modifiers here.)

  • Combos: Two or more keys pressed together eliminate finger twisting for shortcuts. My own Hands Down implementations have around 100 combos, making my tiny 34 key keyboard faster, easier, and more comfortable than any keyboard with more keys.

    • Functions such as Cut, Copy, Paste, Select All, Quit, Close, ScreenGrab, Find, Kill, and many more are all faster and easier than on a traditional keyboard (and all in similar positions to their QWERTY locations, so easy to remember).

    • The H digraphs (TH, CH, WH, SH, GH, PH), are so common in English that the first four appear more frequently than individual letters X, J, Q, Z. l use quick combos for all of these, speeding entry and reducing keystrokes. Thanks to Hands Down's phonotactic foundation, the combos are easy to learn and use (the three most frequent are even on home row), leveraging existing muscle memory (a phantom H in the middle finger, combines with the leading consonant, to form a combo of neighboring fingers).

      • The impact of the H digraph combos is huge: If it were a letter on its own, the TH digraph would be the 13th most common letter, occurring more frequently than the individual letters UMFPGWYBVKXJQZ. In fact, some 80% of the H occurrences in English are in these six digraphs†. So counting occurrences of H separate from the six H digraphs, it would be the 20th most frequent letter, have an individual letter frequency similar to V, after GWYB and before the letters VKXJQZ.

      • These combos also respect shift and caps lock states (Shift will capitalize the first letter, caps lock will capitalize all). Technically, while the number of keys pressed is the same, they are all neighbors, so they occur in one motion of one or two fingers, so it reduces the number of keystroke cycles, not keys pressed, making a more syllabic typing rhythm.

    • Pronoun Combos, for common structured derivatives like I'm, I've, I'll; We'll, We'd; You've, You'll, You'd; for example, are two key combos that differ only by the pronoun initial letter. They form an easy to remember group of combos that together reduce a good number of keystrokes. (ex. I+L=I'll, Y+L=you'll, W+L=we'll, etc. Shft/CapsLK is honored, as in H digraph combos above). (Just to show how powerful these features are together, linger on these pronoun combos to add 've to the pronoun, like I'd've, or you'll've.

    • 10-Key combos on the number layer allow entering currency, time spans, or even entire equations with one hand, without leaving the layer . ():~$¢€¥£% plus excel navigation (return, tab, esc, numLK, etc.).

    • Diacritics are distributed on the layout spatially, in relation to the letters they modify and the position of the modification, so the strokes to get É and Ü, for example, are clustered around the base glyphs they modify (above, below, thru/replacing, etc.). It makes it simple to enter characters with diacritics, like åéüōç & ðþ. for easily working in multiple European languages. I'm still working on this…aiming for a thoroughly polylingual (latinate) variation of Hands Down, called Hands Down Polyglot. This works/will work with Semantic Keys (below), to make full unicode character composition (base + diacritic) be platform independent (Mac's dead keys vs, Windows numpad compose, and Unicode's postfix character composition scheme are all different.) One layout, one keyboard, any platform, any language! A ridiculously idealistic, but tremendously useful design aspiration.

    • See my earlier comments about combos (a.k.a. chording) here.

  • Adaptive Keys: Alter the characters sent based on the sequence and speed of keys typed to eliminate awkward fingering sequences, especially row jumps. When typed quickly (usually like rolling), statistically more common letter sequences are sent. Once again, Hands Down's phonotactics make these easy to remember, leveraging established muscle memory. Dozens more of these statistically derived sequences increase comfort and speed: Neighbor rolls alleviate a row jump/step and/or stretch to the middle column:

    • GM becomes Gl, PM is Pl, using the same finger for L, but without the row jump.

    • VP is VL & PV is LV, BT is BL & TB is LB.

    • AE produces AU. AU is a higher SFB than AO in English, so many alternating layouts striving for low SFBs will pair EU and AO. But not all SFBs are created equal: the SFB gain with EU and AO is small, and the inward rolling facilitated with EA and OU (and even OA) optimizes rolling comfort for the more common scenario in English.
      ,A sends UA, to complete the bidirectional AU SFB solution, as in "guard that gauge!" could be typed "g,ard that gaege!" while preserving the optimization for the much more common rolling sequences, like "A goat would as easily eat a board instead of bread as you would break bread and eat a heated gourd." (there is the logical A, alternate to AE for AU, if the simple inverse motion for AU and UA are easier to wrap your head around.)

    • 🇫🇷 The influential Bureau fictif de Lettrés, notes that AU is very common in French, and French loanwords in English. Adaptive Keys for AU offers a solution with no downsidesright on home row where it belongs. So, typing bureae yields bureau. If you work for BAE, just type the same letters a tiny fraction slower, like we often do for initialisms, because we don't think of them as words...You probably won't notice anything, it just works.

    • Rolling ./ sends .com. Adaptive Keys also respects Shft/CapsLK states, like the combos, above.

    • More elaborate Adaptive Keys are possible, too, like ns for ness an ts for tness.

    • Adaptive Keys rolling speed is configurable, and can be turned off on the keyboard. (for gaming, or speed typing tests). My settings are very fast, so Adaptive Keys triggers only when I really am typing to get my thoughts out fast.

  • Linger Keys: Holding a linger key for just a bit triggers additional functionality. The most common is holding Q just a tad longer to get QU (hold with shift for Qu, capsLk for QU). Linger on paired symbols (, {, [, ", to get its mate ", ], }, ). Linger Key can be triggered by any keystroke or combo, like my combo for Japan to get Japanese, or my combo for there lingered is there's , and so on.

