Neo (keyboard layout)

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Logo of the Neo project
Keystrokes on Neo 2: ~ 500,000 characters, ›Effi Briest‹, Fontane
The main level; the colors indicate the fingers that are used in the ten-finger system to press these keys. The dead keys are represented by a dashed circle with a diacritical mark.
The two level.
The level three contains various types of braces and special characters used for programming, the position of Mod3highlighted. ♫ denotes the Compose button .
The level four is divided into the navigation block on the left and the numeric keypad to the right. and stands for delete / remove, is the escape key , and are the screen navigation keys and the keys and stand for jumping to the beginning or end of the line.
The level five contains all Greek lowercase letters, including mathematical variants. The keys with a lock symbol create the protected space and hyphen .
On level six there are many symbols for the mathematical and scientific formula set.

Neo is a keyboard layout for computer keyboards that has been developed from an ergonomic point of view with the usual number and arrangement of keys in Germany in the alphanumeric area. Its aim is to enable pleasant and relaxed ten-finger typing and a wide variety of characters. The Neo project sees itself as a FLOSS project (Free / Libre Open Source Software) and subjects all of its publications to free licenses.

However, there are currently (as of 2019) no commercially available neo keyboards on the hardware market.


Facilitate typing with ten fingers

Based on the statistical distribution of letters in the German language and research into ergonomics, the Neo keyboard layout aims to shorten finger movements when typing. The most common letters are therefore on the baseline and the quick index and middle fingers. This allows more words to be written compared to other keyboard layouts without leaving the baseline.

Based on the basic position of the fingers when typing, 63% of all letters in an average German text can be written - in contrast to 25% with the usual QWERTZ layout .

In addition, with Neo, both hands should alternate as often as possible and be evenly distributed - the QWERTY keyboard layout is heavily left-heavy.

When designing the letter positions, experiences of other reform keyboards were taken into account. Instead of following a purely mathematical or experimental path, Neo combines the findings of both paths with the aim of improving both ergonomics and the memorability of the keyboard layout.


Neo 2 has a total of six levels. The first two levels correspond to the German lowercase and uppercase letters and can be Umschaltreached via, as with the usual layouts . The third level can be reached via the one Mod3that corresponds to Feststelltasteand the double- arrow key under QWERTZ #, and contains frequent punctuation marks and special characters. When designing this level, bigrams and trigrams were taken into account, which are often used in programming , in wikis , when chatting or in the command line of common operating systems.

The fourth level can be reached via the one Mod4that corresponds to the key Alt Grand the key under QWERTZ <, contains a number pad and important navigation keys , so that you do not have to take your hands off the main field to navigate a text document. By making the navigation keys on the main field accessible, Neo also counteracts the criticism expressed at reform keyboards that text editors like Vim would be more difficult to use. This level snaps into place just like the second.

Levels five ( Umschalt +  Mod3) and six ( Mod3 +  Mod4) finally contain Greek lower and upper case letters as well as other mathematical and scientific symbols.

Variety of characters and typography

Neo enables the writing of practically all languages ​​with a Latin-based alphabet, in particular using the dead keys and additional Compose combinations, many of which Neo brings with him. With Neo, the dead keys are on the top right and left and allow the following character to be provided with the appropriate diacritic when the key is pressed .

Not only grave accents , acute and circumflex , but also numerous other diacritics such as Kroužek , Breve and Makron are possible, including the new dead key “Turn” , which, for example, creates a ɐ from the character a. Together with the fifth level, Neo can be used to generate Greek and international phonetic alphabets . Nevertheless, Neo is clearly designed for the German language, for others it is more advisable to change the allocation.

Furthermore, meaningful Unicode characters were placed on the keyboard, for which a character table would otherwise have to be used, or which would otherwise not be so easy to access. Among these signs include the standard in typography usual quotation marks ( "..."), the indent (-), the real apostrophe ( ') and the frequently used in books and newspapers chevrons ( "..."). The capital ß, standardized in June 2008, is also available.

Math and special characters

Levels five and six lead to the Greek letters and numerous characters required for the formula set, for example symbols for sets ( , , , , ), logic ( ¬ , , , ), derivatives ( , ), and many more. With the help of the Compose key, for example, the sequence Compose +  = +  can be used to generate the subset symbol '⊆', which also contains the equality.

