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Split keyboards and how to build them (github.com/diimdeep)
253 points by punkspider 9 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 260 comments



I recently was gifted -- very, very generously! -- a Moonlander Mark I split, ortholinear keyboard [0] (made by the same company that previously made the Ergodox). It's genuinely fantastic, and I can't ever see myself going back to either a non-split or a non-ortholinear board as my desktop's input. It's a huge improvement ergonomically -- (0) no hunched shoulders, with the halves at shoulder width (1) the ortholinear layout results in much more natural-feeling finger motions and (2) the ability to "tent" the individual halves is also wonderful, for not having to twist your wrist out of its natural somewhat-diagonal position. Beyond that, the ability to easily modify up to 32 layers of functionality [1], with macros, really is astonishingly useful once set up to your personal workflow. If I were to lose it, I'd order a replacement immediately. Highly recommend, for anyone who can justify the board's price -- I'm normally fairly frugal, so the fact that I consider a $400 keyboard anything except an egregious waste of money really speaks to how much I like this device.

[0]: https://www.zsa.io/moonlander/ [1]: https://www.zsa.io/oryx/


I couldn’t agree more. I’ve been using a Kinesis Advantage and a Mistel Barocco (when traveling) for years. I recently switched to the Moonlander and I love it.

Coming from the Kinesis Advantage the adaptation period is short, and since the moonlander is so easy to program I didn’t really have to adjust my habits. If anything, I’m trying to learn that I can use its programmability to my advantage to make my life easier.

I’m also very happy that it’s hot swappable, so I can start experimenting with different switches.


Why would you switch to the moonlander from the Kinesis? The curved design of the kinesis is way better for reducing strain than the flat style of the moonlander/ergodox. If the only factor is programmability, then I think that factor may be overexaggerated in how important it is. Know that anyone who wants to riposte that last point should realize that I'm not a novice to making my own keyboards or programming them. While layers seem like a good idea, it's very difficult to actually come up with enough usecases to find them more useful than just the ability to remap keys and record macros, both of which the Kinesis Advantage 2 can already do.

I also find having two separate pieces a bit annoying since I'll tend to want to fidget with them instead.


> Why would you switch to the moonlander from the Kinesis?

QMK. I think QMK is a bit like Excel in that everybody has that subset of functionality they use. I like layers and the leader key.

Open source firmware. I have a last gen Advantage I can't use because there's a bug in the firmware that causes modifier keys to stick and there's nobody left at Kinesis that remembers how to work on it. That will never happen with QMK.

Hot swappable switches.

Edit: I do miss the curve though. I'm using SA Profile keycaps [0] and while they're nice it's not quite the same.

[0] https://imgur.com/EZgGBdg


My https://github.com/kinx-project/kint project is a replacement keyboard controller for the Kinesis Advantage keyboards, which allows you to use QMK :)


Nice, thank you! :)


Yeah this is what I was going to say. There are a few projects which allow one to swap out the firmware for a custom one on Advantage Kinesis keyboards. There's one with a teensy, one with a custom controller. It's not exactly trivial to do, but I think it is the ultimate if you want to go that route. The hardware design of the Kinesis is top tier, but the software is a bit weak.


I gave up on three Kinesis Advantage keyboards in 2006, after they all started dropping key-up events on modifier keys. I then took one apart. Primitive, dated USB hardware, and nothing about the company read that they were eager to modernize. (The ergo keyboard market abounds with never-updated designs.)

Has there been a generational improvement in their circuit quality?


The original ones had some problems that were never fixed (IIRC, the original firmware was outsourced to a company that went under), but the Advantage 2 was a redesign and works great (at least for me).


I had the same bug and it irritated me to no end too. I was about to make my own custom controller when I found out that they made a version 2 which fixed the issues. I have 2 of the version 2 and have been using it for a few years now with no problems. I'd say it was improved.

If you email them, they might give you a discount or some kind of trade-in if you tell them about your previous problems. I've found their customer service to generally be pretty chill.


Is that what's happening? My kinesis advantage (plugged into a Mac) sometimes gets stuck modifier keys and only unplugging it and plugging it back in fixes it. Seems worse than just dropping some keyup events, because it doesn't get unstuck if I hit the modifier key again.


Not Advantage, but my Kinesys Freestyle Edge has great firmware and customize app (Swing) that works flawlessly. The firmware is better in some features than QMK, but worse in some features. (I want LT key on QMK for Kinesis)


I would also be weary. They had similar fanposts before.

Unless there is evidence that the quality did improve, I'll wait.


The kinesis is great in my opinion, but the two sides are not far enough apart. A little is better than nothing, but you still have to position your hands forward, stretched out in front of you.


I have the same board and I am generally happy with it. There is one warning I’d like to make though; I have fairly small hands and I feel that my hands have to reach more using this keyboard than with other split keyboards I’ve used. It’s purely anecdotal though, because I have done some measuring and cannot actually find that there is any significant difference in distance between keys compared to my old keyboard. So, there must be something else at the root of that feeling.

It is, however, something I’ve heard from others as well.

In general though, it is a great keyboard. It is expensive, compared to off the shelf Logitech and Microsoft boards, but seen as a the main tool I use for getting my job done, it’s no cost to pay.


> I have fairly small hands and I feel that my hands have to reach more using this keyboard than with other split keyboards I’ve used

The Moonlander has a lot of key rows for a "flat" keyboard so there's going to be some reaching if you use them all. I have relatively large/long hands and coming from a Kinesis Advantage (which has a similar number of rows) it was a lot of reaching for the top and bottom rows, especially the corner keys. I ended up putting a lot more keycodes on layers to get around it.

But I ended up building a Bastyl last month: https://www.hidtech.ca/?product=bastyl#tab-description

I still get QMK and the true split design (which helps with my shoulders) but I also get the curved keywells back so I can hit everything on the keyboard pretty easily. I did lose that bottom row but I just pushed the useful keys to the thumb cluster.


imo a large keyboard is good to start with as most people will be used to having a large standard keyboard. what i've done is, using qmk, slowly updated my keyboard to make less and less use of keys that i wouldn't have on a 3x5 dactyl. it allows me to make my changes slowly but still develop the habits to get away from the number row and what not all while finding what works well for me


I have smaller hands as well and have adapted well to the Moonlander. I have found that I prefer to keep the thumb cluster tilted upwards to reduce the distance to my space/return keys.

Unfortunately this means I can't use the tenting since that requires the thumb cluster to tilt down and act as one of the legs. That's my only real gripe so far.


I have smaller hands as well and I do tent it slightly but then I only use the first "piano" key regularly [1]. The others on the thumb cluster are for layer keys.

My only gripe is that you can't negative tilt it, which I prefer when standing. I do love my Moonlander though.

* [1] https://configure.ergodox-ez.com/moonlander/layouts/rOjGj/la...


The Kinesis Advantage 2 has the keys in a concave well, which means less reach is needed to get them. It's similarly priced and worth a try!


I have looked at that keyboard a lot and am really tempted to splurge, but .. What is putting me of is the missing dedicated cursor keys at the bottom right. I use a layout on my current keyboard that has cursor keys on e,s,d,f with a modifier and use that a lot, but not exclusively.. I have the same issue with the ultimate hacking keyboard and others.

Has that bothered you at all, or did you find a layout that works for you and keeps the cursor keys?


You can have the cursor keys where you want on UHK, see the webdemo of the UHK Agent software: http://ultimatehackingkeyboard.github.io/agent/#/keymap/QWR and if you buy the modules you can also have additional actions, without taking your hand off the keyboard, because you do not even need a mouse.

Here is the latest review, from 4:00 could be the most interesting part for you https://blog.sebastian-daschner.com/entries/review-ultimate-...


The Moonlander (and most of the ones being discussed) is fully programmable, so you can move the keys around as you wish.

I have ← ↑ ↓ → in a line on the four lower keys on the right of my ErgoDash. Not having the ⊥ arrangement took a little time to get used to.

I considered some fancy QMK (keyboard firmware) hacking to keep the inverted T, and have the key above ↓ change between Z and ↑ depending on the keypress before, but decided it wouldn't be practical. However, the Z is for Dvorak. A Qwerty layout, where it would be /, might cause less trouble.


I've looked at a few Moonlander setups for the keyboard layout that I use on their site [1][2][3] and to my mind the right half is simply missing one column of keys to get a proper cursor key block. Even the lying-L option ─┘ would mean missing the right shift key (which of course should probably be on the thumb block) and getting used to something different.

I'm not saying it wouldn't work, but for me being from Germany the keyboard is even more expensive than it is anyway and I'm not sure I'm willing to pay that much for the hope that I can adjust to it.

[1] https://configure.ergodox-ez.com/moonlander/layouts/mzD9d/la...

[2] https://configure.ergodox-ez.com/moonlander/layouts/60ynN/la...

[3] https://configure.ergodox-ez.com/moonlander/layouts/jXjMx/la...


Those layouts have a lot of layers; I didn't have the patience to learn something that complicated.

This is my ErgoDash layout. I have one less bottom-row key than the Moonlander, so I have combined PgDn/LeftAlt and ←/RightAlt onto single keys. I would uncombine these if I had the extra key, as I occasionally press Alt when I intend to press ←, but am too slow.

I also have Enter/Ctrl as a single key, but it's very rare for this to do the wrong thing.

http://www.keyboard-layout-editor.com/#/gists/501437fce9123e...


It's actually not as bad as it looks :)

I mostly learned the layout to reduce stress on my hands due to the more ergonomic placement of each letter.

From all the other layers I only use the cursor keys and L3 for []{}<>() and stuff like that, which are much easier to reach and I use a lot when programming.


No, you can have a normal ⊥ arrows layout on the right half [1]. I do as I use those keys a lot. Or I can use a navigation layer as others have mentioned.

The magic is the double use of modifiers if tapped or held.

Whilst I personally could see a need for another column if you have a Nordic layout like mine, but that would make it not symmetrical and unnecessary for English layouts.

