Author Topic: JIS Keycap Sets?  (Read 402 times)

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Online tsundeoku

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JIS Keycap Sets?
« on: Wed, 01 July 2020, 10:05:07 »
I've considered building a keyboard for several years, and now I feel ready to put the time into actually getting it done. There is just one problem... I use JIS layout, and I don't like using blanks, which shuts me out of all of the activity going on with group buys and custom sets in recent years because they are all designed for ANSI and ISO.

Taking stock of what is available in the broader DIY keyboard community, I've noticed a large number of PBT dyesub "Japanese" keycap sets that are actually ANSI sets with kana legends added. These do nothing for me and I don't know what the use case for them is, but they at least demonstrate that doing kana legends on dyesub should not be prohibitively expensive. If dyesub is that flexible, why not actual Japanese layouts?

As for doubleshot... kana legends may be too much to ask, but I am seeing doubleshot sets being designed and sold with legends that I assume were never part of the traditional tooling at Cherry et. al. I wonder if it would be possible to get JIS added to the menu of "international" layouts that these sets tend to include extra caps for? JIS keyboards without kana legends are an established presence in Japan - see Filco's offerings and the HHKB Professional JP if you're not familiar. Even some laptops are available like this. Considering all of the keys required for the various European ISO variations, the ten needed for JIS without kana legends doesn't seem like too much to ask.

One thing I noticed coming up in the relatively little discussion of JIS compatibility so far is bottom rows and particularly spacebars. I am going to ignore this because the bottom row is not part of the standard, it varies widely by platform and vendor, and people can do what they want here. The important thing is the character key layout that prevents use of almost all custom keycap sets on a Japanese keyboard.

I have been pessimistic about the odds of making any progress here, but the success of EnjoyPBT SimpleJA by ai03 (last year, when I wasn't paying attention) gives me some hope. This is the only standalone keycap set I have ever seen to support JIS, and it sold out quickly. Clearly there is some demand or at least willingness to accept a real Japanese keycap set. How about some more? Even better, how about some kana-less compatibility kits for sets that aren't specifically targeting Japanese but could easily accomodate JIS with a few extra caps?

Here is a quick keyboard-layout-editor.com diagram of the overlap between JIS, ANSI, and ISO layouts:

246206-0

  • White: Common between JIS and ANSI
  • Blue: Common between JIS and (at least some) ISO
  • Red: Unique to JIS

« Last Edit: Wed, 01 July 2020, 10:17:23 by tsundeoku »

Online tsundeoku

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Re: JIS Keycap Sets?
« Reply #1 on: Wed, 01 July 2020, 11:51:55 »
On second thought, looking around at all of the anime-themed GMK doubleshot sets featuring hiragana legends and one-off novelty caps, it doesn't seem like it should be that difficult at all to get a real Japanese set run off? To do this, GMK must already have molds for a good portion of the caps, and new ones would just need to be made for the ones in my image above where the ASCII character legends don't match ANSI layout, for them. Dyesub would be even easier.

Offline blighty

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Re: JIS Keycap Sets?
« Reply #2 on: Wed, 01 July 2020, 16:44:23 »
246269-0

These look pretty close.  What keys are missing from the kit on the right?
LZ ergo (MX silent red) | JER - A06 (MX silent black-red springs) | Duck Lightsaver V2 (MX red) | Duck Octagon V2 (gateron clear) (lifted pads) | Duck Orion V2 (gateron red) | TKC 1800 (gateron silent reds) | Mistel MD770 (MX red with GMK silencing clips) | Realforce R2TSLA-US4-IV | Realforce R2TLSA-US4-BK | TX 75 (gateron clear) | KBDFANS 75 ("vintage" MX blues) | Kinesis Freestyle Pro (MX red) | MS Surface Ergonomic | MS Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000 | Filco Majestouch 2 TKL (MX black) | Phantom (Filco case) ("vintage" MX blacks | Spr1t 75% PCB x 2 (MX black and gateron clear) | Cherry G80-1865 (MX browns with black springs)

Online tsundeoku

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Re: JIS Keycap Sets?
« Reply #3 on: Wed, 01 July 2020, 20:57:30 »
I highlighted the 10-14 missing keys in the graphic in my first post. If you want to consider kana legends, there are 15 missing.

