Author Topic: Why the popularity of small form factor keyboards?  (Read 5787 times)

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Offline jamster

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Why the popularity of small form factor keyboards?
« on: Fri, 29 May 2020, 00:42:34 »
So I was wondering the other day- it looks like smaller format (by smaller I mean <TKL) keyboards have been gaining popularity. This is based on the large amount of IC/GB posts here, from what I've seen available from online retailers, and what I've seen in stores.

The sub-TKL boards, by design, are geared towards portability. They have a definite trade-off in that you need to relearn a new format and use multiple function layers, so they don't seem suited to work/home desktop usage where space is not usually at a premium.

Yet in the last five years, I have only every seen a 60% board used in public, once. And personally, if I need portable computing (e.g. taking a laptop to a cafe) I'll just use the laptop keyboard. I want to be carrying as little as possible. [Edit: I realised after Sifo's comment that it was something much smaller than a 60%]

Can anyone comment on this- have you noticed an increase in people using small form factor boards in public settings, or are people using these at home (and if so, why?)
« Last Edit: Fri, 29 May 2020, 04:49:14 by jamster »

Offline Sifo

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Re: Why the popularity of small form factor keyboards?
« Reply #1 on: Fri, 29 May 2020, 00:50:38 »
https://geekhack.org/index.php?topic=105188.msg2877454#msg2877454

i like using keyboards that has the keys i actually use and doesn't have the keys i don't ever use

as for portable I can't really answer, I don't go outside
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Offline jamster

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Re: Why the popularity of small form factor keyboards?
« Reply #2 on: Fri, 29 May 2020, 00:59:32 »
https://geekhack.org/index.php?topic=105188.msg2877454#msg2877454

i like using keyboards that has the keys i actually use and doesn't have the keys i don't ever use

as for portable I can't really answer, I don't go outside

Thanks for your perspective. So you use small form factor boards for the home desktop?

I was wondering about SFF boards and the relative difficulty access things like symbols. I regularly use them in passwords (even if I'm using a password manager, it'll have a load of symbols in the master password). And anyone involved in coding (which seems to have a skew towards an interest in keyboards) needs ready access to symbols. Ditto regular Excel users.

I admit that one of the things that got me wondering about SFF boards was seeing someone's desktop the other week. He had a Ducky One Mini set up in the middle of a massive desk pad, and my first thought was "doesn't he need special characters?"
« Last Edit: Fri, 29 May 2020, 01:02:27 by jamster »

Offline Sifo

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Re: Why the popularity of small form factor keyboards?
« Reply #3 on: Fri, 29 May 2020, 01:02:30 »
you can type special characters with a 60% the same you would with a full sized keyboard, I'm not quite sure I understand. Unless you're referring to a 40% which doesn't have the dedicated number row.

For myself I can hit every key on a standard 104 full sized using only my left hand as fast or faster than having a dedicated key, using a 60%. Personalized layouts are pretty standard in the keyboard hobby
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Offline cptbubbles

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Re: Why the popularity of small form factor keyboards?
« Reply #4 on: Fri, 29 May 2020, 01:21:15 »
Very new to the hobby, but I prefer smaller keyboards (65~75%) because they take up less space on my desk!

They are also aesthetically more pleasing, though that's a subjective thing.

Offline mode

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Re: Why the popularity of small form factor keyboards?
« Reply #5 on: Fri, 29 May 2020, 01:44:06 »
I didn't really get it until I had to work at home all the time with a laptop, smaller keyboards are a lot more comfortable to use than a fullsize when you're using them in front of a laptop.

People may get into them for other reasons, but as someone who prefers fullsize at a desk, I definitely prefer a smaller board in the situation a lot of us find ourselves in now!

Offline jamster

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Re: Why the popularity of small form factor keyboards?
« Reply #6 on: Fri, 29 May 2020, 01:46:34 »
you can type special characters with a 60% the same you would with a full sized keyboard, I'm not quite sure I understand. Unless you're referring to a 40% which doesn't have the dedicated number row.

For myself I can hit every key on a standard 104 full sized using only my left hand as fast or faster than having a dedicated key, using a 60%. Personalized layouts are pretty standard in the keyboard hobby

Hm, you are totally right, I was confusing them with the even smaller boards. With 60% I had been wondering about function keys, but I've come to realise that a lot of people (especially Mac/Linux users) don't need them.