[1] https://configure.ergodox-ez.com/moonlander/layouts/rOjGj/la...


For a querty or qwerz layout that would indeed work, if you moved one symbol key (- for german layout, ? for american). However in my keyboard loayout there actually is a letter in that place (j) [1]. And while I'm willing to compromise on modifiers, page up/down and the like, I draw a line at the stuff that I spent a lot of effort on learning to touch-type :)

As for using a navigation layer - perfectly happy with that 90% of the time, I already use that today, but for some things I just prefer actual cursor keys. For example selecting an entire word in an editor, you press shift to select, ctrl to jump a whole word and cursor for the direction to jump in. If you add a modifier to that, you start breaking fingers ..

[1] https://configure.ergodox-ez.com/moonlander/layouts/60ynN/la...


Ah yes, for that layout with 4 extra keys you would have to compromise. E.g. move the ',' or '.'to be shared with the right shift key so that you can have the arrows keys in normal layout. Or just have the left and right on the base layer and all 4 in another layer.


This really seems like a kinesis advantage but split which is cool. I own an advantage 2 and it has really helped with RSI. Personally I prefer a single unit so it's ideal for me!

It makes such a difference to have everything comfortably laid out at shoulder width.


> It's a huge improvement ergonomically

But what if you need to use a mouse? Then what I've found best ergonomically is to use a "rollermouse". But I don't feel that works well with a split keyboard, and then I prioritize the mouse. (For me my elbow is the biggest issue)


Personally I think a mouse is not replaceable by anything else that even gives remotely the same productivity. What can be improved is how often you have to reach for your mouse and how much your hands have to move on the keyboard.

I have personally switched to a tiling window manager that allows me to do much with the keyboard, added the surfingkeys plugin to chrome to allow the same when browsing and switched to using the neo2 keyboard layout (this is for Germans, Dvorak or something similar might be better for you).

The combination of these factors has massively improved how much I need to reach for the mouse throughout the day.


I agree with this. I wrote a script that will focus my most commonly used windows with keyboard shortcuts. Super+F for Firefox, Super+T for terminal, Super+S for Spotify, and so on. Between this, vim, Surfing Keys for Firefox, and just an interest in learning keyboard shortcuts I have mostly eliminated the mouse. I still use it when it's the right tool for the job, but I can get by with far less mousing these days.


I found what caused my RSI was going from keyboard to mouse over and over. Getting a keyboard with a trackpoint so I could keep my hands static fixed it. I would eventually like to get a split keyboard with the thumb trackpoint.


I have tried a bunch of things for this issue. I tried placing a trackpad between the two halves, I tried it on either side as well. It didn't really work for me.

What I landed on is a) mapping the mouse to an extra layer that I use when I only need minimal movement, b) using VIM extensions for as many programs as possible, including my browser and c) just using a normal mouse otherwise.


The Moonlander default layout has a layer that emulates mouse controls. It's not great for long sequences but can help with some small tasks where you prefer not to lift your hands from your keyboard.

For those of you with one at home: hold ';' and then control the mouse with E,D,S,F and left and right arrows left and right click respectively.


I put the mouse between the two parts of my Ergodox. It decreases the elbow movements and the tension.

You can also program the keyboard to control the mouse pointer but I found it not practical.


I overkill. Mostly I have a trackball in the middle as well as an ergonomic Penguin mouse on the side. I rotate and swap between what is on the left, right and middle. A trackball doesn't need a lot of space.


Has anyone tried this and the Freestyle Pro and have a preference?


Something to be aware of:

most (all?) of these keyboards give the thumbs more to do than merely pressing the "space" key. This is awesome, because thumbs are strong and relatively quick.

However: with the exception of those sculpted keyboards (Dactyl-ManuForm et.al.), the thumb keys are triggered by lateral thumb movement, which can be troublesome.

I had absolutely no problems using traditional keyboards for ~30 years, but decided to proactively switch to a split keyboard (ReDox) nonetheless.

Mostly it's great, but I developed pain in my thumbs from the constant uncommon (to me) lateral thumb movement.

I replaced the thumb switches with lighter ones and remapped my keyboard layout to use only 4 of the available 12 thumb keys, but it's still not ideal.

I'm thinking about building one of those sculpted keyboards now.


This is one of the reasons I chose a Moonlander over an Ergodox for my first split keyboard, the ability to fold the thumb cluster down to an angled position seemed like it'd be more natural. So far in the two months I've been using it I think I was correct about that (that said, when closer to flat the Moonlander's cluster is at a much steeper angle off the rest and is less than ideal)

Also likewise on thinking about a sculpted build, the rabbit hole is deep with these things. Redox Manuform is where I'm currently leaning, I like the extra keys and the thumb cluster looks a bit better. Unfortunately that means going full custom, since while a few vendors sell prebuild Dactyl Manuforms no one seems to do the Redox version.


IME the Keyboardio Model 01 (sold out but used ones come up for sale, and they're working on a new model) addresses this issue well. Maybe worth looking into.


I'm curious why none of these split designs ever feature a trackball on the right half integrated into the board somehow. There are plenty of FOSS trackball designs, it seems like it would just make sense, especially for ergonomic designs, to have a trackball set up where you don't have to move your hand over to move a cursor.

Also I don't understand why they're always missing function keys.


check out the 'tracktyls'.. The 'beast' (1) gets all the attention, but I actually like qqurn's stuff (2)(3) better. He even has a nice git repo with dactyls with trackball, electric eraser, and button based thumb clusters(4)

Oh - and the 'missing function keys' are because most of these boards are made to be used with a firmware like QMK - which lets you have 'layers'. So you have a layer with cursor movement, a layer with function, etc.

1) https://medium.com/@kincade/track-beast-build-log-a-trackbal...

2) https://imgur.com/a/TDE640k

3) https://www.reddit.com/r/MechanicalKeyboards/comments/g3aue6...

4)https://gitlab.com/keyboards1


The Ultimate Hacking Keyboard supports a trackball or trackpad attached to the right half. The expansion modules just recently became available though so it may be hard to find reviews or people with hands on experience.


They finally released the trackball module? Cool... I'll have to look for some reviews - I'm concerned the actual trackball looks a bit small?

Edit: are you sure they started shipping? the shop page still says under development?


been waiting on those for years, they have not started to ship


Yeah - they're really seeming like vaporware... :-(

Given how small the trackball is, I'm not sure if I'd prefer the trackball or trackpoint/electric eraser


I used a Texas instruments laptop around 30 years ago which had a tiny clip on track ball like that keyboard


I could have sworn I got an update that they had started shipping them but their site says the ETA is the end of this month.


I have the UHK v1 and waiting to see some reviews for the trackpad and the key modules before I order them


Function keys are trivial. I already have 1 through 0, and two more keys on the same row, so I map them to Layer 1, which I have both a momentary and toggle version of on my deck. I put F11 to the left and F12 to the right, not that it matters.

So for just F5, it's as easy to type as %. For, say, Ctrl-Alt-F4, I hit layer, then Ctrl-Alt-4, then layer again.

I grant that someone might make much heavier use of function keys and find this inconvenient. I don't miss them in the slightest.

An integrated trackball might be nice, although I'm not sure where to put it that would be comfortable. I have a trackball to the right of the keyboard, this suits me fine.


This would solve one of the biggest problems I have with split keyboards; where do I put my mouse? At least I'm using a Logitech Ergo Trackball, which means that I can predictability move from the keyboard to the mouse, but there is no easy way of positioning a keyboard like the ErgoDox EZ while still comfortably using the mouse as well. I ended up switching to a smaller Razer BlackWidow Lite as it allows for a more comfortable keyboard-mouse workflow for me.


I use a Magic Trackpad in the middle. But I can see how if I used a mouse or trackball, that wouldn't work as well.

I also can use mouse navigation by key on an alternate layer. I wouldn't describe it as amazing, but it's surprisingly usable.


One strategy: https://ultimatehackingkeyboard.com/product/trackball although not yet shipping.

I put a trackpad to the left of my keyboard and taught myself to mouse with my left, as well as right, hand, and it's been a big improvement. Right hand is still stronger but my left hand is now functional for many tasks.


Have you tried putting it between the two parts of the keyboard? I’ve found that to work for me.


I have the Moonlander, and I keep it between the keyboard halfs. Works great.


I, too, put my trackball between the two halves (and slightly in front).


Add a long time thinkpad user and someone who has a mech keyboard (unicomp) with a trackpoint, I thought these would be common place... Still waiting for a trackpoint but I have a nice big CST trackball between my split keyboard until then...


The only mech keyboard with a proper trackpoint (afaik) is the Tex Yoda.

https://mechanicalkeyboards.com/shop/index.php?l=product_lis...


Trackpoint modules are harvestable from Thinkpad keyboards, and are well-supported in QMK (the most prolific keyboard firmware). I've used them a lot on custom splits, and they work quite well.


Are they well supported in both AVR and ARM/chibios versions of QMK? Are there any differences in how they work on a thinkpad and with QMK?

On my old thinkpad the cursor would sometimes start drifting and you have to release the trackpoint for it to settle - is that something that is handled by the firmware or inside the trackpoint module?

Asking as someone who plans to build a custom keyboard (preferably with arm mcu) and have a trackpoint module waiting with the pinout figured out.


Do you have any links?


The point of a split keyboard is that you don't need to.move your arms, which are relaxed, or your hands. You only move your fingers, and keep your eyes away from the keyboard.

For that, you want such amount of keys which you can comfortably hit by moving just your fingers. It's normally 3 rows and 6-7 columns. And say 5+5 keys in the thumb clusters.

I personally find a layout like Kyria [1] optimal for such use.

[1]: https://splitkb.com/collections/cases-and-plates/products/ky...



Dang - this is nice!

Thanks - I hadn't seen it before!


