Back to BEAKL

· keyboards · geekery ·

Since I last wrote, I have been busy tinkering with the layout for my Ferris Sweep in spare moments.

The biggest change I have made is to switch back to the BEAKL layout that I tried (and then abandoned) a while back when I was using my Ergodox EZ. Just for fun, I made a layer with a BEAKL layout, and was surprised to find that my fingers still more or less remembered where to go. I had forgotten just how comfortable this layout is. One thing lead to another, and after I got up to a workable typing speed again, I switched full time to BEAKL. I made a few adjustments after a while, moving to version 27 from 15, and also switching the ‘y’ and ‘h’ keys. The adjustments further reduce ‘single finger bigrams’, where a single finger is used to hit two different keys in a row, which tends to feel a bit awkward. I’m still getting used to that change but it immediately feels more comfortable, so I will be sticking with it I think.

The other changes I have made have been more incremental. I found that while I liked the idea of the ’numword’ feature, I kept forgetting to use it, or else I turned it on accidentally. I love ‘capsword’ and use it all the time, but I find that I prefer a plain number layer, accessed with a layer hold key, which is what I use now. I love the arrangement of numbers and arithmetic symbols I have on that layer — I can type numerical text much faster and more accurately than I ever have before.

Removing the need to tap keys to activate the numword feature made my layout triggering keys simpler too. When I am holding the thumb key for the number layer, adding a hold on the matching thumb key on the other side triggers the function key layer. Similarly, holding the navigation layer thumb key and adding the matching key on the other side triggers the workspace navigation layer. This feels logical and relatively easy to remember.

Finally, I have expanded the combo keys I use. I have found these to be a delight on this small, choc-spaced keyboard, and again I find them easy to remember. I already had TAB, ESC, ENT, and Ctrl-c (the latter mainly for Emacs), but I also added BSPC and DEL, as well as vertical combos for each type of opening and closing bracket. Having all the brackets on the base layer is convenient, and also saves space on the dedicated symbol layer. I do have BSPC and DEL on the navigation layer too, but it is nice to have a choice!

I still have to get back up to my previous typing speed, but it feels luxurious to have such a comfortable and efficient typing setup, so I’m enjoying the journey anyway.