I'm still interested in how big a factor portability is. Seems to be a much-touted feature (matched with the popularity of detachable USB cables, carry cases), and maybe it's more popular in other locations than mine.
« Last Edit: Fri, 29 May 2020, 01:48:26 by jamster »

Offline Sifo

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Re: Why the popularity of small form factor keyboards?
« Reply #7 on: Fri, 29 May 2020, 01:55:22 »
40s is a whole different story that I couldn't begin to explain, but I fully believe that dedicated 40s users are just as efficient as one would be on a full-sized keyboard if you really wanted to learn it (with the exception of numerical input vs a tenkey)

As for portability, a lot of custom keyboards are extremely heavy so even the physically small keyboards aren't exactly portable. Lots of people are just using them at their home PCs.

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Offline jamster

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Re: Why the popularity of small form factor keyboards?
« Reply #8 on: Fri, 29 May 2020, 02:18:08 »
40s is a whole different story that I couldn't begin to explain, but I fully believe that dedicated 40s users are just as efficient as one would be on a full-sized keyboard if you really wanted to learn it (with the exception of numerical input vs a tenkey)

As for portability, a lot of custom keyboards are extremely heavy so even the physically small keyboards aren't exactly portable. Lots of people are just using them at their home PCs.


Yeah, this is what I am finding confusing. These boards seem geared totally towards portability (weight aside), so I was thinking maybe I just haven't seen the wave of mobile keyboard users out here in Asia. But I travel frequently (well, I used to) and never noticed standalone boards in other parts of the world either. I'd certainly like to think that mech boards were going that mainstream.

I'm sure that a 40% user can build up speed, but why someone would want to go through the multi-week pain of relearning how to type if they didn't need the small form factor is a bit of a mystery to me. Some people might enjoy relearning, but I suspect that for most it's more a chore than a joy. Relearning for an ergo board or Colemak/Dvorak I can get my head around much more easily- there are much more obvious payoffs.

Recently I joined the Atreus Kickstarter (44 key ergo board with multiple function layers). I joined purely to try the split layout, the portability aspect of it was a heavily pushed selling point (it's tiny doesn't even have big space bars, it has a custom carry case, detachable cables) is overall more of a negative factor to me, so I am wondering if portability is really that much more important to a lot of other people.

Offline chyros

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Re: Why the popularity of small form factor keyboards?
« Reply #9 on: Fri, 29 May 2020, 02:27:33 »
Fashion.
Check my keyboard video reviews:


Offline Findecanor

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Re: Why the popularity of small form factor keyboards?
« Reply #10 on: Fri, 29 May 2020, 02:48:24 »
When switches cost $1.30 a piece you don't make a keyboard with 120 of them ...
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Offline typo

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Re: Why the popularity of small form factor keyboards?
« Reply #11 on: Fri, 29 May 2020, 04:03:59 »
I did the 60% thing and I was so happy to go back to 105+. That is just me though. Small boards feel much to cramped to me. Plus I hate hitting FN. It seems on a lot of small boards the per key spacing is narrower too. I hate that.  A good Korean is a lot of money either way. Might as well get the extra keys.

Offline chyros

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Re: Why the popularity of small form factor keyboards?
« Reply #12 on: Fri, 29 May 2020, 04:15:58 »
When switches cost $1.30 a piece you don't make a keyboard with 120 of them ...
I know our priorities are in different places, but I'd so much prefer to spend more money on more and/or better switches than to stick everything in a super-expensive but tiny chassis, plate and brass weight or whatever xD . But that's just me.
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Offline jamster

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Re: Why the popularity of small form factor keyboards?
« Reply #13 on: Fri, 29 May 2020, 04:52:11 »
I think that if cost is a concern, someone's probably going to be sticking with the free Dell membrane, or some cheap generic and normal(ish) board from China rather than 40%/ortho/milled aluminum/other fancy thing :)

Offline mode

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Re: Why the popularity of small form factor keyboards?
« Reply #14 on: Fri, 29 May 2020, 05:09:33 »
When switches cost $1.30 a piece you don't make a keyboard with 120 of them ...


Hohoho.

My next build is a fullsize with SKCM amber. $3 a switch.

This hobby will never be cheap.

Offline DALExSNAIL

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Re: Why the popularity of small form factor keyboards?
« Reply #15 on: Fri, 29 May 2020, 07:59:47 »
Getting used to FN keys and macros is a benefit for a lot of people. Less movement from homerow is always nice, if the form factor is workable.

The desk real estate gained from a smaller board is pretty significant as well. Because of this, tkl will always be the largest I'll go personally.

That being said, you're asking on geekhack, and these days the most active commenting crowd leans towards the largest and loudest keyboard they can find.


Offline Sup

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Re: Why the popularity of small form factor keyboards?
« Reply #16 on: Fri, 29 May 2020, 09:05:48 »
When switches cost $1.30 a piece you don't make a keyboard with 120 of them ...

