Are there any keyboard layouts designed to use a reduced set of keys, such as the home row (asdfghjkl;) and the rows above and below?

I imagine typing would be easier to learn, a possibly more efficient, if (for example on the qwerty keyboard) the A and ; keys could double as left and right shift, the S key worked like num-lock, exposing a numeric keypad on the right side, and L key exposed punctuation and brackets on the left side, and so on.

Ive looked briefly at some key mapping software, and it seems that some products would allow this remapping (in effect creating additional modifier keys, with a default output if pressed alone), but it seems quite laborious to set up. Does anyone know of a product that enables this sort of setup easily?

Any research about whether such a scheme would work well in practice?

  • Are you looking for a digital variants on mobile devices or physical keyboards? Also I am not sure up to what extent the function overloading of the keys should be allowed. This would reduce the motor load but significantly increase memory load for the user. – Harshal Mar 13 '15 at 4:32
  • Isn't this just taking laptop keyboards one step further? For example, there's the slide-out keyboard on my (not smart) cell phone, which is just as you describe. Or most of the software keyboards on tablets. In any case, it's horribly unproductive, to the point where I use a full-sized keyboard plugged into my laptop for all but the most trivial things. – jamesqf Apr 12 '15 at 5:47

iOS is using a reduced keyboard set:

iOS keyboard

Physically I don't think it works easily, because:

  1. You need the access to all characters (including special ones)
  2. Changing a keyboard layout after you are used to one is a really tough job, not worth the initial ease.

I had such a keyboard, a few years ago. It was on an old (2002-ish) laptop, but it worked fine.

It had the three basic rows of keys and the number row, but no numeric keypad and no lock buttons. The Fn key turned various keys into other keys. For example, the Print Screen button doubled as Num Lock, 9 doubled as Scroll Lock, and 8 as Pause/Break. On hitting Fn + PrtSc, a numeric keypad became available by holding Fn and using the right hand side of the normal keyboard.

It has to be said, it seems like modifier keys (Ctrl, Alt, Fn, Shift) were used much more in older, smaller laptops that had to be small to be light.

60% keyboards are widely available. KBC Poker is a well-regarded model. Really depends on what keys you need. I like how compact they are but use media keys and arrow keys, so find the 60% layout annoying.

I would be hesitant to implement the kind of thing you describe on software keyboards, where complex use of modifier keys is more difficult.

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