You can just place a regular trackball between the keyboard-halves. Or use a keyboard-mouse if the keyboard-firmware supports it (which most of them should nowadays). A small trackpad is quite expensive and complicated, so most probably don't add them to an already expensive device because of this.


The best build log I've ever seen for a split keyboard featuring a trackball is the Oddball 2. I discovered it yesterday. It has a parametric design that's editable in OpenSCAD, so if it's too small for you, adding more keys should be easy.

https://www.reddit.com/r/ErgoMechKeyboards/comments/kxsniq/o...

https://atulloh.github.io/oddball/


Usually you don't want to move your hands a lot, else you'd be fine with a non-split keyboard.

But then there's very little room to put a pointer control device. With the bulky mechanical switches, you have virtually no room to squeeze in a trackpoint, like on laptops. Also, you want the space comfortably reachable by thumbs for keys.

And if you agree to lift and move your hand anyway, why not use a mouse of your choosing?

I don't yet have a solution.


I think that would narrow the sales to whom both like that keyboard and the chosen trackball. Some would love it, a lot would like the keyboard but prefer a different trackball or location for it. Or would after a while.


Agreed on the rarity of integrated trackballs. I’ve got my numbers and f keys on layers. I don’t miss lots of dedicated keys for things that layers do well. Ymmv, but layers are why f keys are often omitted.


trackpoint (Lenovo style) would be absolutely amazing. I saw some DIY projects that do retrofit trackpoint to a keyboard


The prices can be steep for pre-built split-keyboards, between $200-300 USD, but if anyone has access to a university laser cutter or makerspace they can actually quite cheap to build. I made an entirely custom, split hand-wired setup for about $150 (build[1], layout[2]). Most of the cost was ordering one-off laser-cut steel and acrylic plates off the web. If you don't mind waiting a month for parts from Aliexpress and have access to a laser cutter and a soldering iron, you could make a complete split, hand-wired keyboard for about $50.

The most difficult thing for most folks is often building the QMK software[3,4] configured for their setup. But hacking a bit of C and flashing an Arduino is probably not that bad for most HN readers!

It's awesome to have an entirely custom keyboard. The split design has been great for my posture and shoulders. But the real killer is the kind of customization you get from QMK. We customize everything else about our computers, why not our primary interface to it? I love having the navigation keys and numpad right underneath my fingers using layers, having the modifiers in sane locations, and thumb keys to make your thumbs first-class-typing-citizens (e.g., Space, Shift, Backspace, Enter all within easy reach!).

[1] https://www.reddit.com/r/ErgoMechKeyboards/comments/j0hhah/o... [2] https://www.reddit.com/r/KeyboardLayouts/comments/j475mv/40_... [3] https://qmk.fm/ [4] https://github.com/qmk/qmk_firmware


I get that these are expensive... But they might be a career saver.

Listen to your body. If your fingers and wrists are telling you something, take action. It doesn't have to be an expensive split.

(I have an ergodox with the Norman keyboard layout with other firmware goodies as well as running AutoHotKeys to give me emacs bindings all over the place.)


I read a blog post on Coding Horror back in the mid 2000s about the importance of a good chair. It really opened my eyes and convinced me that, regardless of the cost, an ergonomic working environment is worth every penny.

So fast forward about two decades ... and I finally bought my first ergonomic chair...

It's stunning how stubborn we can be, even when we know for certain that something is good for us. I don't even know why I put it off for so long.

All I can really say is, don't be me. Listen to comments like the one I'm replying to. Get good equipment. Your body will thank you later.

P.S. Self Rant: I was gonna write that the reason I put it off so long is that $1000 for a chair is a big number no matter how much I may believe in its benefit ... but then, the chair I ended up buying was like $500, delivered, with all the upgrades, because it was remanufactured and on a black friday sale. Why didn't I buy one sooner!? The hell is wrong with me?


For buying ergonomic chairs on a budget, you should check out used office supply stores. You can often save hundreds of dollars for a good quality chair.


Seconded, bought a used Steelcase for only about $100 at the beginning of the pandemic. It has been worth every penny with working from home.


Sorry about that. When I'm not standing I am in a pretty retro chair... I get a lot of flak on Twitter but it works for me...

(I have another ergo/padded chair but my back/hind isn't giving me signals)

https://mobile.twitter.com/__mharrison__/status/134632333728...


Not sure why? That design has been solid for like 150 years...


I'm in the market for a new chair. Which one did you buy? (Or if you'd rather teach me to fish, how did you decide on one?)


There are a couple of HN threads specifically about chairs. I looked for those using the search feature and just tabulated what was most commonly recommended. That ended up being the Steelcase Leap, which is the one I got (or rather, the Leap V2).

Most importantly, I bought from a reputable place that did free returns.

Not much to it, really. The price tag is what really made it hard for me to pull the trigger. But after the fact I can say that, while this chair may or may not be "perfect", it's 10x better than the cheap one it replaced. So yeah, worth every penny.


I bought my first serious chair about 10 years ago, a Vitra model they don’t make anymore. It was over 1000 EUR here in Berlin.

The first day of working in it, I felt like an idiot for not having made that investment ten years earlier.

Now I’m starting a period of voluntary digital vagabondage and will need to explore ergonomics options other than “nice chair.” But I will probably keep that beast in storage.

If you can try them out at a showroom that’s best but in any case I 100% agree, buy from a reputable dealer, it will save you the headache of thinking about returns even if everything is perfect.


I got the Leap v2 last summer, also from Crandall/BTOD, but ended up giving it to my brother and getting a HermanMiller Embody. It's much more expensive and harder to find used, but when you buy direct from HermanMiller you get a free return period so it's a risk free trial.

To me the Leap was comfortable and wasn't bad, but just didn't feel 100% right. The Embody is just perfect. 100% worth the cost. And the materials/construction also feel much more premium.

There are plenty of reviews on YouTube as well as https://blog.szynalski.com/, but ultimately you can't be sure unless you sit in one yourself - every person will find the fit and comfort to be different. SteelCase Leap v2 & SteelCase Gesture and HM Embody seem to be the top three. HM has a 15% off sale in the summer and end of year.


> the chair I ended up buying was like $500, delivered, with all the upgrades, because it was remanufactured

Did you order your remanufactured chair from Crandall or BOTD? I just ordered a remanufactured Steelcase Leap V2 yesterday, looking forward to its arrival!


Yup, Crandall. Took awhile to ship, but otherwise went smoothly. Looks and feels good as new. Word of advice: don't assemble it on carpet unless you want black grease stains...


Thanks for the tip! I'll lay out a sheet before assembly.


This. And don't underestimate how much a Keymap can be changed to fit your specific workflow. My Keymap (the default) [0] for GergoPlex is very Vim/i3/Linux orientated, but that's just because it's what I use. If you're not programming your keyboard, _why?!_

I get a ton of emails from people that wreck their hands from bad ergonomics/keyboards and are trying to find a solution. It's bloddy disgusting that we still use something like a 104/QWERTY on such a crucial input device.

[0] https://1.bp.blogspot.com/-rRS_TOYuIQQ/XhRERox3moI/AAAAAAABE...

[1] https://www.gboards.ca/product/gergoplex


Some of them aren't even expensive, I have the cheap R-Go Split mentioned in the list and it's been great for me, someone with wider shoulders and long arms. I finally feel like I can type in a natural position.

Completely agree though, it took me too long and too much complaining to start looking into this area.


Any negative sides on this one? I wonder if all the others are expensive for a reason and the R-Go misses something?!?


> But they might be a career saver.

Seriously. I'll also plug vertical mice. They look goofy, but it's a better wrist position.


I picked a trackball with scroll wheel, which I'll briefly pitch:

- It's always in the same place, so reaching the mouse is completely muscle memory

- I can put it as close as possible to my keyboard

- No elbow motion except to get from keyboard to trackball

- Scrolling is a bit more than half of my 'mousing' and is easy, just spin a large wheel clockwise

I got one with two buttons, my only regret; Kensington makes one with four, but I don't care quite enough to upgrade.


> - No elbow motion except to get from keyboard to trackball

But it's still some motion. When I hurt my elbow, a "rollermouse" was my savior. It's absolutely no movement of my elbow. My fingers are resting on the keyboard, I move the bar using my thumbs, or if more precision is needed I bring down one index finger. But my palms don't move at all. (Not like their press photos where they have moved their whole hand..)


True, and accessibility is why the long tail of peripherals is so important.

For the home-row supremacists, it would be great to have an ortholinear split-key which has a ThinkPad-style nub, although we could spill a lot of ink about where to put it: in between u-i-j-k would suit me best, other people might want y-u-h-j for the index rather than middle finger— and of course, the left-handed equivalent for those who prefer it, I happen to be left-handed but mouse with my right and wouldn't care to switch.

There's room in the Ergodox layout for one more thumb key, between the grid and the thumb cluster, it would require expanding the classic chassis but that's a small thing. The driver, the custom keys, and an appropriately sensitive joystick, these are not small things! I think one could drill through a corner of four of the switches, to make enough room, without touching the electronics, and mmmmaybe mold a custom housing which is missing a corner, simply rotating appropriately. Making room for the traces and such is completely above my paygrade.

But if Ergodox costs $350 to get to the user, this keyboard would probably end up costing $500 on a good day. It would be a glorious thing, but I wonder about the market for it.


If it makes you feel any better, I have the Kensington with four buttons. I never use the extra two for anything - probably because, like most people in the comments, I'm trying to stay away from the mouse. Two buttons is plenty!


The Logitech MX Ergo has been a game changer for me. I'm totally fine on a 87key QWERTY board (I use a Realforce 87UB), but the Apple mouse I was using was wrecking my wrist. Horrible things.


They don’t have to be expensive! More than the $30 Big Box special but often cheaper than a comparable “gaming” keyboard. I’ve built boards for as little as $50 and you can do it for even cheaper if you have access to a 3D printer and don’t mind some tedious wiring and soldering.