You would be suprised people used to pay 6 dollars each for a Invyr holy panda lol. There are always people with the cash that will buy it and build there keyboard with it.
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Offline IceCandle

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Re: Why the popularity of small form factor keyboards?
« Reply #17 on: Fri, 29 May 2020, 09:13:17 »
For ergo/symmetry key B has to be in the middle, but with numpad and arrow keys you won't have enough space to move mouse.

Offline Tactile

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Re: Why the popularity of small form factor keyboards?
« Reply #18 on: Fri, 29 May 2020, 09:22:04 »
My HHKB says hi, btw. Anyway...
60% keyboards in public? It happens...

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Offline HungerMechanic

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Re: Why the popularity of small form factor keyboards?
« Reply #19 on: Fri, 29 May 2020, 09:28:27 »
1. Many users of small form-factor boards are 'gamers' who find that a 6x% gives them more space for mousing. They are willing to have keys that they don't use much in gaming [nav cluster, even F-keys] placed under layers.

2. 6x% boards can be cheaper to make and much cheaper to ship than something like a solid metal TKL.

3. There's less labour involved in soldering 6x switches than 87 or 104. This is a bigger deal when using custom switches. If you are combining two switches to make Holy Pandas, and lubing them, and filming them, or removing factory lube from your Alpacas, then spring-swapping then filming them, how many switches do you want to do that for? 67 or 87? 104?

Given the labour involved in custom switches, having fewer to create makes a project more viable.

4. There's an aesthetic concern. Many people involved in customs find TKLs and full-size boards ugly. Smaller boards can be made to look neater and 'cuter.' Look at the current "Heavy Metal" GB. The GB runner is showing aesthetic sets like Taro on 65% or 75% boards.

5. The smaller boards are obviously more portable, although it's kind of moot when they are made from a solid block of aluminum.

6. 60-65% boards are perfectly sized for smaller laptops in the 11-13" range. If you have some kind of small desk setup, or are using them mobile, you can fit both the keyboard and laptop in a relatively small space.

7. There's the aforementioned cost reason. What if you are using NOS Orange Alps or lubed, spring-swapped vintage Blacks or Nixies? That's well over $1 per switch, maybe $5 per switch. With the above switches, there may not even be enough good switches available to make a TKL.

8. Many people are building for the first time, and are not sure what they like yet. It's easier to see how you like lubed Gateron Yellows on a cheap and easy 60% board with C3 stabs before moving on to something larger.

When you build a board for the first time(s), you are testing multiple concepts, from the type of mount and PCB to the case material, switch customization, LEDs, stabilizers, and dampening. So maybe you want to sort that out before building a TGR Jane 2 with lubed Aqua Zilents.
Some people value a minimalist aesthetic on their desks.

9. There's an exclusivity factor, in that most people are using full-size ANSI and ISO-inspired boards, or maybe a TKL. 6x% is much more 'pro.' And Youtube / Twitch streamers have popularized the small form factors to their masses of fans, many who will buy anything if they believe it gives them an edge in Fortnite.

10. Some people have meticulously-cultivated desks with a minimalist aesthetic. So even though they have a giant desk with carefully positioned LEDs and case LEDs, they want most of it to be 'white space.'

Offline HungerMechanic

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Re: Why the popularity of small form factor keyboards?
« Reply #20 on: Fri, 29 May 2020, 09:30:42 »
One of the biggest reasons is that there are users who have taught themselves to type much more quickly within a limited 6x% space.

They find that they don't have to move their hands or fingers as much in a smaller, more confined layout. Once they are properly positioned, they can type faster and more sustainably. They might use CapsLock as the FN key to access layers, putting the arrow keys in the WASD alphas under a layer, for instance. For those users, this is faster and more comfortable.

Offline VP

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Re: Why the popularity of small form factor keyboards?
« Reply #21 on: Fri, 29 May 2020, 10:47:53 »
you can type special characters with a 60% the same you would with a full sized keyboard
How to get Alt codes with TKL?

Offline jamster

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Re: Why the popularity of small form factor keyboards?
« Reply #22 on: Fri, 29 May 2020, 11:00:25 »
@HungerMechanic Hey, really good and thoughtful points. Thanks for putting them together.

The way this thread is going is convincing me that portability isn't really a factor when it comes to mech boards. Which is a pity, it would be kind of nice to see more of them about.

Offline Polymer

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Re: Why the popularity of small form factor keyboards?
« Reply #23 on: Fri, 29 May 2020, 11:22:20 »
@HungerMechanic Hey, really good and thoughtful points. Thanks for putting them together.

