Author Topic: Full Size Ortho, Left Hand Numpad Keyboard. Come discuss ideas with me!  (Read 1338 times)

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Offline ThatNerdPrime

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This project is in the very early design stages. I want to mostly finalize the ideal layout before getting into PCB and case designs, so this thread is mainly directed towards layout ideas. Constructive criticism and adding to the wishlist are welcome!

Quick note on the pictures: the first one is the layout concept, and the second is an overlay with a 65 percent keyboard (like Tofu65) for size reference. I've had many people think this thing is bigger than it really is, so I added that for context.

If you have the time, please take my quick survey so that I can get a feel for what people like and why :)

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1_PxKJRueJMgPMYC7CEI4YvmbJNS0qHp7UfMrcYO5P6k/edit

Here is the philosophy behind the concept:

1. Left Hand Numpad
    - A lot of people today are big gamers as well as content creators and productivity users. For gaming, space on the right of the keyboard is paramount, but for productivity a full size keyboard is super useful. Relocating Numpad to left hand side frees up a lot of space but doesn't compromise on function.

2. Ortholinear
    - Ortho makes sense to me. It keeps the familiar form factor of a traditional keyboard but gets rid of the stagger which is a relic from the days of typewriters, and doesn't really make sense anymore. It also has the added benefit of being more compact without reducing key size or spacing due to the smaller modifier keys.

3.  Full size
     - Lots of buttons :). Layers are useful and I do use some for less used functions but for my use case (and that of others that I know) layers can be a lot to remember and so more keys tend to be preferable. The issue with more keys has always been size of the board IMO, so hopefully the previous points address this concern.

A few other points:

People have suggested in other forums that I should make this compatible with multiple ortho variant layouts (i.e. allow for 1u or 2u keys in various locations). I think this is a reasonable goal.

Some have suggested including rotary encoders as well. I like the idea, but just need to consider where they might go.

I've been thinking about adding some kind of thumb cluster, but I think that this might ultimately be too messy of a solution. If you think otherwise I'm all ears.

I want this to be something that incorporates as many suggestions from others as possible, so if you have an idea, speak up! If enough people want something like this, I will consider doing larger production runs, so hopefully this thing can be widely available instead of being limited to one or two group buys. Who knows? Let me know what you think!



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« Last Edit: Wed, 05 May 2021, 20:31:14 by ThatNerdPrime »

Offline nevin

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- left & right numberpad secions support both numpad layout as well as all 1u, so they can choose left or right for numberpad layout. should be more popular than lefty only.
- 2u spacebars also support 2x 1u's as well. i like a 2u spacebar but i only have one on the right side, left side is all 1u for an extra modifier closer to the center of the board
- encoder support it top left & right corners?
- thumb clusters.....skip it. i'm not fond of them unless on tiny split boards. otherwise thumb clusters make the stretch for shortcuts farther. though i am all for moving modifiers closer to the center in the bottom row

if you go with 14 columns in the alpha block you can pretty much replicate standard staggered qwerty with only moving one or two keys. plus you keep a "normal" number row.

here's an example of what i was thinking about, with your layout
- if you go to 14 columns for alpha and loose one of the numpad sections, would make it more compact
- supporting numpad on either side, with minimal multiple footprints. though you do loose the separation between alpha & number to do this.
267776-0

and a size comparison
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though your layout would be a good compact board with options for lots of macros
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Offline ThatNerdPrime

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Very interesting ideas.

I do want to allow people to support left or right hand numpad and multiple layouts. It's clear that people want flexibility and options here.

I am on the fence about removing the separations between the sections, however. I very much like having tactile reference for certain key locations (i.e. being able to feel for the edge of the keyboard to locate esc, tab, Backspace, etc. especially when they're all the same size key. Idk maybe I need to add that option to the survey and see what more people think about the difference between the two options.

