Meanwhile over in Colemakville

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2008/06/22 11:29 -04:00, original URI:

Colemak devotees -- please control your enthusiasm; comments that get overly preachy will never be posted (as this is my pulpit, not yours!)....

The keyboard without a Caps Lock key that has come up now and again here in posts like this one and this one and this other one, also known as Colemak.

Anyway, it got its article deleted from Wikipedia again (the ASfDs for the article - here and here make for fascinating reading).

Yes I am the Microsoft blog "source" Vquex is talking about:

The only other sources cited are the article's own previous deletion debate here on Wikipedia and a blog entry by a Microsoft developer stating that they would not be including Colemak in Windows precisely because it is non-notable.

Well, not exactly. But that is how the Wikipedia text put it too, and it is probably close enough.

The Colemak forum discussion about all this is 24 posts long spanning about 10 months, and there is an interesting conversation there about me and how I am so polarized on the issue that I would somehow block the keyboard even if there was a valid business case for it. In fact that is the only reason I am writing this blog, to set the record straight. :-)

As a side note, the million dollar keyboard challenge that actually raised under 200 euro was also interesting. I probably would have not named the contest in such a way had it been me....

For the record:

1) I am not one true source of all the keyboardy goodness at Microsoft. I have a voice, and sometimes people want to hear it when I use it. But if there was a keyboard council (strictly speaking, there isn't), in my current role on the Windows International Fundamentals team I am hardly even an official member of it, let alone the only one with a valid set of opinions.

2) My bias about specific people in a community who choose to annoy me is something I keep separate from when I am asked about a specific business decision. That separation is important to me and is really the only way I can act in a way that I can feel comfortable is ethically appropriate. So while the way no Colemak fan was able to comment without extolling the virtues of the keyboard is something that grew old so fast that I started trimming comments and will probably moderate comments in this post, that is an entirely separate issue from whether it makes sense for Windows to include a specific keyboard in the box.

3) The more emotional/zealous in the Colemak community have polarized me about them, to be sure. But I could not list their names now if my life depended on it and wouldn't be looking them up to know them now unless my life did depend on it. So the next group have a clean slate, and will the only reason I'll probably have the same reaction is that the same rhetoric will probably be used and my patience, while almost infinite in some cases, is astoundingly scant in this case.

4) People who are reading here are unlikely to ask the question "Michael Kaplan who?" but outside of a somewhat narrow group of people in a couple of professions, I am sure it would be a common question. I would probably word it more strongly than they did, with a kind of a Reservoir Dogs-esque "Who the fuck is Michael Kaplan" if you know what I mean. Even inside of Microsoft, even if the topic is something like MSLU where I really am "the guy" and not looping me in can sometimes be mildly insane and a tremendous waste of everyone's time, it will sometimes be months before someone knows to loop me in. So when you take something like keyboards, especially when MSKLC is not directly involved, my involvement is not completely assured every time.

5) Getting off me for a moment.... you can certainly hear Microsoft folks, from the most highly paid executives to the greenest of just started program managers, bandy words like innovation around. But innovation is not a place where the piece of Microsoft involved with software layouts distinguishes itself as an innovator -- because this is a type of decision that is designed to always be following what customers are using. If there was a huge customer demand for a brand new keyboard and that demand had objective and provasble numbers behind it, then the hardware folks would be on board and everyone would have the keyboard they wanted. But these items are not created out of subjective interest, any more than they are killed for spite.

And there it is -- if the Colemak folks convince the people, and then convince the hardware folks to create this keyboard by having the valid business case, then it will happen and no changes to the software layouts are needed.

Note that this is the kind of innovative keyboard design that laptops of all kinds tend to do, for entirely different reasons.

It is highly unlikely that Microsoft would ever in a million years just go off and add software layouts that would go against what is on the hardware keys. Microsoft isn't a college dorm with members trying to sneak in past the RA after curfew. The software layouts will follow the reality of what is expected on the hardware layouts -- and there is no Windows OEM who even has this on the radar as a reasonable thing to do.

Colemak has not yet met that burden. Not by a long shot.

Which is interestingly different but not entirely unrelated to why they can't get the article to stay on Wikipedia (though of course their burden is much lower than Microsoft's)....


This blog brought to you by(U+101d, aka MYANMAR LETTER WA)

Brent on 22 Jun 2008 4:21 PM:

Yeah, I agree... you really can't support everybody's idea of a perfect layout.  I'm fine so long as there is some way to alter the layout...  I've had a series of problems with my right hand over the last 3 odd years (including an operation and a broken pinky), and hacking Caps Lock into another Enter was a real lifesaver.  

James McKay on 23 Jun 2008 7:39 PM:

I know exactly what you mean. There are a few people in the Colemak community who over-hype it quite a bit. I recently gave up on it after four and a half months and I had to fend off an onslaught on my own blog of various characters telling me that I hadn't spent long enough at it to give it a fair hearing. A rather curious claim methinks given that one of its selling points is that it is "easy to learn." Do you ever listen to the Stack Overflow podcasts at all btw? Joel Spolsky and Jeff Atwood had an interesting discussion about small, insular, fanboyish communities such as that a couple of weeks ago (

Incidentally, if you read the Colemak forums, you find that a lot of people tweak it anyway because they can't agree on exactly which keys should go where. I'd have thought that for people like that, MSKLC should suit them fine. The only reason why anyone would want to have Colemak included in Windows is to promote it, and I'd agree that's not what Windows is for.

Chris on 2 Jan 2009 9:47 PM:

"It is highly unlikely that Microsoft would ever in a million years just go off and add software layouts that would go against what is on the hardware keys."

Why do you say that?

One word: Dvorak

Michael S. Kaplan on 4 Jan 2009 5:54 PM:

Not sure I understand you -- that is available in hardware and can be ordered from OEMs.

Bawb Smith on 26 Jan 2013 3:52 PM:

So where are we at today?

Mac OS X, Linux, iOS and Android all support Colemak natively. I personally don't bother changing layouts, but I don't understand why you hate Colemak so much.

@James McKay - if there's one good reason I could think of as to why they want it in Windows so bad, it's so that they can have access to it anywhere; whether it's a controlled computer in a public library or a work computer that doesn't allow any programs to be installed (or even executable files to be opened).

Colemak is a built-in option for the Typematrix keyboard. But of course, that's the only physical keyboard I've seen that supports it. However, you'd have to be looking the other way to not see that it's growing. Hopefully you'll be around when you'll have to eat your own words.

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