DASH keyboard

The DASH keyboard aims to speed up typing by rearranging the letters.

The standard QWERTY layout is notoriously slow by design, dating from an ealier era when mechanical typewriters jammed if you typed too fast. Various alternatives have been proposed since those days, varying from the minimal-change types common across Europe, through a complete reassignation of keys such as the Dvorak type to, in the extreme, differing physical groupings exemplified by the Maltron. Some of these work great but are expensive and difficult to get used to, while others are cheap and cheerful enough but, frankly, offer no significanr speed advantage.

DASH seeks the optimal balaance, to deliver the maximum productivity gain wile minimising any downsides of cost or inconvenience. It therefore adopts a minimal-change philosophy, as these variants are much easier to pick up for those familiar with QWERTY, and to manufacture at low cost.

The approach taken is to move the most heavily-used keys in to the centre of the keyboard, where they are most visible to the eye and most easily reached by the index and middle fingers. Likewise, the least-used keys in the centre are moved out to areas covered by the the rest of the hands. The red border shown below is for illustration only, and outlines the high-use area. The keyboard gets its name from the chance but highly appropriate D-A-S-H letter sequence in this area.

The relevant area of an otherwise typical PC keyboard.

DASH achieves this through a simple scheme of exchanging pairs of letters. Here are the letters of the alphabet, ordered by usage (based on Wikipedia):

E:13.0% T:9.1% A:8.2% O:7.5%
I :7.0% N:6.7% S:6.3% H:6.1%
R:6.0% D:4.3% L:4.0% C:2.8%
U:2.8% M:2.4% W:2.4% F:2.2%
G:2.0% Y:2.0% P:1.9% B:1.5%
V:1.0% K:0.8% J:0.2% X:0.2%
Q:0.1% Z:0.1%

In the DASH scheme, just 4 letter pairs are exchanged from the QWERTY layout, all in the top two rows:

That is it, that is all you have to get used to. It is no worse than learning any other Latin-alphabet keyboard. The other letters all remain in their QWERTY positions, with the bottom row unchanged.

This minimal change raises the frequency of usage in the central zone by almost 20%. Although overall typing speed is not likely to achive quite that increase, it is still an astonishing improvement in efficiency for such an apparently trivial exercise.

This arrangement still leaves the little-used V and B in the central area. I considered exchanging M and B in the bottom row, and even exchanging V with a more common letter from a different row, such as W, but the minimal improvement in utilisation does not seem worth the steeper learning curve that these would bring.

Mobile layout suited to small-form-factor devices.