I’ve recently become aware of how scrunched and constrained I feel typing on a regular (non-split) keyboard. It feels like driving a clown car. So I’d been contemplating moving back to a split keyboard.
After a timely email, and an impulsive purchase, I received a Zip Kit for my Moonlander keyboard. It seems strange to buy a kit to to reduce something, but that’s what the Zip Kit is. It has plugs to fill the spaces left behind when you remove switches and palm rests, along with a few replacement keycaps.
I think the motivation for this comes from Ben Vallack, whose YouTube channel has a lot of keyboard content (relevant link below). He pared his keyboard down to 36 keys. His motivation for doing this is to improve the ergonomics. On his keyboard, each key is either under a finger, or only one key away. I think this is a noble goal, as using a keyboard does take a toll on our body.
I installed my Zip Kit, and took a look at his original configuration.
One thing that is super cool is the way he has defined the letter keys as tap dance keys. If tapped, they send the letter as usual. If held, they send Command+the letter. So in Safari, to open a tab just hold T for about a second, and a tab opens. If you’ve copied some text and want to paste it, just hold V for a second. Highlight some text in this post, hold B, and it’s made bold. Really slick.
In looking at his layout, there were some things I wanted to change:
- His is based on the Colemak layout, which I consider a half-way between Qwerty and Dvorak.
- His Enter key is on the second layer, and requires a chord (thumb+pinky) to execute.
- I use CapsLock remapped to F18 to trigger Raycast if tapped, and Hyper if held.
- Numeric keypad on layer two - never been a fan of letter keys as keypad.
- Layer 1 filled with his shortcuts for apps.
My modified layout has:
- The Dvorak layout
- An Enter key
- A key for F18/Hyper
- Thumb keys moved out a bit, as Ben’s layout has the thumbs resting under the index fingers, not comfortable for me.
- Multiple functions on the thumb keys
- Home keys for thumbs send Space if tapped, and Shift if held
- Layer switch keys are to outside of thumb home button, rather than being the thumb home button, as in Ben’s layout. My thumbs are trained to ‘space’, and retraining takes too much effort.
- Layer 1
- Numbers on Layer 1 in near-normal positions
- Easier access to - and /
- Backspace and delete - note the mnemonic memory aid, B for backspace, and D for Delete
- Home/End and PgUp/PgDn - these were on H and E, but it didn’t work out for PgUp and PgDn, so they are in a cluster
- An inverted T cursor cluster
- Layer 2
- Escape and Tab
- Numeric keypad
- if 4 is held down, it sends ⌘⇧+4 to take a screen shot
- if 1 is held down, it opens 1Password
- Layer 3
- Essentially as it was, save for my addition of CapsLock in case I get CapsLock turned on in macOS.
So far, it’s working well. I’ve written this post using it. Auto-correct has been doing its job, but in actual use it’s going better than I thought it would.
As far as I know, he hasn’t tried an asetniop keyboard yet. It is a chorded keyboard having 10 keys (because you have 10 fingers). Letters, etc. not on the home row are typed by pressing two keys together. There is a version for the iPad, if you’re interested.
Anyone playing with minimalist or other interesting keyboard configurations?