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Offline nevin

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was just spitballing..... even with two numpad secions, it's still... what... about two columns shorter than a full size.
my version of your layout is about the size of a TKL...

another thing you could do would be to add an extra column to my version, that could either be used or act as a spacer. if used, would be that many more macro keys.....

oh, and here's the KLE link for what i did, use as you like.
http://www.keyboard-layout-editor.com/#/gists/be348065a68d5537186b150213d93432
« Last Edit: Wed, 05 May 2021, 11:19:35 by nevin »
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Offline ThatNerdPrime

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Thanks for the link :)

You're right, your version is quite compact without really losing much. I may experiment with it some. More compact might be better for certain audiences.

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Offline nevin

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there are a couple that are close, but smaller (XD75 = 5x15), so this might fill a nice niche.
not sure what your thinking case wise, but you can always do spaced fr4 plates as a quick starter or prototyping...
- i can't think of any orthos with a separated function row though....
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Offline ThatNerdPrime

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I am thinking of sandwich style layered metal/platic pieces for the cases. If I keep them in flat sheets, they can be laser cut in bulk quite cost effectively, but in theory I should be able to get some pretty polished units if I get the layers to stack right.

As far as the layout the only thing I've seen close to this is something like the BFO-9000 from keeb.io but that has split boards. And it's all grouped together in one block, not spaced out. So far my survey seems to indicate fairly equal proportions between people who like the spaces and who want all the keys in one block, so idk which approach is better here. I'm not sure if it's better to follow the crowd on this one or to be different and hope that attracts people. More market research is needed!

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Offline nevin

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i'd suggest the smaller layout.
- the ones that like battleships (many keys) are usually far & few between
- i hear more comments about wanting separation or better separation (usually in the 65-75% form factor) when those 3 or 4 keys are up against the alpha block

qlavier does a lot with stacked acrylic, check out their stuff for some inspiration.
- to get a nice matching edge with the layers, you can stack, sand, heat to get rid of the matte from the sanding
- watch sizing/pricing on acrylic, it can go up pretty fast once you get into larger size boards (which this would be)
- seriously don't hesitate to start with spaced fr4 (unless you're some big manufacturer). olkb (planck, preonic, atomic) started with something similar with previous iterations (before the alu cases & hotswap) and keeb.io has built a whole brand out of that setup.
- at the very least it's a super cheap way to prototype a working example (plates & handwire)
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Offline ThatNerdPrime

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Yes, those cases are very similar to what I had in mind! Good reference! I work in manufacturing (engineer at an aircraft industry machine shop) and so know a bit about setup costs for tooling for machined pieces (long story short, it's very expensive). I figure I can get effectively the same case that I want with stacked pieces instead for quite a bit less in setup and labor costs. I do think that the spaced FR4 may be better for early prototypes, as you say, and perhaps even early production units. I'll have to do some serious thinking on that.

I think you're right about smaller being better, to an extent. I still want this to be a mostly full size keyboard, but there's a lot of really quite unnecessary keys like Scrlk, Prtsc, Insert, Pause, Menu, etc. plus all of the duplicate keys on left and right hand side and all of the blanks I have. I can get rid of a lot of that and not compromise functionality. If any of those oddball functions are needed they can be placed on layers.

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Offline nevin

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this is my viterbi layout for reference or ideas if you're new to ortho. it's also an example of a 14 column ortho that's very close to standard qwerty. the only thing from the alpha block that really moved from it's original location is backslash
http://www.keyboard-layout-editor.com/#/gists/705183df2a28784569f6775550907170

.... 14 column needs more love.
but it's a wonderful transition to ortho & smaller boards.
« Last Edit: Wed, 05 May 2021, 14:40:18 by nevin »
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Offline ThatNerdPrime

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I'm not super new to it, I've been using a Drop Preonic for a while now and the tiny size is fantastic like 85-90 percent of the time but I sometimes miss a lot of my keys from bigger boards, hence this idea. There's a lot of logic to your layout though, I may have to try some of those ideas.

