Optimized TextBlade Key Layout ... THE-1 Keyboard Layout?

What layout would best be optimized by the TextBlade/Planck style ortholinear style keyboards?

I don’t know why I decided to start investigating keyboard layouts again this afternoon… Well actually I do… I was binge watching Buck Rogers (yeah I am old school), and saw a keyboard on the show that got me thinking. Due to the layers of the TextBlade, Planck, or any other ortholinear keyboard with programmable layers, you can really start rethinking the layout for optimization. Once you no longer need to stretch to get to keys (especially on the TextBlade), the computer modeling and optimizations of layouts can really come into play.

I know there is a lot of research out there on layouts but as I was searching around probably 20 different keyboard layouts including many new ones for me (Workman, Norman, Asset, Minimak), I came across one I am really interested in… THE-1 in which I found a document here.

THE-1 Keyboard Layout (Nicholas Sterling is the author)

*** Edited as he swapped B and V to allow better connection to 'V words

It has some interesting characteristics that cause me to think outside the box… ZXCV does not need to be where it is on the TextBlade because of layers. I know I have seen many various discussions on this forum regarding layouts. QWERTY, DVORAK, COLEMAK are the most common I have seen here with a few others sparingly mentioned.

With the amazingly small layout of the TextBlade, would it make sense to determine if, due to a new paradigm, it could be improved? I am really thinking about migrated to THE-1 and may even request a set of non labeled key caps to use on my backup TREG unit to transition.

We, as a human population, are amazingly adept in learning new things… even as a 48 year old, I can pick up something new. With the possibility of 12 BT slots and multiple dongles for a single TB I am pretty confident when this finally goes to market and I can leverage 12 slots I will never need to use another keyboard again. I will have a TB with me at all times and a spare dongle with me to use anywhere needed.

Once I eliminate the need for another keyboard then migrating to something that is completely radically different will not matter. Especially as I have 3 TB on order… 1 QWERTY, 1 COLEMAK, and 1 Legend Free.

Would love to get others insights. Want to focus on speed of typing regardless of what you have learned on. typing THE and IONS as splats makes a lot of sense in english at least.

Let the battle begin ;*)


I’m going to try this out too.
I did a similar exercise a year or so ago but now that I’m stuck at home, may have better luck with THE-1.

Quite fascinating. But I have a hard time seeing myself working on it. After all, my speed is faster than I can think of what I want to type (about 44 won compared to 66 won on a typing test). And if I decided I didn’t like it, I’d have the hassle of going back to Dvorak. I also would guess that some of the advantages are minimized by the shorter reach between rows on the TB.

Valid @dabigkahuna. For those of you who are already at speed typists this would not make a lot of sense. This would be more for those who never did take typing seriously even though they may have been typing their whole lives (like me). Those who still need to look at the keys to type letters sometimes (still like me).

If someone were truly learning for the first time (a child, someone who wants to finally learn the art of typing) what would be the most efficient TB format of characters? What would minimize strain, minimize finger movement, minimize time to typing at speed. If you would always have your keyboard with you, the ability to use it anywhere you went, and the size of the TextBlade.

Not asking to change, but if you had to do it all over again with the TextBlade, what would you choose @dabigkahuna? With this time at home maybe you investigate but not change.

@gmadden, I reached out to the author to learn if he went further on other layers. If he didn’t I would assume to begin with I would simply used the green layer the TextBlade already has but I will need to tweak a little since we lose / from the main layer and <,> from their locations. Will let you know when and if he replies. My plan is to swap out the ; and : in the green layer with < and >. Then put the / on the green layer as it is used more in coding for me than the \ and put that on the green-shift layer… Thoughts? p.s. A side benefit is that the / matches the num layer and green layer now.

Here is my custom layout now… As of late working from home I am not really using my kids Apple laptop anymore so I am going to dedicate slot 7 to iOS THE-1.

*** Side note on my layers… I added the Battery check to Shift-Home a long time ago and love it there… so easy.

This is where I will update Websites that allow custom layout setups to accommodate layouts beyond the most common… or allow for custom testing setups so you could setup your own tests to align to your custom layout. At the bottom I will add computer software… none of which I will use as I am trying to only use iPhone/iPad and TextBlade for my learning.

