Hands Down
Layout Variations

Hands Down Polyglot for typists without borders 🇺🇳🏳️‍🌈🏁 (wip)

Hands Down Polyglot project continues, but
Hands Down Polyglot will be based on Hands Down Neu.
The layout below is not likely to be the final for
Hands Down Polyglot.

w g m¯ fˆ ¨ ' u o kq jz
r s n t b´ y i e a h
x c l d v` - p / ,; .:

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

🇺🇸🇬🇧🇨🇦🇳🇿 🇩🇪 🇫🇷 🇪🇸🇲🇽 🇮🇹 🇸🇪🇳🇴

Hands Down Neu lays the foundation
for the
Hands Down Polyglot project.

Hands Down was designed from the outset to be great in English, but fully aware that millions of people type in multiple languages on a daily basis. This has influenced some of the design choices. Since Hands Down is designed specifically for "smart" keyboards, combos are used to make typing in multiple languages easier and more comfortable than on ordinary boards, theoretically even easier than those layouts designed for a specific language (on an ordinary board). Ultimately, my goal is to create a fully "polyglot" version of Hands Down Alt-x with little to no compromise for any given (Latin script) language, made possible by the linguistic underpinnings of the layout and smart keyboard combos.

The basic principle for Hands Down Polyglot is to leverage the spacial distribution and memory of base glyphs to facilitate easy-to-learn, fast-to-use access to the full range of letters in every language, in much the same way that Q and Z are accessed via combos on K and J on Hands Down Alt-x. The two letters are phonetically similar, so they occur in the same place on the keyboard. But since they sound similar, they rarely appear together, so they don't compete on the keyboard like SFBs. Most glyphs that take diacritics behave in this way, and are much lower frequency than the base glyph, and most of the base glyphs are of such high frequency that they are already on home row. Yes, there is some variation in letter frequency between languages, but the top ten letters are mostly the same 10. This is where the challenge begins. (I have deliberately withheld combos from home row in anticipation of Hands Down Polyglot.)

In the 90s I worked on multilingual document features for WordPerfect (Mac 2.0, WP6.0), and other language software initiatives. I hope to contribute again by working with native speaking linguists at my current university to assemble test corpora and typists for this project. Below are some early "in-progress" ideas for using Hands Down Polyglot in non-English languages. In the end, the aim is to develop a single common layout that is at nearly as good as any high-efficiency layout designed specifically for that language, without penalizing performance in the other languages.

  • Q and Z are removed from the main layout with all Hands Down Alt-x variations, but they remain easily available with comfortable combos or vio AltGr. K for Q, J for Z. The two letters (K&Q, J&Z) are phonetically very similar, so they occur naturally in the same place on the keyboard; but also exactly because are so phonetically similar, they rarely appear together and don't compete on the keyboard like SFBs. Qu is very infrequent, and yet performs almost like a double-letter tap. I find these to be very natural positions for these lesser used letters, with related letters still convenient to reach. Hold Q just a bit to get Qu (caps derived from shift/capsLk state). QU is so ridiQUelessly easy that you don't need to design a whole layout around these low frequency letters: ThinQu.)

  • 🇩🇪Deutsch & Hands Down Polyglot? Swap J<->Z. Die ü, ö, ä, ß können mit Combos behandelt werden, genau dort, wo sich ihre ähnlichen Zeichen befinden, direkt in der Startzeile: UJ=Ü, EO=Ö, OA=Ä, RS=ß. Shift wird bei Combos respektiert. So bequem, so schnell.

  • 🇫🇷Français & Hands Down Polyglot? Les é, ê, è, à, ç peuvent être manipulés avec des combos, juste là où se trouvent leurs caractères similaires, juste sur la ligne d'accueil: IE=É, EO=È, IO=Ê, OA=À, SN=Ç. Shift est respecté avec les combos. Si pratique, si rapide, si confortable.

  • 🇪🇸🇲🇽¿Español & Hands Down Polyglot? Las ñ, á, í, ó, ç, ¿, ¡ se pueden manejar con combos, ahí mismo donde se encuentran sus caracteres similares, justo en la fila de inicio: NH=Ñ, OA=Á, IE=Í, EO=Ó, SN=Ç, P/=¿, Shift se respeta con combos, por lo que Shift+P/=¡. Otros acentos son fácilmente accesibles con combos. Tan conveniente, tan rápido, tan cómodo.

  • Skandina & Hands Down Polyglot? Byt A<->I. å, ä, ø, æ, kombinationer AE=Æ, , AO=Å, EO=Ä, OI=Ø. 🇸🇪Använd kombinationer för att producera specialtecken, exakt där deras liknande tecken finns, direkt på hemraden: Skift respekteras med kombinationer. Så bekvämt, så snabbt. Så bekvämt, så snabbt. 🇳🇴 Bruk kombinasjoner for å produsere spesialtegn, nøyaktig hvor de ligner på tegnene, rett på hjemmet: Skift respekteres med kombinasjoner. Så praktisk, så raskt, så behagelig.