  • Semantic Keys: Runtime platform independence is fully realized with Semantic Keys that send the appropriate keystroke(s) to the host. Navigation shortcuts, (Word left/right, browser back/fwd), are the same keystrokes, regardless of platform. From Undo, Copy, Find, Quit, and ScreenCapture, even typing special characters or § are always the same keystrokes, whether via regular keypress, combo, or even as the result of Adaptive Keys. Semantic Keys somewhat normalizes the experience using different platforms, improving ergonomics and workflow efficiency, and reducing potentially destructive errors. Switch platforms on the fly with a simple keystroke (no recompile to make a keyboard fit only for one platform at a time), and the keyboard will remember the last platform used so you can pick up right where you left off.

Using Peter Norvig's Mayzner inspired Google English corpus.

Guide to the Hands Down variations:
Learn about the three Hands Down families to help you choose a variation.

Choosing the right layout for you will depend on what what sorts of things you type (prose, code, languages, etc.), and to some degree, your own hand physiology (hand size, and the ratio of digit length), and what simply feels comfortable to you. Keyboard form factors also influence how a layout feels and performs, so the type of keyboard you want to use can also help you determine the layout that will work best for you. In many places, I have included comments about how to productively adapt a layout to accommodate these differences from the 34 key split ergonomic keyboard reference platform.

The three Hands Down families:

The Hands Down variations comprise three families, Reference, Alt, and Neu, each with variations for standard (ANSI/ISO/JIS a.k.a. slab) keyboards ⌨️ . If you can Ditch the Slab for a more ergonomic keyboard with dedicated thumb keys 👍🏻, you can choose a variation from the Alt and Neu families with a letter on a thumb for even greater efficiency and comfort.

Each variation of the Hands Down™ layout described on this site excels at a different task, be it English only, mixed languages, coding, etc. Some place more priority on reducing total finger motion (Hands Down™ Alt variations), while others prioritize rolling typing rhythm (Hands Down™ Neu variations). All aim for typing comfort by reducing finger tangling Same Finger Bigrams (SFBs). These pages describe just the best of the more than a dozen layouts I designed and tested in real-world, real-time settings. Some, like the Hands Down™ Alt variations, I used to write significant academic papers, and many Hands Down™ Neu variations have already been adopted by dozens of other happy typists.

  • Hands Down Reference ⌨️ designed for balance
    This is the original Hands Down Layout, designed with an obsessive attention to balancing the many variables involved in a layout: very low SFBs, proportional distribution of finger burden, finger–finger and hand–hand balance, etc. Hands Down Reference has the lowest SFBs of the standard Hands Down variations.

  • Hands Down Alt ⌨️ designed for less movement
    Hands Down Alt variations all aim to improve comfort by decreasing total finger movement, while aiming to increase rolling behaviors. Hands Down Alt variations may have slightly higher SFBs than Hands Down Reference or Hands Down Neu counterparts, but tend to have lower total finger movement.

  • Hands Down Neu ⌨️ designed for more rolling
    Hands Down Neu variations are based on a total rethinking of a keyboard layout (more things are non-standard). All of these variations aim to maximize rolling behaviors while eliminating SFBs with full optimization of all glyphs (alphas and symbols).

Other keyboard behaviors described on this siteHome Row Modifiers, Combos, Adaptive Keys– are technically independant from Hands Down, but they are all implemented differently because they rely on the topology of each variation. In fact, each variation is designed with these smart keyboard features in mind, so the layout performs best when all the features are implemented as an integrated system. This is particularly true with features like the H digraph Combos and Adaptive Keys, that are mnemonically and/or spatially related to individual letter placement. Each variation is really conceived of as a comprehensive smart layout, each feature designed anticipation the impact on the others. Thus, each variation has a separate description section with some details of unique implementations of these smart keyboard features.

Once you've chosen a layout to suit your typing preferences, texts, and choice of keyboard, you may want to make it fit you even better, by customizing it. In each of the variation sections here I've tried to offer some designer's insight about the features and possibilities of each variation, so you will be able to adapt it to suit your unique situation, and avoid pitfalls of the 2.6 nonillion possible arrangements of letters. I encourage you to consider these layout variations as a very good place to start, then to tailor it to fit you like a hand made glove. Your own customizations may necessitate changes to other features, especially Combos and Adaptive Keys, as these are best when tightly integrated with the underlying layout.

⌨️ Slab variations will work with almost any keyboard

You might consider one of the three base variations, Hands Down, Reference, Alt, or Neu, if you prefer to keep all the characters in the finger field (like most layouts), if your thumbs are already busy with other tasks (like layers, shift, etc.), you like that wide artisan space bar you just bought on Etsy, or you can't wrap your head around the idea of typing a letter with a thumb (it is weird, at first, and not necessary to get Hands Down levels of comfort).

👍🏻 Thumbs up variations require dedicated thumb keys

If you are interested in pushing keyboard ergonomics and efficiency to the limit, you might consider one of the variations that put an alpha (or punctuation) characters on the thumb opposite the space. Putting a letter on a thumb helps to balance the load over more fingers, and can greatly reduce the dreaded same-finger bigram (SFB) problem. It is a very compelling argument, but it is not for everyone—it can be devilishly difficult to learn, and may not be faster for everyone. Which letter to put on a thumb is largely a matter of personal preference, but may be strongly influenced by the types of texts you are typing (different languages, coding, etc.), and your preference for the feel of the typing rhythms.

Most of these variations also remove the infrequent letters Q and Z from the main keyboard finger field, with access to them via combo or by placing them on another layer (with statistically guided recommendations for their placement). When integrated with other smart keyboard features (Home Row Modifiers, Combos, Adaptive Keys, Linger Keys, Semantic Keys), these highly-efficient layout variations propose an evolved way of typing, demanding the most of the keyboard controller as the keyboard does more work for you. While these full optimizations take some effort to learn, in my opinion they greatly improve typing efficiency, convenience, most importantly, comfort.