Some games have oddball functions on the F keys or numpad (especially games like Tarkov or god forbid ARMA where there are a million keys) and it's hard (for me) to play stuff like that with layers. It's also quite annoying to go in and remap a million different buttons to said layers every time you pick up a new game, so partially what I'm doing is thinking about default keybinds and how they might feel to use on a keyboard like this. Preserve the things I like about the preonic but add things I feel I'm missing, that kind of thing.

I have noticed from the survey that the people who are primarily typists seem to be gravitating more towards ergo layouts with less keys and more layers, which makes sense to me. When you're doing largely typing/coding sometimes you dont want all the buttons because you're moving your hand around too much

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Offline nevin

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Quote
There's a lot of logic to your layout though, I may have to try some of those ideas.
thanks. reasoning for some of it... dedicated arrow keys, -= and [] in their rightful place is i'm in adobe programs all day evey day and i use these in shortcuts all day.

Quote
Some games have oddball functions on the F keys or numpad (especially games like Tarkov or god forbid ARMA where there are a million keys) and it's hard (for me) to play stuff like that with layers. It's also quite annoying to go in and remap a million different buttons to said layers every time you pick up a new game, so partially what I'm doing is thinking about default keybinds and how they might feel to use on a keyboard like this. Preserve the things I like about the preonic but add things I feel I'm missing, that kind of thing.
totally understand that. and the addition of the f-row and numberpad should help a lot.

Quote
I have noticed from the survey that the people who are primarily typists seem to be gravitating more towards ergo layouts with less keys and more layers, which makes sense to me. When you're doing largely typing/coding sometimes you dont want all the buttons because you're moving your hand around too much
i know... there are soo many nice split ergo boards but most are 5-6 columns or less. would be great if all you did all day was type. i wish i could get away with something smaller but i do more shortcuts & key combinations than actual typing during the day that anything much smaller than my current would not be feasible.
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Offline ThatNerdPrime

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Updated Layout Idea.

This is about as compact as I'm comfortable making this thing without deleting something significant like the entire numpad. The icons in the top left and right represent rotary encoders.

Thoughts?

Offline ThatNerdPrime

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Updated again. This is getting prettyclose to a perfect layout for me.

-Added one column back in (because symmetry and much closer to "standard" right hand side layout).

-Added media control keys in F row

-Red bar represents a strip of led lights that may be used as a sort of "progress bar" when rotary encoders are turned. Otherwise part of normal board lighting

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Offline nevin

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you must have been reading my mind... was going to say about adding at least one more column 14 alpha + 4 num = 18

you could also space out the f-row, might be a nice touch, media & such could be on layer, but you you'd have an extra ....maybe a mute on main layer (easy, quick to mute music when you get a call...)

267853-0
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Offline ThatNerdPrime

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Hmm. It does look nice that way. Not sure which I like better, they both have merits. Mute will probably already be on one of the encoders so I'd use that extra key for something else.

In order for your layout to work I'd have to make sure the pcb supports 2u keys in several different places. Shouldn't be too bad but something for me to keep in mind.

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Offline nevin

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yeah, it's like the one from earlier with the blue & yellow as far as how the layouts overlap. shouldn't be hard to implement.
if you're just doing a one off i wouldn't bother. but if you want to run a batch as a gb left & right options would be a big selling point and open your possible customers a lot more than a single layout board. everybody wants options.... sometimes almost too picky... though i'm kinda in that group as well because i wouldn't buy a numberpad that didn't support the mac style layout ("+" as two 1u keys instead of one 2u key).
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Offline ThatNerdPrime

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Well it largely depends on demand. I want to bring something unique to market for a reasonable price, but it is pretty obvious after asking around and getting a few quotes that the cost of these is all over the board depending on number of units manufactured, and people's keyboard preferences are all over the place as well. So I need options for people for sure to draw customers in.