Unusable keycaps in the ANSI sets:

246290-0

Missing keys from JIS:

246288-1


By row (numbering from top to bottom):
  • Most of the shifted legends for the number keys don't match. None of the keys between zero and backspace match. 2, 6, 8, and 9 match some ISO sets, but there is nothing for 7, 0, and the three symbol keys on the right.
  • No @ key, and the left bracket has the wrong kana legend because ANSI keyboards put it where the @ key is on JIS.
  • All the non-alphabetic keys on the right are different. ANSI and ISO sets don't have any of them.
  • JIS has an extra key on the right that generates backslash and underscore. This key is not in ANSI/ISO compatible sets.
« Last Edit: Wed, 01 July 2020, 21:01:34 by tsundeoku »

Offline blighty

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Re: JIS Keycap Sets?
« Reply #4 on: Thu, 02 July 2020, 01:50:57 »
Ah, I see the issue now.  To have full JIS support, you'd need a child kit with 15 keys, or a specialized kit like SimpleJA.  I figure most of us 馬鹿外人 ANSI users just like to look at the hiragana or katakana on the keys while still having our shifted legends match?
LZ ergo (MX silent red) | JER - A06 (MX silent black-red springs) | Duck Lightsaver V2 (MX red) | Duck Octagon V2 (gateron clear) (lifted pads) | Duck Orion V2 (gateron red) | TKC 1800 (gateron silent reds) | Mistel MD770 (MX red with GMK silencing clips) | Realforce R2TSLA-US4-IV | Realforce R2TLSA-US4-BK | TX 75 (gateron clear) | KBDFANS 75 ("vintage" MX blues) | Kinesis Freestyle Pro (MX red) | MS Surface Ergonomic | MS Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000 | Filco Majestouch 2 TKL (MX black) | Phantom (Filco case) ("vintage" MX blacks | Spr1t 75% PCB x 2 (MX black and gateron clear) | Cherry G80-1865 (MX browns with black springs)

Online tsundeoku

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Re: JIS Keycap Sets?
« Reply #5 on: Thu, 02 July 2020, 08:59:55 »
Ah, I see the issue now.  To have full JIS support, you'd need a child kit with 15 keys, or a specialized kit like SimpleJA.

That's right. Considering how much effort has been put into supporting the various European ISO layouts, I wonder what could be done to get 15-key Japanese kits added to some designs. Failing that, I suppose I could try to build interest for another Japanese-specific set like SimpleJA. I have some design preferences, but I am mostly interested in getting more "real" Japanese sets made, however possible. I don't know yet whether it would be more difficult to launch a JIS-specific buy, or to try convincing some of the people designing anime-themed sets to add a 15-key compatibility kit. It would... certainly be nice if some of people who love Japanese things enough to design sets around anime characters had some sympathy for those of us who use (and build) Japanese keyboards.

For years I heard that new doubleshot molds were not going to happen because manufacturers were just using the same old molds and wouldn't pay for new ones, but now I am seeing all of these GMK doubleshot group buys with hiragana legends and novelty keys. Something must have changed? As far as doubleshot goes, I first want to find out who originally got GMK to make the ANSI hiragana molds that all these sets are using, and what that involved. If that was accomplished, 15 more keys shouldn't be impossible.

I figure most of us 馬鹿外人 ANSI users just like to look at the hiragana or katakana on the keys while still having our shifted legends match?

I was afraid of that, but apparently enough of them bought SimpleJA, so maybe it's not so bad. Surely there are some Japanophiles out there who see some appeal in using the real thing? People are always trying to be more different and more "authentic." Maybe JIS layouts can be made trendy somehow.

