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      Interesting take. (context: I bought the original Ergodox kit (not EZ) in round 3 on Massdrop and eventually developed my own keyboard design based on my experiences with it.)

      Not enough keys

      This is especially funny to me since when I last remapped my Ergodox I found it had way more keys than necessary, and I didn’t even bother adding keycodes to the number row since I found the numpad on the fn layer to be dramatically faster and more accurate.

      Learn to use layering! I think some people are suspicious of the fn key because many laptops implement it in a completely useless way, putting it way off in the far corner and putting the fn numpad in an awkward, badly placed position. Using a well-designed fn layer is like night and day compared to that.

      Lack of labels

      Putting labels on a layered keyboard is pretty silly IMO–the labels will only ever tell you what’s on the base layer, and that’s the one that’s easiest to learn. The part that takes longer to learn is the other layers, and you need a separate cheat sheet for that anyway!

      You could theoretically produce keycaps which have legends for both the base layer and the fn layer, but IMO this is a really bad idea since the point of a reprogrammable keyboard is to allow you to move things around at your whim, so if your keycaps say that the arrow keys are on fn+WASD but you want them under ESDF where your hand naturally rests then you just have to put up with labels that are wrong; much worse than labels that are just not there to begin with.

      Basically it’s just fundamentally impossible to have all three of: reprogrammable, labeled, layered.

      Context shifting

      This one can be a pretty big problem if you move around a lot; like if you keep your Ergodox on your desk but still want to hack on your couch or something. (or, in the pre-pandemic days, at a coffee shop). IMO the biggest flaw of the Ergodox is that it’s a pain to take with you when you’re not at your desk, which is why when I designed by own based on my experiences with the Ergodox, I made mine small enough to fit in a large pocket and able to be placed on top of my laptop’s internal keyboard when I’m on the couch.

      frankly, I’m not sure that a multi-week dip in productivity is going be be offset by whatever gains I might make by using it long-term.

      This is a common refrain you also hear when people talk about learning improved layouts like Colemak or Dvorak instead of Qwerty.

      IMO it’s quite misguided; the advantage of a better keyboard or better layout is not productivity, it’s comfort. If you were spending multiple weeks of relearning just in hopes that you’d get a bit faster in the end I’d agree for most people it’d be a waste of time, but if you’re doing it because you want to avoid potentially career-ending stress injury, that’s a completely different story.

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        I’ll second the parts about layers and labels. When I started using the thumbs to shift layers I got a lot faster and my hands moved around a lot less. Which was the point of me getting an Ergodox. Layers just made using my keyboard so much more comfortable. I’m also considering removing my number keys for the same reason. On labeling, I went from a weird way of not quite hunting and pecking and not quite touch typing to a full touch typer in a pretty short time. I went with blank keycaps when I got my Ergodox EZ and it forced me to learn to type without looking at my keyboard. Plus I like the tiered keys you get with an EZ if you get blank caps.

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          Right, like… I think a lot of people don’t understand that they already use layers on their conventional keyboard! It just happens to be a single layer for mostly capital letters, but some special punctuation as well. Turns out while having one layer shifting key is good, having two is even better! Three is a bit extreme, but it should be an option too; everyone has different needs.

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        Learn to use layering! I think some people are suspicious of the fn key because many laptops implement it in a completely useless way, putting it way off in the far corner and putting the fn numpad in an awkward, badly placed position. Using a well-designed fn layer is like night and day compared to that.

        I’m using Moonlander and I’m really struggling to get into using layers. So far, I have only two effective layers, base one and one for window manipulation. In the base one, I managed to cram as much as possible, and using the thumb cluster so that each key either behaves as Cmd/Ctrl/Alt when pressed and Enter/Space/Backspace/application launcher (Emacs, Terminal, Quicksilver). But I feel I’m not reaching the right comfort and things could be done differently (especially since I have short fingers and reaching corners/top line is a struggle). What are good examples of layers?

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          The best is probably moving all movement related keys (arrows, home, end, page up, page down) to a convenient layer. For me, holding a activates motion layer, and ijkl are arrow keys). This simultaneously makes the keys you use all the time most convenient, and frees up a bunch of space in the base layer.

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            It never occured to me to use an existing key to switch to a layer. I’ll definitely incorporate this approach for both keyboard and mouse navigation.

            I have a layer with arrow keys in place of j, k, l, ; (as I didn’t want to move my hand), but never use that layer much, since I also have arrow keys in the bottommost row. Maybe I turn those off, forcing myself to use layers more…

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          I use at least half a dozen layers on a daily basis. Link below to my layout, most of those layers have been in use for about a decade.


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            Interesting! How do you switch layers here? Do you go with “hold key for the layer” or “tap for the layer” approach?