All of the letter-on-thumb variations perform close to each other, statistically, but each has certain advantages that may make one variation more appropriate for some corpora than others. There are so many subtle issues involved in each of these variations that it is impossible for me to say which may be best for you. The variations are presented not as a continuum of good-betterbest, but as possibilites that have been evaluated to give you a solid basis from which to build your custom-fit layout. I have simply tried to present the best variation, statistically, based on which letter you choose to put on the thumb opposite the space.

  • Hands Down Gold (Neu-tx), Hands Down Alt-tx T on Thumb:
    T is among the most common letters in many languages, and has a pronounced influence in the construction of syllables. Isolating T on the thumb results in a superb typing rhythm, preserving the syllabic cadence while also delivering unparallelled efficiency and rolling behaviors in English.

  • Hands Down Silver (Neu-nx), Hands Down Alt-nx N on Thumb:
    N is among the most common letters in many languages. As with T, isolating N on the thumb results in an excellent balance when typing in many languages, and in multiple languages.

  • Hands Down Platinum (Neu-lx) L on Thumb:
    L is perhaps the 'stickiest' consonant in many languages, combining with many letters in consonant clusters. Isolating L on the thumb yields the lowest SFBs of any Hands Down variation.

  • Hands Down Titanium (Neu-rx) R on Thumb:
    R on thumb reduces pinky use on the left hand, making pinky use more balanced between hands. Like L, R is also commonly blended with many other consonants, so putting it on the thumb brings the hand use toward the middle. Stats are similar to Hands Down Platinum, with extremely low SFBs and high rolling like Hands Down Gold, but a feel all its own.

  • Hands Down Bronze (Neu-hx) H on Thumb:
    H is has unique properties in English and some other languages, binding with other letters in very common digraphs (Th, Ch, Sh, Wh, Gh, Ph), some digraphs being more common than individual letters. Isolating H on the thumb results in the highest rolling quotient of any Hands Down variation, and better rolling than most other layouts.

  • Hands Down Dash (Neu-ex), Hands Down Alt-ex E on Thumb:
    E is the most common letter in English. Isolating E on the thumb results in lower overall finger movement, but also may have the highest cognitive load by interrupt the mental 'chunking' involved in syllable parsing.

    • Hands Down Dash has the lowest total finger movement of the Neu family, while retaining much of rolling behaviors.

    • Hands Down Alt-ex has the lowest total finger movement of any Hands Down variation, and lower than nearly any other layout.

  • Hands Down Élan (Neu-dot) punctuation on thumb:
    Period and comma on the thumb mirrors the syllabic 'chunking' of space, and affords an elegant balance suited for symbol-heavy texts (such as coding).

Hands Down Neu 0.954% SFBs ⌨️

🇺🇸🇬🇧🇨🇦🇳🇿 High performance that can be deployed on any keyboard type.

w f m p v / . q " ' z

r s n t b , a e i h j

x c l d g - u o y k

Pnky Ring Mid Index Thumb Thumb Index Mid Ring Pnky
6.2 8.8 10.5 14.6 5.1 ƒ(%) 17.5 11.0 14.7 6.6 4.8
4
5.3 L R 54.7
5.3 10.2 13.3 20.8 4.2 d(%) 6.3 14.3 16.4 4.9 4.4
5
3.7 L R 46.3

Same-finger bigrams%†
0.047 0.120 0.142 0.152 sfb(%) 0.287 0.109 0.053 0.045
Total 0.954%
cf. QWERTY 6.6%, Halmak 2.8%, Dvorak 2.6%, Colemak 1.7%, MTGAP 1.3%

(native OS support for Hands Down Neu is in the Hands Down layout OS bundle here)

Hands Down Neu is the new Reference that takes cues from Alt, Élan, and the Hands Down Medtals. Hands Down Neu may be preferable for those using thumb shift or other layer functions instead of home-row mods or traditional ansi/iso/jis keyboards. It does not assume a smart, programmable keyboard to handle the many other features like adaptive keys and combos, although all of those advanced features can be implemented with Hands Down Neu.

  • Combos, Adaptive keys, Semantic Keys, and Linger Keys from Hands Down Gold.

  • Combos

    • KU for Q + K
      I would heartily recommend removing
      Q and make it available via UK combo, and hold just it a tad longer to get QU (hold with shift for Qu, capsLk for QU), meaning QU becomes super efficient, all while taking up no space at all on the keyboard. QU is so ridiquelessly easy now that you don't need to design a whole layout around these low frequency letters: ThinQu. Use that space for another more frequently used symbol, like ;, #, or _, or whatever you find yourself typing a lot.

  • Adaptive keys

    • Q. produces QU. Since Q basically never ends a word in English, this is an easy, fluid adaptive sequence with virtually no errors.

  • Linger Keys

    • Or just linger on Q to get Qu.


※These stats are from klanext.keyboard-design.com. Use the JSON files on the download page to see how it preforms with your own sample texts.Same-finger bigram stats are approximated from the Colemak-DH Layout Analysis Tool, with default settings. Since this tool does not account for non-standard shift binding, the sum of differences between several tests (one for each column with non-standard bindings) were used to extract approximate SFB scores for each finger, after isolating non-standard glyphs.
‡Only exceptions to std mapping are shown. Differences may exist in the KLA jsons, to approximate actual behavior on the KLAs.