JIS layout also has the whole bit-paired thing going for it, which could maybe appeal to some nerd sensibilities...
« Last Edit: Thu, 02 July 2020, 09:02:30 by tsundeoku »

Offline kidviddy

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Re: JIS Keycap Sets?
« Reply #6 on: Thu, 02 July 2020, 10:14:42 »
Welcome, fellow JIS user!  I have been fighting the good fight on here to try and get increased JIS support, so it would be great to have another voice to add to the chorus!

The good news: I and a few others (notably konstantin) have met with some success persuading people to add JIS support to hiragana/katakana monolegend sets.  Some recent examples:

  • GMK Masterpiece, which ran a month or so ago, already had good JIS support without any help from us.
  • KAT Explosion, which finished yesterday, has almost full JIS support -- it is missing the top-row ー key.  The designer, rensuya, has said they will consider including this key in future sets.
  • GMK Sumi, which will run its GB starting in two weeks, has good JIS support for its monolegends including top-row ー.
  • GMK Shoko has added top-row ー, middle む, and bottom-row ろ to its monolegend kit for JIS support. This is not reflected in the renders in the first post but there is a KLE showing it later in the thread.
  • KAT Monochrome includes all the required alphas in its "Hiragana Alphas" kits.

These are just off the top of my head -- there may be more that I have missed.  The reason it's so easy to get JIS support on these kits, of course, is that because they are monolegends you don't have to worry about the different punctuation on a JIS board.  The result is that you only need three more keys on top of a standard ANSI set in order to get a JIS layout (ignoring 変換 keys for now).

Getting JIS support on a Latin kit is a much harder proposition, as you've noticed.  I think in order to try and achieve this, KAT sets are our best option, since because of the way they handle MOQ, even relatively niche kits contribute to the MOQ for the set as a whole.  With that in mind, I did ask in the KAT Monochrome thread about adding it. JSaintS seemed open to the idea, but has made no promises, and since then the set has exploded with different kits, including some very well-executed non-Latin kits, so I don't know whether there'll be room to add JIS support in there as well.  If you are interested in it, though, it would do no harm to comment on that thread saying you want it!

The only kits I'm aware of with good JIS support that aren't kana monolegend sets at present are:

  • SimpleJA, which you've mentioned.  I believe ai03's next set will also have good JIS support; join their discord for the inside scoop on that.
  • /dev/tty. This is quite comprehensive and seems to run fairly regularly on Drop.
  • Uh... I think that's it, actually.

The only way this will change is by people who actually want to use it requesting it, and then actually buying the kits ;-).  It's a numbers game; a few years ago ISO and NorDe were seen as niche problems that very few boards would support, but now the support seems to be much more widespread (although by no means universal).  The other problem is that people just don't know what's required for good JIS support, since there aren't many good examples we can point to and say "do it like this".  I've started trying to rectify that by being specific in my requests and making KLE files where I think it might be useful, but until somebody actually runs with it it's going to require a lot of explaining every time.

Finally, there's the problem of finding keyboards which support the layout, since the "_ ろ" key to the left of the right shift key is not present in many custom keyboards.  Of course, if you're just swapping keycaps on a Filco or something this isn't a problem.  I think there may be a path forward here, too, though: many keyboards support splitting the right shift to add a 1U "Function" button to the right of it.  If an alternative layout could be supported with these keys flipped, so that the 1U appears on the left instead of the right, then a JIS layout could be achieved.  I suggested this on the Apogee thread and Flexerman was very accommodating. It seems like a pretty easy addition, so I'm hoping future PCB designers might bear it in mind as a possibility.  Again, this will only happen if there seems to be a need for it -- which comes from us making suggestions on IC threads.

The most important thing, I think, is not to give up, but also not to be annoying (I hope I am managing to tread this fine line).  All we can do is ask designers to consider these requests, but it is up to them whether or not to do so, and especially when asking for support for relatively untested kits we are asking them to do quite a lot of work on our behalf (designing the kits and so on).  We certainly can't win them all, and it behoves us to be cognisant of what we are asking of designers, and to do anything we can to make their lives easier if they do decide to add support to a set.  This is why I try and adapt my KLE files to the set that I'm making a request of before sending it, for example. So, we must make our voices heard, but try not to be too pushy!

