DvorakKeyboard

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> [new:AlexDaniel:2014-11-01 20:45 UTC]
> That's exactly my thoughts!
> So it seems like a lot of emacs bindings are actually meant for dvorak
> layout, but how did that happen? I don't believe in such coincidences!
> Maybe it happened automagically because most bindings are set to the
> first letters of real words and dvorak just has these located in a better way?
> -- AlexDaniel


[ Please keep the material in this page relevant to Emacs. Discussion of the merits of said layout is better off at Wiki:DvorakKeyboard. ]

Useful Emacs key bindings in combination with a Dvorak layout

One of the first problems an experienced Emacs user finds when converting from a QWERTY to a Dvorak layout is the fact that many commonly used key-combos involving C-x such as C-x C-f, C-x C-s or C-x C-w are no longer easy to type. This is because in the Dvorak layout x and these other keys belong to different hands.

One possible solution to this problem is to give yourself another C-x in the right-hand side, where the keys f, s, w and r are. A good candidate for this is C-z, which doesn’t get used that much these days and is available at C-x C-z anyway:

   (global-set-key (kbd "C-z") ctl-x-map)

Another, more subtle, problem is that C-p and C-n are now on different sides of the keyboard, making fast cursor positioning difficult. If you are willing to have the ‘help’ keymap on C-x C-h (or to use the additional binding on F1) you can bind C-h to previous-line:

   (global-set-key (kbd "C-x C-h") help-map)
   (global-set-key (kbd "C-h") 'previous-line)

This also has the charm that all four basic cursor movement bindings are on the right hand now, with previous-line and next-line on the home row.

Also the following bindings are convenient in combination with a Dvorak layout:

    (global-set-key [?\C-.] 'execute-extended-command)
    (global-set-key [?\C-,] (lookup-key global-map [?\C-x]))
    (global-set-key [?\C-'] 'hippie-expand)

I personally like these:

    (global-set-key (kbd "C-h") 'backward-kill-word)
    (global-set-key (kbd "C-t") 'previous-line)

but that might be just because I never got in the habit of using transpose. – NoahTye?

The classic Dvorak layout and Emacs

The classic Dvorak layout has the numeric keys arranged as follows:

    7  5  3  1  9  0  2  4  6  8

Using this layout gives the Emacs user numeric arguments (accessible through C-number) of similar values and range on both hands. Contrast this with the simplified Dvorak layout where all lower numeric arguments are on the left hand and the higher ones on the right hand.

Comments from Dvorak users

I started using Emacs the same week I switched to Dvorak, several years ago now. They really do seem to fit perfectly together and I always kinda secretly wondered if the emacs keybindings were made with Dvorak in mind. The only thing I’ve remapped was C-h to “delete”, so I can have it right between C-d and C-t.

Well, in a way they were made with “alternate layouts” in mind, because it uses mnemonics rather than positions (e.g. hjkl-cursors) for its bindings, but it seems to work better with Dvorak than with qwerty. C-a and C-e gets to be on the same line, C-x right in the middle of the keyboard where it’s supposed to be, and so on.

I highly recommend that anyone using the Dvorak keyboard go to this page: MovingTheCtrlKey.

Once that’s done and you’ve gotten used to it, the C-x thing is no problem anymore and Dvorak feels like the most natural layout for Emacs. I swear it just seems like the keys were meant for this layout.

That’s exactly my thoughts! So it seems like a lot of emacs bindings are actually meant for dvorak layout, but how did that happen? I don’t believe in such coincidences! Maybe it happened automagically because most bindings are set to the first letters of real words and dvorak just has these located in a better way?

– AlexDaniel?

Making C-x easier to hit

C-x is the by far the most common key I use so it has to be comfortable.

Firstly, I suggest you remap Ctrl to Caps Lock via xmodmap or your desktop environment. This puts it right up alongside the home row. Perfect! C-x is still a stretch though. The logical choice is to put C-x under your index finger on the home row. Ctrl-u currently occupies that position. Since it’s used less commonly, lets swap them.

There are plenty of bad examples around on how to swap keys in Emacs. The best way is as described in the Emacs FAQ 10.11.

    (keyboard-translate ?\C-x ?\C-u)
    (keyboard-translate ?\C-u ?\C-x)

This does a low-level translation of the keys before mapping them to commands. That way it won’t mess things up like re-mapping the keys can.

Beware that as soon as you evaluate the first expression, C-x does not work anymore, and you can’t issue C-x C-e to evaluate the second expression; therefore you’d better evaluate them with eval-region.

I would recommend to use:

 (define-key key-translation-map [?\C-x] [?\C-u])
 (define-key key-translation-map [?\C-u] [?\C-x])

keyboard-translate doesn’t work in daemon mode. See http://lists.gnu.org/archive/html/help-gnu-emacs/2009-10/msg00505.html for details.


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