Closet Coder

I work in my closet. I code. Yep.

ErgoDox - the First Week

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Back in August, I ordered an Ergodox from MassDrop - Cherry MX Blues, an aluminium top plate, and hardware programmable keyboarding was in my future.

It took a long time for it to get here. Plagued by problems in their supplychain, MassDrop finally got all the pieces together around December, and shipped them off to be assembled for those of us who didn’t want to try their hand at sauldering. It finally showed up on my doorstep last week–though I was so excited that I met the UPS guy in my driveway.

I’m typing on it now. But I didn’t at first. The keys were in such radically different positioning that I couldn’t properly strike the keys. For about 48 hours I could barely type at all. I wondered if I’d made the right choice.

I took a bit of time and kept working. Things were getting slightly easier, but I still was below 70% of my former speed. I decided to try to “get work done” on my second day and just go back to my laptop keyboard. Of course, my fingers had already begun to adjust to the new keyboard layout, and so I couldn’t type on that either. It was a serious wakeup call that I’d basically set out to reprogram my own wetware and become dependent on this thing. Here’s hoping that it’s the last keyboard I buy :)

But after a few days I got very proficient. I’m even faster at using this keyboard as an alternative to a mouse because I almost never have to pick my hands up off the home rows. The fact that it has layers and thumb keys made a huge difference.

So I finally settled on a layout.

There are several things about this layout that I absolutely love:

  • The "[", "]", "{", "}" keys are in a similar place, and more reachable. It currently takes a bit longer to think about the fact that I have to “toggle” level 1, but I expect that to go away quickly.
  • The up, down, left, and right navigation keys are on level 1 directly over the H, J, K and L keys. This allows me to use vim-like movement in any program simply by toggingling the layer with my left or right thumb.
  • Having the LGUI / CMD key under my left thumb makes it so that it is used by the same finger, but in a much more accessible spot.
  • I cannot type with backspace in the upper right anymore. Taking your hand off home row to backspace as much as I do is nonsense.
  • The two keys that are above the main thumb keys are pretty useless, but I find them fairly useful for volume and for combining with other keys (I have the alt above the command key so that I can do command-alt easily)
  • I thought I would miss Caps lock being mapped as CTRL, but now, since CTRL is under my thumb, having escape there is great.
  • I use the (mostly worthess for typing) inner keys to navigate through the layers. Cycles fairly nicely.
  • The bottom rows are mostly useless, but I like having a place for seldom-used keys that doesn’t mean a big arm movement.

All in all, so far I’m loving it. I’m back up to about 90% of my previous speed, but my hands are much more comfortable and I do not have any wrist strain or numbness.

Next step is to tent these slightly and to try to figure out the best positioning for my trackpad. Great investment and totally worth it. Try one if you ever get the chance… but know that it will take quite a while to get used to!