Author Topic: Layered keyboards. Share your opinions, please.  (Read 3550 times)

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Offline Shmozart

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Layered keyboards. Share your opinions, please.
« on: Thu, 11 February 2021, 08:11:11 »
Hi guys,
Some time ago I came up with my own keyboard design, which was made as single layer keyboard (although there is additional functionality in the second layer), since I didn't find idea of layers convincing at the time I came up with this idea. During the late phase of development I started to think of idea of layered keyboard as more attractive. So please share your opinions/expiriences about layered keyboards.

specific questions:
- momentarily / permanent layer switching
- good (manageable) number of layers.
- dropping half of alt, control and shift (leaving only lefts or rights)
- keys like space in non-default layer
- convinience of combination of layer + alt/control/shift

Offline xudongz

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Re: Layered keyboards. Share your opinions, please.
« Reply #1 on: Thu, 11 February 2021, 08:44:15 »
The only "permanent" layer I have is a number pad layer. All the others are "momentary" layers since I just need to trigger one key.

Some of the layer triggers and modifiers (Ctrl/Alt/Shift) are on both sides so I can do a left key press followed by a right key press or vice versa.

It's worth looking at which keys you use the most and those should be on the main layer. Most likely the Space key is one of those. At the end of the day, it depends on how large your keyboard is. If you have a 40%, you'll need to make a lot more compromises than if you had an 80%.

You can use layer keys for macros as well (type a string, keys with modifiers, etc).
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Offline nevin

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Re: Layered keyboards. Share your opinions, please.
« Reply #2 on: Thu, 11 February 2021, 11:40:11 »
i've been using programmable keyboards for years. started with a 60% and one additional layer for F-keys & a couple other minor things. now i have a spit ortho board and use two main additional layers (there is a third, but don't use it much) one with f-keys & such, the 2nd is a numpad layer (which i absolutely love). i was always more proficient on the numpad than the num row and it being right where my hand already is by just holding a key is fantastic.

the numpad layer is on the right half and the Fn to momentarily activate it is on the left half. i find this very helpful especially with something like the numpad (activate with one hand, use the other on the numpad)

my other Fn is on the right half, that does the F-keys & such, so two hands for F1-F6, F7-F12 can be done with one hand on right side with left available for any additional modifiers.

all my layers are momentary, none of them are toggled on or off

layering on 40's and smaller is a whole other ballgame. more out of necessity than an option.

if your on a small board or a vintage board, dual role keys can be a great help (key when tapped, Fn when held) they are called different things wether your in QMK or TMK, but available in both firmwares.
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Offline Shmozart

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Re: Layered keyboards. Share your opinions, please.
« Reply #3 on: Fri, 12 February 2021, 02:54:46 »
I have num pad in extra layout on my current self made keyboard, and it can be activated by both  hands (I have identical Fn buttons for both hands in thumb clusters) But I consider the KB as single layered, since it is possible to use it without using extra layer. All the basic functionality is in the default layer.
xudongz, could you please give a link to your layout or post it here if it is something unique?

Offline xudongz

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Re: Layered keyboards. Share your opinions, please.
« Reply #4 on: Fri, 12 February 2021, 12:08:05 »
The code is in https://github.com/xudongzheng/ergodox, the actual layout is in https://github.com/xudongzheng/ergodox/blob/master/generate.go#L237

My personal layout is perhaps overkill for most people, though I think some of the ideas behind it is useful.

- Shift/Ctrl/Cmd are thumb cluster keys and exist only on one hand. With thumb cluster modifier keys, having a second is less important since you can easily hold it and use another finger for the subsequent key (whether same hand or not).
- Alt goes on both hands so I can do left followed by a right key and vice versa. This reduces weird hand twisting.
- Layer trigger (for layer 2) also on both hands for same as last reason.

