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More key layout news

February 16, 2009
Posted by: tovmas

New blog post from ED:

While the mould for the keymat is currently being produced, we’re concentrating on working more on the keyboard layout.
We mostly scrapped out old layout since we had too many important keys missing – so there are no Umlauts or language specific keys on the layout, it’s a plain English keyboard with a compose key to do special characters.

That layout is not final yet, it’s our current WIP.
It might look weird and mixed up at first sight, but there’s one major difference with a standard PC Keyboard: You only use two thumbs for typing on that one, so it’s much more important that the most used characters are convenient to reach (which can be a problem when using the Fn Button).

Link

32 comments

  1. I like the direction they’re going in. Using the Compose key for language specific characters is so much more flexible than trying to fit everything into the printed layout.

    I have my popcorn ready for the next round of forum polls. It’s Valium flavoured.


  2. I approve.


  3. I’ll try to hang back, but 4! keypresses for one single umlaut? Worst case nonsense😦 I hope the language specific mat is no hollow promise. Well, there are still other possibilities, N900 maybe.


  4. If I find out how to remap, I’ll have ctrl and alt on shoulder buttons. Handheld ctrl-alt-f1 is important.😀

    @mali: another possibility would be having an app that automatically replaces ae/oe/ue by ä/ö/ü. Of course, that would only work if someone actually wrote such a program…


  5. Looks great. I’m ok.


  6. Looks cool for me, but aren’t the A, B and X, Y kinda wrong arranged? Isn’t it always the fact that they are like
    -Y-
    X-B
    -A-
    So that A and B are on the “lower Line” and X and Y are on the upper one?


  7. GPSchnyder:

    That was one off those patent problems. That layout is registered.


  8. Hmm.. I wonder if the patent will cover this layout?

    – 4Y –
    3X – 2B
    – 1A –

    I’d say it’s different enough. Then again, IANAL. Anyone?


  9. I wish I understood the big deal about this.

    It’s not like when I buy a laptop, I have any say in the keyboard layout, or when I get a console, I have any say in the pad layout.

    Maybe it’s because I’m English and I have no need to be writing in other languages. Even so.


  10. How would you do ctrl shift tab for cycling backwards through firefox tabs with this layout? Shift would turn in to caps lock AFAICS


  11. Really? You aren’t kidding me? What the …

    Okay, then they should use some Icons, like Heart, Diamond, Cross and Spade. It will suck big time when an emulator tells you to press a and you have to press x. And if they swich I’ll not be able to play MK anymore:-/

    This really sucks. How can you patent something like that? Damn Capitalismn.


  12. Are we really talking about the button layout again? That’s the way they were arranged on the GP2X, and if you don’t like it you can just pry your Pandora open and switch them around


  13. @Razza
    Map the Ctrl Shift Tab combo to a different button (D-Pad for example) in software. Makes it even easier than you’ve been used to.

    @GPSchnyder
    The physical layout of the keys has never determined the key input the software sees. With things like MAME you can rework controls in software, so when MK asks you to press X you can do just that.

    @All
    I really like this layout. The font is more to my tastes than last attempt and you can tell they’ve really been thinking about the keyboard layout in terms of real world usage. For example, notice how they’ve put the Fn and Enter/Compose keys together? I figure that’s so you can hold down both keys with one thumb and then enter whatever combination you need for special characters with the other thumb. Clever.

    Don’t know if they could really improve apon this layout in terms of making a generic one. If they offer keymats tailored to different markets at some point that might be handy, but personally I’d say this mat is a pretty good all-rounder.


  14. phew!
    at least you can press ctrl-alt-del easily…
    that’ll come in handy for when i install XP


  15. …No.

    If you’re going to do this, you at least need to put the special symbol button on a key of its own. English folk can then map this to something else in software, but 3-4 keypresses for a single letter? NO!

    I really hope we see a “business” model ARM pocketable linux machine this year. X86 models are starting to appear and battery lives are slowly improving. At this rate, by the time Pandora is released we’ll have XP machines with better performance and comparable price.


  16. @nameless: the pandora will never be “business”-like. it has a d- and analogpads! it is a homebrew console in the first place. im german, therefore i will need umlaute, too- but i was happy to see it’s an generic english keyboard. it would be too cramped with all those letters you don’t even need for playing or surfing. if i would seriously need to write a text (and not just chatting), i would use a small usb-keyboard anyway.


  17. ps: the linux os is the one of the main reasons for me to buy the pandora. what use has xp on a handheld?