Hands Down Gold (Neu-tx)0.784% SFBs 👍🏻

🇺🇸🇬🇧🇨🇦🇳🇿 T on thumb for exceptional efficiency and exceptionally low SFBs in a very well rounded layout.
🇯🇵 比類ない効率的なローマ字入力

jz g m p v ;: .& /* "? '!
r
s n d b ,| a e i h
x f l c w -+ u o y kq
t

Finger/Hand Usage(ƒ) & distance(d) distribution
Pnky Ring Mid Index Thumb Thumb Index Mid Ring Pnky

5.0 7.8 10.4 10.1 9.7 ƒ(%) 19.7 11.2 14.8 6.9 4.4
4
3.1 L R 56.9
2.7 8.2 12.7 17.6 9.0 d(%) 10.1 14.6 16.4 5.3 3.3
50.3 L R 49.7

Same-finger bigrams%†
0.000 0.079 0.143 0.045 sfb(%) 0.296 0.123 0.064 0.034
Total 0.784%
cf. QWERTY 6.6%, Halmak 2.8%, Dvorak 2.6%, Colemak 1.7%, MTGAP 1.3%

Hands Down Gold is everything I've learned in one smart layout
designed to be exceptionally efficient, intuitive, and comfortable.

Hands Down Gold combines the rolling efficiencies of Hands Down Alt on the left and Hands Down Élan & Reference on the right, for a careful balance between hand alternation and same hand rolling. The result is an uncompromising layout that is comfortable even after long days of typing, and may even be better than the sum of its parts.

  • Hands Down Home Block: Obsessive attention on finger movement in the "Home Block" reduces fatigue during long typing sessions. (3x3 block of keys on each hand under index, middle, ring, plus resting position of pinkies & thumbs = 22 keys of the Hands Down Home Block). Careful balance of usage frequency vs SFB & distance & neighbors delivers exceptionally even typing rhythm. (ex. dextrous right index has the highest SFBs, but has correspondingly lower usage frequency and distance covered.) Hands Down Gold has among the lowest total finger movement of any layout–only Hands Down Dash is lower.

  • Same-Finger Bigrams (SFBs) are exceptionally low, ensuring that your fingers are not abused trying to hit too many letters in a row with the same finger. This is the single most important component of a good layout, and something that QWERTY fails at miserably. Hands Down Gold has among the lowest of any layout (1/2 that of Colemak), 87% fewer than QWERTY, and fewer than any other Hands Down variation except Hands Down Platinum.

  • Inward rolls. Wherever possible, neighbor finger bigrams are organized to make typing as easy as rapping fingers on a table. High frequency consonant bigrams are optimized: ND, SN, RS, SL, LD, GL, (GL via adaptive M). High frequency vowel bigrams IO, OU, EA, IE, OA, are all inward rolls. Most of the opposite direction outward rolling bigrams occur much less frequently. This applies also to many "disjoint neighbor bigrams" like SH, GH, IA, etc. Hands Down Gold has nearly as many comfortable inward rolls as Hands Down Bronze, and more than most other layouts.

  • Adaptive keys could benefit any layout; with Hands Down Gold, they improve the already great rolling and finger motion (all stats cited do not even consider the value of adaptive keys). Quickly rolling adjacent keys sends the statistically more frequent sequence. Type just a fraction slower than fast rolling and you'll get the regular letters just as you would expect. It's uncanny how low the error rate is low when carefully considered.

    • GM produces GL.

    • PM yields PL, PV yields LV.
      M & L use the same middle finger, so this motion leverages existing muscle memory to avoid the awkward row jump entirely. Now, GL and FL, roll just as easily, with nothing new to remember.

    • BD yields BL,DB yields LB. Middle column keys pull the hand away from the home block, so this eliminates the awkward "split-neighbor bigram" that would spread the index and middle fingers apart. Rolling A, produces AU, eliminating an SFB by shifting the left hand one row, hitting A with middle, and , with index. Rolling #. sends .com

    • MV yields MB (M&B should be on the same row, or only one row apart. With adaptive keys, this awkward row jump is eliminated).

    • Together, these adaptive keys produce some surprisingly comfortable outcomes. Type MPM, for example, or MVM, and you might stumble upon some slick keystrokes!

  • Combos gives speedy access to less common letters that have been eXtracted from the main layout (like the Alt-x layouts), yet they remain easily available in predictable locations with comfortable combos, and the stats were analyzed with the impact to each finger properly considered.

    • JF for Z, (Z sounds like J)
      UK for Q. (Q sounds like K)
      I find these to be very natural positions for these lesser used letters, with negligible SFBs. Hold the Q combo just it a tad longer to get QU (hold with shift for Qu, capsLk for QU), which leaves the ring and middle fingers hovering over the most likely next characters, E & I, meaning QU becomes super efficient, all while taking up no space at all on the keyboard. QU is so ridiquelessly easy now that you don't need to design a whole layout around these low frequency letters: ThinQu.

    • Common H digraphs (TH, CH, SH, WH, GH, PH) are realized with combos (DN, CL, SN, HI, GM, PM). TH is the most common bigram in the English language, more common than many individual letters, and is now a crazy easy and fast single action, right on home row, involving the very capable index & middle fingers.
      🇯🇵 This also allows me to swap B->W->K->B for Japanese, with WH on the pinky, but never creating a SFB problem because WH is a single motion combo. (These swaps may not be for everyone, but taken together with combos and Adaptive Keys, mean that my actual configuration is a bit different from this, with notably better performance'. See my QMK repo if you really want the skinny on how all these work together.)

  • Stretch or curl? Your keyboard, finger lengths, and other factors can influence how you type. Top row preference started with QWERTY in an attempt to keep fingers closer to the number row, but if you use an embedded num layer like I do, this is no longer a factor. I find it more comfortable to curl my fingers but if you prefer to reach, especially if you have longer finger:palm length ratio than average, you can swap the top and bottom rows on the right hand. The left hand doesn't benefit as much from a row swap, but if you choose to do so, I strongly recommend that you swap the whole row (or at least the three keys in the home block). The comfortable rolls are the product of these neighbor-finger relationships. The four (or ten) keys outside the home block are less sensitive and could be swapped in top-bottom pairs, but all were thoroughly evaluated for these specific positions while developing all Hands Down variations. (There is research that suggests that curled fingers and floating hands is better than typing with fingers extended while resting on wrist pads.)

