Advice me about Emacs Pinky

I recently have started having hand pain, curiously on my left hand – I have always laughed at the emacs pinky lore, I thought it was a lie spread by vi users to malign emacs.

I cannot for the life of me wrap my head around modal text editing – i cannot switch to evil mode.

Is it really true :sob: what can I do to prevent from damaging my wrist? Ive heard some people use sticky keys, but its just modal mode with extra steps…

Do anyone else have legit experience in this? Am i just hallucinating? I dont have this when using my rather soft mechanical keys – but i use multiple computers and sometimes I cannot avoid using membrane ones – i feel the problem is exaggerated here.

What do people generally use? I cannot buy $$$$$ split keyboards.

Will trivially swapping caps for ctrl help ?

Thanks for any advice in keeping my wrist intact.

pinky pain is usually tendonitis. hopefully your pain is in your pinky, not the wrist. The wrist is another issue altogether.

I have been there. some suggestions:

  1. move control to caps lock. you can set shift-caps to do caps-lock. yes it does help. the real problem is that the pinky does contortions to reach ctrl below shift. avoid that. I suspect that evil-mode helps some people, but I am not a “two-modes” person, so I can’t comment on that.

  2. if you use an external keyboard, learn to press the control key with the area just below the pinky. It is not hard to get used to it. I personally don’t like mechanical keyboards because I like very low-profile ones (and even the mechanical low profile are too tall for my taste).

  3. minimize the use of capitals. I tend to use them less than a regular person :slight_smile:

good luck.

when I start feeling pain I find it best to give my pinky a rest. In those cases I carry an external keyboard to use with my laptop.

by the way, my favorite keyboard (by far) has been the wired apple one. It just feels right to me. If you find a keyboard you like, carry it to use with other computers (probably possible if you can plug in a usb cable into the computer). when I find myself working for a while in another location, i travel with my keyboard.

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Yes, I feel it has to do with having to press multiple keys while having ctrl pressed - I have heard that in old keyboard iteration - the ctrl was in where caps is - and this is where this convention came to be, I have tried pressing the ctrl without bending my pinky finger - but it is impossible to do so while trying to access anything left of c - like pressing ctrl + z without also taking a more contortionist position - I also feel having to press shift is a major stress point, and using the redundant shift ctrl or meta keys on the right side is inefficient and unnatural.

I tried xah-fly-keys today GitHub - xahlee/xah-fly-keys: the most efficient keybinding for emacs

I feel like my first aversion with modal key bindings was when I tried vim - and I could never believe such a unthoughtful scramble of keys could ever be registered into muscle memory without putting oneself through a masochist ritual. But I was quite surprised to see that if one puts actual thought and purposeful design into it, it can be quite nice,

Vim’s keybindings have no purposeful design behind it, it is a historical aggregation of personal eccentricities, one can get used to it, but only after going through a torture, ofcourse efficiency can be gained but such can be also gained without putting oneself through torture.

It took me half a day to get used to xah-fly I think I can build a muscle memory in it, and enjoy it. Much thought have gone into it, its such a delight. Like for example instead of the hjkl - something only touch typists would ever enjoy we get ijkl - a much more intuitive approach, and many more.

I am a xah convert after today. It is actually the most efficient. Switching between command and insert modes is also so natural. So instead of evil mode - perhaps xah -key is the perfect solution for me to this dilemma.

Don’t reach with your pinky! There are two control keys. If the character is on the left, use your left hand for the character and your right hand for Ctrl, and vice-versa. When you do that, move with your arm as much as possible. You should only use your hand muscles to the extent that your arm muscles won’t do the job.

This is also what they tell piano players, and for exactly the same reason – if you reach with your fingers instead of your arms you will ruin your hands. In fact the piano advice goes farther than your arms: If you can move at the waist, do that; if you can’t but you can move at the shoulder, do that; then the forearm, then the upper arm, and only as an absolute last resort stretch your hands.)


You should’ve done this already if you are using emacs daily. Apart from emacs itself, even outside the emacs, I find moving Left Control key function to CapsLock key provide better typing comfort.

I am currently in process of changing my typing altogether, I am practicing touch typing and so on – I can do 90 wpm trivially without touch, but I think it would be a worthwhile investment nevertheless –

I have found that caps is not a good place if someone is touch typing because you’d have to use your pinky to press it - non-touch typists can use their stronger fingers to access it but touch typists are forced to use their pinky in the end diminishing the advantage - it is a good switch when laptop keyboards are concerned because ctrl is hard to reach there more - some keyboards such as in old thinkpads - the fn and ctrl keys are swapped - so it becomes more crucial.

Emacs’s default way of using modifier keys is quicker when we are in the process of data entry, we are typing and so on - and we can access different things without bothering to switch to a different mode. Extremely simple and quick, it is designed around mnemonics - so definitely much care has gotten into its design, but also here the user MUST learn to use the full keyboard, the right hand side ctrl meta and shift - I never used to use it before - but I have learn’t to use it and not rely on my fingers in favour against wrist movements.

But using modal for somedays I feel it is faster when doing data editing - cut copy paste - refactor texts and so on, but it is designed not around mnemonics - for the case of vim it is historical consensus. But a modal mode may be used designed however one wants ALONGSIDE the modifier way of emacs - this is the great advantage of emacs, we can always choose the perfect path trivially. One simply has to imagine the possibilities.

The problem in emacs is the user must then carefully make sure that such a system has been vetted and customised - so its a time investment to implement a custom modal mode - it is always prone to fall into issues.

So I have decided the combine the efficiency of both together where it is stronger, and remove my historical inefficiencies.