Emails / Size and Shape and PCBs, oh my!

Size and Shape and PCBs, oh my!
Hey {{ subscriber.first_name | strip | default: "there" }},
Whenever anyone asks me what kind of keyboard they should get, the two things I ask first are the keyboard size, and their budget.
What sizes are there?
When I talk about keyboard size, I mean the number of keys on the keyboard.
Keyboard size diagram by Daniel Beardsmore
When you think of a typical keyboard, with all of the function keys at the top, the letter and number keys (or alphas), modifiers (keys like tab, enter, shift, and control, also called mods), arrow keys on the side, and a numpad, that's considered a full-size keyboard or 100% keyboard, as in, it has 100% of the keys you could need.
Sometimes people don't need a numpad for their typical typing, so we could get rid of that and just do the alphas, mods, function keys, and arrows. This is known as a tenkeyless keyboard (because of those 10 number keys), or TKL, or an 80% keyboard.
Other times, you might just want to save desk space. You can get rid of the function keys and the arrow keys, and just have alphas and mods. That leads you to a compact keyboard, or 60% keyboard, which is where your brain might start to wonder, "wait, stop, why, help, Cassidy I'm scared." Don't worry little lamb! Keep reading!
These percentages are more "standard" sizes, but that is not at all where the customization stops. You can get even smaller keyboards like 40% keyboards, or boards in between the TKL and the 60% at, say, 75%!
One of my 60% keyboards
How do these smaller sizes work?
Great question. Think about how you type a capital letter on your keyboard right now. You either hold Shift and then whatever letter you want to type, or you tap Caps Lock and START YELLING INTO THE VOID. When you use either of those keys, you're toggling a layer on your keyboard, making your typically lowercase letters capital, or getting a symbol from your number keys.
Smaller keyboards that don't have certain characters or arrow keys work in the same way, except you control the layers more!
For example, right now I am typing on the 60% keyboard with no arrow keys seen up above. I mapped my Caps Lock key to be a Function key that toggles layers. Now, when I hold that key, I can use HJKL as my arrow keys (kind of like in the text editor vim, if you know it)! I also happened to map < and > to be volume up and volume down while I hold that key, and M toggles muting and unmuting, and a few other fun custom things. How fun is that?? My hands don't have to move around as much, and my keyboard is custom to exactly the layout that I want.
Keyboard shape and layout matters, too!
You don't have to necessarily have a standard, staggered, QWERTY keyboard layout. There's tons of options like split keyboards, macropads, ortholinear keyboards (meaning you type on a grid instead of having staggered keys), and ergonomically shaped keyboards!
Another keeb from my collection
For example,the Nyquist keyboard is one that you would have to build and solder yourself, but it's both split and ortholinear, and is fully programmable, so you can really get a nice custom feel with it. Meanwhile, the Ergodox EZ is a high quality, pre-built ergonomic keyboard, but it is pricier than you might have budget for.
Wait, electronics... I have to solder?
Electronics are scary, I get it. If you tried to get into mechanical keyboards a few years ago, you would inevitably have to solder your switches in and manually test each connection. There are still a few keyboards out there that require you to solder to build them, but a lot of PCBs are now hot swappable. Hot swappable PCBs are ones where you can just pop switches in and out of the keyboard without any soldering needed, and are increasingly popular!
For myself personally, I admit I was nervous about my own "street cred" when I was going more and more towards hot swappable keyboards, but more on that later!
Until next time,
Which size speaks to you most?
Full Size