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              Hold. The “mods” layer is really the hold modifiers, rather than a layer. So pretty much every key is dual-function.

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          What are good examples of layers?

          I’ve been using this layering with minor tweaks since about 2014: https://atreus.technomancy.us/cheat.pdf

          I use Emacs nearly exclusively which informed the layout, with one concession to more conventional use (since this is also the default layout for the keyboards I sold) I put arrow keys on the fn layer; I would have omitted the arrow keys altogether if it were just a layout for myself exclusively.

          Just another example of how everyone’s got different needs and that you should expect to do a lot of tweaking to find what’s best for you. Another example is how I use shift-insert to paste, so insert is on the fn layer; it would definitely not be there for most people.

          Edit: for clarification, the final layer is not accessed with a modifier key; it’s modal and accessed by pressing and releasing fn+esc and disabled by tapping fn on its own.

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          I have a layer for playing games: WASD and the surrounding keys are intact but the right hand is a numpad and common modifier keys like space, left ctrl, left shift etc are moved closer. Many games use numpad keys for secondary controls assuming the player is using a full sized keyboard and changing the arrangement of the modifier keys reduces travel and discomfort. Perhaps there are workflows in the software you use that feel awkward to type? You can create layers to make that repetitive motion easier.

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        Not enough keys

        it had way more keys than necessary

        Both :< Some of my ergodox keys are unmapped (almost all bottom layer, for example), but I don’t have enough keys. The problem is, Russian language annoyingly has just enough more letters that English (33 vs 26) that it works ok without any kind of special input method on a full-sized keyboard (layout). While it feels ok for my brain that [ and { are in the separate layer, having a couple of Cyrillic letters in a layer feels very jarring.

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          Russian language annoyingly has just enough more letters that English (33 vs 26) that it works ok without any kind of special input method on a full-sized keyboard

          I had a similar problem when I started learning Thai; my 42-key Atreus layout had been designed around having precisely the right number of keys for typing English, and Thai has 44 consonants and 15 vowels, so I had to switch back to my Ergodox for that. Nowadays the Atreus has 44 keys, which makes it a better fit for latin languages which need AltGr/compose but it’ll never be a good fit for Thai.

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      tl;dr: whoa hey look at this crazy thread about keyboard ergonomics https://community.keyboard.io/t/custom-mounts-what-are-your-ideas/495

      I got sucked down the ergonomic rabbit hole after developing some pretty bad shoulder pain a few years ago.

      The first ergonomic keyboard I used was an Advantage2, because it was stocked standard at my office. It is a really amazingly comfortable keyboard, and even thought they’re ugly and huge and bulky… still the most comfortable keyboard I have ever used. I moved all my modifier keys to the left thumb cluster, and space/enter/backspace to the right, but otherwise stuck to a pretty typical layout.

      When I switched to working from home I bought an Ergodox EZ, because I wanted to try real “splitting,” and I was curious to explore QMK and see if further customization could improve my life, and it has the same key layout (including thumb cluster) as the Advantage2, so I thought it would be an easy switch.

      It was a huge step down, comfort-wise. The Ergodox seems to be designed for someone with much larger hands than I have. I would describe my hands as pretty “average” sized for an adult man, and I found it very uncomfortable to keep my thumbs rested on the thumb cluster for extended periods of time. Since thumb keys are one of the main advantages I was enjoying from the Advantage2 keyboard, the Ergodox EZ was pretty useless. I tried it for a few months, but I basically had to abandon it. I thought of just buying an Advantage2 for myself, but I really liked the splitting and didn’t want something so bulky.

      I also paid for the tent/tilt kit of the Ergodox EZ, which give you little adjustable feet that you can use to angle the keyboard. I was very disappointed these: there are very few stable positions, and even if it were possible to use the full extent of them without your keyboard falling over, it doesn’t really allow much range of motion.

      My current “daily driver” is a Let’s Split keyboard. It has exactly the number of keys that I want – I always thought the Ergodox had way too many keys – except for the thumbs. I still miss the larger thumb cluster, and the ortholinear layout is really not as comfortable as the column-staggered layout of an Ergodox or an Advantage2.

      Anyway long story short it’s now pretty easy to build split bluetooth keyboards where each half is entirely wireless, so you don’t have to have a cord connecting the halves. This is a nice ergonomic advantage, as being able to quickly reposition the halves as I move around my office is important to me. I have a very long TRRS cable so that the halves don’t pull each other out of position, but, well, I’d like to have no cable at all.

      As someone who has never soldered anything before, this is a daunting prospect, but I decided to try it anyway, as it seems like a nice skill to develop.

      I’m currently in the process of building a slightly customized Kyria with tripod mounts, as I was very inspired by some of the images in this thread about Model 01 mounts, and it is not currently possible to buy a Keyboardio keyboard.

