Project: V | Keyboard navigation cluster

Hey community,

At times it feels like we’re only ever talking about the keyboard. But for our first-gen V, there were over twenty official community topics (most of them helmed by @iKirin)! Today it’s time to talk keyboards again, more specifically, the navigation cluster keys…

Every key in its place

xb

When last we looked at the keyboard, we queried you about the keys on the navigation cluster you were most likely to use. Turns out, very few people actually like the poor Scroll Lock key! But even with the eight keys decided, where to put them still offers over 40 000 possibilities. Luckily, there are some things we can do to whittle that down before we put them into a poll!

For one, we can group six of them into two bundles that are related. Home and End, Insert and Delete, Page Up and Page Down, form natural pairs, and it makes sense that they are somehow presented together.

There are a few main approaches we can take to sort out these keys.

Natural

If we are to put keys in their ‘natural’ place as much as possible, then Insert and Delete end up to the right of Backspace and \, like they would on a full-sized keyboard. Similarly, Print Screen shows up next to F12. What do we do with the remaining keys? Well, since the PgUp/PgDn controls vertical movement we can put them on the two remaining vertical keys, and since the Home/End pair controls horizontal movement we can put them on the horizontal keys.

optiona

Popular

Of course, we’re not making a full-sized desktop keyboard, so we don’t have to place keys in the location of their desktop counterpart. We could simply focus on putting the most-used keys in the places where they are easiest to reach. That would put the PgUp/PgDn and Home/End pairs on the full-sized keys along the right. This would also put Del in an easy-to-find spot on the corner of the keyboard. Of course the question then becomes, which pair goes on top, and which goes on the bottom?

optionc optiond

Wrapped

Finally, following mostly the same logic as the previous two options, there are some manufacturers who split the navigation keys into ‘back’ and ‘forth’, grouping PgUp with Home, and PgDp with End. In this case the question remains, which pair will surround the other?

optione optionf

Your preference

Keyboards are a very personal thing, and everyone’s preferences are different. That said, I doubt that many of the potential combinations would prove very popular. We think we’ve brought it down to the most likely placement, but of course we’re curious to see what you guys think!

Which lay-outs would work for you?

  • optiona ‘Natural’
  • optionc ‘Popular A’
  • optiond ‘Popular B’
  • optione ‘Wrapped A’
  • optionf ‘Wrapped B’
  • Other, I will leave a comment

0 voters

We’re getting there

There are still a few items on the table before the keyboard is done, but we’re getting there! Of course, we’ll keep you all in the loop as we go. Until then, let us know what you think of the navigation cluster!

nlbanner

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Very early days yet (only 4 voters as I type) but pleased to see “Popular ‘A’” is leading!

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Tbh I’m very happy with the first gen V’s arrangement of using Fn + arrow keys for navigation. The only key I need to be dedicated is Del.
I’d happily go with that again, especially if in turn it meant getting an ISO layout with full-size keys only.

4 Likes

Anything with del and home next to each other for a compact keyboard, I feel is a bad idea. If you miss del and press home while typing and you’re on a website or something trying to comment or fill out a form, that’s a lot of scrolling to get back to where you were.

For usability sake, pgup or pgdown isn’t as harsh of a penalty if you miss. The Natural and option B’s are better options for a limited space keyboard when taking this into consideration.

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Honestly my two biggest complaints about the first V keyboard are the prt scrn and default to FN F keys.
Having the print screen on one of the F keys (which I always use) often screwed up 3rd party screen snapshot programs. This fixes that out of the gate.
The other was the inability for the keyboard to remember your FN selection (always set to media keys on boot). Not sure if that will still be a thing.

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fn+arrow key for home end pgup pgdn

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I voted other. As someone with a hardware design background … I usually just observe. But in this case, you’re making a huge mistake that I can’t stay quiet about. I’ve spent years working around hardware peripheral design, about three of them dedicated to tactile input devices [keyboards obviously being among them].

