Last year @ben Horner announced his "walking" Twiddler3 layout to little fanfare. Being a newbie to layouts I only had a vague notion as to what he meant by the "walking" and thought little more of it. The last few days however I looked into his walking layout some more. I found it a fascinating layout that I'm now testing out. So I thought I'd give the "walking" a little more exposure here by explaining it some more.
Since Ben didn't actually present a config file in his github repo I created MirrorWalk, which uses the letter-layout he presents while adding all the other things needed like return/backspace, arrow keys etc. I also move some of the non-letter keys around compared to his original suggestion to have them be more consistent (IMO).
The basis for the walking layout is that every letter is a chord of two keys - there are no one-finger chords at all in Mirrorwalk. This sounds insane if you are used to default, tabspace or backspice. The idea is however that once you have your two fingers in place, at least one of them should most of the time be already in place for the next letter. Ben did an extensive digram analysis (described in his repo) that for once also includes transitions to the spacebar. He claims that his layout achieves this shared-key situation for 65% of the most common English transitions and having tried, I can believe it.
The fact that the twiddler only commits a chord when you release may be well engrained in you veteran twiddlers out there, but the walking layout really makes this the main point and worth keeping in mind. Here is the layout, as one of my cheat sheets:
This is only the letter-part (the full cheat-sheet of mirrorwalk is in my github repo). Note that it fits all letters only on the strongest three fingers - the pinkie is only used for extra characters, punctuations etc).
To really drive home how this works, I made an example of the "walking" by spelling out the word "walking":
First we place the fingers (1 for index- , 2 for middle- and 3 for ring finger) in the position for "w". The "w" is not committed yet since we haven't released.
Now we move the index finger to the next letter "a". We keep the ring finger where it was, since the "w" and "a" chord shares this finger. The act of releasing the index finger actually is what inputs the "w". Our fingers are now in the "a" position with only one finger movement.
We now lift our ring finger and place the middle finger into the "l" position. Doing so inputs the "a" we had. Again only one finger moved. We can't continue the "walk" from here though, since the next letter, "k" shares no keys with "l" - not all transitions can after all be covered with only nine keys.
Since we released both fingers for the "k" position, "l" is input.
Back to the walk! Keeping the index finger in place we move up to the "i" position which inserts "k".
The "n" shares the middle-finger position with "i", so we just lift the index finger and puts down the ring finger to get "n", while "i" gets input.
Keeping the ring finger in place we move over to form "g" while "n" gets input.
... and finally we lift both fingers to finish the word. In this case we didn't end up on any of the keys that makes Space (MMOO), but if we had we could have included that in the "walk" and commonly be able to move directly into the next word.
Some features I've found with this layout compared to tabspace and my previous attempts:
- Only the three strongest fingers are used. This is a boon for me. I had Emacs-pinkie in the past, thankyou very much.
- That there are no single-key chords is actually quite relaxing, since it means you can "rest" a finger on any key deciding where to go next without fearing you'll start inputing something after a while. It might also mean few typos when learning.
- Learning the chords becomes a bit of a puzzle game, at least initially. This is because the "walking" only works if you consider the letter after the current one to determine if you can keep one finger in place or need to move both. For me this was a bit of a transition from just remembering to find one chord to being expected to keep one step ahead for optimal placement. You can and should do this also in other layouts of course. But here it was explicit from the onset which was very educational.
- When you do have to move both fingers it feels a little jarring, like you are being broken out of some flow. But conversely when you get a good long "walk" in, it feels very satisfying. With just a few days training some of the more common transitions come more naturally. Learning this "right" does make it feel more like a game and is actually quite fun.
- MirrorWalk sucks for spelling out the alphabet. The alphabet sequence has, for the most part, no familiar transitions and will thus make for very few "synergies" and a lot of moving both fingers all over. Overall, you'll sometimes come across some words that just defy any attempts to "walk" them. In those cases a layout with common letters on a single key is probably more "even". Those words are rare enough that you notice them though, they are not the norm.
- There are some transitions, notably "es" that have no common fingers and feel extra jarring. I could not propose a better placement of S without messing up anything, so maybe this is something that may be a useful candidate for an MCC.
- On that note. There are no MCCs in MirrorWalk at the moment. An experienced twiddler will for example notice that the last "ing" part of "walking" is often mapped to a single chord. I'm not sure yet just where to add MCCs for best effect, will need to use this more. I'm thinking they could be three-finger chords but maybe they could even be single-key ones ... once one knows the normal chords well enough to not worry about mis-presses.
Anyway, hope that was useful for someone, and thanks to Ben Horner for this interesting layout. So far I'm enjoying mirrorwalk, we'll see how well it fares for me in the long run.