The way this thread is going is convincing me that portability isn't really a factor when it comes to mech boards. Which is a pity, it would be kind of nice to see more of them about.

That's not true though...It is a factor for a good number of people..but maybe not the main factor for most...

Personally, I think with the right layout 60% is super easy to work with and in a lot of ways, easier than with a larger keyboard.  I do think if you have particular needs of a keyboard, smaller boards may not work for you.

I also think smaller than 60% is incredibly niche, even within the mech keyboard community.  For some people they may love it but it is purely an aesthetic thing.  If you have to go to multiple FN layers, you're just going to lose efficiency and you've gain very little space.

That said, if I needed a board as small as I could get it for transporting around and I could find a 40% that worked out well, I'd definitely consider it...for use at home, it would be more difficult to justify, as interesting as they may look.

If someone is using a 40% and finds it as efficient or more so than 60% or TKL, it would be good to understand why they think that and how unless you don't use certain keys so that doesn't factor into having multiple FN layers..


Offline funkden

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Re: Why the popularity of small form factor keyboards?
« Reply #24 on: Fri, 29 May 2020, 11:33:48 »
60% day in day out. Most effective form factor key layout for me.

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Offline HungerMechanic

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Re: Why the popularity of small form factor keyboards?
« Reply #25 on: Fri, 29 May 2020, 11:57:03 »
Basically, 65% can be incredibly versatile given the spaces they fit, they can look very neat, and they require less money and sometimes effort.


From what I see from long-time builders, if you can get used to a 65%, you have it made.

You will always be paying less for switches, spending less time making switches, and paying lower shipping costs. Which is huge over time.

It will always fit your desk, and make it look really clean. 'Clean' Silicon-valley / hipster aesthetic rules uber alles on Reddit. https://www.theverge.com/2016/8/3/12325104/airbnb-aesthetic-global-minimalism-startup-gentrification

And people with 65% keyboards don't have boring jobs, like accountants. They don't need a numpad, etc... Because they have layers.

As said on another forum, something like a KBD67 is a Miata/MX5 of keyboards.

Offline Sifo

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Re: Why the popularity of small form factor keyboards?
« Reply #26 on: Fri, 29 May 2020, 12:12:36 »
you can type special characters with a 60% the same you would with a full sized keyboard
How to get Alt codes with TKL?

i can toggle numrow to send numpad codes
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Offline DALExSNAIL

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Re: Why the popularity of small form factor keyboards?
« Reply #27 on: Fri, 29 May 2020, 12:18:30 »
you can type special characters with a 60% the same you would with a full sized keyboard
How to get Alt codes with TKL?

i can toggle numrow to send numpad codes

Just copy paste from unicode website, vro

Offline Maledicted

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Re: Why the popularity of small form factor keyboards?
« Reply #28 on: Fri, 29 May 2020, 13:09:34 »
That being said, you're asking on geekhack, and these days the most active commenting crowd leans towards the largest and loudest keyboard they can find.

I was going to leave this thread alone, since I'm not one to care much about following trends, like tiny keyboards, outside of portability and desk space, etc. I like everything from 60-65% (I need dedicated arrow keys, etc, as I can't just use custom desktop keyboards exclusively all day every day) to aircraft carriers.

I don't know that the giant keyboard and clicky trend statement is necessarily the case though. There's a handful of us, but especially when I'm going through and trying to respond to new member posts, etc, it seems to me that a huge proportion of this site's members prefer tactiles, linears, or both, be it because of sound considerations in environments with other people, or they just dislike the sound generated by any of the clicky switches that they have heard so much that they would rather have a tactile, or, like yourself, prefer the bump provided by a specific tactile switch. People also seem, to me, to tend to follow the general trends of tiny boards, specific stabilizers, lube this and that, dampening, etc, etc. Most of the threads, of any kind, that I see have to do with linears and tactiles, and usually on tiny boards as well.

You're seeing it in this thread too. Most comments are promoting the potential benefits of tiny keyboards. Who was a detractor so far? Chyros?

I think that's the case with the current state of the hobby, as a whole. I don't watch a lot of keyboard-related Youtube channels very often, but it seems to me that most of the big ones, with large followings, follow those trends moreso than anything having to do with giant, retro, and/or thunderous clicky boards. Supply and demand with kit boards follows that trend as well. Options are mostly 60% or find that one obscure thing that's in stock on that one possibly sketchy website, somewhere, and your options are just like how Henry Ford once put it so eloquently, "You can have any color you like, so long as its black."

That's not to say that this is a bad thing either, preference is preference, and supply and demand is a beautiful thing, even if someone may personally prefer that supply of a given thing were increased.