This… this is awful. I think that this approach is not what you should be striving for.

Have you looked at use cases or case studies on how people use the delete, backspace, and navigation [Home,End,PgUp,PgDn] keys?

Very few people use a delete and backspace key without moving their hands from the home row. Unless they’re looking at the keyboard (which a veteran user does not want to do), they identify both of those keys by gliding their hands to the top right corner of the keyboard and knowing that the top-right most key is delete, and the larger one placed below is backspace. Having another set of keys that manipulate the view is just poor design.

Don’t build a key layout based on what a full-sized keyboard ‘would’ have placed things, simply because the use case is very different. Instead, you should be looking at how other laptop keyboards have placed their keys and which keys are rarely, if ever, used. (In a use case scenario with Dell, for example, they found that less than 0.01% of their users even used the scroll lock key more than once a month, which is why they omitted it from designs over seven years ago. The Pause key left not long after due to similar reasons - about 1 in 700 users vs 1000. Insert is still used by about 5-10% of users, depending on field.)

Please don’t try to redesign what already works in this situation - or if you do, do NOT base it off popular voted opinions. In these scenarios, we don’t know what we want until we try it. And by then, it’s too late. Trust me. I’ve been on projects where millions were wasted due to community/user opinion without actively testing it in the field.

I know that if it was before I did the work I did, I’d have voted for the Natural or Popular options. After having experience in the field and being able to test out hardware using goofy layouts, I understand why newer laptops have the layouts they do - rigorous use-case tests and active feedback from viewing errors and concerns from input failures.

I highly suggest you look into research on keyboards involving this. Logitech, Dell (Alienware), Lenovo, and Steel Series have all done extensive research on key placement efficacy and usability. Don’t make the mistakes they made years ago with an error-prone keyboard. [Look up G keys on Logitech - special macro keys that were placed on the right-hand side of many of their first gaming keyboard iterations. They got great reviews initially due to first visual impressions, but after going out to consumers, failed miserably. Eventually, they were placed on the left-hand side of the keyboard to avoid the amount of mis-inputs that were occurring.

Steel Series has evolved from desktop to portability as well, even obtaining exclusive contracts to build certain brand laptop keyboards. A number of their recent keyboards and their layouts on laptops have been critically acclaimed, and the designers behind them have spoken at a number of panels discussing the millions of man hours going into researching optimal design flow - especially once you start looking at localization (They’re a Danish company who manufactures keyboards in all existing locales, and they adapt their design philosophy to be user friendly and also viable from a manufacturing standpoint.).

And of all the companies I mentioned above, I think Lenovo is the best scenario. When they first launched their ThinkPad series, they were going for a enterprise desktop replacement in all aspects - keyboard included. The first laptops set a precedent on what was or wasn’t expected, but they started to find that a majority of their users had problems inputting certain commands. Later, they discovered that cramming a full-sized keyboard onto a smaller frame (15.7 or smaller) wasn’t a good idea. New competitors who released ‘slimmer’ iterations of the keyboard were seeing more positive feedback. Now, their latest designers have said that looking at Mac’s design philosophy significantly changed how they approached future projects - active testing with a wide variety of users to narrow down what works best for the scenario at hand. As a result, they now use one of three different keyboard layouts, based on the targeted demographic for their hardware.

And while doing something ‘new’ is always nice, having a layout that forces a user to ‘relearn’ how to navigate on a keyboard when swapping from one piece of hardware to another is just a bad experience. A big no-no in this industry.

Please reconsider. Look at the Microsoft Surface keyboard layouts [any of the last generation work, but the Pro and Book series is closest to the ‘optimal layout’ on a non-full sized keyboard, minus the detach key on Book] for something that is most ideal for users across the board.

