Ok, I am a serious Mac user. I left Windows around the time Windows 98 finally came out and haven’t looked back.

This is my final solution for the Colemak keyboard layout I have been using on my macbook since the beginning of January. It’s sweet! If you don’t know, this is a touch type keyboard layout that is a vast improvement over Qwerty in comfort and far easier for Qwerty touch typists to learn than Dvorak. See the Colemak website for more infomation and why it would make sense for many people if they only knew about. Personally, I like it a lot so far after using it for 1.5 months. It’s really a travesty that children are still learning Qwerty touch typing in the 21st century in my book. It’s easy to setup on Macs, PC’s, and Linux/unix boxes. On a Mac, the one tricky point is replacing the Caps Lock key with a Backspace key. This is supposed to alone cut out 15-20% of the finger distance you make in typing. I initially for over a month did not change the Caps Lock key because it was a hassle involving some beta software extension that required more than the 10 seconds of effort to install. You can honestly be quite happy without the Caps Lock switch, but I finally decided to make the change and am happy I did! (see step 2 and 3 below)

This is the Colemak keyboard layout on a Macbook without Backspace replacement of the Caps Lock key:
Colemak layout on Mac

I finally decided to figure out how to make the Caps Lock key a backspace/delete key and it is rather nice though I have to be careful not to let it promote slopping typing because it is so much less trouble to delete. The following is not for hackers but for those less computer savvy or with little time who stumble on this layout and would like to try Colemak on their Mac but don’t have a lot of time to try something out that they are not sure about but could possibly grow to love. With that in mind I point out how you can be sure to up and using this great layout within minutes for free.

Okay, my final solution on my Macbook running Tiger (OS X 10.4.8) is the following and it works great.

1. go to http://colemak.com/Mac and download and install the Colemak.layout – the install is little more than dragging the file Colemak.keylayout into the correct directory, the ~/Library/Keyboard Layouts/ is the one I chose. Log out of your OS X User account and then log back in. Open System Preferences, click on the International icon, and in the Input Menu tab enable the layout. I suggest you also choose to the option “Use one input source in all documents” and select “Show input menu in menu bar”. That way you can switch back to Qwerty (U.S.) at any time if you need to for passwords and such. Also make sure the menu bar will show the “Show the keyboard viewer” option as that comes in very handy when you are first learning the layout by touch. I recommend TypeTrainer4Mac for learning the layout quickly (can be found here http://colemak.com/Learn). Ktouch is good but unless you already have Fink installed along with KDE then you are in for a lot of extra effort and time. IF you don’t know what I am talking about and don’t have Apple’s Developer folder installed on your Macbook, you REALLY don’t want to know!!! I lost a couple of days getting Ktouch working on my Macbook. It wasn’t fun and I would not have done it if I had known about TypeTrainer4Mac. I probably only occasionally practice with Ktouch now because it I put so much effort into installing it. Both are free to use.

(read the warnings – however in Tiger my experience is that the authetication windows and login windows always default to Qwerty layout no matter what I do. On my second laptop, a powerbook that is running Panther (OS X 10.3.9) with Colemak.keylayout installed, this is not the case for the authentication windows – they do become Colemak layout by default however it is trivial to change back on the fly if you have turned on the “Show input menu in the menu bar” International preference pane. The login window remains Qwerty in Panther. So the risk of mistyping passwords is never high.)


2. Download fKeys beta 0.2.1 and install, look at the readme file and use the package installer…. Since it is beta I personally will never install it permanently. I select it for the current session. A new session seems to be only when rebooting and not from simply logging out. So I only have to Activate it, which takes seconds, on the rare occasions that I reboot my machine this is a miniscule price to be sure a can reboot without this system extension installing.

3. Download the macbook config files from the same beta page and modify them using some cut and paste magic with the Colemak example in the kinesis keyboard config files. It is pretty trivial to do but you have to be careful because mistakes could result in causing a kernel panic.

    Don’t have the time ? or messing around editing text files is not you favorite past time ?
    Here is what I made and use and it works fine with no problems. fKeysMacbookconfigs.zip Feel free to use it. Nothing original here. I don’t know if there would be any changes needed on a Macbook Pro. If you have a Pro and will test it out let me know. These files still have the config for the powerbook keyboards and when I upgrade my G4 Titanium powerbook to Tiger soon I will test it there to be sure. One note however, my config files also switch the Apple “enter” key next to the right command key to another “option” key like on full keyboards. Made sense to me since I never used that key. If it bothers you it is real easy to delete that out of the config files but you will have to kind of read and understand the config files syntax. I expect that 99%+ of the mac users out won’t miss that “enter” key. For those typing in languages other than English this can be useful.

Missing your Caps Lock key for that rare occurrence when you want to yell at someone by email ?

Get a caps lock back by turning on sticky keys in the accessibilily preference pane
see here http://www.apple.com/accessibility/physical/

Actually, this is great and in many ways is more functional than the standard Caps Lock key because it allows you to effectively have Caps Lock on special keys as well. It’s nice not to have to hold down the Shift key when entering just one capital character. No more two hand stretching. For myself, I have decided this is better than dedicating another key to caps lock. All the shift functionality in one key does make a lot more sense. Why is this not standard behavior? It would be nice I suppose if if you could just make the shift keys sticky only. Some may not like that this makes all command keys sticky. It can be useful in unexpected ways. I was able to take a snap shot of the Apple keyboard layout above without showing any keys depressed because of sticky keys.

Note: When turning on sticky keys, I would turn off the beep but you may find as I did that the display option is kind of a nice not too intrusive way of reminding you what command keys are activated.

All this may be obvious or easy to some, but it wasn’t to me and I have been programming and using computers since the 1970’s. My hope is that this sets the bar low enough that more will discover and use this great key layout on a Mac!



Well, welcome! This is my ramblings on interests of mine that at least for me intersect. Those include my experiences in martial arts training mostly Iaido and Aikido, learning jazz oriented piano, and learning to touch type with the Colemak keyboard layout.