This repository was abandoned for a while, so I remixed/forked it into a gallery view with filters. It can be easier to get an overview, or search for something specific (e.g. only a traditional "Microsoft Ergonomic" layout).

https://aposymbiont.github.io/split-keyboards/

There's also http://xahlee.info/kbd/diy_keyboards_index.html which has reviews.


Missing the cloud9 split ergo


The Cloud Nine C989?

It's there, under "Traditional" since the layout is fairly standard (no thumb keys etc).


ah, I see it. I had checked only "ergonomic" (unchecking all the rest). Neat resource!


Speaking of real ergonomic and health in my humble opinion, the designs with Concave keywell (Kinesis/Dactyl) are the way to go. I have jumped on to Kinesis Advantage 2 and all my wrist pain is no more.


The Kinesis Advantage is the single greatest product I've ever purchased for my health and career.


I'd go all the way and also add dvorak (programmer's) to the mix. But if somebody goes out of the way to buy an ergonomic keyboard, they are probably fiddling around with keymaps, too.


I sometimes use http://programmer-dvorak.appspot.com/ to practice. The ergonomics of accentuation is inconvenient, but this probably solves the problem: https://github.com/N0rthw1nd/Latin-Dvorak


I could never get my head around the numbers. I just have a custom layout where for 1,2,3,9,0 they are without shift, and for 4,5,6,7,8 they are with shift. So for me shift 1 is &, but shift 4 is 4. It actually works really well.


Advantage have Brown/Red Cherry and SmartSet Programming Engine: Dual-Layer layouts with secondary actions embedded in the “Keypad” layer US Version: Windows/Mac/PC Switchable (extra keycaps included) International Versions: Extra Windows keycap included One-touch, onboard key remapping so you can customize the layout to suit your typing style and preferences Heavy-duty, on-the-fly macros up to 300 characters long. Choose from 9 playback speeds and add timing delays to ensure proper playback. Native Dvorak layout which can be customized independently of the default QWERTY layout. All settings are saved to the keyboard’s 4MB flash memory.


After ~1.5 years using emacs keybindings in IntelliJ, I couldn't code for more than 20 minutes without pain.

I no longer have any extended pain due to:

1. Modal editing. I use the boon package for emacs, but basically vim

2. Sticky keys. Basically, I don't have to hold down any modifiers, I just press Ctrl then press N for example. Or two Ctrl to lock it, NNNNNN, then Ctrl to return to normal. On macs this is in the Accessibility app under Keyboard. It doesn't work so well with Shift + mouse scroll though.

3. Kinesis advantage 2

4. Dvorak

I still sometimes get a bit of pinky pain since I shift and ctrl with my pinkies. With sticky keys, modal editing, and mechanical switches in the Advantage 2, it's not really a problem.

I learned that the macbook keyboards aren't that bad if I use modal editing and sticky modifier keys. Also I need to be careful to avoid so-called "ulnar deviation" of my wrists. This means I lift my wrists, let my fingers hang down more, so I can keep the wrists neutral while hitting shift etc.

I don't think Dvorak helps much, but I still like it. It was intentionally put together. I think it helped to learn Dvorak and the concave key well of Advantage 2 at the same time. I never learned qwerty on the Advantage 2 or Dvorak on macbook keyboard. I want to try the programmer's dvorak layout as well for lisp.


This is similar to my setup.

Similar to a Jedi building your own light saber, you should build (and customize fw) for your keyboard :)

When I built my ergodox, I put the Norman layout on it. I use emacs bindings almost everywhere, so control is under a thumb.

(I'm still tweaking and considering a gergoplex when I get to stay travelling for training again)


I found the thumb keys were particularly useful for emacs ergonomics: I just have a big thumb key for each of Control and Meta with a smaller thumb key for the other one and shift on each side. I also remind some keys I use often to move them away from the corners. This entirely gets rid of emacs pinky for me. The only issue is I don’t have so many keys but I don’t really need a lot of them (home, end, delete, pgdn) as shortcuts usually suffice.


I love the Kinesis (I own two of them). I just wish they made the exact same keyboard but in a split model.

As an aside, if you buy a Kinesis, look at getting the “LF” version of the Advantage, it comes with Cherry MX Reds instead of the defaults and the difference is enormous.


I definitely agree. One thing to note about Kinesis Advantage 2 is that it is really massive compared to other keyboards. I didn't realize before getting one for myself and seeing it on my desk.

Second thing is that quite frankly at that price point Advantage looks a and feels a bit flimsy (especially the middle part between the key wells) though it has seemingly no impact on typing.

And lastly, I have a bit broader shoulders than average and I need hands a bit more apart than the key wells on Kinesis and maybe a bit more tilted sideways (well at least I think, I am not a doctor). It is orders of magnitude better than it used to be on a regular keyboard, but I still have sore muscles around shoulder blades and back of my neck sometimes.

All of these issues seem to be solvable by a split. I still hope that Kinesis would release a split concave keyboard by themselves since among all of the concave keyboards it is by far the most user friendly (no assembly required, no QMK compiling, remapping is doable on the keyboard itself), but I am starting to oogle the likes of Dactyl, Dactyl-ManuFrom or Bastyl[1] (which is modified Dactyl with less DIY required for more $$).

If I go the DYI way I am also thinking about mounting trackball on it similar to the Tracktyl (trackball helped me immensely with my wrists). What I am a bit afraid of is that once I start doing customizations I'll need/want something easily modifiable/adjustable to experiment with quickly. This design [2] in combination with Bastyl-like flexible PCBs seems like a neat idea I'd like to try.

Be not mistaken, Advantage is, not entirely unlike a good office chair or a mattress, still worth every penny, but IMO the split concave keyboards are the "future future". I would not even think of building a keyboard before Advantage, but now I do and there is no turning back for me.

[1]: https://www.hidtech.ca/?product=bastyl

[2]: https://deskthority.net/viewtopic.php?t=11734


Around that topic of ergonomic tools, I've been wanting to try a vertical mouse.

As a designer, my right hand is over the mouse a lot of the time. I have a chronic pain on my right wirst, although, I not certain of the cause.

Anyone her has experience with this?


Different things work for different people. Your only real option is to try all the options and see what works best for you personally. Luckily for wrist pain, the options are all cheap. Things to try:

Vertical mouse or trackball; they're all fine, you can get a "nice" one after finding what works first.

Wrist braces.

Wrist stretches.

Exercise; most weightlifting will improve your grip strength which helps some people.

Ergonomic chair; pain in the wrist can sometimes be caused by issues in the shoulder, which often result from a poorly placed arm rest. This is hard to notice as your shoulder might feel fine. Worth double checking.

Reduce stress; some amount of wrist pain can be caused by mental stress which results in tension and blood flow problems.

Laptop; your desktop environment might be great, but maybe you use a laptop too, and you're slowly destroying your wrists on its tiny form factor.


Same here. The vertical mouse has helped a lot. I've tried a few and settled on the one I liked the most. You should definitely give it a try. Be aware that it will take you a couple of days to adjust, just stick with it.


Some months ago I was feeling some pain in my right wrist, and by buying and using a vertical mouse the pain ceased.

Right now my belief is that non-vertical mice are badly designed and I see no reason to use a non vertical one again.


Switching to a vertical mouse cleared up my arm pain. I tried many vertical mice. Evoluent's wired vertical mouse has been my favorite since 2009. Each new version is essentially the same, just with different surface finishes.

Years later, I got wrist pain in both hands. Switching to a tenting keyboard solved it. I've used the GoldTouch V2 for 7 years now.

Do not try 3M's vertical mouse with the thumb button. I used it for a few months and developed severe pain in my thumb. Fifteen years have passed and my thumb still occasionally clicks when I bend it, due to that injury.


Yeah I found the Evoluent to be perfect for me. I actually had to give up mousing with my right wrist as it got too badly damaged. So now I use my left hand with a vertical mouse. Was an interesting transition period.

I think you will notice a loss of precision though. For example I could never play an FPS at my best with a vertical mouse. But for $80-100 definitely worth a try for your health.


Absolutely love them. Won’t ever go back to a regular mouse if I can avoid it.


A vertical mouse, combined with a wrist and elbow brace helped me immensely, where a trackpad or thumb-ball made my RSI much worse. Even just a cheap one is an improvement, but the more vertical the tilt, the better. The one I use now is the one that's rebranded by half a dozen suppliers on Amazon.

The thing that's hard to remember with a vertical mouse (and mice in general) is that you're supposed to move your arm, not your wrist. Getting used to that was more of an issue than the orientation of the mouse.


I tried the Anker Vertical Mouse, the Logitech Vertical, the Evoluent VerticalMouse 4, the Logitech Ergo (trackball), and Logitech M370 (trackball).

In the end my favorite is the Logitech Ergo with the "Plus" stand. The version that includes the stand is only sold in the US so I imported 2 of them. I got rid of all the others.


Vertical mouse is great. I used to have wrist pain after long hours of work but now its much better with the vertical mouse.


Mice, as in things you drag across a desk surface, are a complete dead end ergonomically. Trackballs are the answer. I like the Kensington vertical trackball. The only thing that moves is your thumb. Those small precise wrist movements kill you.


I moved to a trackball, a large one. Made my wrist hurt after a ~week, so I went back to a regular mouse (which has never caused me pain) or, my favorite, using the trackpoint (but unless I want to shell out crazy money and wait a while can't get a split keyboard version, so it's only when using the machine away from my desk).


Seconded. I'm partial to Logitech's MX Ergo; I feel like fully vertical is a bit of an overcorrection, whereas the Ergo lets my hand rest diagonally, which feels a fair bit more natural and comfortable. Bought one on a whim for work, and I've enjoyed it enough that I bought a second one when I switched jobs this year.


tbh magic mouse pad with three finger drag has transformed my interaction with computer and Cooler Master master keys M(that they don't make anymore) given me numpad and cursor keys and navigation/edit keys very close. It is like 1/2 more ergonomic this way.