For layers, I have:

- Layer 1: F1-F24 layer (momentary)
- Layer 2: Punctuation and foreign characters (momentary)
- Layer 3: umber pad (permanent)
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Offline Shmozart

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Re: Layered keyboards. Share your opinions, please.
« Reply #5 on: Mon, 15 February 2021, 02:43:32 »
Is it possible to press something like ALT + SHIFT + F1 or ALT + SHIFT + '[' ?

Offline nevin

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Re: Layered keyboards. Share your opinions, please.
« Reply #6 on: Mon, 15 February 2021, 11:21:07 »
...in a macro? not sure i understand the question.

if not looking to combine those keys into a macro for single key press, would just be a normal command/shortcut by holding those keys.

chording modifiers helps too, put your shift in between your alt & ctl, then you can hold alt & shift with your thumb and only need one other finger to press F1 or [

do you have a KLE of your current layout? might be easier to make suggestions from there.
« Last Edit: Mon, 15 February 2021, 11:26:28 by nevin »
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Offline xudongz

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Re: Layered keyboards. Share your opinions, please.
« Reply #7 on: Mon, 15 February 2021, 11:35:53 »
Is it possible to press something like ALT + SHIFT + F1 or ALT + SHIFT + '[' ?

The way I make that more ergonomic is by using sticky keys (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sticky_keys). Instead of having to hold Alt and Shift with F1 at the same time, I can press them one after another with sticky keys (all modifiers are released after a non-modifier or non-layer key is pressed). I'm unfortunately not too familiar with QMK details but I think one shot keys does that to a certain extent (not sure if it works with combining multiple modifiers).
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Offline nevin

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Re: Layered keyboards. Share your opinions, please.
« Reply #8 on: Mon, 15 February 2021, 11:46:34 »
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Offline Shmozart

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Re: Layered keyboards. Share your opinions, please.
« Reply #9 on: Tue, 16 February 2021, 03:40:58 »
The way I make that more ergonomic is by using sticky keys

That's the thing I'm afraid of...

Offline nevin

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Re: Layered keyboards. Share your opinions, please.
« Reply #10 on: Tue, 16 February 2021, 12:34:33 »
Is it possible to press something like ALT + SHIFT + F1 or ALT + SHIFT + '[' ?

were you talking about setting it up as a macro? to be activated with a single key press?
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Offline Shmozart

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Re: Layered keyboards. Share your opinions, please.
« Reply #11 on: Wed, 17 February 2021, 07:57:12 »
I didn't mean dedicated key for pressing alt + shift + F1, but a combination of keys. I even don't use such a hot key anywhere, but when thinking of a KB layout I would like to leave a possibility for convinient way to press as much key combinations as possible.

Offline nevin

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Re: Layered keyboards. Share your opinions, please.
« Reply #12 on: Wed, 17 February 2021, 17:11:47 »
- you can chord (programming modifier keys closer together so they are easier to hold multiples at once)
- you can make macros (tons of possibilities)
- you can use sticky keys (which sounds like you're not a fan)
- multiple layers, different key layouts (dvorak, colemak, workman, etc...
- different ways of switching layers
- dual function keys (tap one function, hold another function)
- i don't want to say the possibilities are truly endless, but they are vast for sure.
- there has been added support for other devices, screens, encoders, optical sensors, etc...
- and best of all continued open development by a wonderful group of dedicated developers
- go through the docs on github for the full rundown. and even that doesn't cover everything as there is a lot of development being done that's not supported in the main branch or documented yet.
- and there's also VIA a GUI frontend for QMK
     VIA although popular, is rather new and growing daily (on the fly "reprogramming" of your keyboard or device)
     i can create the needed files/VIA enabled firmware for your keyboard if you wan to try it.
« Last Edit: Wed, 17 February 2021, 17:14:02 by nevin »
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Offline Shmozart

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Re: Layered keyboards. Share your opinions, please.
« Reply #13 on: Thu, 18 February 2021, 08:39:21 »
My question was about particular keyboard layout.