Custom and Ortholinear Layouts:

Custom Layouts:


Custom Tests:




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I am really liking Agile Fingers as I was able to customize to the keyboard and it is going through the standard learning based on key position and the assignments I have made. I know you have used it before @dabigkahuna but wanted to provide to you as well.

For those interested in trying out Agile Fingers. Here was how I set it up… Note that the keyboard settings appear to be stored in the browser and not on their system (at least what the documentation says).

You can edit the keyboard by clicking the gear in the upper right corner.

Then on the keyboard since TB only has 10 columns and 3 rows I cleared out the top row and the other highlighted keys in the above image. To do that you tap the key of interest and a pop up appears that contains the character, the shift, and the alt (for normal letters you do not need to enter the character as it is assumed a capital)… See example of clearing out the keys.


Then go through all the characters and enter them one key at a time. I am showing the example of the K.


Here are the main key setups Adjusted to latest layout listed lower in the thread

Here are the only shift keys necessary and the Alt Layer which correlates to the green layer

Normally, the lessons scroll each word. If you prefer to have it be one row at a time. To change that setting go here.

Hope this helps as an example… Of course you can set this up with any layout… including the normal TextBlade layout.

Just remember that you need to change the TB to the keyboard map that aligns to the layout you have setup.

Have fun using the tool.

As some people have noted in the past, getting a TB is a good time to learn touch typing. The two seem to compliment each other especially well. For example, while I touch typed before the TB, I didn’t do number or most symbols that way. I simply never did them enough to make it worth practicing reaching that far up on the keyboard to hit them. But with the TB, reach is a non-issue. So now I touch type most of them (occasionally they’ll be one I use so rarely that I can’t recall the exact spot it is).

I do like the things the guy was factoring in to keyboard design. If I was starting over, I may try his. But I’m not sure. I can say that I’d only try it with the TB rather than some other keyboard because I can use it with pretty much any device, using the dongle if necessary.

I would not do any rare keyboard layout otherwise because what do you do when you use some other computer, etc, and you have to use their keyboard? On my Mac, before the TB, I could chose the dvorak layout on the computer. That’s a real problem if you use a weird layout that you can’t choose within the OS! Heck, even if you could, you can cause problems for a friend if you forget to change it back when you are done!

But with a TB, I don’t deal with those issues and it is so small that keeping one with me isn’t a problem. The only problem I might run into is if the other person’s computer was set to dvorak already. Then I wouldn’t get the proper results with my TB also set to dvorak. But that situation is relatively rare since most use qwerty.

I do have an urge to try this other layout, but to really evaluate it decently, I’d have to do some serious retraining over an extended period. So I doubt I’ll do it. I might, someday, set one up to test specific patterns he talks about. At least with that, I wouldn’t be really typing in the normal sense. I’d just be doing things like “drumming” certain character combinations he talks about to see how they feel. My focus wouldn’t be on words or even characters in that case. It would be on how my fingers worked.

I did that long ago as well!

I didn’t care for Agile fingers because the scrolling method makes it hard for my eyes to follow well. It’s really hard to find tests that I do like. Of course, everyone is different.

For example, I’ve seen that “space” game before and it’s cool, but words get in each others way and you can get messed up my typing a character (especially if the first character is wrong!) and not realize at first which word on the screen it is reacting too!

similarly with the racing came, though you can tell easier. If you make an error, it just stops while, at least in my case, my fingers keep moving as I read the next words coming up before I realize it is waiting for a letter in a word I was already past!

@dabigkahuna, There is now a switch to turn off scrolls. It now defaults to not scrolling the cursor but it does still scroll a word at a time. Agree that each person needs to find something that works for them.

FYI, in 30 mins of exercises with Agile Fingers I am at 30 words a minute with 100% accuracy (I have always backed up to correct my problems which slows my total WPM down) on the home row with THE-1. Going to continue and will fill in the group.