Offline mokeyjoe

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Re: Why the popularity of small form factor keyboards?
« Reply #29 on: Fri, 29 May 2020, 13:11:11 »
For ergo/symmetry key B has to be in the middle, but with numpad and arrow keys you won't have enough space to move mouse.

I can understand this as a good reason to go tenkeyless (it's the main reason I prefer it for home, where I don't really need the number pad) but smaller than that is diminishing returns as far as desk space goes.

I've been curious about smaller keyboards, but I really think I'd miss the arrow keys more than anything - I use them for all sorts of navigation. I actually have quite a small computer desk, so it might be useful. I use the mouse on the left (despite being right handed) and tend to use the right side for my ipad, phone, notebook etc., so reclaiming that numpad space is useful and ergonomic for me. I can always use my separate USB numpad if I need it. I just wonder if gaining an extra two inches on that side is really going to make much difference. Perhaps there's some value in the idea of not needing to take your fingers of the home row, as a touchtypist - but I guess I could always remap things in Karibiner to emulate that anyway.

They do look kinda cute though.

Offline Maledicted

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Re: Why the popularity of small form factor keyboards?
« Reply #30 on: Fri, 29 May 2020, 13:20:26 »
For ergo/symmetry key B has to be in the middle, but with numpad and arrow keys you won't have enough space to move mouse.

I can understand this as a good reason to go tenkeyless (it's the main reason I prefer it for home, where I don't really need the number pad) but smaller than that is diminishing returns as far as desk space goes.

I've been curious about smaller keyboards, but I really think I'd miss the arrow keys more than anything - I use them for all sorts of navigation. I actually have quite a small computer desk, so it might be useful. I use the mouse on the left (despite being right handed) and tend to use the right side for my ipad, phone, notebook etc., so reclaiming that numpad space is useful and ergonomic for me. I can always use my separate USB numpad if I need it. I just wonder if gaining an extra two inches on that side is really going to make much difference. Perhaps there's some value in the idea of not needing to take your fingers of the home row, as a touchtypist - but I guess I could always remap things in Karibiner to emulate that anyway.

They do look kinda cute though.

You can retain dedicated arrow keys on something at least as small as a 60%. Your cap options will dwindle though.

You use a touch screen on a tablet ... while sitting right in front of a real computer, with a mechanical keyboard?  :eek:

Offline rxc92

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Re: Why the popularity of small form factor keyboards?
« Reply #31 on: Fri, 29 May 2020, 15:18:31 »
For ergo/symmetry key B has to be in the middle, but with numpad and arrow keys you won't have enough space to move mouse.

I can understand this as a good reason to go tenkeyless (it's the main reason I prefer it for home, where I don't really need the number pad) but smaller than that is diminishing returns as far as desk space goes.

I've been curious about smaller keyboards, but I really think I'd miss the arrow keys more than anything - I use them for all sorts of navigation. I actually have quite a small computer desk, so it might be useful. I use the mouse on the left (despite being right handed) and tend to use the right side for my ipad, phone, notebook etc., so reclaiming that numpad space is useful and ergonomic for me. I can always use my separate USB numpad if I need it. I just wonder if gaining an extra two inches on that side is really going to make much difference. Perhaps there's some value in the idea of not needing to take your fingers of the home row, as a touchtypist - but I guess I could always remap things in Karibiner to emulate that anyway.

They do look kinda cute though.
 
 
I have the same opinion but feel like 65/60% is about the minimum for functionality. For day to day use, I don't mind using an Fn key to use the arrows since there's a big space difference between 60 and TKL (the two form factors that I use), but while gaming lacking the F keys as well as the arrow keys can make things inconvenient. However, 60% is more comfortable on my wrists and easier smaller to carry around. 
 
Since I use a really heavy 17" laptop it doesn't really make a difference if I bring a TKL or 60% though since both fit in the same backpack. If I could have a 65% then I'd probably use that, but they are much less visually pleasing to me than HHKB-style 60%.

Offline ideus

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Re: Why the popularity of small form factor keyboards?
« Reply #32 on: Fri, 29 May 2020, 15:31:41 »
A sixty board healths my carpal tunnel syndrome by making my desktop more ergonomic. Portability? Na. I have one board at work and more at home. Now doing home-office, I use just one daily.

Offline mokeyjoe

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Re: Why the popularity of small form factor keyboards?
« Reply #33 on: Fri, 29 May 2020, 15:34:23 »
For ergo/symmetry key B has to be in the middle, but with numpad and arrow keys you won't have enough space to move mouse.

I can understand this as a good reason to go tenkeyless (it's the main reason I prefer it for home, where I don't really need the number pad) but smaller than that is diminishing returns as far as desk space goes.