Curious to know whether anyone uses QWERTY on the Kinesis Adv. I've tried switching to it a number of times (from a standard 87key board), even getting unto >60wpm consistently, but its use in terminal sessions was always frustrating. Not being able to type "cd" with the index and middle finger of the left hand means I always felt super slow in the terminal.

Should I have persevered? Is this a typical frustration of moving to a split ortholinear layout board using QWERTY?

edit: spelling


I tried using a Kinesis Freestyle Bluetooth with the tents and pads; it was very comfortable but I still encountered wrist pain because of the keys being mushy. I’m going to try the mechanical version; I am hoping for better results


I built a dactyl manifold but still haven’t set up the layers to my liking. I’m back on my normal keyboard and wrist pain persists, but I suppose I should put some time in to adjusting to the dactyl.


I use an Apple Magic Keyboard with my left hand and my macbook keyboard with my right. I prop the laptop up a bit so the external keyboard is half underneath the laptop.

Simple, and keeps my fingers accustomed to the apple layout for when I need to type away from my desk. Also keeps my thumb on the trackpad.

Not as ergonomic as others, but for my shoulders a huge step up from just a normal keyboard


I'm glad you said this. I had a lot of success with just buying two keyboards and placing them next to each other. The hand separation was pretty much ideal. I don't get RSI anymore though, so I'm back to a single keyboard.


No ones mentioned the Dygma Raise, yet. I HIGHLY recommend them. It has a great solid metal build that doesn't flex. It's very compact. And it has hot-swappable switches which are very easy to replace. That was critical. I put in Zilents v2 67g switches and it feels great; very tactile and buttery smooth. I tried speed switches and Cherry browns too, but the zilents were the best for coding.

It's marketed as a gaming keyboard, but it's fantastic as an ergo. It's the best keyboard I've ever had. Previously I used the Microsoft ergo, forever.

Another subtle consideration is the placement of the Alt/Option keys next to the space bar. A deal breaker with a lot of other split keyboards, like the Kinesis, is that they have space bars that are too wide, so the modifier keys are too close to the outside edges. But the Raise has a compact space bar, so your thumb doesn't need to contort as much to use them. The software to reprogram the layers is decent, somewhat obtuse, but easy enough for basic remappings. For example, I reprogrammed some letter keys to be arrow keys when pressed with a modifier.

Oh, the only downside so far is that it really could use a row of function keys on the top, to mimic the macbook laptop layout.

They haven't released a keyboard tilt/tenting kit yet, so I had to make my own to give the inner edges a height of about 1.5 inches. Also, I place an elevated magic trackpad right in between the two halves. It's a frankenstein keyboard-mouse setup, but now it's very comfortable.


I will second the Dygma Raise. It's a great split keyboard with a staggered layout and eight thumb modifiers (rather than a single spacebar). This was great for me since I didn't want to take on the learning curve of a ortholinear layout.


I love the split layouts, I'm using a Redox Wireless as my daily driver :) Though I wonder, DIY keyboards usually focus on stuff like nice mechanical keyboard action, which to be honest I don't really care about that much. I would kill for a fully wireless Redox-like layout keyboard that has enough keys so you don't need to memorize weird chords to do things, just used normal chiclet keys, is as small and light as possible, and had a wireless receiver that doesn't suck (my Redox Wireless has a range of maybe 1 foot and freaks out all the time). The Kinesis Freestyle 2 is about as close as I could find (without a thumb cluster), but it's still pretty hefty and isn't fully wireless, plus I somewhat prefer the responsiveness and convenience of a Logitech-style unifying keyboard USB dongle over Bluetooth; and I found this other split keyboard [1], but it seems to be no longer produced.

I just wish there was a mass-market split ergo keyboard with similar form factor/polish as the Apple Magic Keyboard or one of any of the common Logitech keyboards out there.

[1] https://www.amazon.com/peripheral-logix-uekb-rf-ultraergo-wi...


>fully wireless

One idea is to pick a DIY kit as close to what you want as possible and to use the nice!nano[0] for the controller in place of a pro micro/elite-c. It's a drop-in replacement but also has bluetooth and can have a small battery connected.

>chiclet

While not chiclet, there are the kailh choc[1] switches which are lower profile than the mx switches that are more commonly used. A note that not all boards are compatible with them, so look for choc support as you look at PCBs.

[0] https://keyhive.xyz/shop/nicenano

[1] https://novelkeys.xyz/collections/switches/products/kailh-lo...


This is exactly how I feel! If you find something, plesae reply here soI can buy one too :)


All I want is a low profile, wireless ergodox, with an aluminum chassis. I would willingly pay $500+ for such a keyboard, but it just doesn’t exist.


I've been working on a aluminum and wireless version of the ErgoDox and the group buy will start this weekend. It will be around $350 excluding switches and keycaps.

With DSA keycaps (the shortest possible one) the total height is 29mm (including rubber feet).

You can see the details of the earlier laser cut prototype here (and subscribe to the mailing list for updates): https://www.xudongz.com/blog/2020/ergoblue/. The details of the aluminum version will be announced when the group buy is officially announced.

You can find also my contact information on my homepage for questions and feedback.


I'm glad I came back here. I'm interested, but had some questions.

What's a controller? It sounds like some sort of combined battery pack/bluetooth adapter... How much extra desk space does it take? Do you have photos of that?

Also re: battery life, I assume the reason why having a "central" half reduces battery life is the same as the first version. Why can't the computer keep track of modifiers/layers? If you have two keyboards plugged in, you can press shift on one and type on the other and you'll get capital letters.

Is the group buy just for parts or is it for (partially) assembled keyboards? I'm not a DIY eletronics sort, both from an equipment and know-how perspective.


https://www.xudongz.com/blog/2020/ergoblue/firmware/ has a lot more information about the controller (with photos). In summary:

- The dongle is reasonably small. If you're traveling with it, you can toss it in your bag with a battery pack and it acts as a Bluetooth keyboard (for your phone/tablet/laptop/etc). You can plug it into your desktop, in which case it acts as a USB keyboard in addition to Bluetooth for other devices (phone/etc)

- Modifiers work fine but layers don't because some software still needs to maintain state. For example you might have the layer switch key on the left but want the next key to be on the new layer on the right. Theoretically one can do this with custom software on the computer though an external controller/dongle is straightforward and doesn't need to account for OS/platform differences. It also lets you connect to multiple devices simultaneous via Bluetooth.

- There's an option for hot swap switch sockets, in which assembly is putting the case together, soldering some header pins, and popping in the switches. There will be an assembly service for people who just don't want to do it but the process itself has been thoroughly optimized that it shouldn't be difficult.


Oh thanks! I didn't realize the dongle attached to the computer, I thought it was like a power brick for the keyboard itself. That looks pretty nice!

So basically all the smarts so to speak are in the dongle, which you reprogram, etc?


That is correct. Typically if want to update your keymap, you would just update the firmware running on the dongle. The firmware on the two wireless keyboard will pretty much never change.


I think bluetooth is just hard to get right.

I was recently in the market for a Filco Majestouch Minila keyboard. I was very scared off by a few reviews which said that bluetooth just stopped working after a while. Is $500 worth it if it could break after a year? Maybe if it was under warranty. Anyway I opted for the wired version.

Never mind my Logitech MX Master 2 mouse which I could never get to work using Bluetooth, and even disconnected all the time with the USB receiver.


A USB dongle would be fine! If there was a FOSS one as good as the Logitech Unifying Receiver that would be incredible.

I use the Redox Wireless [1], maybe check that one out? The receiver has an incredibly small range though, and it's not low profile unfortunately...

[1] https://falba.tech/19644-2/?v=24d22e03afb2


This looks super promising, thanks!


There are bluetooth adapters meant to convert a USB keyboard to a wireless one. Maybe worth a shot?


It’s not just a Bluetooth adapter, the ergodox has a wired connection between the two halves as well. Really I want to everything to be wireless.


Ah right - I don't really see that as an issue (when do you ever want to split them in a way the cable becomes problematic? also you now have two individual units to hook up with battery)

I guess this is why you don't really see many attempts.

But maybe something like this will do the trick?

https://wiki.seeedstudio.com/Grove-Serial_Bluetooth_v3.0/


I’m very broad so my keyboard is split wide, it comes almost to the end of the cable so having two wireless halves would make a nice difference. The shield looks promising, but with all of my other projects I just lack time to hack together a keyboard.


I'm using an Ergodox EZ which I really enjoy and I'm hoping wireless plus a trackball is in the next iteration. Even just being wireless (or a wireless add-on) would be great.


That would be epic. I asked the Ergodox folks about it and they said they’ve experimented with a wireless Ergodox EZ but there’s problems with latency with the two halves being wireless. So I’m skeptical that they’ll produce anything soon.


I'm also looking for a low profile/travel, wireless ergodox. It also has to include QMK or a similar FW that is completely customizable. Unfortunately it is difficult to find a combination to DIY such a keyboard as well.


I spent last weekend looking for exactly this! You are not alone brother.


I looked at building these this summer. Ultimately I decided I wanted a split keyboard, but didn't want to learn a new ortho layout or spend $300. I ended up buying a Kinesis Freestyle 2, which is one of the few "normal" split keyboards. I liked it so much I bought a second one with the Mac Meta keys, so I still ended up spending $300 anyways, but got two keyboards. What I didn't do was spend an extra $50 on the tilt kit; a few chair leg pads as spacers was enough for me.

I have wide shoulders, bringing my heads together to type all day makes my chest tight and my back hunch. Getting a split keyboard has been my best ergo improvement since a decent chair.


I have a Kinesis freestyle 2 I picked up for a steal (about $20). I looked at the tenting hardware and other add ons, and determined some old odds and ends give it enough lift. I need to replace some keys, but it's been amazing. Like you, I'm broad chested, and know the spacing is super important.


