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The Esrille New Keyboard − NISSE

Edition 2014.4.23

The Esrille New Keyboard is an ergonomically designed USB keyboard. It has 76 Cherry MX mechanical key switches (including two Fn keys), and is technically compatible with the 104 key USB keyboard.
Esrille New Keyboard − NISSE Esrille New Keyboard − NISSE

Highlights

Logical Layouts

The Esrille New Keyboard supports the seven types of keyboard layouts by default. Custom keyboard layout may be used by modifying the keyboard firmware. In the following sections, each keyboard layout is described in more detail.

QWERTY Layout

QWERTY (US) is the default layout of the Esrille New Keyboard.
qwerty layout QWERTY layout

Remarks

FN key combinations

The FN key combinations are mapped to various keys and key combinations as illustrated below:
Fn layout Fn key combinations
Note: The FN key combinations are same in every logical keyboard layout.
Note: When the Scroll lock LED is turned on by pressing FN-\ (Scroll lock), the FN key is also locked and FN key combinations are generated without holding the FN key down.

10-key Emulation

When the Num lock LED is turned on by pressing FN-' (Num lock), the right-hand side of the keyboard emulates a 10-key keypad as illustrated below:
10-key emulation 10-key emulation
Pressing the CALC key will launch the calculator application, if your operating system supports the calculator key (USB key code 0xFB).

Dvorak Layout

Even though the Dvorak simplified keyboard layout is not as popular as QWERTY, it is a very widely supported English keyboard layout.
dvorak layout Dvorak layout
The Dvorak layout is also considered to be more suited to input Japanese characters in Romaji than QWERTY.

Colemak Layout

Colemak layout is a new logical English layout, published in 2006. Colemak is easier to swich from QWERTY than Dvorak, and yet it is designed for efficient touch typing in English.
Colemak layout Colemak layout
Colemak is said to be the third most popular keyboard layout for typing in English.

Japanese Logical Layouts

Majority of Japanese speakers today input Japanese characters in Romaji using the QWERTY layout. In Romaji, however, it requires two key strokes to input most of the Japanese Kana characters. There are several Japanese logical keyboard layouts that allow you to type Japanese Kana characters in a single key stroke along with shift key combinations.

Stickney Next Layout

The origin of the current Japanese JIS standard Kana layout is the layout that was invented by Burnham Coos Stickney in 1923. The original Stickney layout emphasized the following points in its design, which are fairly reasonable even in today's perspective:
  1. Ease of learning; the most part the keys in the several groups follow the order of the katakana alphabet
  2. Most of the typing will be performed in the second and third banks
  3. The dakuon mark is typed by one hand and the root character by the other hand
Unfortunately the current JIS Kana layout has lost many design intentions in the Stickney's original design from historical reasons, and it is not widely used in practice today.

The Stickney Next layout is a new Kana layout that is designed for the Esrille New Keyboard based on the original Stickney's layout, rather than the current JIS layout. It keeps the Stickney's original design intentions, and it has moved nine Kana characters (ケセソヘホメヌロ) to better positions and removed two Kana characters (small ㇷ and ㇹ) that are not used in the contemporary Japanese language. Electronically, the Stickney Next layout in the Esrille New Keyboard is compatible with the standard Japanese JIS layout.

Stickney Next layout Stickney Next layout
In the above figure, each katakana alphabet group is differently colored to emphasize the Stickney's design intention.

Nicola layout

While the Stickney Next layout is very easy to learn, it is still arguable in its efficiency aspects; mainly in its use of four rows for Kana characters.

Yasunori Kanda and others at Fujitsu developed Nocola layout in the late 1970s, which uses just three rows for Kana characters. In Nicola layout, you can enter 30 Kana characters, out of about 90, without using the shift keys, additional 30 Kana characters by using the left Shift key combination, and the remaining 30 Kana characters by using the right Shift key combination. Kana characters with dakuon are entered by pressing the Kana key and the shift key at the other side at the same time:

example: け + Shift ⇒ げ, と + Shift ⇒ ど

nicola layout Nicola layout
Nicola became quite popular in Japan in the 1980s, and still has great number of fans including award-winning writers.

TRON Kana layout

The TRON Kana layout was developed by Prof. Ken Sakamura as one of the sub-projects of the TRON project in the mid 1980s. At first glance, the TRON layout looks similar to Nicola layout. While Nicola places frequently used Kana characters in the top and middle rows including shift positions, the TRON Kana layout places frequently used Kana characters at the non-shift positions. This is because that the TRON Kana layout was designed in conjunction with the ergonomic TRON keyboard, and the bottom row was not considered to be so harder to access than the other rows unlike Nicola.
TRON layout TRON Kana layout

While the original TRON keyboards are no longer available in the market, a more conservative version of the TRON keyboard, named µTRON keyboard, is available in Japan since 2007, and the TRON Kana layout are used with the µTRON keyboard, too.

The TRON Kana layout also nicely fits to the Esrille New Keyboard due to its ergonomic design.

M-type layout

Unlike Nicola and TRON, M-type layout was designed to type Romaji more efficiently than QWERTY by Dr. Masasuke Morita at NEC in the early 1980s. Since consonant characters are ordered in the Japanese alphabetical order, it is easy to remember the layout for Japanese speakers. Dr. Morita also developed very smart, ergonomic keyboards for the M-type layout. Even though M-type ergonomic keyboards are no longer available in the market, it had been sold for about twenty years in Japan.
M-type layout M-type layout
If M-type ergonomic keyboards were still in the market and its layout was customizable, Esrille New Keyboard wouldn't have to be developed. As a logical layout, however, more popular Drorak layout might be a better choice if you also type English text frequently. Both layouts places all vowels on the left home row.

Appendix

Paper Craft of the Esrille New Keyboard

Want to try Esrille New Keyboard for yourself? Print out the following PNG file at 100 dpi to create a paper craft of the keyboard in its actual size.
paper craft Paper Craft (100dpi)

The Key Matrix of the Esrille New Keyboard

C0C1C2C3C4C5 C6C7C8C9C10C11
R0[F2F3F4F5F6 F7F8F9F10F11=
R1`F1 F12\
R2]1 0-
R3CAPS2345 6789'
R4QWERT YUIOP
R5ASDFGESC APPHJKL;
R6ZXCVBTAB ENTERNM,./
R7CTRLGUIFNSHIFTBSALT ALTSPACESHIFTFNGUICTRL