  • FL or GL? FL is a more common roll than GL, but both are equally smooth with Adaptive keys. These are presented as above for the familial similarity with the other Hands Down Neu variations below, but F & G could be productively swapped without concern. I personally prefer F on the bottom (when using Hands Down Gold). Adaptive M (being L when fast rolling from G or P) and adaptive V (being B when immediately following M) completely neutralizes the differences, so no performance whatsoever is lost in either arrangement.

  • From Hands Down Élan, punctuation is considered alongside alpha keys, meaning that even punctuation is easily accessible. All glyphs are statistically considered, and standard key bindings ignored, to improve speed or to lower cognitive load (i.e. makes more sense…). This arrangement lends itself to extension for efficient coding workflows.

    • Shift - = +; / = *; " = ?; ' = !; . = &; , = |

    • Shift ( = {; < = ; Alt ( = [

    • Even as slick as these are, I use combos for most of these symbols. Combos offer a faster single motion (mostly of adjacent fingers) rather than the two stroke motion of first pressing the shift key, then the other key.

    • (QMK now supports this sort of thing with something they call "Key Overrides" but I do it myself in less space, because my keyboards are severely resource constrained.)

  • 🇯🇵 は日本語入力方式では使用されていないため、日本語IMEでにマッピングするだけで日本語と英語の両方で比類のない効率が得られます。(IMEでそのような再マッピング機能がある場合。私はATOK使用)Because I swap B->W->K->B, CK ends up on the same finger. This makes sense in usage in Japanese, with C sending K, and in English I simply hit CK with a most convenient middle-index fingering. There are no other K bigrams to worry about in English.

  • Keycaps: See my updated list of sculpted keycaps that support most if not all Hands Down variations.

  • Stats tweaks, like swapping U<->O, ,<->., (and X<->J on Hands Down Élan & Neu), can each yield even better results on some analyzers/texts. I tried each of them for a while, and found the motions less comfortable or intuitive. Many nice rolls are lost, or "through hand stretches" (like excite) were not captured by analyzers, all for very little gain. Hands Down was built by hands for hands (not for analyzers), and tested on hands (not just machines), for long duration typing comfort (not for short bursts of speed), and what is presented is the closest I can get to what I'm actually using. The analyzers can't handle advanced features like home row mods, combos, and adaptive keys, all features that further enhance the typing experience.

  • Achilles Heel: HE & HI, (pinky) THE. However, I use all of the H digraph combos, which basically eliminates the H pinky problem. The is now two stroke action not three: first TH, then E.


※These stats are from klanext.keyboard-design.com. Use the JSON files on the download page to see how it preforms with your own sample texts.Same-finger bigram stats are approximated from the Colemak-DH Layout Analysis Tool, with default settings. Since this tool does not account for non-standard shift binding, the sum of differences between several tests (one for each column with non-standard bindings) were used to extract approximate SFB scores for each finger, after isolating non-standard glyphs.
‡Only exceptions to std mapping are shown. Differences may exist in the KLA jsons, to approximate actual behavior on the KLAs.

Hands Down Platinum (Neu-lx)— 0.764% SFBs 👍🏻

🇺🇸🇬🇧🇨🇦🇳🇿 L on thumb and C with vowels for the lowest SFBs of any Hands Down variation.

jz g h pq v ;: .& /* '? "!
r
s n t b ,| a e c i
x
f m d k -+ u o w y
l

Finger/Hand Usage(ƒ) & distance(d) distribution
Pnky Ring Mid Index Thumb Thumb Index Mid Ring Pnky

5.0 7.9 10.9 13.6 6.3 ƒ(%) 19.6 11.2 14.6 4.0 6.9
43.
7 L R 56.3
2.6 8.1 14.0 18.2 7.8 d(%) 9.9 14.3 15.7 4.4 5.2
50.5 L R 49.5

Same-finger bigrams%†
0.000 0.079 0.050 0.119 sfb(%) 0.296 0.122 0.084 0.064
Total 0.764%
cf. QWERTY 6.6%, Halmak 2.8%, Dvorak 2.6%, Colemak 1.7%, MTGAP 1.3%

Hands Down Platinum is the rarest of layouts,
with stunningly low SFBs, yet still eminently usable.
A different KLA, a different corpus, and the results might be different.

  • Hands Down Platinum and Silver are obviously twins. You can tell them apart by their thumbs. Platinum prefers to exchange a bit extra distance for lowers SFB, whereas Silver would rather keep the delicate balance of distance, SFBs that distribute burden more evenly. You could consider Platinum to be Silver that has gone the extra mile to polish out any remaining SFBs. Hands Down Platinum has among the lowest SFBs of any layout (50% fewer than Colemak, 88% fewer than QWERTY), and fewer than any other Hands Down variation.

  • Adaptive keys, Semantic Keys, and Linger Keys from Hands Down Gold.

  • Combos:

    • Common H digraphs (TH, CH, SH, PH, GH, WH), are all quick combos that respect shift and caps lock states, reducing keystrokes. Note that H rarely precedes these letters.

  • Adaptive Keys: GM becomes Gl, PM is Pl, and dozens more of these statistically derived sequences increase comfort and speed. Adaptive Keys also respect shift and caps lock states.

  • L on thumb is the magic sauce for Hands Down Platinum that yields the astoundingly low SFBs. That's because L is a liquid letter that loves to be blended with almost any other consonant, and is the 10th most frequent (in English, and many other languages), so it sticks to everything. The drawback here is that LL is in the top-50 English bigrams, but being the same letter means the finger isn't moving as far as a typical SFB (SS is next at #76), and a slick LingerKey or Repeat Key can address this pilllup. (I don't use Repeat Keys, and the LL hasn't been much of a reported problem from those who've adopted Hands Down Platinum.)