The following characters are also available with the keyboard assignment: biological characters ( , , ), arrows (↦, ←), physical constants ( ) and graphic symbols (✔, ✘, ☺).

Writing speed

With the shortening of the average finger movement, the aim was also to increase the typing speed. So far, however, there is no scientific study on this. There are reports from various users who achieve a higher speed with Neo, as well as from those who have achieved comparable typing speeds with other keyboard layouts, such as QWERTZ or Dvorak , and see no speed advantage in Neo.

History of origin

The initial version 1 was presented in 2004 by Hanno Behrens on the De-ergo keyboard mailing list. The name Neo is a recursive acronym and originally stood for NEO Ergonomic Oops , ie "NEO", later the interpretation was set to Neo ergonomically optimized .

Experience with the Dvorak keyboard layout (around 1932), the ergonomic layout of Helmut Meier (1954) and some later studies and attempts to calculate an ideal layout using algorithms alone were taken into account . However, instead of just following a purely mathematical or purely experimental path, as was usual with previous ergonomic assignments, Neo takes up the findings of both and combines them while taking ergonomics and the quickly memorable arrangement of the buttons into account. Thus Neo is based on the one hand on statistical surveys, in particular the letter distribution in German and other languages, on the other hand on studies of ergonomics by Walter Rohmert, the MARSAN Institute (1979) or Malt (1977).

In 2005, Neo 1.1 started thinking about how to arrange the keys that are often used in programming. This includes brackets and special characters on the main field with the button Mod3which the under QWERTY Feststelltasteand the pound key #and corresponds to the key Mod4which under the QWERTY key Alt Grand the key <corresponds to accomplish.

Neo 2

Version 2, released on March 29, 2010, introduces numerous fundamental changes:

  • In the main level, the keys X, J and Q have been swapped cyclically. The X was placed on the left hand so that the frequently required key combinations Strg +  X, Strg +  Cand Strg +  Vfor the commands "Cut", "Copy" and "Paste" are on one hand.
  • The special character level 3 has been completely revised, since the associated shift keys are easier to reach.
  • The higher levels 4-6 were introduced.


In Linux , Neo for the X Window System X.Org has been included in all current distributions since the end of 2006 as a variant of the German keyboard layout.

Drivers for all common platforms, especially Linux, Windows , Mac OS , BSD and Solaris can be downloaded from the project page. In addition, free learning software is available for Linux, Windows and Mac OS; the Neo learning software is an official part of the KTouch project.

Neo can also be found in the German language settings under ChromeOS .

Google's Gboard keyboard for Android supports Neo2.


A NEO keyboard available in 2017

A commercially made keyboard with the key labels corresponding to the Neo project is currently not available on the hardware market (as of 2019). If necessary, z. B. re-labeling of a QWERTZ or QWERTY keyboard is necessary.


Web links

Commons : Neo keyboard layout  - collection of images, videos and audio files


  1. The (compared to X and Q much more common) J is given a better position, since the little finger is much shorter than the others and therefore comes better to the bottom row.

Individual evidence

  1. License information for Neo. In: Neo project page. 2010, archived from the original on January 25, 2019 ; accessed on October 11, 2019 .
  2. Advantages of the Neo allocation. In: Neo project page. 2011, archived from the original on January 26, 2019 ; accessed on October 11, 2019 .
  3. Dead Keys and Compose. In: Neo project page. 2012, archived from the original on January 26, 2019 ; accessed on October 11, 2019 .
  4. ↑ Testimonials from those switching. In: Neo project page. 2016, archived from the original on January 23, 2019 ; accessed on October 11, 2019 .
  5. ^ Hanno Behrens: NEO layout. In: Mailing list archive de-ergo. Goebel Consult, July 22, 2004, archived from the original on July 3, 2009 ; Retrieved June 5, 2017 .
  6. ^ Walter Rohmert: Research report on the ergonomic design of typewriter keyboards. Eggenstein-Leopoldshafen, 1982. Series: Federal Ministry for Research and Technology: Research report / DV / 82,1-; 82.3. Pages 116-137. Online at , accessed on September 25, 2017.
  7. Version management at contains Neo keyboard layouts since May 5th, 2006 with the comment added de (neo), closing b.fd.o # 6837 : xkeyboard-config / symbols / de