I've been curious about smaller keyboards, but I really think I'd miss the arrow keys more than anything - I use them for all sorts of navigation. I actually have quite a small computer desk, so it might be useful. I use the mouse on the left (despite being right handed) and tend to use the right side for my ipad, phone, notebook etc., so reclaiming that numpad space is useful and ergonomic for me. I can always use my separate USB numpad if I need it. I just wonder if gaining an extra two inches on that side is really going to make much difference. Perhaps there's some value in the idea of not needing to take your fingers of the home row, as a touchtypist - but I guess I could always remap things in Karibiner to emulate that anyway.

They do look kinda cute though.

You can retain dedicated arrow keys on something at least as small as a 60%. Your cap options will dwindle though.

You use a touch screen on a tablet ... while sitting right in front of a real computer, with a mechanical keyboard?  :eek:

I make a lot of handwritten notes in my work, and annotate academic papers and so forth. I'm really disorganised with paper, so I bought an iPad Pro with pencil and have gone paperless - syncs straight to my computer too, which is nice.

I mainly used it when I was away from home, but as meetings and so forth have been over Zoom etc. I use it at my desk now. I'd still rather handwrite notes than type, even at my desk. I was on a call and someone had a mechanical keyboard the other day and we had to keep muting her because nobody could hear what anyone else was saying, lol. Pro-tip - don't use a loud, clicky keyboard when videoconferencing.  :)

Offline Maledicted

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Re: Why the popularity of small form factor keyboards?
« Reply #34 on: Fri, 29 May 2020, 15:46:50 »
For ergo/symmetry key B has to be in the middle, but with numpad and arrow keys you won't have enough space to move mouse.

I can understand this as a good reason to go tenkeyless (it's the main reason I prefer it for home, where I don't really need the number pad) but smaller than that is diminishing returns as far as desk space goes.

I've been curious about smaller keyboards, but I really think I'd miss the arrow keys more than anything - I use them for all sorts of navigation. I actually have quite a small computer desk, so it might be useful. I use the mouse on the left (despite being right handed) and tend to use the right side for my ipad, phone, notebook etc., so reclaiming that numpad space is useful and ergonomic for me. I can always use my separate USB numpad if I need it. I just wonder if gaining an extra two inches on that side is really going to make much difference. Perhaps there's some value in the idea of not needing to take your fingers of the home row, as a touchtypist - but I guess I could always remap things in Karibiner to emulate that anyway.

They do look kinda cute though.

You can retain dedicated arrow keys on something at least as small as a 60%. Your cap options will dwindle though.

You use a touch screen on a tablet ... while sitting right in front of a real computer, with a mechanical keyboard?  :eek:

I make a lot of handwritten notes in my work, and annotate academic papers and so forth. I'm really disorganised with paper, so I bought an iPad Pro with pencil and have gone paperless - syncs straight to my computer too, which is nice.

I mainly used it when I was away from home, but as meetings and so forth have been over Zoom etc. I use it at my desk now. I'd still rather handwrite notes than type, even at my desk. I was on a call and someone had a mechanical keyboard the other day and we had to keep muting her because nobody could hear what anyone else was saying, lol. Pro-tip - don't use a loud, clicky keyboard when videoconferencing.  :)

That makes sense.

I will continue to use a thunderous clicky keyboard when videoconferencing, and there's nothing anyone can do about it dang it! I just have the common courtesy to mute myself when using it.  :p

Offline mobileb

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Re: Why the popularity of small form factor keyboards?
« Reply #35 on: Sat, 30 May 2020, 17:48:02 »
At this point I only use 60%/65% boards. I mainly use an HHKB Type-S.  I also use an FC600C as the keyboard I take outside when I have to work onsite or on my alternate machine setup. My setup uses a trackball, so the smaller form factor works well with a trackball, as it can be placed right next to the keyboard. I started using a trackball because I have a dual 5K monitor setup and I found that with the mouse, I needed a large area to move around. This allows me to have minimal travel distance when going from keyboard to trackball.

I was a bit skeptical on the HHKB initially. However, I did find that these smaller keyboards are easier to type with. I'm a dev and type a lot. I don't need Caps Lock and as I am on a Mac, I have little need for function keys, although activating any are easy on both keyboards. I haven't found any issues typing what I need. The only issue I've really had is when playing games. You can do it, but, at least for me, I feel a bit hindered.

I'm sold on these smaller keyboards. However I am on the market for a full size keyboard for gaming and 3d modeling.