  • Putting H between P & G for the GH & PH digraphs, means M is kicked down from the top row, its natural position for all the other Neu variations. Of course, you could add the H Digraphs, discussed above, eliminating the H as a separate keystroke for these very common digraphs (so common that some treated as separate letters in some languages).

  • Column Swap Proposal: Since outward rolling on ring-to-pinky is particularly uncomfortable (Hello Dvorak LS haters!), I've strongly considered simply swapping the right-hand ring and pinky columns to avoid the statistically much more common IC sequence being a ring-to-pinky roll (to be AECI on left-hand home, pictured above). Total stat's are fractionally better, because of the rolling, but at the same time fractionally worse because of the higher burden on the pinky (I is more frequent than C). It's a really close call, so I honestly think this is squarely in the realm of personal preference. Moving C&W in this way also makes the H digraph combos be perfectly symmetrical to those on the left hand, so the whole H digraph set is stupid easy to learn and master (took about a week, by each of those I know who've tried it.).

  • Achilles Heel: ICEY - Solved with above column swap proposal. But looking at these stats above shows that the original arrangement is a better balance of frequency/distance between the pinky/ring if pinky burden is a concern, so the below arrangement may be better for some.

jz g h pq v ;: .& /* "! '?
r
s n t b ,| a e i c
x
f m d k -+ u o y w
l

※These stats are from klanext.keyboard-design.com. Use the JSON files on the download page to see how it preforms with your own sample texts.Same-finger bigram stats are approximated from the Colemak-DH Layout Analysis Tool, with default settings. Since this tool does not account for non-standard shift binding, the sum of differences between several tests (one for each column with non-standard bindings) were used to extract approximate SFB scores for each finger, after isolating non-standard glyphs.
‡Only exceptions to std mapping are shown. Differences may exist in the KLA jsons, to approximate actual behavior on the KLAs.

Hands Down Silver (Neu-nx)— 0.827% SFBs 👍🏻

🇺🇸🇬🇧🇨🇦🇳🇿 N on thumb and C with vowels yields a carefully balanced typing rhythm.
🇯🇵 「波乱巣」のいいローマ字入力

jz g m pq v ;: .& /* '? "!
r
s h t b ,| a e c i
x
f l d k -+ u o w y
n

Finger/Hand Usage(ƒ) & distance(d) distribution
Pnky Ring Mid Index Thumb Thumb Index Mid Ring Pnky

5.0
7.9 8.7 13.5 8.5 ƒ(%) 19.5 11.1 14.8 4.0 6.8
43.6
L R 56.4
2.6 8.1 12.0 18.2 8.8 d(%) 9.5 14.5 16.3 4.5 5.3
49.9
L R 50.1

Same-finger bigrams%†
0.000 0.079 0.063 0.119 sfb(%) 0.296 0.122 0.084 0.064
Total 0.827%
cf. QWERTY 6.6%, Halmak 2.8%, Dvorak 2.6%, Colemak 1.7%, MTGAP 1.3%

Just as with the Olympics, the difference between
Gold, Silver and Bronze can be statistically very small.
A different KLA, a different corpus, and the results might be different.

  • Hands Down Platinum and Silver are obviously twins. You can tell them apart by their thumbs. Platinum prefers to exchange a bit extra distance for lowers SFB, whereas Silver would rather keep the delicate balance of distance, SFBs that distribute burden more evenly. You could consider Platinum to be Silver that has gone the extra mile to polish out any remaining SFBs.

  • N on thumb is very comfortable in many languages, since N is the most common consonant in more languages than any other letter. (See at what I wrote earlier about Hands Down Alt-nx). Putting N on the thumb does mean that G needs to come down from the top row, its natural position for all the other Neu variations, so the hand isn't stretching to type the common bigram NG.

  • Combos, Adaptive keys, Semantic Keys, and Linger Keys from Hands Down Gold.

  • Column Swap Proposal: Since outward rolling on ring-to-pinky is particularly uncomfortable (Hello Dvorak LS haters!), I've strongly considered simply swapping the right-hand ring and pinky columns to avoid the statistically much more common IC sequence being a ring-to-pinky roll (to be AECI on left-hand home, pictured above). Total stat's are fractionally better, because of the rolling, but at the same time fractionally worse because of the higher burden on the pinky (I is more frequent than C). It's a really close call, so I honestly think this is squarely in the realm of personal preference. Moving C&W in this way also makes the H digraph combos be perfectly symmetrical to those on the left hand, so the whole H digraph set is stupid easy to learn and master (took about a week, by each of those I know who've tried it.).

  • Achilles Heel: ICEY - Solved with above column swap proposal. But looking at these stats above shows that the original arrangement is a better balance of frequency/distance between the pinky/ring if pinky burden is a concern, so the below arrangement may be better for some.

jz f m pq v ;: .& /* "! '?
r
s h t b ,| a e i c
x
g l d k -+ u o y w
n

※These stats are from klanext.keyboard-design.com. Use the JSON files on the download page to see how it preforms with your own sample texts.Same-finger bigram stats are approximated from the Colemak-DH Layout Analysis Tool, with default settings. Since this tool does not account for non-standard shift binding, the sum of differences between several tests (one for each column with non-standard bindings) were used to extract approximate SFB scores for each finger, after isolating non-standard glyphs.
‡Only exceptions to std mapping are shown. Differences may exist in the KLA jsons, to approximate actual behavior on the KLAs.

