covid-19 has seen a lot of our time on computers increase substantially in place of personal social contact. So, while monitoring a discussion on the BEAKL forum concerning hand tuned BEAKL layouts versus those generated with optimizers, i decided to revisit my BEAKL Zi layout, well.. just because!
Attempts to modify the right consonant hand with other common home row approaches only solidified my preference for BEAKL Zi’s right hand layout. Other resultant layouts had more same finger penalties and/or increased pinkie finger usage and/or awkward outer index/pinkie finger rolls (which i really dislike).
The CT same finger penalty of BEAKL Zi is effectively eliminated by rolling the index and middle fingers over the keys as the index finger performs its reach for the C (a trick some touch typing zealots perform on QWERTY keyboards to compensate for its poor key placement—in this case, i consider it more a comfort trick). No matter how many times i try to change this consonant cluster, it is just difficult to beat (even if optimizers can’t take into account this fingering nuance).
The left vowel hand was similar in its home row preference. Some, if not a great deal of this, is due to my preference for HEA thumb I and the resultant rolls. While the HIEA home row cluster is preferred by many and scores well with optimizers, my hands embrace the pinkie finger aversion of BEAKL too much now.. some of the pinkie finger atrophy, no doubt, resulting from the layout itself! But comfort trumps and i believe in the long run that my hands agree.
This leaves the BEAKL Zi pinkie consonant column. Rearranging the ZQJ key column to QJZ will not significantly impact finger metrics, these letters being such low frequency keys to begin with. Regardless, what we are left with is BEAKL Ji..
Any feeling improvements likely reflect my particular hand size and finger dexterity. That said, the IZE trigram allows a thumb pinkie finger roll (versus my ring finger corner reach cheat for the Z); the J as the more frequent letter of the three benefits on its home row placement and vowel rolls; while the QU bigram roll remains albeit requiring a pinkie reach to the upper row.
This rearrangement of the column is largely benign so take your pick. American English users may prefer BEAL Ji for the ** IZE** roll but BEAKL Zi still holds its own for me (the ring finger cheat being quite comfortable for me and preferring the home row QU roll).