      The Kyria actually has a “first-party” tripod mount thing, but I really don’t like the design of it – it connects directly to the PCB, and there’s nothing holding it to the rest of the case except your solder joints. This comment is way too long so I won’t go into it, but I had an alternative bottom plate manufactured through SendCutSend that just arrived today and it seems to work great :)


      Anyway just buy a Kinesis if you have the ergonomic keyboard itch. Don’t end up like me.

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      I’ve been using split keyboards for a number of years (currently keyboardio model 01, before the kinesis advantage) and the problem with context switching does go away after some time. It was pretty jarring at first and after a minute or two my brain would get into the right mode and typing would be easy. After a few months the mode switching became instant and I don’t even notice it now.

      The only thing that trips me up is I have a number of shortcuts I’ve programmed into my keyboard to take advantage of a “hyper key” (ctrl+cmd+alt+shift) that isn’t really easy to recreate on my built-in keyboard. Not a huge deal because most of these shortcuts are niceties and not necessary.

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      I’ve loved watching the explosion in custom ergo keyboards over the years - especially ones like Ergodox that evolved from a hacky DIY to be a real product you can buy pre-assembled with excellent software. In the home grown vein I also think the Dactyl/Manuform designs are really cool, looks like someone will build one for you here: https://ohkeycaps.com/products/built-to-order-dactyl-manuform-keyboard

      Still, nothing I’ve tried has managed to unseat my Kinesis Advantage (cherry blues, 2014) - which is ugly, has some flakey issues (fixed by the Advantage2), but is nearly perfect for typing speed and comfort for me. I recently got an Atreus as a travel-ergo board, but i enjoy the advantage enough that I’d rather spend the half suitcase lugging it around when I travel for work rather than use the much more portable Atreus.

      I am very excited for the forthcoming Kinesis Advantage 360, which will combine a split design, customizable tenting, and the cupped/contoured layout from the Advantage/Advantage2, and hopefully will be more portable.

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        Kinesis Advantage 360

        Oooooooh thanks for this. Will have to keep an eye out. I use a Moonlander now, the Kinesis Freestyle Pro with the tenting kit might get me over some of my minor gripes, but the Advantage 360 might actually make it worth switching when it lands.

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        Also an advantage user here (first version as well). I just checked out the “upcoming” 360. Not too psyched from the few renders available.

        The Fn keys on the 1st edition are ridiculously bad (with ESC being my biggest complain - something allegedly improved in the v2), but are completely gone here. Not a fan.

        As a user of other custom split keyboards (ergodox, manuform, etc), I don’t see the point in making it “smaller”. It never will. Split keyboards take a ton of space. Tented keyboards (or contoured, in this case) require a pretty hefty palm rest, which is easily as large as the keyboard section. If you use a fully split keyboard “naturally” widening the two sections will make using the mouse even more awkward.

        I added a spacer in the bottom part of my advantage to increase the tilt backwards. Ironically, such a mod works effectively with the old case, as it rocks about the middle of the keyboard, so I’m not too displeased. I can’t say from the renders if the 360 allows tilting out of the box, but the flat base might work against this.

        I like the idea about the holder “bar” in the middle. Slipping halves is a problem I have on other keyboards, and holding the two sections together does improve this.. but then again, I always felt the advantage separation was always “good enough” soo…

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        Historically the biggest problem with the Advantage is it was only offered with some pretty weak selection of switches; do the newer models fix that problem too?

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          Their current boards only come in Cherry MZ Brown, Red, or quiet Red.

          I kind of doubt they’ll ever offer enthusiast-level switches or customization - very unlikely they’ll do hot swap, for example. They’ve already said the new board might be ditching function keys to bring the cost down. I’m okay with that - since it also decreases size - but a lot of longtime fans hoping to see even higher end options seem dissatisfied on Twitter.

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        After the MS 4K died this year due to a coffee accident, I got a Kinesis Edge RGB - it’s been very nice. The Advantage 360 is on my list of “things that might be worth it”.

        really have no interest in hacking my own keyboard, soldering, etc. Just gimme the thing, I have coding to do!

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          really have no interest in hacking my own keyboard, soldering, etc. Just gimme the thing, I have coding to do!

          Well, if you build a custom keyboard you also get to code it! It’s a great excuse to delay any real work :D

          Jokes aside, fiddling around with your own keyboard firmware is a lot of fun and can be quite rewarding. Aside from making a very feature rich layout with macros (both pre-recorded and dynamic), dual purpose keys, multiple layers et c it’s also nice to know that your keyboard can grow with your needs.