Hands Down Bronze (Neu-hx)— 0.905% SFBs 👍🏻

🇺🇸🇬🇧🇨🇦🇳🇿 H on thumb for the highest rolling quotient of any Hands Down variation.
🇯🇵 非常に快適なローマ字入力

jz g m pq v ;: .& /* '? "!
r
s n t b ,| a e c i
x
f l d k -+ u o w y
h

Finger/Hand Usage(ƒ) & distance(d) distribution
Pnky Ring Mid Index Thumb Thumb Index Mid Ring Pnky

5.0
7.9 10.4 13.5 6.7 ƒ(%) 19.5 11.1 14.8 4.0 6.8
43.6
L R 56.4
2.6 8.2 12.7 18.2 8.1 d(%) 9.5 14.5 16.3 4.5 5.3
49.9 L R 50.1

Same-finger bigrams%†
0.000 0.079 0.142 0.119 sfb(%) 0.296 0.122 0.084 0.064
Total 0.905%
cf. QWERTY 6.6%, Halmak 2.8%, Dvorak 2.6%, Colemak 1.7%, MTGAP 1.3%

Just as with the Olympics, the difference between
Gold, Silver and Bronze can be statistically very small.
A different KLA, a different corpus, and the results might be different.

  • Roll on in to home! The highest Inward rolls quotient of any Hands Down variation. (Only English has been evaluated.)

  • Combos, Adaptive keys, Semantic Keys, and Linger Keys from Hands Down Gold.

  • Column Swap Proposal: Since outward rolling on ring-to-pinky is particularly uncomfortable (Hello Dvorak LS haters!), I've strongly considered simply swapping the right-hand ring and pinky columns to avoid the statistically much more common IC sequence being a ring-to-pinky roll (to be AECI on left-hand home, pictured above). Total stat's are fractionally better, because of the rolling, but at the same time fractionally worse because of the higher burden on the pinky (I is more frequent than C). It's a really close call, so I honestly think this is squarely in the realm of personal preference. Moving C&W in this way also makes the H digraph combos be perfectly symmetrical to those on the left hand, so the whole H digraph set is stupid easy to learn and master (took about a week, by each of those I know who've tried it.).

  • Achilles Heel: ICEY - Solved with above column swap proposal. But looking at these stats above shows that the original arrangement is a better balance of frequency/distance between the pinky/ring if pinky burden is a concern, so the below arrangement may be better for some.

jz g m pq v ;: .& /* "! '?
r
s n t b ,| a e i c
x
f l d k -+ u o y w
h


※These stats are from klanext.keyboard-design.com. Use the JSON files on the download page to see how it preforms with your own sample texts.Same-finger bigram stats are approximated from the Colemak-DH Layout Analysis Tool, with default settings. Since this tool does not account for non-standard shift binding, the sum of differences between several tests (one for each column with non-standard bindings) were used to extract approximate SFB scores for each finger, after isolating non-standard glyphs.
‡Only exceptions to std mapping are shown. Differences may exist in the KLA jsons, to approximate actual behavior on the KLAs.

Hands Down Élan (Neu-dot)1.01% SFBs 👍🏻

🇺🇸🇬🇧🇨🇦🇳🇿 Punctuation on thumb offers fast access to other symbols, and a layout that is equally graceful with prose and code.

vz g h p kq /* (< {[ '! "?

r s n t f j a e c i

x m l d b -+ u o w y

,; .:

Finger/Hand Usage(ƒ) & distance(d) distribution
Pnky Ring Mid Index Thumb Thumb Index Mid Ring Pnky

6.3
8.3 10.4 15.0 4.2 ƒ(%) 18.7 9.2 15.6 5.2 7.0
44.3
L R 55.7
5.4 9.5 12.5 20.7 5.1 d(%) 11.6 9.5 16.4 3.7 5.5
53.3
L R 46.6

Same-finger bigrams%†
0.049 0.148 0.113 0.141 sfb(%) 0.407 0.082 0.026 0.039
Total 1.01%
cf. QWERTY 6.6%, Halmak 2.8%, Dvorak 2.6%, Colemak 1.7%, MTGAP 1.3%

Hands Down Élan puts word delimiters on thumbs (like ), with all symbols considered alongside letters, producing a layout that is as graceful with prose as it is code. Fully utilizing the untyped capacity of the other thumbs can be a logistical or cognitive challenge. Since word delimiters don't break up a word like letters do, and are lower frequency, it may have a more natural flow in conjunction with multi-function keys on the thumbs to handle Shift/Layers. (Hands Down Élan was the design platform for the Hands Down Neu/Medtals variations)

  • Combos gives speedy access to less common letters that have been eXtracted from the main layout (like the Alt-x layouts), yet they remain easily available in predictable locations with comfortable combos, and the stats were analyzed with the impact to each finger properly considered.

    • VG for Z,
      PK for Q. (or YU)

    • Common H digraphs (TH, CH, SH, PH, GH, WH) are realized with combos (TN, CE, SN, PH, GH, WO).

    • For more programming flexibility, J as a combo on YW works well to free up another spot for symbols.

  • Adaptive keys: Quickly rolling gives alternate characters.

    • GP produces MP.

    • PH yields PL, GH yields GL.

  • Linger Keys: Linger on paired symbols (, {, [, ", to get its mate ", ], }, ). (or hold alt to get the mate.)


※These stats are from kla.keyboard-design.com. Use the JSON files on the download page to see how it preforms with your own sample texts.Same-finger bigram stats are approximated from the Colemak-DH Layout Analysis Tool, with default settings. Since this tool does not account for non-standard shift binding, the sum of differences between several tests (one for each column with non-standard bindings) were used to extract approximate SFB scores for each finger, after isolating non-standard glyphs.