Anyway, glad to have another JIS user here and active on the forums! Please join me in my quest to increase awareness of JIS-related issues in keyboard and keycap design, and let me know if you have any questions!

EDIT: Just remembered I also requested some JIS additions here, but got no response. I don't think this set is finalised, so might be worth lending your voice to the choir here also if you're interested in the set.
« Last Edit: Thu, 02 July 2020, 10:49:47 by kidviddy »

Online tsundeoku

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Re: JIS Keycap Sets?
« Reply #7 on: Fri, 03 July 2020, 08:18:08 »
Welcome, fellow JIS user!  I have been fighting the good fight on here to try and get increased JIS support, so it would be great to have another voice to add to the chorus!

Thanks for the welcome and the detailed response! I'm going to reply in parts to try to elaborate what I'm looking for and where I stand.

The good news: I and a few others (notably konstantin) have met with some success persuading people to add JIS support to hiragana/katakana monolegend sets.  Some recent examples:

...

I noticed some of these. Monolegends aren't exactly what I'm after, but the fact that this is happening is at least an encouraging sign. I could barely believe at first that people were doing any kind of kana legends at all with doubleshot.

Kana monolegend is an interesting concept, although Latin kits (even Latin-only) are going to be more useful and will probably get more interest in Japan, to the extent that JIS sets will get interest here. Most people use Romaji input, Latin-only legends are considered stylish, and on top of that, ANSI layouts are very popular in technical circles which includes keyboard-builders, but SimpleJA was offered through a domestic retailer and it sold out, so somebody is interested, at least.

Getting JIS support on a Latin kit is a much harder proposition, as you've noticed.  I think in order to try and achieve this, KAT sets are our best option, since because of the way they handle MOQ, even relatively niche kits contribute to the MOQ for the set as a whole.  With that in mind, I did ask in the KAT Monochrome thread about adding it. JSaintS seemed open to the idea, but has made no promises, and since then the set has exploded with different kits, including some very well-executed non-Latin kits, so I don't know whether there'll be room to add JIS support in there as well.  If you are interested in it, though, it would do no harm to comment on that thread saying you want it!

That's good to know. I'm not very familiar with KAT at all, but it seems fine, so I will keep this in mind as I look around.

SimpleJA, which you've mentioned.  I believe ai03's next set will also have good JIS support; join their discord for the inside scoop on that.

I have not used Discord, but I noticed ai03 uses it, so if there is discussion about future sets going there I may want to sort out a solution for it.

/dev/tty. This is quite comprehensive and seems to run fairly regularly on Drop.

Wow, I haven't heard of this. My first preference is for cylindrical profiles, but I'm not necessarily opposed to spherical and if this ran again I would be happy to buy it. They even have an Apple kit!

The only way this will change is by people who actually want to use it requesting it, and then actually buying the kits ;-).  It's a numbers game; a few years ago ISO and NorDe were seen as niche problems that very few boards would support, but now the support seems to be much more widespread (although by no means universal).  The other problem is that people just don't know what's required for good JIS support, since there aren't many good examples we can point to and say "do it like this".  I've started trying to rectify that by being specific in my requests and making KLE files where I think it might be useful, but until somebody actually runs with it it's going to require a lot of explaining every time.

"People don't know what is required" is something I'm beginning to notice, and perhaps I should have expected it more.

On the subject of examples to point to, I might like to try standing up a set design that includes a Japanese kit. Taking stock of things around here, there seem to be a handful of renowned designers, and with all of the fanfare that surrounds keycap sets, I can see why, but as I understand it there shouldn't be any huge obstacles to getting a straightforward keycap set through (no novelties, no artisan caps, no deskmats) as long as people are willing to buy it. The keycap profiles and available colorways are fixed, so we're not talking CAD skills here, just specifying legends and colors at its most basic, right? Maybe if a set that a few JIS users back could be agreed upon, that could go somewhere and become an example.

