Thursday, May 28, 2015


I am writing this article with only one half of my keyboard. I've always wondered what I would do if I lost total function in one hand, since my job has always been done by typing. Recently, I was given an excuse to practice this scenario when I accidentally lopped off the very tip of my ring finger while chopping some chicken. The doctor advised me not to perturb my left hand by attempting to type with what fingers were left unscathed, or the resulting increase in circulation could hinder the clotting and healing process for my injured finger.

I first thought of Mirrorboard, the xkcd keyboard mapping, and how I might adapt it to Windows. A little bit of searching landed me on an antiquated article describing some options for single-handed input. But I probably won't be able to learn Dvorak before this heals. I really wanted something easier to learn, like Mirrorboard. A little bit more searching led me to find the Microsoft Keyboard Layout Creator, which I used to create a quick and dirty port of Mirrorboard for Windows that uses 'g' as a dead key for mirroring the left-hand side of the keyboard onto the right-hand side.

MSKLC allows you to create setup files that anybody can use to install the keyboard layouts you create. My layout didn't seem to take right away, which was resolved after I logged off and back on, visited the language preferences control panel, added a shortcut in the advanced options for my layout, and finally realized that my layout was present in the Windows language bar next to regular old English.

Things that are difficult with the layout I created:
  • Typing passwords requires a conscious mapping of symbols from one side of the keyboard to the other.
  • Capitalizing stuff requires some acrobatics.
  • Keyboard shortcuts require the left side of the keyboard. (Alt+F is actually Left Alt+F. Didn't know that.)
  • Using Vim, since its efficiencies mostly come from keyboard shortcuts, is treacherous.
  • The layout doesn't play well with the Windows 8 Immersive Experience search box.
  • MSKLC doesn't apparently let me do anything with function keys, which I could really use to give myself more flexibility.
Due to all these issues, in the short term I would be more likely to break doctor's orders, and in the long term I would be more likely to learn Dvorak-R (included with Windows) if I had to continue typing with only my right hand. So, this doesn't solve the problem, though it does create a right-handed Windows counterpart to the left-handed Linux solution known as Mirrorboard. And, it certainly does open some interesting possibilities.

If it is of interest to anyone, I've published my keyboard layout here:

Now, ij you'll pardon anyy mislpeslings, I musy be ofj to bed. Hoodnight! :-P

No comments:

Post a Comment