Hands Down Dash (Neu-ex)— 1.17% SFBs 👍🏻

🏁 E on thumb yields the lowest total finger movement of any Hands Down variation.

jz g m pq v ;: .& '! "? /*
r
s n t b ,| h a o i
x
c l d w -+ f u k y
e

Finger/Hand Usage(ƒ) & distance(d) distribution
Pnky Ring Mid Index Thumb Thumb Index Mid Ring Pnky

4.9
8.5 10.4 14.3 12.0 ƒ(%) 19.8 8.6 8.9 6.1 6.6
45.1
L R 54.9
2.7 9.9 13.3 20.7 10.4 d(%) 10.2 13.6 10.1 4.0 4.9
57.1
L R 42.9

Same-finger bigrams%†
0.000 0.165 0.141 0.208 sfb(%) 0.224 0.222 0.157 0.054
Total 1.17%
cf. QWERTY 6.6%, Halmak 2.8%, Dvorak 2.6%, Colemak 1.7%, MTGAP 1.3%

Sprinter's Layout! The lowest distance traveled of any Hands Down variation.


The left index finger has a disproportionate percentage of the total movement.

  • Maintains most of the rolling habit from Hands Down Bronze.

  • Adaptive keys and Combos from Hands Down Gold.

  • Achilles Heel: The Wiccan Jr.


※These stats are from klanext.keyboard-design.com. Use the JSON files on the download page to see how it preforms with your own sample texts.Same-finger bigram stats are approximated from the Colemak-DH Layout Analysis Tool, with default settings. Since this tool does not account for non-standard shift binding, the sum of differences between several tests (one for each column with non-standard bindings) were used to extract approximate SFB scores for each finger, after isolating non-standard glyphs.
‡Only exceptions to std mapping are shown. Differences may exist in the KLA jsons, to approximate actual behavior on the KLAs.

the Hands Down Reference Layout 0.880% SFBs ⌨️

Where Hands Down design began, and frequently returns.

q c h p v k y o j /

r s n t g w u e i a

x m l d b z f ' , .

Finger/Hand Usage(ƒ) & distance(d) distribution
Pnky Ring Mid Index Thumb Thumb Index Mid Ring Pnky

5.0
8.1 12.8 15.4 3.2 ƒ(%) 17.7 8.5 16.5 6.2 6.6
44.5
L R 55.5
2.4 8.4 16.7 20.2 3.9 d(%) 8.5 15.6 17.1 4.0 3.2
51.5
L R 48.5

Same-finger bigrams%†
0.003 0.231 0.113 0.153 sfb(%) 0.173 0.172 0.021 0.014
Total 0.880%
cf. QWERTY 6.6%, Halmak 2.8%, Dvorak 2.6%, Colemak 1.7%, MTGAP 1.3%

(native OS support for Hands Down Reference is in the Hands Down layout OS bundle here)

Rolling comfort: A balance of hand alternation and same-hand rolls, mostly inward on neighbor fingers, rarely requiring reaches across the hand or jumping rows.

  • Hands Down Reference has less than 1/7 the SFBs of QWERTY. That's 86% fewer times the same finger will need to hit two different keys in a row. This is unquestionably the single most important measure in any keyboard layout, and Hands Down Reference is among the very lowest. Low SFBs are a major factor in typing speed and fatigue (though there are many other important factors).

  • Comfortable inward rolls. Following Dvorak/MTGAP design wisdom, the most common bigram problems are solved by placing vowels and consonants on separate hands. But where consonant clusters or vowel blends do occur, every effort is made to make them be comfortable inward rolling motions. On the consonant hand, SH, ST, RS, NT, NG, CT, CH, SH, BL, LD, (CL, via combos,). Most of the opposite direction bigrams occur less frequently. While TH is much more common than HT, index-middle finger outward rolling is almost as easy. The vowel hand is optimized for E and the most common vowel bigram, OU. While other vowel bigrams roll outward, the net impact is less than OU. The least common vowel bigrams involve A, so it resides on the pinky that has little else to do.

  • Hands Down has remarkably few top<->bottom row jumps, but even one is awkward, especially for neighbor fingers. My instance of Hands Down avoids most uncomfortable row jumps altogether with combos: on the left hand, CH produces CL, (and HP yields PL).

  • Whither ZXCV? Combos handle these, in the same place as QWERTY=almost no learning curve. x+m=Undo, x+l=Cut, m+l=Copy, l+d=Paste, m+d=Paste Match, x+d=Select All

  • 🇯🇵 I swap K<->Y Since K is the second most frequent consonant in Japanese (after N). The negative impact to English is minimal, but the gain in Japanese is great.

  • Keycaps: Some alternate "Colevrak" keycap sets have keys for Hands Down Reference positions.

Make your layout fit your typing needs

Consider this Hands Down Reference layout a reasonable place to start with your own customized layout. In the spirit of excellent advice a wise Dvorak user gave me on Reddit, instead of starting from broken QWERTY and see what is gained by moving things around, try starting from Hands Down Reference layout, and see what is lost, as you gain customized comfort. Check out Hands Down variations below for many ways you can tailor the layout to fit you.

Hands Down Polyglot is a new variation in the early stages of development aiming to bring Hands Down efficiencies to those who regularly type in multiple languages.


※These stats are from kla.keyboard-design.com. Use the JSON files on the download page to see how it preforms with your own sample texts.†Same-finger bigram stats from the Colemak-DH Layout Analysis Tool, with default settings. go ahead and copy the layout above and paste it into the Colemak-DH Layout Analysis Tool to see for yourself, and compare with other layouts.
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The above heat maps are with my own 1.3M test corpus of 80% English, 10% Japanese, 10% "Proglish." Your own experience will likely be at least a bit different. Slight variations in the JSON files and descriptions may exist. My own implementations are slightly different, as well, mostly due to differences in the way layers are handled. Use these as a guide to your own implementation. (This images may be a bit out of date . See the individual variations' sections for the most up-to-date info.)

Hands Down Bronze (Neu-hx)
Kyria with MT3 Susuwatari keycaps