Hands On 3.276% SFBs

A transitional layout for migrating from QWERTY or Notarise to Hands Down (Works with any keyboard, ZXCV in QWERTY locations.).

w g l d b y k u q '
r s n t p f i e o a
z x c v m j h / , .

Finger/Hand Usage(ƒ) distribution (%)
Pnky Ring Mid Index
Index Mid Ring Pnky
8.06 12.81 19.43 ƒ(%) 17.70 16.50 8.67 8.90
L R 51.8
Same-finger bigrams%
0.047 0.062 0.498 0.357 sfb(%) 1.803 0.165 0.066 0.278
Total 3.276%
vs QWERTY 6.58%, Norman 6.37%, XKCD 3.28%, Asset 2.99%, Workman 2.96%

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

Hands On shares most of the Hands Down home block, on the keyboard you already have.

  • Shortcuts ZXCV are in their familiar QWERTY locations.

  • Hands On was designed to work on any type of keyboard (ansi/iso, ergo, matrix, ortho), without any need for programming. Hands On is respectable on its own, with 1/2 the SFBs of QWERTY. If you want to go all in, Hands On offers an intermediate step to fully optimized Hands Down layout variations.

  • Hands On for ergo keyboards shows exceptional performance, nearly as good as the Hands Down fully optimized layout variations on some analyzers.

  • Hands On for standard keyboards is perhaps the easiest way to get started with Hands Down level efficiency, without buying any hardware or programming.

  • Hands On and Hands Down layout variations (Reference, Alt) are in the native OS bundle for traditional keyboards (ansi/iso/jis), so you can get started on your layout transition with what you already have, and take it one step at a time.

※These stats are from Use the JSON files on the download page to see how it preforms with your own sample texts on the KLA of your choice.These stats are 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.

Get Notarise—A very easy to learn QWERTY alternative 3.764% SFBs

Relatively few letters moved for relatively large gains in efficiency. Works with any keyboard.


q w f d p y u l k '
a s e t g h n o i r
z x c v b j m . , ;

Finger/Hand Usage(ƒ) distribution (%)
Pnky Ring Mid Index
Index Mid Ring Pnky
8.43 16.22 18.73 ƒ(%) 20.07 12.50 9.23 6.97
L R 48.77
Same-finger bigrams%
0.028 0.079 1.152 0.153 sfb(%) 1.239 0.783 0.258 0.073
Total 3.764%
vs QWERTY 6.58%, Norman 6.37%, XKCD 3.28%, Asset 2.99%, Workman 2.96%

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

I designed the Notarise layout with an easy QWERTY migration in mind, and felt that it performs better than almost all that claim to be easy to use improvements on QWERTY, with fewer keys moved and better hand balance than most. Notarise is based on a simple rule of swapping rows to gain home-row efficiency. Only P and R have changed hands, and most other letters are on the same finger. It is comparatively easy to learn from QWERTY. If you're considering Norman, note that Notarise has ~40% fewer awkward bigrams, and moves about the same number of letters from QWERTY, so I think it is easier to learn with better return for your effort. I think that Workman and ASSET are better layouts (than either Notarise or Norman), but if they look too hard to learn, try Notarise. It might be sufficient for you.

Notarise is spelled with an S, because the layout name can be typed entirely on home row without repeating a letter. Yes, it's an S, an acceptable British English spelling.

These stats are 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.

XKCD —A Hands Down variation…for "kids"

q m h g z y f o b '

s n r t p w u e i a

x k c d j v l , . /

For those who enjoyed the early net comic strip, XKCD, is a Hands Down derivative with MLKC doing a bit of a dance. It is surprisingly comfortable, and statistical performance is quite respectable. XKCD net comic is still going strong, and still as light-hearted yet relevant as ever.

I called it "FOB FUEL" before I recognized the xkcd fun.

The Blickensderfer model 5 (a.k.a. Dactyle)— What might have been

The Blickensderfer model 5 of 1902 (pictured above and below) was superior in every way to the huge, clunky, Sholes and Glidden typewriter and its QWERTY keyboard — more reliable, cheaper, faster, ergonomic, and more popular — up until the start of WWI. Arms manufacturer Remington was expanding into sewing machines and typewriters after the getting rich selling guns for the US Civil War, and acquired Sholes and Glidden's typewriter business. Inventor George Blickensderfer died in 1917, and his company didn't survive the marketing muscle of Remington after they got rich again during WWI. I recreated the 1902 Blick 5 layout, with minor updates to bring it into the computer age. But sadly, best doesn't always win, and it is not much of an exaggeration to say that guns killed the better typewriter, and we're all worse off for it. QWERTY almost seems like a cruel joke, once you learn its history.

You can see for yourself just how good (or bad) the 1902 Blick 5 layout is with the JSON file I made. Plug it into the PatorJ KLA of your choice and weep at knowing that it didn't have to be this way.