That's a deal like I've never seen it, congrats. I already considered myself lucky to get it for 60 euros (US$ 72). If anyone considers getting one as well, it's worth to see if Amazon has returns.

What I like about the Freestyle2, is that it's quite flat. What I don't like, is that there isn't a menu/option key on the right keyboard.


I'm currently using a Freestyle 2 but very tempted to get one of the keyboards featured in the linked page.

The main gripe I have with the Freestyle 2 is that I'd like to be able to separate the two keyboard halves much farther. I wish the cord between the two halves wasn't so short and hard to replace.

The other gripes are minor: don't really love the switches, the volume buttons don't work on Linux, and the tilt kit is a little annoying when I move the keyboard around (which I do a lot).


I moved from the Freestyle 2 to the Moonlander, and I'm a big fan of the following changes:

- Ortholinear layout, rather than staggered

- Sculptured keycaps, which I bought separately

- Modifier keys under my thumbs, making combos far easier

- Cursor keys in home position, using layers

- As you mentioned, a longer stretch between the halves

I've made many other tweaks that add joy beyond that, but those are the ones that made the upgrade worthwhile.


Zack Freedman's youtube channel is gold and he recently released a pretty comprehensive (and hilarious) tutorial on building your own mechanical keyboard as a getting started project into building electronics. Split keyboards are also mentioned.

How to Build MECHANICAL KEYBOARDS! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yYcNi9hKxDk


I love my (three) keyboard.io Model 01s. Thumb clusters, palm keys, ortholinear layout, layers, arduino powered, extensive plugin system, and best of all, standard tripod mounts to which I have attached gorilla pods. (Also RGB, if you're into that.) Keyboards with ~15 degrees of adjustability in one plane are better than nothing, but this gives me full adjustability.

Took me...a while to decide how to map things for Vim + (on linux) i3wm + (on windows) Dexpot (for virtual desktops) and Aquasnap (as a window manager).

Some previous ulnar nerve pain got massively better. Thumbs are just such better digits. Why are we using pinkies for a billion keys?


Has anyone mentioned the Zergotech Freedom? New to the market and built like a tank. Review: https://benfrain.com/review-zergotech-freedom-ergonomic-mech...

The glass sliding armrests are certainly unique.


A lot of the shortcuts I'm using in my IDE(intellij) are including one of the F-keys. I see that most of those keyboards are not having the top row with the F-keys, so I'm wondering how others deal with this? This was also the reason I bought the Logitech Ergo K860, which is so far pretty ok.


I have an ErgoDash with no F-keys, and I miss them.

I have two ways to press F5: I can press Fn+5, or I can press 5 and the key below (Y on Dvorak) together. I usually use the latter, since it can be done one-handed, but I would still prefer a real key.

My next keyboard is likely to be something like a Dactyl Manuform, and I don't see the point of _not_ including the F-keys when I'm printing the case myself.

I don't miss dedicated PgUp/PgDown/Home/End keys. I have these as Fn+↑ etc, which is fine -- I mostly use these keys when I'm typing with both hands, whereas the F-keys are often useful in combination with the mouse.


I think with Dactyl Manuform it's also easier to reach the F-keys. After I paid attention I noticed it's very hard to travel to the F-keys without leaving the default position with my other fingers.


I use a split keyboard which not only doesn’t have a row of F-keys, it doesn’t even have a number row; it’s three by six keys on each half.

I use chorded keystrokes for F-keys. I have a layer key (named “Lower”, and located where the ‘Windows’ key is on normal keyboards); hold that down with your left thumb and the middle row of keys on the left split (caps lock -> g, under a qwerty layout) become F1->F6. And the bottom row of keys on the left split (left shift->v) become F7->F12.

I actually find it a whole heap easier to hit those key combinations than trying to find various physical F-keys three rows away from the home row; I think I’d actually set up a macro like this even if I was using a full-sized keyboard; I just find it to be easier.

(although I don’t actually use F7->F12 for anything, normally; that might be a little awkward in terms of finger positioning and I’d think about maybe moving them over to the right side of the split if I used them with any regularity)


I see, thanks for the reply. I think I can't really judge if I never tried it, but I think that adding an additional key to achieve the shortcuts might make it a little bit awkward. A lot of shortcuts I'm using already need three fingers(shift + cmd + some F-Key)

I agree that the usage of the F-Keys is a little bit complicated, especially if you have small fingers.


If you have a number of key combos you normally use, you just put that in a layer. You could make Mod2 + Home row = shift + cmd + F-keys, Mod3 + Home row = F-keys, Mod4 + Home row = cmd + F-keys, and so on. It would require some work to program the kb and adapt your workflow, but you will thank not having to do those contortions. IMO, a control flow that requires a lot of shortcuts that involve key combos like shift + cmd + F-keys is an ergonomic nightmare, don't adapt your hardware to that.


With QMK firmware you can reduce the number of keys required for actions like you describe. I similarly use some keybinds that are ctrl + super + a letter. I bound a key on my Pinky4 to act as ctrl-super in one, and to also work like a sticky key, so I press it once, release, and then press a letter. A huge comfort upgrade.


With layers as mentioned you can have one row as F keys, then another row below it (or another layer) as F keys with shift pressed automatically.


I built an Iris split ergo keyboard, and it's great. Most of the cost comes from the switches and keycaps (I used Zilents and a PMK set), but honestly spending a lot of money on something I probably spent >10 hours touching each day is totally worth it.

It also takes a while to get used to the lack of keys, particularly arrow keys, and various brackets for programming. However, training myself to use layers rather than moving my hand around to push them makes me much more efficient. I plan to move to a design with even fewer keys, and since the switches and keycaps can be moved to another board, it won't be as expensive.


Also on an Iris (this very second) having moved from a Let's Split. I'm a HUGE proponent of hold/tap for modifiers and programming brackets. All the ones I use most are under my thumbs with that change. I actually have symmetric modifiers on the thumbs because I effectively have double the keys. Also all my layer changes are from holding down F, D, or S which turns the right half into (respectively) arrows, numpad, and symbol pad.


I've built two Nyquist keyboards (https://ereign.is/objects/). The first one was a bit tricky (with the older PCB design one had to hand-solder a bunch of small SMDs and flash the controllers, https://imgur.com/a/NuF476Q), but the newer boards are very straightforward (and compatible with the SP50 case).

They take a bit of getting used to (hours, not days), but they're surprisingly practical.


I bought an Ergo Dox a couple years ago. It was by far my most expensive investment so far (due to exchange rates and import taxes) but it was a complete game changer for me.

As much as I was sold on it, a part of me still thought I was being duped into buying something that wouldn't really help me in any way but I'm so glad I was wrong. Typing on the Ergo Dox feels like a completely different experience from regular keyboards, because it fundamentally is. It's a keyboard that adapts to my body and arms, as opposed to the other way around which is the (unfortunate) norm.


I purchased Moonlander (also by Ergo Dox), though the software and the build is amazing, but nothing beats my Planck, I just don't like the whole thumb setup it gets my way. I am far more comfortable with a small keyboard such as planck than a wide setup.


I've wanted to try a Planck for a while. Hopefully o can get one this year :)


My Ergo Dox is 'ok'. I tricked it out with Kailh box navies and it feels nice except the thumb clusters appear to be designed for wilt chamberlain. The moon lander tries to overcome that with the adjustable tilt on the thumb clusters, but I'm custom printing a dactyl instead. Might as well make one fully tailored to my hands...


I recently switched from a standard layout to split by purchasing a Koolertron programmable keyboard.

Main reason I bought it vs the Moonlander:

- Cheaper

- On Amazon

- got it in <1 week vs the 5 for the Moonlander.

Overall, I would recommend it as an intermediary step if you are looking to test out a decent and easily purchasable/returnable split mechanical keyboard.

I have a more detailed write up on my thoughts here: https://twitter.com/alexpotato/status/1350530940561457155


After a decade-long respite from three flaky Kinesis Advantage keyboards (they must have modernized by now) and a several year foray into the Dvorak layout, I went way down the mechanical keyboard rabbit hole last year.

After some beginner choices (Obinslab Anne 2 Pro), I quickly rejected any keyboard that didn't support QMK firmware. My configuration has two sets of nine "tap/hold" keys (UIO JKL M,. and their mirrors) for modifier keys and custom layers. My hands hardly move, which for my particular physical health seems more important than their position on my desk, and more important than the QWERTY - Dvorak question.

My favorite mechanical keyboards had been the GergoPlex, ErgoDox EZ, Planck EZ, and a KBDFans DZ60. Then I purchased a Leopold FC660C and Hasu's replacement QMK controller.

I like Topre switches so much more than any mechanical switch I've tried, that I can't bring myself to use any other keyboard. Topre switches are the obsession killer. You can't swap them, you can't post pictures on Reddit of your gaudy new keycaps, all you can do is customize your QMK configuration.

It's a bit like the shaving rabbit hole. What sticks, if one returns to expensive Gillette cartridges, is the brush and Mitchell's Wool Fat Shaving Soap. No one returns to spray cans.


One thought "design pattern" I pay attention to is respecting multiple modes. For example, language learning tends to focus on single-phase progress. In practice, a tourist such as myself, bad at many languages, will study before a trip and hope it all comes together during the trip. One realistically doesn't continue studying during a trip, but one's mind shortens available connections to develop a working facility. This favors committing a radio play to memory, over the staggered recall patterns of single-phase language study. Von Neumann could recall entire books, but in sequence. That's key.

For keyboards, the most novel designs are better at intense coding sessions, but worse at hunt-and-peck finding an arrow key, or muting one's computer in the middle of the night before the dog wakes everyone up. For me, the middle "tap/hold" zone of my Leopold FC660C is perfect for long coding and typing sessions, while the periphery does a great job of supporting casual use.


One thing I'm always curious about, especially with some of the layouts of keyboards with multiple "layers" to accomplish things:

Do people using these keyboards as their daily driver have trouble adapting to normal keyboards they need to use from time to time.