          I’m typing this on a very nice but standard keyboard (iKBC MF87), and I miss my custom firmware (I prefer QMK) every time I use it. I just can’t decide to add a media play/pause button or move my control key to caps lock whenever I like. Sure, I can do that in software on the OS side, but then I’d have to replicate it to all OS I use which just…sucks.

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            it’s also nice to know that your keyboard can grow with your needs.

            I’ve been programming for close to 25 years now (yikes!). Keyboards need to be ergonomic, reliable, usable, and replaceable. For customization, I use emacs. Replicating it OS-side is copying down the .emacs and spending thirty minutes on initial load of the software.

            I don’t want to play embedded dev; I don’t want to solder anything.

            I’d be curious about a chorded keyboard, but I have zero desire to do anything but treat it as a black box with a warranty; extensions should go through software.

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        I am going to buy a 360, as I have been (until earlier this year, when my Advantage 2 died) a two-decade Kinesis Advantage user.

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      This blog is fantastic. I love the rating system for reviews and the interface which manages to be beautiful, lightweight, and intuitive all at once. It even has its own ISSN!

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      I use what is effectively the Ergodox EZ v2, the Moonlander. I previously used an Ergodox EZ. Switching to the split and tented keyboard layout as well as a ‘vertical’ style mouse has solved all of my RSI (not a recommendation necessarily, what worked for me may not work for you).

      The ‘not enough keys’ complaint the author mentions here is my largest one by far. The benefits have outweighed this for me.

      The only keyboard I’ve seen that tries to do split and a more complete layout is the Goldtouch. What has kept me from adopting this is that while it is split, the two sides are attached via a center joint. I prefer my two sides to be spread apart such that I’m not angling my forearms inward at all. This keeps my posture almost completely ‘neutral’ at the desk.

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        Any laptop or phone keyboard (which covers basically all users, all categories) works with layers like the ergodox/friends do. I’m curious why (new) users complain about this with this type of customizeable keyboards with this in mind.

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          I know how the layers work and make minor tweaks to my layout every couple months or so. I’ve been using layouts like this full time for three years. I’d just prefer a slightly larger base layout. It’s far from a deal breaker.

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      Just to sum up what apparently all comments are saying: Layers are the best! Please don’t be discouraged while learning them!

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      Anyone knows if there are split ergonomic keyboards that are decent and more affordable? Have always wanted to try using one but the price tag of $300+ is too steep for me. Something <=$150 would be nice.

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        I went for Ergodox EZ as my first ortho/split keyboard, then built Kyria. And finally ended up with Keyboardio Atreus as my daily driver now.

        It’s not split per-se, but the angled hand posture is good, as I don’t have wrist pain any more that I used to have with regular keyboards. It’s small and single piece so I take it with me always in the laptop bag, I carry it in this sleeve, with 90deg rotated USB-C cable.

        And Atreus with QMK firmware and Miryoku layout (somewhat modified for better symbol layer) works really well. And it’s $149 so within your range.

        It is also hot-swap so if you want you can experiment with switches and keys later. I’m using Zealio Zilents now and MT3 Susuwatari (ortho set) caps. So the end price for me is higher, but it also beats any other keyboard I’ve used or built before.

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          Atreus looks very pretty. I would have bought it as well but sadly the shipping cost and import duty take it out of my budget range. But thanks for the recommendations.

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        I use https://gaming.kinesis-ergo.com/product/freestyle-edge/ with lifters; I think I clocked about $250 on it. I wanted mechanical keys, good wrist pads, and lifters.

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      Long time kinesis advantage user here (the first version - still working). It’s a bulky keyboard, but the tenting and palm rests (responsible for most of the bulkiness) are not small details.

      I still think the ergodox is a better design compared to a traditional one, but you’ll need adequate palm rests. Tenting is useless without.

      Lack of labels, UK keyboard layouts, and “context shifting” are non-issues IMHO. You get used to that, and quite quickly. The real problem is that when you have a clear preference (say, the “dactyl”), then you’d love to have the same keyboard everywhere. I can feel the discomfort when using a traditional staggered layout.

      The “not enough keys” is something I can feel. Layering is not a complete substitute, and it’s not as efficient. A good thing about the advantage compared to the dactyl is the presence of the Fn and number row. Even if you don’t use those, they can be used as layer switches without compromising other functions. It also makes switching to regular layouts easier.

      Split keyboards take more space than a regular keyboard irregardless. IMHO, it’s worthless to “save on a row of keys”. Have all the keys. Switching layers to type a single character in an alternate map is more expensive than moving a little bit further without having to press any modifier. This is my biggest complaint against the otherwise fantastic manuform layout.

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      This matches a bunch of what I’ve seen about Ergodox keyboards. If you’re in the percentage of people who loves them, you REALLY love them. Otherwise not so much.

      Not a useful metric I know….