Colemak is a keyboard layout for Latin-script alphabets, designed to make typing more efficient and comfortable than QWERTY by placing the most frequently used letters of the English language on the home row while keeping many common keyboard shortcuts the same as in QWERTY.[1] Created on 1 January 2006, it is named after its inventor, Shai Coleman.[2]

ANSI Colemak keyboard layout (US)

Most major modern operating systems such as macOS, Linux, Android, ChromeOS, and BSD support Colemak natively. Microsoft Windows will support Colemak as of Windows 11 update 24H2.[3] A program to install the layout on older versions of Windows is available.[4] On Android and iOS, the layout is offered by several virtual keyboard apps like GBoard and SwiftKey,[5] as well as by many apps which support physical keyboards directly.[6][7]


Diagram of English letter frequencies on Colemak
Diagram of English letter frequencies on QWERTY

The Colemak layout was designed with the QWERTY layout as a base, changing the positions of 17 keys while retaining the QWERTY positions of most non-alphabetic characters and many popular keyboard shortcuts, supposedly making it easier to learn than the Dvorak layout for people who already type in QWERTY without losing efficiency. It shares several design goals with the Dvorak layout, such as minimizing finger path distance and making heavy use of the home row.[8] 74% of typing is done on the home row compared to 70% for Dvorak and 32% for QWERTY.[9] The default Colemak layout lacks a Caps Lock key; an additional Backspace key occupies the typical position of Caps Lock on modern keyboards.[1]

Coleman states that he designed Colemak to be fun and easy to learn, explaining that Dvorak is hard for QWERTY typists to learn due to it being so different from the QWERTY layout.[10] The layout has attracted media attention as an alternative to Dvorak for improving typing speed and comfort with an alternate keyboard layout.[9][11][12][13]


ISO Colemak-DH keyboard layout (UK)

A series of intermediate layouts known as Tarmak have been created with the intention of making it easier for new users to adopt the layout.[12] The layouts change only 3–5 keys at a time in a series of 5 steps.[14]

Colemak has been criticised for placing too much emphasis on the middle-row center-column keys (D and H), leading to awkward lateral finger stretches for common English bigrams such as HE. To address these concerns, the Colemak user community developed a modified version of Colemak named Colemak-DH.[15]

The Colemak community has created several other modifications and variants; some of these are not directly related to Colemak but would work on other layouts as well.[16]


  1. ^ a b "Colemak keyboard layout". Archived from the original on 2020-02-28. Retrieved 2011-08-29.
  2. ^ "FAQ - Colemak". Retrieved 2024-03-24.
  3. ^ "Announcing Windows 11 Insider Preview Build 26040 (Canary Channel)". Microsoft. 26 January 2024. Retrieved 2024-05-29. Added the Colemak keyboard layout.
  4. ^ "Colemak keyboard layout". Colemak. Archived from the original on 2014-06-25. Retrieved 2013-02-23. ergonomic, fast and easy to learn QWERTY/Dvorak alternative
  5. ^ "How do I change the keyboard layout (e.g. QWERTY to AZERTY) with Microsoft SwiftKey Keyboard for Android? – SwiftKey Support". Archived from the original on 2020-10-29. Retrieved 2020-09-25. Supported layouts include [...] Colemak
  6. ^ "Extra Physical Keyboard Layouts". Archived from the original on 2021-02-13. Retrieved 2020-09-25. Adds a few choices to the list of layouts to use when a physical keyboard is connected e.g. via OTG or Bluetooth.
  7. ^ "mod-dh/android at master · ColemakMods/mod-dh". GitHub. Archived from the original on 2022-01-30. Retrieved 2020-09-25. Colemak Mod-DH layouts for a physical keyboard connected to an Android device via USB or Bluetooth
  8. ^ Krzywinski, Martin. "Colemak – Popular Alternative". Carpalx keyboard layout optimizer. Canada: Michael Smith Genome Sciences Centre. Archived from the original on 2019-04-18. Retrieved 2010-02-04.
  9. ^ a b Dunn, Matthew (2017-11-30). "Why you should ditch the QWERTY keyboard layout for one of two other options". Archived from the original on 2018-02-11. Retrieved 2018-02-09.
  10. ^ Coleman, Shai. "What's wrong with the Dvorak layout". Archived from the original on 2018-02-10. Retrieved 2018-02-02.
  11. ^ Klosowski, Thorin (2013-10-18). "Should I Use an Alternative Keyboard Layout Like Dvorak?". Lifehacker. Archived from the original on 2018-03-03. Retrieved 2018-02-09.
  12. ^ a b Zukerman, Erez (2012-06-08). "How I Quickly Mastered A Superior Keyboard Layout Without Losing Productivity". Makeuseof. Archived from the original on 2018-03-02. Retrieved 2018-02-09.
  13. ^ "Why we can't give up this odd way of typing". BBC Worklife. Archived from the original on 2022-12-09. Retrieved 2023-03-09.
  14. ^ "The Tarmak Transitional Learning Layouts". DreymaR's Big Bag – Tarmak. Archived from the original on 2022-01-25. Retrieved 2022-01-25.
  15. ^ "Colemak Mod-DH". GitHub. Archived from the original on 2020-07-28.
  16. ^ "DreymaR's Big Bag of Keyboard Tricks". DreymaR's Big Bag – Index. Archived from the original on 2022-01-25. Retrieved 2022-01-25.