I suppose I could try one and find out if it's an issue for me, but I'd be worried I get deep into this rabbit hole only to find I'm useless if I have to work on something on some other machine.


It takes me about a minute to recalibrate for a different keyboard, although I'm occasionally making typos for another 30-ish minutes (nothing tragic - most often happens when I reach for a somewhat rare key, like ~, `, =, +, etc).

So for me at least it's pretty quick. Having radically different keyboard layouts is actually helpful because it's really clear (to your muscle memory) that you're doing something very different.

I use the ErgoDox that I built from plans I found online, a MS Natural Ergonomic 4000, my laptop keyboard, and rectangular Dell keyboards for random computers at work.

If you've got the time/money and it looks interesting I'd encourage you to try it. If it works out you'll be happy, and if doesn't you'll at least know that it doesn't work for you. But hey, it's your choice, for sure :)


Fair enough. I realized shortly after I posted this that I can use my laptop now without much trouble, despite it's idiotic placement of the right shift key that originally made me debate returning it.

I'd probably adapt in a similar fashion. I guess I'm off to keyboard shopping now.


I thought I would have trouble switching between my Kyria and laptop but that didn't end up being the case. I'll miss hit a few of the weirder key placements before my brain switches over but it happens pretty quickly.

An unexpected side effect is I actually type a lot better on my laptop's keyboard now because the Kyria encouraged me to use all of my fingers (my ring fingers were almost never used before). I don't type noticeably faster, just much more comfortably.


The use all the fingers thing is real! I think I'm still faster with my normal laptop keyboard than I am with my splits after years with them, but I like the splits more.


I use a split keyboard with custom layers and find it fine to use a normal keyboard such as when on the laptop directly. They seem to activate different modes in my brain somehow.

I have much bigger problems switching between dvorak and qwerty on either keyboard, to the point where I'm considering properly relearning qwerty despite being fluent in dvorak over a decade.


I regularly transition from Thinkpad/laptop and 60-75% standard boards to a 60% split Ultimate Hacking Keyboard, 40% ortholinear planck, and split planck (Let's Split). The only thing that ever messed me up was using split spacebars, where one thumb maps to something besides space. I end up being confused when my less dominant thumb doesn't activate the keypress on a regular spacebar. :\ Hard to overcome the muscle memory, so I've sworn off of split spacebars unless I change all my boards to split space. Which is impossible for laptops.

Aside from that, transitioning takes no more than half a minute for it to feel natural again.


I've been on a very layer/hold-tap heavy vertically staggered Iris for a long time, and a Let's Split before. Touching my macbook's internal keyboard just rewires me to its layout. The way bigger thing is when I use someone else's computer and they haven't mapped Caps-Lock to control or set up emacs option shortcuts, or space-cadet shift/parentheses. Those are all changes I've made to my internal keyboard so my muscle memory is there. The external keyboard is so different that it really doesn't affect it.


I had to abandon using a totally different layout on my mech keyboard, as I do have to use other keyboards for short stints. I spent a few weeks trying out Workman and Norman layouts, which was interesting but to annoying to switch forwards and back to Qwerty.

Now my only issue is that I accidentally hit caps-lock a lot on other keyboards as that is mapped as backspace normally, but otherwise still fast and accurate.


I use an ergodox at home and the macbook keyboard at work. I don't really have any issues these days. What does stuff me up for a while is when I remap a key on the ergodox it takes a while to stop hitting the wrong key but I guess the macbook keyboard is so different that its basically a totally different thing to my brain like how typing on a phone is.


My ErgoDox layout has a few keys in radically different places, such as -, =, and `.

I do find that I get those wrong a bit when I switch back to the laptop.

Oddly, never a problem with tab and return, the main thumb keys (besides space, which doesn't change), although I really miss "delete back one word" which is my fourth large thumb key. Alt-backspace is just not the same.


I treat it as a different "instrument". I explicitly chose to use the Norman layout on my ergodox to further distinguish it from my laptop keyboard (which before covid-19 I had to use a lot).

See https://www.metasnake.com/blog/what-i-use.html


As long as you flash a sane layout to the controller it's not very hard unless it's a very small keyboard. 40% keyboards like the Planck are a bit harder because you lose the number row, but anything bigger isn't a big issue.

Switching back to a normal staggered layout doesn't take long for me, but I wouldn't like doing it every day.


It takes a minute for me when I switch back to normal keyboards. It is definitely not seamless for me.


That's a fantastic resource. Here's my own write-up on my experience with the ErgoDox EZ: https://medium.com/@navindra/adventures-with-a-programmable-...


I just ordered the evolved version of the Ergodox EZ, the Moonlander. https://www.zsa.io/moonlander/

I expect it plus relearning Dvorak will be a pain but I want to set myself up for life and it seems like a good investment.


I'm sure everyone has an opinion about this, but if encourage you to learn Colemak instead of Dvorak. All of the standard keywords shortcuts (copy, paste, undo) are two hand operations in Dvorak which for me was a huge break up of my workflow.


Workman(1) might also be worth a try. Supposed to reduce pinky usage, overall finger travel, and balance left/right hand usage, compared Dvorak and Colemak

edit: carpalx(2) is another. I think that was one of the ones generated by a genetic algorithm for key placement?

1) https://workmanlayout.org/ 2) http://pinouchon.github.io/keyboard/layouts/2016/03/07/layou...


Yes to Colemak! Easier transition from Qwerty, more efficient ergonomics, most common shortcuts are the same or similarly positioned! I switched about 14 years ago and so happy I did.


Standard touch-typing advice is to use opposing hands to type combinations like "Shift+A".

On an ergonomic, split keyboard this might be less important: the modifier keys are often under the thumbs, and on both sides.

Also, it's fairly easy to program the keys however you like, e.g. make a "Fn" key, so Fn+DvorakQ sends Ctrl+X.


To support this, you might be interested by this little article: https://github.com/bclnr/kb-layout-evaluation


I'm a 20+ year dvorak user, but if I was starting over again I'd probably go colemak.


I have also been a dvorak user for about 20 years and happy with it. One of the reason I choose to use standard dvorak over other layouts was that it was available natively (even back then) on every single OS which to my knowledge is still not the case with Colemak (not natively supported in Windows).

If I have to use a computer for more than a few minutes, I know I can easily switch it to Dvorak without having to install some drivers which if it's not my computer would be a big no-no.


> I know I can easily switch it to Dvorak without having to install some drivers

This was the deciding factor. I have even developed my own keyboard layouts for assignments using genetic programming and I have a pet project using a chorded keyboard, but I wanted to have something relatively standard and well known and likely to be supported by keycap manufacturers. I'm sure there are better layouts, but Dvorak being a well-known standard trumps most of them.

PS- just got notification that my Moonlander Mk1 shipped today!


I wonder, is there a place one can buy a prebuilt 40% keyboard, with keycaps, the full shebang? Split or not, I'd love to have a portable mechanical keyboard to carry around, but I don't have the time nor patience to mess with a kit. Aby suggestions?


In Europe (though they deliver anywhere) there's Falba.Tech. They're on the expensive side due to the wooden cases.

There's https://mechboards.co.uk/ in the UK, but no split options as far as I see.

There's https://www.gboards.ca/ in Canada.

(I'm sure there's someone in the US too, but I'm in Europe and haven't looked much beyond here.)

[1] https://falba.tech/customize-your-keyboard/customize-your-mi...


Thank you. Falba is pretty much exactly what I was hoping to find, especially since I'm in Europe too. Appreciate the help.


keyboard.io atreus? it's a novel layout, not just the standard rectangular grid, but very comfortable. available in a range of switch types.


littlekeyboards.com in US, splitkb.com in EU


I've been in love with minimal keyboards for about a year or two now. I used to use a MiniVan Rev2 as my daily driver. Then I bought a GergoPlex on a whim and couldn't believe how amazing it was. I love the lack of weird stretches in the default key layout, and the chording engine Germ made for it is amazing and really makes it feel like I have a full-size keyboard. And being able to have the two halves exactly shoulder-width apart helps me keep a neutral position for my arms. All it's missing is tenting, but that's easy to do myself.

All in all, I highly recommend getting (or building) a split keeb.


The one feature that would have me consider using one of these keyboards would be the duplication of the center keys.

An early training as a classical pianist has given me fairly good hand posture, so I've never had any wrist pain or anything despite doing a great deal of typing. It also means that my hands float, so I can reach keys that require some lateral motion, which means that keys like TYU/GH/VBN are crossover keys for me -- I might hit them with either hand.

So the obvious design for me would be to have a split keyboard that has those keys on both sides. Why choose a split? Just duplicate the keys!


My ergodox config has that feature. Interestingly, I also played piano as a kid and I've had no problems floating my hands, though I hadn't made that connection before.

https://configure.ergodox-ez.com/ergodox-ez/layouts/3qeVW/la...


I am still trying to piece together a Lily58 Pro build kit I bought from a reputable shop.

Either half will work fine independently (posing as left) but there just doesn't seem to be any way I can get them to work together.

Granted I'm very much an amateur on soldering (getting all the things soldered on properly took me several hours!) and electronics, but I just can't figure this out.

All connections seem good, the microcontrollers flash all right, etc etc.

Just a rant, I've been very excited for this but it's starting to feel like wasted effort and money... So close but yet so far.


You'd be able to quickly get help on a relevant discord or one of the subreddits like olkb or ergomechkeyboards.

I'd double-check the connectivity for the pins the TRRS cable connects (RX, 3V3, GND, iirc) and that you're following the right instructions to build + flash the firmware for each half.


As a software developer, I'm pretty lost when it comes to circuits, soldering, etc. I can mix and match parts for my PC and not fuck up, but building hardware from scratch is something totally new to me.

Are there any European stores that sell the kits or parts to build these keyboards? I've had pretty bad experiences buying stuff from outside the EU. If something is faulty, broken, etc., you're pretty much SOL, while in the EU you can return it and get your money back.



