Changing My Keyboard Layout

 Oct 23, 2012

I’ve always been intrigued with changing my keyboard layout to improve my typing speed

As a developer by profession, I spend (and have spent) the majority of my time in front of a keyboard. I’m always tempted to try one of the improved layouts such as Colemak or Dvorak, but I’ve always been too worried about three issues.

  1. My ‘downtime’ while trying to get up to speed with the new layout
  2. Having to use ‘other’ computers that are going to dump me back into Qwerty
  3. Mis-placed ‘command’ functions, like CMD-C/X/Z

Recently I stumbled across Minimak on Jeff (codinghorror) Atwood’s Twitter feed.
This keyboard layout claims to provide the benefit of Dvorak without having to throw Qwerty out completely.

I was sold, but sadly the author only currently provides a Windows installer.

Not one to back down when confronted with a challenge, I started to look into creating keyboard layouts for OSX.
Enter Ukelele, which makes it incredibly easy to produce your own keyboard layouts for the Mac.

Using the information on Minimaks site I created three new keyboard layouts, one for each of the ‘steps’ in learning Minimak. The 4 key, 8 key and full 12 key layouts, which can be used in sequence to go from Qwerty to Minimak in easy steps.

Once my keyboard layouts were completed in Ukelele, I saved them into a ‘bundle’, which was then copied into

/Library/Keyboard Layouts/

then opening System Preferences -> Keyboard -> Input Sources listed all three layouts. Turning them all on as well as the icon in the menu bar allows me to switch between them (and normal Qwerty) with ease.

In case any other Mac users want to give this a try, I’ve made the bundle I created available on Github

Oh, and if you were wondering, the keys on Apples wired keyboard are very easy to switch around. I moved the first four keys around and switched to the first layout this morning. It’s been a bit frustrating doing ‘hunt & peck’ and my backspace is seeing a lot of use, but when I hit a good stretch and remember where all the keys are, I can see the benefit and everything does feel a little smoother.

Just need practice… lots of practice.