So far my thoughts look like:
30 finger keys, one thumb is dedicated to modifiers, another is dedicated to layer selection.
Restriction would be that there wouldn't be a possibility to press three modifiers at a time and CMD only in pair with SHIFT.

Offline nevin

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Re: Layered keyboards. Share your opinions, please.
« Reply #14 on: Thu, 18 February 2021, 10:35:04 »
so you're thinking of using modifiers only for a thumb?
and saying "CMD" i'm guessing you're on a mac...
- i do more shortcuts than actual typing during the day and i have very few (if any) that are cmd + opt + shift. lots that are cmd + shift or opt  + shift (two out of the 3 main modifiers)

it is possible to hold 3 with a thumb, i can do it on my ergodash and i have smaller hands

have you sketched out your proposed layout yet? or just thinking about it at this point?
better yet, have you put together a KLE of the layout?
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Offline Shmozart

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Re: Layered keyboards. Share your opinions, please.
« Reply #15 on: Fri, 19 February 2021, 03:56:13 »
I have found usage of modifiers by thumb when pressing finger buttons to be a very comfortable practice. So it is a concept that thumbs are dedicated to modifiers and layer triggers and fingers are dedicated to keys producing symbols.
I'm on linux, but I am not sure how this button is named on linux.
So far I'm just thinking of the layout. I have left a dedicated switch on my single layout keyboard for going into testing mode, so I can try how multilayout will work.
I am an emacs user, but even so I have never used 3 modifiers at a time. Also I am using cmd button for window positioning only. And it is combined with shift only for moving windows between screens. So I think I can sacrifice cmd + alt and cmd + ctrl. as it very unlikely to be used in future. Any pair of alt, ctrl and shift is in use for me, so it is a requirement that it should be convinient to hold any pair of modifiers while pressing any button, and I think that I have implemented a very good solution for that in my single layered keyboard.
Also I am skeptical about having any finger keys below zxcv row, anything outside of q and p keys (assuming qwerty layout), separating arrows to different hands, like left-right for one hand and up-down for another. and things like that. And I am thinking of discarding number row, as it is also not that convinient.

Offline wolverine92

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Re: Layered keyboards. Share your opinions, please.
« Reply #16 on: Wed, 24 February 2021, 19:34:59 »
I use primarily two layers. The default which is the Alphas. And a second layer for all of the numbers and symbols. Navigation is on a third layer but not used that much. I have tried not to have many modifier or layer keys as pinky keys. Most are on my thumbs - including momentary layer switching, shift, delete, backspace, alt, and Windows keys. I use mod and layer taps so each thumb key can serve two purposes. I do have my nav key as a pinky key, and ctrl as well...but I may move ctrl to the thumbs

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Offline Shmozart

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Re: Layered keyboards. Share your opinions, please.
« Reply #17 on: Thu, 04 March 2021, 07:06:11 »
I use primarily two layers. The default which is the Alphas. And a second layer for all of the numbers and symbols. Navigation is on a third layer but not used that much. I have tried not to have many modifier or layer keys as pinky keys. Most are on my thumbs - including momentary layer switching, shift, delete, backspace, alt, and Windows keys. I use mod and layer taps so each thumb key can serve two purposes. I do have my nav key as a pinky key, and ctrl as well...but I may move ctrl to the thumbs

Sent from my Pixel 5 using Tapatalk
What kind of keyboard do you have? and would it be possible to share layout in some way?

Offline Gorbon

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Re: Layered keyboards. Share your opinions, please.
« Reply #18 on: Tue, 09 March 2021, 16:38:17 »
You might find Dreymar's extend layer mappings interesting.

For me personally, moving the modifiers to the home row, where they can easily be chorded in conjunction with navigation, has been very powerful.

Offline nevin

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Re: Layered keyboards. Share your opinions, please.
« Reply #19 on: Tue, 09 March 2021, 17:32:24 »
good find. i'll read it over then
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