Aaron Adelman’s proposed Dvoraklike Hebrew keyboard layout

Page last updated: ט״ז אדר שני תשע״א דף מעודכן:
Current version: Experimental 4.3 גרסה עכשוית:

Now back by popular demand*!

(* Defining “popular demand” as 2 E-mails.)

Known compatible with Mac OS X 10.4 (Tiger) and Mac OS X 10.5 (Leopard)

Known compatible with Mac OS X 10.6 (Snow Leopard)

Thanks to Ben Powers

To install:  decompress, then drop the contained layouts in the Keyboard Layouts folder of the Library folder of your home folder.  You will need to log out and then log in again to be able to use it in all Mac OS X applications.  One version is a standard sort of keyboard layout.  The other has Latin letters when the caps lock is up and Hebrew when the caps lock is down.  Note that both use Dvorak for the Latin letters (including command keys); let Aaron know if you would like a QWERTY version.  Aaron would like to thank Alex Eulenberg for creating the Unicode keyboard generator and John Brownie for creating Ukelele, both of which he has used in keyboard creation.  People interested in modifying or porting the layout can download the specification.

Plain:<No modifiers>
Shift:<Shift option>
<Shift Option>

Aaron has no information on the origins of the standard Israeli keyboard, but it certainly wasn’t designed for comfort or efficiency—it literally gave him carpal tunnel syndrome when he typed in 300 pages of Hebrew text one summer.  Only 37.29% of all letters typed are typed on the home row, 34.74% on the row above the top row (which is a bit harder to type than the home row), and a full 27.97% on the bottom row (which is even harder to type). Furthermore, the left pinkie, a very weak finger, types 6.39% of all letter keystrokes, while the stronger left ring finger types only 3.90% of all letter keystrokes.

In order to overcome the problems with the standard Israeli keyboard, Aaron decided to create one based on the same principles of the Dvorak (English) layout.  As far as he can tell, there is no other proposed Hebrew/Aramaic layout like this.  There certainly is no Israeli standard layout based on the same principles as the Dvorak keyboard.  Aaron’s keyboard layout puts the ten commonest letters on the home row (as opposed to a mere three on the standard Israeli keyboard), resulting in 69.50% of all letter keystrokes being typed there, only 19.66% on the top row, and 10.84% on the dreaded bottom row. This should result in less overall movement and thus less wear and tear on the fingers.

Furthermore, among the 30 commonest digraphs (sequences of two letters) in the first volume of the קיצור שולחן ערוך (an abbreviated code of Jewish law), 22 have the both letters on opposite sides of the keyboard (very ideal), 5 are typed on the same side of the keyboard but with different fingers (not ideal, but OK), and only 2 are typed by the same finger. For the same list of digraphs on the Israeli standard keyboard, 13 are typed with each letter on opposite sides of the keyboard, 5 are typed by different fingers of the same hand, and 8 are typed by the same finger of the same hand--and unlike my keyboard, some of this last category are typed with one letter on the top row and one finger on the bottom row, the most difficult possible combination to type.

Aaron has endeavored to make it possible to type every Hebrew character present in Unicode.  Furthermore, under shift-option on the home row (showing up as blanks on the screen capture), are the very useful bidirectional formatting codes.  From right to left they are:  left-to-right embedding, right-to-left embedding, pop directional formatting, left-to-right override, and right-to-left override.

Commentary of any useful kind and questions are welcome.

Aaron is not sure at this point he put the letters in all the right places.  He has made sure to make the strongest fingers type the most keystrokes, and to make the right and left hands type about the same amount of keystrokes.  But he is not clear he did everything right with placing all the keys in all the right places on their respective rows.  Anyone with software for keyboard optimization, please contact Aaron to help him improve his keyboard.

There has been a request for a Windows version.  Someone who can do so, please do so.  Aaron may be a Mac fanatic, but he does not want to see Windows users suffer needlessly either.  Anyone who wishes to implement his keyboard on any platform is welcome and encouraged to do so.

Also note this layout is not designed for Yiddish, Ladino, or any other language which uses the Hebrew/Assyrian script, though no problem is anticipated for Aramaic; variations on the Adelman layout may be appropriate for these.

אהרן אדלמן,
Mar 22, 2011, 2:02 AM
אהרן אדלמן,
Mar 22, 2011, 2:07 AM