Offline ullr

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Re: Why the popularity of small form factor keyboards?
« Reply #36 on: Sat, 30 May 2020, 20:39:20 »
You know immediately when you go from your new 60% to a full size board at a public computer. Suddenly you notice how annoying it is to move your whole arm to reach parts of the keyboard, and all of a sudden the mouse feels very far away.

60% is also a very attractive form factor.

Offline jamster

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Re: Why the popularity of small form factor keyboards?
« Reply #37 on: Sat, 30 May 2020, 21:39:07 »
A sixty board healths my carpal tunnel syndrome by making my desktop more ergonomic. Portability? Na. I have one board at work and more at home. Now doing home-office, I use just one daily.


Do you find that a 60 is markedly improved over a TKL? Is it the slightly narrower base, or less reaching for keys?

I've noticed a difference going from full size to TKL, but wanted to retain function keys and separated cursor keys. I'm going to move back to a trackball soon, so expect the whole 'mouse hand further away' thing to become moot.

Hm, another thing that I've noticed which contributes to my wondering whether portable keyboard use has climbed is the current emphasis and availability of Bluetooth connectivity, but I guess this is a totally different topic.
« Last Edit: Sat, 30 May 2020, 22:22:42 by jamster »

Offline Maledicted

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Re: Why the popularity of small form factor keyboards?
« Reply #38 on: Sat, 30 May 2020, 22:41:14 »
I don't understand all of this focus on having to reach for keys myself. All I move my right hand away from the home keys for is the arrow keys. That's not really a big deal to me. You've got to reach further to return to the mouse, which you're going to do just as often, or more often. I guess I'm used to not really even leaving either hand on the keyboard at all for very long anyway though.

Offline mobileb

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Re: Why the popularity of small form factor keyboards?
« Reply #39 on: Sat, 30 May 2020, 23:08:24 »
I've noticed a difference going from full size to TKL, but wanted to retain function keys and separated cursor keys. I'm going to move back to a trackball soon, so expect the whole 'mouse hand further away' thing to become moot.

FC660C has dedicated cursor keys. It does work well. HHKB is more difficult, but it is pretty easy to adapt to. Strangely if I think about using the cursor keys it's a lot harder than me just doing it. At this point it is automatic.

I will note, I do not use keys like Pg Up/Pg Dn/Home/End. For whatever reason, they are difficult for me to remember. Most likely because I seldom use them as I have alternative means.

Offline ideus

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Re: Why the popularity of small form factor keyboards?
« Reply #40 on: Sat, 30 May 2020, 23:19:34 »
A sixty board healths my carpal tunnel syndrome by making my desktop more ergonomic. Portability? Na. I have one board at work and more at home. Now doing home-office, I use just one daily.


Do you find that a 60 is markedly improved over a TKL? Is it the slightly narrower base, or less reaching for keys?

I've noticed a difference going from full size to TKL, but wanted to retain function keys and separated cursor keys. I'm going to move back to a trackball soon, so expect the whole 'mouse hand further away' thing to become moot.

Hm, another thing that I've noticed which contributes to my wondering whether portable keyboard use has climbed is the current emphasis and availability of Bluetooth connectivity, but I guess this is a totally different topic.


The sixty board allows fitting room at its right side to put my trackball in a position where my right arm's elbow and wrist are at a more natural position than with a TKL. At the same time, the board itself is centered between my arms, which helps keep my arm comfortable while typing. It has been like seven years since I adopted only 60 boards, and I have not suffered any pain since. It is not an option to go back to a TKL board or anything with a larger footprint.

Offline Rafen

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Re: Why the popularity of small form factor keyboards?
« Reply #41 on: Sun, 31 May 2020, 01:17:40 »
I moved to a 60% when I kept hitting my mouse on my keyboard while gaming (I use a low DPI for FPS games). The smaller board still allows me to place my hands in a comfortable position and it doesn't interfere with my mouse movement.


Offline jamster

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Re: Why the popularity of small form factor keyboards?
« Reply #42 on: Sun, 31 May 2020, 05:05:18 »
I've noticed a difference going from full size to TKL, but wanted to retain function keys and separated cursor keys. I'm going to move back to a trackball soon, so expect the whole 'mouse hand further away' thing to become moot.

FC660C has dedicated cursor keys. It does work well. HHKB is more difficult, but it is pretty easy to adapt to. Strangely if I think about using the cursor keys it's a lot harder than me just doing it. At this point it is automatic.

I will note, I do not use keys like Pg Up/Pg Dn/Home/End. For whatever reason, they are difficult for me to remember. Most likely because I seldom use them as I have alternative means.

For me and TKL, the space between arrow keys and the rest of the board is very important. Ditto the home/end/up/down cluster. I tried switching to a board without separated nav keys the other week. It's been pretty painful.