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One question for clarification. On the chart in your first post, when it shows two things (like ?!), does that mean the question mark is when unshifted and the exclamation point mean it is shifted?

Yes, correct @dabigkahuna ? ! then . : then , ; along the vertical… See my layout with the TextBlade.

I don’t know how much I’ll mess with it, but I went ahead and set up my dongle slot to use this (since normally I don’t use the dongle - it’s mostly just so, if I start having problems, I can see if the problem goes away with the dongle). I have at least 4 things to still decide where to put them and I may, of course, change some things they have and that will, in turn, affect other things. All these will have to do which symbols. For example, maybe I want the colon and semi-colon on the same key like I have now.

Anyway, the things I have “lost” in these changes that I’ll think about later are: < > / \

I can’t even remember last time I used that last symbol, but the others I used regularly.

Only spent a few seconds doing a full of those drumming motions (“the” and “ion”). They’ll take some getting used to as, right now, they may not really quite fall in the correct order. Especially when going backwards, especially if starting with the pinkie!

Meanwhile, since to really evaluate these keyboards based on the various things the guy listed in your link, I wonder if the TB touch capability would make it possible to have software/firmware that would measure much of it for you? I know the logs we send to WayTools gives a lot of detail info, like where on the key you are hitting as opposed to a more generic, “You pressed G”.

First, how did you get the TB to show both the main layer AND the green layer for the Number section? Mine only shows the main layer when I print a PDF! Or did you create this by taking screen shots?

That’s what I had to do. Moving on:

BTW, have you considered changing your number layout?

Since you don’t seem to have filled in the blank areas, there are some things I did (some ideas from others and some of my own).

First, I keep all 10 numbers across the top. This is handy for when you may not be steadily entering data, but just need to reach out for a number. If you are proficient with a number pad, this may not matter, but I’m not proficient so I’ll know where to hit isolated numbers easier by going to the normal keyboard position.

This does, of course, require some other changes. The plus and minus signs would have to be moved since they would now have 6 and zero in their place.

For myself, I decided that the operators (plus, minus, multiply, divide) would work out just fine on the green layer. So I put them, in that order, in the home key locations.

I left the period the same place you have it. Since the zero is now at the top right, I put the comma on the bottom left to take it’s place.

I actually have the division mark two places (regular and green layer - I should probably replace the one on the regular layer). I put the equal sign on the bottom right.

Then I took other green layer stuff and filled in various available spots. I might need to adjust their order, but the basic idea remains of keeping just about everything I might need for number related stuff easily accessible.

I also duplicated the math operators (mirror image) on the left blade so if I didn’t want to use the green layer, I could use both hands and the left would just be for math operators.

Since I have never had enough motivation (or need) to use a number pad regularly, I have certainly not worked out the ideal placement for everything. But I do feel the numbers across the top and the main math operators on the green layer home position is quite useful.

Yep. Edited screen shots.

These are the most painful characters I have and definitely will be setting up the Agile Fingers keyboard to learn these. I cannot tell you how many times I am having to fumble around to find these characters after all this time as a TREGGER.

@ # $ % ^ & I am about 30-40% accuracy rate right now

! ( ) I am at above 90%

@dabigkahuna, They must have changed Agile Fingers. I wouldn’t know because I just found it today… upper right corner allows you to toggle between scrolling and row format…

You may be able to go back to using it with your preferences.

Well, here’s something maybe others can chime in on. It may have been discussed before - when talking about the issues of switching between the TB and regular keyboards. For that particular issue, some people who had to do that regularly said it wasn’t a big deal after a bit of experience going back and forth.

It may be similar to what I have to do when switching musical instruments - flute, clarinet, and saxophone have a lot of similar fingerings but with some differences. Of course, their sizes vary a lot too.

But this is a bit different - anyone switching between two different layouts regularly? If so, how difficult is that to do? I’m just wondering, if I work on this new layout but also make it a point to type on my dvorak layout every day, will that cause serious problems.

Great question @dabigkahuna. No matter what I would suspect there would be at least a momentary transitional phase of a reduced throughput as you switch between but I have not done any research on the point. I suspect there is research out there.