Finally, there's the problem of finding keyboards which support the layout, since the "_ ろ" key to the left of the right shift key is not present in many custom keyboards.  Of course, if you're just swapping keycaps on a Filco or something this isn't a problem.

I've got more Filcos than I know what to do with, but much of the reason I'm here is because I don't like the Windows-oriented modifier layout that off-the-shelf JIS keyboards use, so while I won't be doing that, there are probably a few people out there who want to.

I ran into the "_ ろ" key issue about a month ago when I began taking a close look at all the switch mount positions on the 60% PCBs available. It looks like GH60 supports it, but GH60 doesn't support something I want to do in the bottom row, so that wasn't an option for me. I'm preparing to go completely from scratch and handwire as a result (as a prototype for a hopefully eventual PCB), so at this point I'm just sorting out keycap options under the assumption that I'll take care of everything else on my own. It would be great if common PCBs supported it, though.

We certainly can't win them all, and it behoves us to be cognisant of what we are asking of designers, and to do anything we can to make their lives easier if they do decide to add support to a set.  This is why I try and adapt my KLE files to the set that I'm making a request of before sending it, for example. So, we must make our voices heard, but try not to be too pushy!

Absolutely. Which comes back to the question of... why not become a "designer?" I've received some advice to start an interest check, but I thought it would be more appropriate to begin a conversation here because the Interest Check area seems to be the domain of people who have a design ready to go with branding and everything. Maybe I should just throw something out there and let it develop, and keep this thread focused on the broader subject of JIS support in general. I'm still not entirely sure how the design → IC → GB progression is supposed to work, but I would like to offer a starting point and then work out the specifics in the open in order to result in something that more people may be interested in. This could fail, of course, depending on what people demand in return for their interest. Maybe I'll get laughed off because my set doesn't have a specific theme or include any novelties, but I'm interested in trying it.

Anyway, glad to have another JIS user here and active on the forums! Please join me in my quest to increase awareness of JIS-related issues in keyboard and keycap design, and let me know if you have any questions!

Will do! I searched the forum for talk of JIS and didn't see much (although searching for things like "Japanese" is difficult because of all the hiragana ANSI sets), so maybe we can develop this thread or some other preexisting one I haven't noticed into a general discussion of JIS issues and advocacy.

Offline ullr

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Re: JIS Keycap Sets?
« Reply #8 on: Sat, 04 July 2020, 09:45:42 »
Only the latest /dev/tty drop had JIS and I wouldn't be surprised if no drop ever did again, for the same reason Elvish and Cyrillic legends were a one-off.

The sad fact is that it only takes a couple of keycaps to flesh out JIS support for these sets with kana-only legends (e.g. DSA Otaku, but there are others) but they also don't bother.

One of the most problematic parts about JIS is that the bottom row doesn't seem firmly standardized, and the spacebar is often in strange sizes (2.5u, 4.5u) that are often unavailable in any one keycap profile. (SA has a concave 2.5u key, XDA has a 2.5u space. 4.5u seems a little bit more common.)

There are also fairly few JIS mechanical keyboards.

I have thus far refused to buy a "Japanese" set that doesn't support JIS on principle, but I did recently buy SA Yuri even though it had kinda the same thing going on but with Russian. I'd love to get another JIS set if looked good, but I'd also want a nice keyboard to pair with it since I have gotten rid of all of my JIS keyboards in the last few years.

One interesting bit of trivia is that the AEK really did use this strange ANSI/Kana combination. No idea what the IME was like on a computer that old.

Online tsundeoku

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Re: JIS Keycap Sets?
« Reply #9 on: Sat, 04 July 2020, 23:10:56 »
Only the latest /dev/tty drop had JIS and I wouldn't be surprised if no drop ever did again, for the same reason Elvish and Cyrillic legends were a one-off.