I suspect moving arrow keys to WASD and a function layer might actually work better for me.

Offline Sup

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Re: Why the popularity of small form factor keyboards?
« Reply #43 on: Sun, 31 May 2020, 07:35:22 »
60% Because i haven't moved my elbow and my whole arm to get to a key in years! Muscle memory made me as fast or faster then going to a key on a full size board
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Offline ideus

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Re: Why the popularity of small form factor keyboards?
« Reply #44 on: Sun, 31 May 2020, 12:06:28 »
Full-size boards are vestiges of a gone era when the only available computers were mainframes or desktop PCs. There were no pointing devices other than arrows. TKL and smaller boards free desktop space to keep different devices like digitizers, mouse, and trackballs. There may be pure aesthetic reasons to prefer smaller boards; but, functional purposes are more than enough.

Offline HungerMechanic

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Re: Why the popularity of small form factor keyboards?
« Reply #45 on: Sun, 31 May 2020, 13:21:09 »
Yup. That's the way it is seen.

Full-size boards come from when you needed the F-keys to get functions like "Spell Check" or "Maximize Window" rapidly. The navigation cluster and numpad keys may have been used to navigate around a document or 3D model. Those keys were needed because often a keyboard was the only common input device available.

Now, you would use the mouse or other pointing instrument. Even a TKL is considered excessive for much gaming these days, and computer design work uses the mouse far more than it relies on keyboard navigation. That's why lots of people use 65% day-to-day.

Offline dusan

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Re: Why the popularity of small form factor keyboards?
« Reply #46 on: Sun, 31 May 2020, 13:48:52 »
This is my 75% keyboard. I love the form factor because:

1. It is compatible with the standard keyboard (in terms of number and location of keys). Before IBM model F and M keyboard, I've been using 60%. Every navigating or editing command must be typed with Ctrl under the little finger. It's not healthy at all.

2. It allows me putting the mouse closer to my shoulder, in either side. When I code or playing fly simulation game I don't need the mouse. But when I draw I use the mouse by left hand, when I play (other games) I use it by the right hand.

Furthermore I like this particular keyboard because:

3. It is symmetrical.

4. It separates my hands far enough.

5. It reduces the load on my little fingers. (Caps and Num locks, Enter and Esc are put under index fingers. Shifts, Ctrls and Backspace are put under thumbs.)

6. It gets rid of the F row which is immediately above the num row on a typical 75% board, which bugs me.
« Last Edit: Sun, 31 May 2020, 14:04:22 by dusan »
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Offline alexives

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Re: Why the popularity of small form factor keyboards?
« Reply #47 on: Sun, 31 May 2020, 16:00:55 »
Hey friends, 40% ortho user here.

I moved to 40% because I find the keys are easier to reach. As a programmer who uses a lot of symbols, I actually have an easier time typing symbols than I do on a 60%. The key I use for the layer is under my thumb, and most of my symbols are on the home row. I'm not sure this actually makes anything faster, though I've hit a point where it isn't slower. The most important aspect is comfort! Because I don't have to reach as far for keys I've found it's actually a more comfortable typing experience than having to reach over a row to hit a symbol (or a number I guess, but TBH I probably use more symbols than numbers).

Offline funkmon

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Re: Why the popularity of small form factor keyboards?
« Reply #48 on: Sun, 31 May 2020, 18:21:23 »
This seems to be a huge factor, but I wonder if it's true or if it's the feeling. I think it's the feeling, which definitely must be taken into account.

Earlier today I was trying to come up with things to do with all the keys on my 122 key terminal keyboard. I mapped Left F9 to Windows, Left F10 to Context Menu, and Left F8 to Ctrl+Shift+Esc, and that's all I really came up with off the top of my head. Other things could have been done, but the thing is that I already know how to do most of those things with two character keyboard shortcuts, meaning I don't really see the need to map a new key to something occasional. At that point, I almost saw the 40%ers point of view.

On the other hand, I type 90 WPM, which is fine, using a nonstandard typing form and I'm not glued to the homerow. Hence, I have few issues reaching keys. I'm always reaching keys. No problem. I'd rather have more keys so I can do more stuff. I use the F keys. That's how I do spell check. I control my browser with F keys.

Just because we can use the mouse doesn't mean we have to, or indeed that it's better for most usage. Surely, we here on geekhack, when we're done writing a reply, just hit tab then enter, right?

Offline walie

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Re: Why the popularity of small form factor keyboards?
« Reply #49 on: Sun, 31 May 2020, 19:15:19 »
The Boomers here grew up using full size keyboards, and thus prefer them.

The Zoomers here did not grow up using full size keyboards and thus do not prefer them.