  18. @nameless
    ED confirmed that he will offer a separate German layout keymat🙂
    @DrAkula
    My Pandora is very business-like, cause I decide so. It’s open by design, you know😉
    You can keep your English default keymat, I’ll burn it and put in my German mat😀


  19. Looks great, though the ~ (tilde) key needs to be more readily accesible given how much it’s used at the cli.


  20. @mali
    Looking at this German keyboard layout:
    http://carbon.cudenver.edu/~tphillip/GermanKeyboardLayout.html
    Is this typical of what German keyboard users see? If so, don’t think it would be inconceivable that the few extra symbols needed could be worked into the current design. What do you think?


  21. This is great. Make it just like that.


  22. What does the alternate symbol on the “H” stand for?

    Personally, I’d have put the currency symbols on the corresponding letters. You know, mnemonics an’all? But no biggie.

    And what does the ALTGR key do in this layout? It seems just about everything is covered with the FN and Compose keys.

    Finally, for the SHIFT and FN keys, instead of needing a FN modifier to lock them, why not make them sticky? One press SHIFTs or FNs the next character, two presses lock the keys into SHIFT or FN?


  23. @Zeno Arrow
    That was the original plan, as can be seen on the renders but apparently some users would be annoyed to have those characters on their keyboard and so the devs cancelled that layout. I don’t care which route is taken as long as I’m able to type in the language my mother taught me with a reasonable amount of key presses🙂


  24. Just finalise everything and build the dam thing. Btw the 7th April estimate hasn’t got a chance, lol, more like june, july or august and that’s if where lucky…


  25. Is there a thread open to discuss this WIP layout ? I quite like it as a consensus, but would be nice if we could give some comments to OP team..


  26. The one topic guaranteed to set the place alight is keyboard layout. I’m sure the devs just say “Keyboard…” to distract everyone. “Delays? What delays? We’re looking at the keyboard layout…”


  27. Careful. Font Mania might make a comeback.


  28. After all of this keyboard format stuff, I looked into how the Nokia N810 keyboard works. Apparently there’s a “CHAR” key which brings up an onscreen menu of some characters that are not available on the keyboard. I was wondering if something like that would speed up special character usage, especially for people who know several languages or whatnot. Just an idea.


  29. The symbol on the “H” is probably Wifi On/Off.


  30. Mali: “I’ll try to hang back, but 4! keypresses for one single umlaut? Worst case nonsense :(”

    I’m sure the altgr/compose functions will be software controlled, so you could possibly implement a “default-compose” mode if you type more composed letters than not. (eg. a->” for ä , a->a for a , and compose could toggle it on or off.)

    Razza: “How would you do ctrl shift tab for cycling backwards through firefox tabs with this layout? Shift would turn in to caps lock”

    Don’t press fn-shift-space (caps-space), press shift-fn-space (shift-tab). fn lock should only be activated by fn-fn. No other key should affect fn’s behaviour.
    Once you get to 3-key combinations in apps, you’d be better off rebinding those functions anyway. (eg. L & R shoulder buttons for firefox.)

    Nameless: “…No. If you’re going to do this, you at least need to put the special symbol button on a key of its own.”

    There just aren’t enough keys to go around. You can barely fit all the essential standard keys on there before resorting to fn shifting. This approach provides a common baseline, and equal support for all international character sets. Including partial sets (eg. German) favours one language at the expense of others.
    Would you prefer no symbol support at all?

    Zeno Arrow: “Is this typical of what German keyboard users see? […] the few extra symbols needed could be worked into the current design.”

    Have a look at the layout again, including fn shifts. Take away anything that’s not a standard key character, there’s only 6-8 spaces free, and that might only get you basic support for one language. If region-specific keymaps are made, it could probably work, but they also need a generic solution for worldwide sale.

    Karel Jansens: “What does the alternate symbol on the “H” stand for?”

    Wireless toggle, I think. Icon needs work🙂

    “And what does the ALTGR key do in this layout? It seems just about everything is covered with the FN and Compose keys.”

    Compose uses multiple keypresses to enter accented roman characters. AltGr usually switches to a non-roman character set, with the keys completely remapped. They could possibly save one key space by combining both functions to a single key (with a switch in software config), but that could get messy.

    “Finally, for the SHIFT and FN keys, instead of needing a FN modifier to lock them, why not make them sticky?”

    I think they will be. Sticky means press it and it stays active until the next keypress, I think you mean lock, which stays active indefinitely. fn-fn is fn lock, fn-shift is shift lock, but I’d expect shift-shift to also be shift lock (same on my pda).


  31. Wow. Sorry about the massive comment.


  32. @ Grant C

    I really don’t think you’re going to be installing Windows XP on this.



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