Do you have a dream keyboard layout?

Since the Option/Command/Alt Confusion - #93 by Mr.Jones topic has been getting a lot of discussion, I thought I’d create a new thread to see if anyone has either made their own keyboard design, tried an alternate (non-qwerty) keyboard, or thought of specific minor changes they’d like to see on qwerty keyboards.

A few years ago I did a deep dive into how keyboards work, USB-HID specification,
various existing layouts and form factors, and similarities and differences between US and several non-US layouts…in order to come up with my own “dream” design. Here is what I came up with (even though I know it will never get produced) – a fully USB-HID compliant layout with my own take on “layers” (I call them zones).

(Note: the bottom center key is a Fn key, which inverts the active status of the blue, orange, and red zones while it is pressed)

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I was personally interested in the usability of keyboards and I made this one:

Standard Ergonomic Layout Keyboard

Standard Ergonomic Layout Keyboard


To me, the keys in the middle would only make sense if you’re left handed. As a righty, I think it would be awkward.

The idea here is that this way the middle keys are accessible to both hands. Plus, you don’t have to move your hands sideways to reach those keys.

I understand what you’re saying. It’s just that as a right handed person, I find the cursor keys and page up/down on the right side of the keyboard just fine.

I’ve never understood the ergonomic keyboards. Their claim is that they are better for you because they need less movement of the hands. At the same time it is a common knowledge that we humans needs to move our bodies in order to stay healthy. So to move your body is good, unless it is when typing on a keyboard, then it is bad.

Edit: Ergonomic keyboards also claim other benefits such as wrist angle etc.

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No, Qwerty is fine, it’s what we are used to, having learned it when we started, all others just confuse… :smiley:

IMHO, the best solution would be to make better and cheaper OLED keyboards that would make keys display the layout selected by the user whatever it is. There has been Art Lebedev’s Optimus keyboards but they were far too expensive. Latest attempt seems to be Thomas Pollak’s PolyKybd but it is still a prototype. As for keys disposition, I really dislike nowadays trend to have compact keyboards with rainbow blinking colours.

Seems incredibly overkill and wastefull for this usecase.

Yep but, nobody would complain about confusion and we would have Haiku logo on keys. :smiley:

The original Art Lebedev’s Optimus is known to be an awful keyboard.

I would be glad if some of the high quality keyboards from the past could be manufactured again with the same switches, like Apple’s Extended Keyboard 1 or 2 and the IBM Model M (with a win-key and USB interface), among others. And no, the Unicomp Model M’s are not up to the standard of IBM’s from the past.

I wish I didn’t give away those old IBM keyboards years ago :disappointed:

Yes, all the newer keyboards have the cheapo feel, I guess the old ones are too expensive to reproduce. Nowadays with PC usage going down, there’s even less profit to be made in the sure-feel quality keyboards. I remember the old IBM and the HP keyboards were like luxury heated car seats compared to the new stuff. Still have one that’s about thirty years old, but is starting to show its age unfortunately. What gets me is that some of the newer boards have such bad layouts that you have to move your hands in order to press the enter key. One in particular seems like it could not possible have been tested by other than Edwards Scissors-Hands to have gotten a QC stamp of approval LOL.

Uh, you know that has bought the patents and tooling for IBM keyboards and is manufacturing them with the same mechanics, right? And with USB and a slightly smaller case (since modern electronics are smaller and don’t need as much space).

I’ve been using one of these for 10+ years now.

So they are not at all impossible to find in the modern world. You just have to put the price for that quality, you won’t get these complicated mechanical assemblies in a 10€ keyboard assembled by children in a distant country


As stated above, the build quality of the Unicomp Model M’s are not up to the standard of old IBM’s. They have cheaped out on materials making the keyboards less robust. They also use worn out tooling that should have been replaced decades ago. Buying a Unicomp is a hit-and-miss. You might get a decent keyboard but the risk is very big that you get a bad one.

Good news is that Unicomp have started to renew their tooling. Bad news is that tooling is only for their newer cheaper models, not the classic full-size Model M.

This is the cost of inflation, where the central banking system robs us by inflating the currency supply. Companies, Unicomp included, have to compensate for higher costs caused by the ever decreasing value of the currencies by cutting down on expenses. This is why everything used to be of higher quality compared to now.

Have you (as in whoever reads this post) ever wondered why extremely small keyboards are so popular among keyboard enthusiasts? It is not because small keyboards are preferred; it is because they cannot afford to build full-size keyboards. Thank the bankers for that.

It’s probably a bit more complex than that.

The cost of adding a few extra keys to a keyboard is not that much. But there are other constraints as well. When you do a custom keyboard, you will probably build just one, and carry it everywhere with you because you don’t want anything else. So, a small keyboard you can put in a laptop bag is better than a full-size one.

Also, if you’re happy with a standard keyboard layout, why would you build a custom one? So, people who want a custom keyboard do it because they want to add or remove keys, or move keys around. Of these 3 cases, addind extra keys create two problems: yes, it does cost a bit more, but also, your new keys won’t be recognized by several popular operating systems, so, what’s the pointtif they don’t actually work for anything useful?

There is also probably some survivor bias in all this: there have always been bad keyboards. But they are all forgotten now, and we remember only the ones from IBM that were probably already more expensive than the alternatives when they were manufactured already.

Of course there are a lot of enthusiasts that want to build their custom keyboards in all kinds of different sizes and configurations. But it is a known fact withing the custom keyboard community that they cannot build the full-size keyboards that they would like to because of high costs.

Within the keyboard collector community it is the opposite; the full-size keyboards are the most popular. The bigger, the better. High-quality “vintage” full-size keyboards are still cheaper* than building small new keyboards. That is inflation for you.

* There are some vintage keyboards that are very expensive because very few exists. But the best keyboards, like the IBM Model M is still way cheaper than custom built keyboards.

I would say that not that many people ( me included ) do not like those very small keyboards. As said, those that will build a keyboard want something different from usual keyboards, thus they will build smaller/larger/aligned keys.With strange keys or whatever.

Those who like normal keyboards would build almost-common keyboards, and then do not attract that much media interested because their builds would look a little “meh”.

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The best keyboard that I have used had no number pad or separate direction keys, just the ‘qwerty area’ keys, but it was quite expensive, compared to a ‘standard’ PC keyboard with all those extra keys… :wink:

There is an ergonomics issue too. Starting from the orginial typewriter keyboard, which was well balanced between the two hands, the computer keyboard grew a lot of extra keys thut were all put on the right. Where the mouse also is.
This create an overload of the right hand.

In my case I am not so impacted because I use my mouse left-handed, restoring some balance to this.

The numeric pad is indeed largely redundant unless you’re in one of two casees:

  • you’re an accountant and you type a not of numbers,
  • you use an azerty (french) keyboard where the main numbers are only available with “shift”, the lowercase positions on these keys being used for various symbols and diacritics.