[Especially since your layout is uniquely flawed in that it’s very similar to a project I’m under NDA to not discuss in detail. But without getting too into it, your delete key, while being on the far right corner, is not actually placed above the backspace key. This will cause a stupid amount of problems, especially when the Insert key is pressed by accident, which will cause further input errors. Please add a Function key to shift/toggle Del and Ins - this is the most optimal experience on literally everything portable now and used in nearly every locale.]

Edit: I need to reiterate how misleading your posted poll is. People are used to seeing Del in the top right, so it makes sense to vote for that key layout. That said, it’s NOT parallel with the Backspace key. This alone is enough reason to not approve it. In live tests, you’re going to see a lot of entry errors for people not hunting and pecking at the board. I guarantee it. This is especially the case if you don’t have a 8mm+ key travel distance allocated, and even then I wouldn’t like it.

25 Likes

Great feedback! Can you post a visual mock up of what you’re describing/suggesting? That would really help everyone get their heads around it.

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UPVOTE

Thanks Ion for pointing this out so elaborately.

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I mean, if you want my professional opinion, I wouldn’t suggest anything on the right-hand column of the keyboard. There should be nothing to the right of Enter or Delete, unless there’s a large enough margin to identify it via tactile sense. [Edit: Even then, it’s very sketchy to do so. The Logitech G-key scenario is a prime example.] I’m currently working (from home) at the moment, so I can’t contribute too much, but can do so later.

To be perfectly frank, I’d need more information on everything before giving my full opinion on the matter, since I usually decide upon my conclusions due to a number of factors. [Manufacturing locations [due to QA and cert testing requirements and turnaround], number of locales supported, key size/ratio, key travel distance (not pressed, but space between keys), layout goals (sinistral, dextral, or ambi focus), etc]

The last time I assisted in hardware manufacturing, I was commissioned as a consultant. I guess I’m moving down the ladder in that respect! :sweat_smile: [I work as MD @ my company now, so I’m okay with that, lol.]

Plus, I want Eve’s projects to be a success. I got burned with the initial EVE laptop (dropped almost 2 grand and got nothing from it, pursued it and nothing ever came of it to my dismay), but with the new ownership, I’m putting my faith back in their team. I want there to be better alternatives to what’s out there already!

[And while I (hopefully) have their attention, please please PLEASE make sure the EVE has external graphics (eGFX) support via its Thunderbolt 3 port, and does so with the latest tech. I know it’s stated that it will support it, but … I’m worried it’ll be a lesser version by the time this goes live. I can’t emphasize how important it’s going to be in the upcoming year and how valuable it will make this portable workstation to a demographic capable of spending on it. (Use Google Analytics and Trends to research more on this front) I don’t want this to be just a slight upgrade over the preexisting Razer Book 13 in a tablet form.]

6 Likes

Just to clarify, I don’t work for Eve. I’m just a long-time community member with a desire to see Eve do well. It sounds like you have real-world advice to give and community input is a big part of how we all get a shot at better tech.

That sucks you had such a bad experience with the V. All I can say is that I still believe that Eve intends to make that right for people when they are financially capable of doing so. That’s mighty good of you to be willing to still be engaged here!

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Ah, okay! Thanks for the clarification. I don’t know what the Senior Creator tag meant, so I made the (incorrect) assumption you were affiliated.

And for sure - when my advice can help out in an impactful way, I’ll do what I can. There’s a ton of potential with Eve’s latest iteration and as a supporter, I want it to be as positively impactful as possible!

4 Likes

I would take the del key away from home, end, pgup and pgdown keys.
If when editing someone aims for home and hits del he would have to retype what was deleted, hiting pause one the other hand usually has no effect.
I would prefer something like this:
mylayout

Swapping Ins and Del on the Natural layout would make sense. Then Del is right next to Backspace.

I agree entirely. It’s surprising that Eve did not consult at all on the question on whether there should be a line of keys to the right of Enter.

1 Like

Oh no!!! I have a Surface Pro, and I do love the keyboard … the top right Del key argument makes complete sense.