Good list, thank you. Having a look at them.


https://splitkb.com/ Is in NL and the owner is very accessible. I hung out in their discord for a while during my research phase and leaned a lot.


Thank you! Checking it out.


Having a good keyboard is important (not only for ergonomics, but also for efficiency) in our business. But I find I'm having difficulty when temporarily switching from US to DE keyboard layout, or when using a mac (vs linux) - so what would using a completely custom keyboard do to my general computer user ability?

This is why I never considered buying one of these...


I find that changing the layout creates significant mental overhead for me as well, so I just don't do it. I use the NEO layout [1] which contains all the characters and symbols I could possibly need in reasonable locations. I barely need to leave the home row to write any of the symbols needed during programming or writing TeX.

As for physically different keyboards, I've found it to be a much lesser issue than I expected. I recently got a Moonlander [2] due to general hand and wrist pain that could only be attributed to strain from typing.

I took care to map the layout quite closely and the physical layout was almost immediately usable. I started at around 2/3 my normal typing speed but was back to 100% in a matter of a week.

Going back to a normal keyboard takes minimal effort. I can still type on them quickly, I just loathe them more than I did before now that I know how much more comfortable it could be.

[1] https://neo-layout.org/

[2] https://www.zsa.io/moonlander/


At least on the mac I do not use the german layout at all. For typing an Umlaut I type instead Opt(Alt) + 'u' to get an ¨-sign, then I type a/o/u to get the letter. The same with ß - just Opt + 's'.

It is maybe a bit annyoing if I have to type in german a lot on some days, but it is less annoying then to keep an extra layout. And since I sometimes have to type in french and often in russian... well, you get the idea, it would be a mess of 4 keyboard layouts. With special characters I can push the amount of keyboard layouts just to colemak and russian.


Has anyone tried a split keyboard with an old cell phone or other display (perhaps propped up a bit) in between?

There ought to be some end-of-life app(s) for all the obsolete-or-insecure Android models out there, rather than have billions of them go to landfills.

We need uses-cases and options. It might not be some new kbd/display/other-hid co-design, but but might be.


I'm an Android developer and I have stands for 2 phones between my split keyboard (the Kinesis Gaming model, used to have the Advantage which I also love).

I keep the phones between my keyboard to focus on during development which doesn't address the more interesting part of your question.

I have many old phones around now, some that can't even be updated to support the minimum OS of the app I am building. So I have tried to figure out what to do with the old phones.

Most common android reuse case: IP Camera. There are a few different apps which turn your phone into an IP Cam. I have used old phones to watch my 3D printer, explore under the floor in my house (phone attached to stick), to watch/record plants grow, and as a security cameras. The problem is, often with these old phones, streaming live video will drain the battery faster than the charger can charge it. I'm still looking at workarounds for this latter issue. Depending on what you are trying to film it can be surprising how "good" the old Android cameras are.

I usually use this app: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.pas.webcam...

The other thing I have done is turn them into dashboards, this is more applicable to tablets though.


Thanks. Maybe the app "IP Webcam" needs a time-lapse or N-frames-per-second mode to save on battery draw (use-case permitting).


My Kyria has two OLED displays. Frankly, they are neat but pointless. Looking down at your keyboard is the last place you'd want to be looking while typing. If you aren't a touch typist you are probably looking at the keys, but the screen.

People have done fun stuff with the screens on these split ergos but it's all just novelty stuff (nothing wrong with that, of course).


I keep looking for something like a mechanical version of the MS Sculpt keyboard. I like that the sides are solidly attached, the slight tenting, and that there's a bit of a profile to the keys--they're not just planar. Too many of the ergonomic split keyboards are infinitely adjustable, but the adjustments are finicky.


There's the Cloud Nine C989 [1] (though I don't know how the mechanism to keep the two halves attached works), or for a DIY option there's the NEK Type A [2].

For the profile of the keys themselves, you can make small changes to an existing keyboard by changing the keycaps -- although it's not always easy to find all the sizes required for an unusual keyboard. See [3]. I have SA keycaps on an otherwise-flat keyboard.

[1] https://c9ergo.com/products/cloud-nine-c989m-ergonomic-keybo...

[2] https://github.com/ecopoesis/nek-type-a

[3] http://xahlee.info/kbd/keycap_profiles.html


Anyone know of a compact keyboard that has 3 modifier keys (ctrl+cmd+option) per hand, at the bottom row?

The would suit greatly my editing style - I'm surprised that most hackers don't seem to appreciate this approach.

The Matias Tenkeyless models are like that, but they also could be a bit more compact.


With the Moonlander, I do exactly this on my left thumb cluster. I get really easy combos of Shift, Cmd, and/or Option. Ctrl is harder to combine with my thumb, so I have alternate modifier keys, too -- left Shift left of Z, left Ctrl by holding down Z, and left Alt by holding down X.


Anything that runs qmk will give you what you want.


I'd love to try a split ergo keyboard, but 1) I have no interest in building one and 2) I have no interest in paying $300 for a fully-assembled one. There's got to be untapped market potential for fully assembled ergonomic split keyboards costing less than $300.


Amazon sells the Kinesis Advantage via prime so they will accept your return too.

Give it at least 2 weeks full time to adapt though. I doubt you would go back if you suffered any pain previously though.


Gergoplex is $160 fully assembled, but may not be for everyone. Most of the cost is usually in the switches and keycaps.

https://www.gboards.ca/product/gergoplex


Tempted by these for travel. I even have a layer on my ergodox that stimulates one...


These exist, look up Goldtouch. The two sides can't fully separate but they move far enough apart that I haven't had an issue.


I had old gold touches but gave them to my cousin when his arm and wrist pain became far worse than my own. I bought more, but their newer designs (circa 2005 or so, I think) resulted in the ball joint breaking on 3 keyboards before I stopped buying them.

I can't be sure if they have fixed the breaking joint problem, but I'm curious about your experience - how long have you had yours and how will has it endured so f


Currently I've had mine about six months, but I rarely adjust the ball joint so don't think I put much stress on it.


Kinesis makes them for ~170 if you don’t want tenting or a palm rest


I just use the one Microsoft sells for $60. What am I missing?

https://www.bestbuy.com/site/microsoft-ergonomic-keyboard-bl...


Additional thumb keys.

The Microsoft keyboard is good (their best yet, I think), but only Space and the two Alt keys can be pressed with the thumb.

On my keyboard², I have Alt, Backspace, Ctrl, and "Fn" for my left thumb, and "Fn", Enter/Ctrl¹, Space, Alt with my right thumb. Slightly less comfortably, I also have Esc (left) and Delete (right).

The Kinesis Advantage 2³ is the most common mass-produced keyboard with thumb keys like this.

¹ It's enter if I tap it, and Ctrl if I press it in combination with another key

² http://www.keyboard-layout-editor.com/#/gists/501437fce9123e...

³ https://www.kinesis-ergo.com/shop/advantage2/


Kudos for Microsoft for that keyboard. Compared to the previous 4000 model they made the 2019 model more ortholinear. Notice the offset between the A key and the Z key. It is not pure ortholinear but it makes possible to type with your pinky Q, A, Z letters without stretching that much. This is the first popular keyboard which goes into the right direction and breaks the 150 years old design!

If your are more demanding then it is becoming not ortholinear enough. Later on you will want to have staggered columns like Keyboardio model 01, Kyria, Kinesis Advantage all have. After you'll try the QMK firmware you'll start to hate that Office and Emoji keys, which are under your strongest finger but are basically useless.


On a split keyboard with two halves, you can independently move the two halves around. This is great if you don't like the Microsoft-designed angle or want to change the positioning.

Other than that, probably just customizability in terms of switches, keycaps, etc.


Customisable firmware. e.g. simulating different "layers" of keys to reduce finger movement, dual-function keys depending on whether the key is tapped or held (which allows for using modifier keys on the home row, reducing finger movement), etc. This can be done with software like kmonad; but I imagine that's less convenient than having it on the keyboard itself.

With the keyboard being physically split, your hands don't have to be so close together.

Also the row-staggering of more common off-the-shelf keyboards just feels so weird after seeing keys arranged in a grid, or vertically staggered.


Honestly not a whole lot. I have the much more expensive ergodox ez and the main features would be mechanical switches, full customization of the keyboard layout and the fact that you can spread them further out. On the ergodox you can have your arms pointing forwards rather than angled inwards. If none of that sounds interesting than there is no reason to get anything more.


Mechanical keys. It feels very great to type with them.


PSA: There's a marketplace on reddit for buying/selling mechanical keyboards: https://www.reddit.com/r/mechmarket/


Missing: cloud9. It is very, very similar to the Microsoft Ergo 4000, but is a split ergonomic mechanical keyboard; I really enjoy it. I also have the ergodox ez, but quickly abandoned it due to the steep learning curve.


why is there no "typing glove?" some kind of device that is attached to your hand that tracks the minute movement of your fingers, and translates them into keystrokes? the amount of physical movement for each keystroke would be dramatically reduced and so it would be faster as well. even without going this far, wouldnt it be much faster to have a keyboard where there is only one button for each finger, and combinations of depressions map to keys? that way you would never have to move your fingers more than is necessary.


The closest is probably the Lalboard: https://github.com/JesusFreke/lalboard


this is almost exactly what i was talking about! but this seems like it uses a ring of buttons around each finger. it uses more than one discreet button per finger rather than one button per finger plus using combinations of key-presses. and i think the design is flawed ergonomically because your fingers press downward instead of inward. an ideal version of this keyboard would be a ring about the size of your palm with keys around its edge, and to use it you mate your palm with the surface of the ring and pull on each key to depress it kind of like the way you pull the trigger of a gun. has nobody really made that yet?


I'm curious if anyone else is wanting a split keyboard tray to go with these split keyboards? I'm currently making one - 2 individual trays that can be moved in and out and tucked under the desk.


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