I think one of the biggest issues is cost here. If only 10 people are interested, then these are going to be dumb expensive, but if 500 people want one then they'll probably be quite reasonable even with a quality keycap set. The problem is, I can't advertise them at a lower price (which is what prohibits people from trying something new) unless there is already a lot of demand lol. Seems on the surface like a bit of a catch 22. Also, many people aren't interested in engaging at this point anyways, as I have to imagine there's a million people who come in to forums like this with ideas that never go anywhere.

So that's all a ways off, I haven't even figured out the exact layout yet so it's a bit early to worry about marketing haha. I need to design the circuit and model up the board so that I know what clearances I will need and then design the case around that, make some renders, get quotes for all of the components and then I can see if people are interested in buying an actual thing like this once the design of the whole thing is finalized and I have actual renders to show people instead of just a KLE image haha.

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Offline nevin

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- yes, pcbs at this size will be more expensive than one with a smaller footprint (small ortho's or split boards)

for starters, i would start with just a "dumb" pcb (that you add a promicro or similar to) that's all. - like keeb.io does for their first couple versions of a board.
- you could add a 3d printed tray mount case (just the files), make plate files available that they can get cut in whatever material they want. if you go with fr4 you could probably order the pcbs and the plates all on one order form one manufacturer.
- start with making the layout available in some kind of easily buildable form, gain popularity of the layout/options, then down the road if it's going somewhere you can run a gb with a pcb with components and a fancy case.
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Offline ThatNerdPrime

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Going back a bit, you're right about splitting the F row. However, I currently have it staggered by .25u and not .5u how you had it. The reasoning is that I printed it out full scale and the encoders will feel really cramped if I move the rows out any further.

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Offline nevin

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yeah, that's fine. was just going off of the default 104 example and i was bouncing back & forth between .25 & .5 as well
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Offline ThatNerdPrime

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4 different layouts that will hopefully all be supported

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Offline nevin

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nice. looks like a solid plan.
added the mirrored numpad on the one.
this is quite unique and wish you the best with this project. i see this filling a nice niche of the compact full size that's not a staggered 96.

the only thing i see that might be an issue with keycap compatibility is the 2u enter (if using normal sculpted keycaps) as there isn't anything 2u in that row on a normal 104. now, i don't know if that's one of the standard options in extended kits or not. and obviously not a problem if your using uniform profile, because you could just use one of the 2u spacebars that are common.
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Offline ThatNerdPrime

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Thanks for the kind words!

I thought about that issue with the 2u enter. I do plan to offer keycaps as well (this VERY much depends on demand, as small runs are prohibitively expensive per unit; like $200-$400 per set for less than 10 units), so that's less of an issue, and if people want it will be possible to use 2 1u keys instead. Perhaps I should sell individual 2u enter keys in multiple colors so people can match whatever other set they want

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Offline nevin

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it's a thought. most "fancy" sets (gmk, etc.) usually come with some kind of alternate color enter anyway. i think the profile is more important than the color, but that may just be me....
if you were to do the cap, i'd start with a blank cap in only one color.. black? in a couple different sculpted profiles (cherry, sa, kat?, ?)
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Offline ThatNerdPrime

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Well yeah the problem is whether or not injection molds for a 2u key on the correct row even exist. Like I probably won't be able to get the legit cherry profile from GMK bc they are using the actual original cherry tooling and that tooling probably never had a 2u enter anyways. But perhaps SP has some in their SA and DCS profiles, idk

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Offline ThatNerdPrime

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I really want a full set of caps with backlit legends in SP's DSS profile. That would be cool.

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Offline nevin

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true. it has a chance though. with all the compatibility kits & such... what profiles are typically used for the ergodox compatibility kit? some in there are 2u that might be a different profile than anything on a 104?
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Offline ThatNerdPrime

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Probably SA and DSA are the most common for ergodox, I would think. But idk if there's a 2u enter in there, I think the ergodox uses 1.5u mod keys or something close to that

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Offline nevin

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i meant in the thumb clusters, but those might be numpad (vertical) ones..? who knows...
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Offline nevin

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Offline ThatNerdPrime

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These are sick!

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