But I also have an Smk-Link VP6630 bluetooth keyboard which I use a lot just because of the column to the right of the Enter keys. For me I really like a more compact layout, but not at the expense of missing those keys. That right-hand column is perfect. This keyboard’s layout is the “Wrapped A” layout, which is not perfect. I strongly agree that the home key should not be just below the Del key – PgUp will lead to fewer errors. Thus, the Popular B or Wrapped B layouts would be better.

If it’s not too late, a layout trick that works amazingly well, and I don’t know why no one has replicated it, is that of the Sony Vaio Duo 13. Please see the picture of the bottom rightmost corner.

That right-hand Fn key is magical! With only the right-hand fingers, middle finger on Fn, index finger on arrow keys, you get the arrow keys to do Home (left), PgUp (Up), PgDn (Down), End (Right).
The fact that they are at the very bottom right of the keyboard allows me to feel them by touch without having to look. And since it uses the same hand position as the arrow keys, it’s a much easier demand on muscle memory. By far, it’s the BEST and most compact layout I’ve ever used for those functionsSony Vaio Duo 13 keyboard greatness

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It’s funny you bring this up. I actually helped work on a project that may or may not be related to this, lol.

Having a vertical function key placed on the far bottom-right makes this very user-friendly and eliminates any need for looking at the keyboard.

I’m actually most concerned about key placement across the board. I’m a bit confused as to how they ended up at the layout they have with the width of the right-hand keys they have in the ‘example’ image.

But yes - Jorge: You’re right on the money. Aside from a very small group of people who have limited motor skills on their right side (hands or other implements), the layout you suggested is by far the most effective that I’ve worked on. This would involve shifting everything on the bottom row to the left, but having a single key on the right side (Fn Shift) that can be held down to change the functionality of the four arrow keys. [And yes, that key will stick out a bit. It’s okay and makes for super easy navigation]

The Vaio layout was before half-sized arrow keys were introduced for manufacturing (you’ll notice they’re not the same as the top row) - now that they exist, using those keys with the function to the right would be perfect. (I’d either change the function into a vertical key or put a pip on it.)

I’m glad someone came to the conclusion before I suggested it myself - I don’t want to get in trouble further down the line… :smirk:

[EDIT: I noticed Jorge deleted his post. Unfortunate. EDIT 2: Nevermind, it’s back. Sweet.]

4 Likes

I gotta confess. I deleted my post because I started thinking that a “reply” post would be hidden, and much fewer people would look at it. So I was going to repost it in the main thread. But then you replied, and so I undeleted it. You make great points, and I completely agree with you. Hopefully it’s still possible!

I’ve honesty never ever used one of those keys and I second @Ion 's posts above. I need a well placed ooops key anywhere at the edge of the keyboard and arrow-keys with space around it to find them easily without touching those keys I never use and we discuss here… Maybe im a noob and the only one using a keyboard like that, but isn’t there a possibility that the standard user (which is rarely part of this techie-nerd- community) is the same like me…

I really look forward to times I sit in front of my tablet using voice recognition and a mouse for “typing”… This will make my workflow so much smoother…

1 Like

I certainly think the four keys (prtscr, Pause, Insert, Delete) across the top are fine. I have tablet keyboards that use the same configuration and it works fine. This leaves the four keys to the right of the Backspace, , Enter key, and Shift key. While I don’t think these four keys are going to be hit accidentally they might although I have large hands and I don’t overreach on a 13inch tablet keyboard. What I would suggest is adding those to the arrow keys instead as a Fn. Page up and Page Dn on the up and down arrow key, home on the left arrow key, and End on the right arrow key. Works well and you don’t accidentally navigate all over the place. Then if you still want to keep the keys down the right either make them programmable keys or keys that are only active with another key combination like Fn or Ctrl or something. Or just eliminate them and have more room for the other keys across the keyboark. Like I said I have big hands so small keyboards with little keys are not always friendly.

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