There is /dev/tty and also SimpleJA as mentioned by kidviddy earlier. It looks like ai03 plans to do a very similar "ModernJA" set after their existing projects wrap up, so there's that to look out for. That's three sets just within the past year. Maybe it's a fluke and it won't happen again, or maybe it's a trend? There's also the option of trying to start something.

The sad fact is that it only takes a couple of keycaps to flesh out JIS support for these sets with kana-only legends (e.g. DSA Otaku, but there are others) but they also don't bother.

It is very much a near miss feeling, but it sounds like many people don't actually know that there is a difference in the first place, though, so maybe it's partly an awareness thing. One problem here seems to be people thinking "JIS" means kana legends. Maybe if some of that can be cleared up, things will get better.

One of the most problematic parts about JIS is that the bottom row doesn't seem firmly standardized, and the spacebar is often in strange sizes (2.5u, 4.5u) that are often unavailable in any one keycap profile. (SA has a concave 2.5u key, XDA has a 2.5u space. 4.5u seems a little bit more common.)

This situation is the same for every national layout, so I don't see it as a specific obstacle to making JIS keycap sets. "ANSI" and "ISO" don't define a bottom row either, because modifiers and the effect they have on the spacebar are a platform-specific matter. Obviously the Microsoft layout introduced with Windows 95 is widely supported, because so many people use Windows, but there are other bottom row layouts for Macs and other platforms. Support for those is not as strong as I would like, either, but that is a separate issue. There are Japanese keyboard standards from vendors and vendor consortiums (like OADG standards for PC/AT compatible systems), but those aren't "JIS" and people making JIS keyboards or keycap sets don't need to adhere to them if they want to do something else.

One thing I would want to do in a Japanese keycap set is have a few bottom row caps for typical IME control keys, and make available whatever spacebars possible, but whether to use them, where to put them, and which spacebar to use them with is up to the keyboard builder. People just as well may want to make JIS keyboards with a 6-7U spacebar and no IME control keys at all. They're not strictly necessary for Japanese input and some people don't like them taking up space.

My first goal is getting broader support for the JIS X 6002-1980 character layout. Some other things, like more spacebars, would be nice (I would personally really love to see 3.5U spacebars), but there is no dependency relationship there.

There are also fairly few JIS mechanical keyboards.

What makes you think that? There are quite a few commercial offerings, just not much in the DIY community that supports it (maybe that is what you mean?). I seem to remember a time before any of the current community offerings came about when enthusiasts in the West were importing Filcos and the like for lack of new mechanical keyboards in their home markets.

I have thus far refused to buy a "Japanese" set that doesn't support JIS on principle...

I certainly appreciate that. In the interest of being polite, I will say I am... puzzled by the proliferation of Japan-themed keycap sets that don't support JIS layouts.

One interesting bit of trivia is that the AEK really did use this strange ANSI/Kana combination. No idea what the IME was like on a computer that old.

Not just the AEK but also the smaller M0116 keyboard introduced alongside it, and NeXT did the same thing. I am into old Apple machines, so I have a few of these keyboards. The IME is not much different from what ships on a modern Mac, and you can get the same effect by enabling kana mode on a modern machine with an ANSI layout, but the vast majority of people probably used these in Romaji input mode as they do today. These may be "Japanese" keyboards, but they are not JIS of course. I don't have the full historical background on this, but I assume overseas vendors started out just adding kana legends to their existing keyboards when they entered the Japanese market, as a bare minimum of support for the minority that uses kana input. JIS support came to Macs in 1994 with System 7.5 and the Apple Keyboard II JIS, after which third-party ADB keyboards in JIS proliferated and the "ANSI with katakana legends added" keyboards began to disappear.


The important takeaway is that JIS layout support is a separate issue from bottom row configurations and IMEs. It's a national standard alphanumeric/symbol layout just like ANSI and the various ISO layouts, like the ones supported by "norde" kits, which I think would be a good model to follow for getting something done.