Atreus style keyboard for Framework notebook?

Framework has launched their new customisable and user-repairable notebook computer to generally favourable reviews. This is relevant to us ergonomic keyboard users because, like everything else, the keyboard module is replaceable.

Would it be practical to develop an Atreus-inspired keyboard for this system? There have been requests in the Framework forum for ortholinear keyboards but it is unlikely that Framework themselves would choose to devote resources to such a minority feature. But perhaps Keyboardio could partner up with Framework to make it happen?


I’d say you could fit something a bit larger than Atreus into that; it might even be possible to put in all five rows of a model 01/100… if you were willing to compromise on the geometry.

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I don’t want anything too big. Here is my dinky 12" MacBook with the Atreus showing how on even such a small laptop it occupies the same height and less width than the traditional layout (and the MacBook itself has a slightly shrunk keyboard).

As a minidox user (and Atreus owner) I am used to few keys. My preference is something that combines features from both models within the Keyboardio product range:

  • Atreus layout with the two halves separated to the maximum extent permitted by the size of the laptop for a broader typing ‘stance’.
  • Model 01 / 100 inspired palm keys on the otherwise wasted space on each side of the trackpad.
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Given that you’d need to replace not just the keys and the keyswitch mechanisms, but also the punched-out faceplate including the fingerprint reader and trackpad, I’d say there’s ample scope to go beyond fitting an Atreus in the footprint of the existing keyboard. As a non-Atreus user who quite likes the extra keys (:grin:) I’d be interested to see if a full model-100 could be implemented.

Modern laptop keyboard mechanisms are recessed, with the palm rest and trackpad sitting on top of the (thicker) battery pack. If you wanted to add palm keys you’d have to make the front edge of the modified faceplate thicker, so that the palm key mechanisms could fit on top of the battery. You’d then have to check that the lid still closed properly. Once that’s done, you might as well put in a full thumb cluster, because you’ve just made yourself lots of otherwise useless dead space. :upside_down_face:

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I would counter this by pointing out that every laptop is has a reduced form factor keyboard, usually between 60% and 80% relative to the “proper” 104 key desktop. Keyboardio themselves offer the 100 as the dedicated workstation keyboard with the Atreus as the compact travelling companion and I think this points towards any laptop unit being a modification of the Atreus rather than the 100.

This reads to me as acknowledgement that a model 100 would require a totally different internal architecture for the laptop: it would not be a drop-in replacement for the existing top plate. The key arcs would also compromise the space available for that lovely big touchpad.

A possible compromise might be the Atreus62, which has (obviously) 62 keys. Like the Atreus 44, it is laid out on a relatively compact so may be possible to fit this within the footprint of the traditional laptop keyboard. It retains the name Atreus, which might almost be adopted by Keyboardio as its name for portable keyboards.

My preference remains the 44 key model but if the bigger - effectively still only 60% - has a better chance of commercial viability, then so be it.

Yes, this is much closer to what I was thinking. It’s not key-for-key compatible with a model100, but at only 2 keys short it is pretty close, and not far off the size of a common laptop keyboard (if you neglect the function row). For full 64-key compatibility, you could squeeze an extra two keys between the split halves, similar to the Atreus2.

The cases for sale on that website start at 295x125mm, which is only about 15x15mm larger than the footprint of the keyboard on my MacBook Air 13. Take away the surround and shrink the keys very slightly (as per most laptops), and it starts to look very plausible…

I feel that we should look at adding more keys inboard rather than outboard of the core layout of the familiar Atreus, and that as you suggest, putting extra keys between the two halves might be a desirable way to achieve this, although to a greater extent.

The problem with the Atreus 62 is that it has puts an additional column on each side and - if we wanted the two halves of the layout as far apart as they will go - displace the home position of each pinky one key width inboard.

I think we should aim for widest spacing of the two hands. This either maximises the ergonomic benefits of the angled columns, or allow the columns to be less angled but with the same ergonomic benefit. To demonstrate, if you put your hands together on your desk (or lap) and then move them apart, your forearms will naturally rotate outwards. If you imagine the two halves of the Atreus were separated by the width of the laptop, each half can probably also be rotated a few degrees so the columns are more closely aligned along the notebook, which will marginally decrease the total forward to rear dimension of the keyboard.

For this reason I prefer a modification of the Atreus58, although the designer seems to have made a mess of the thumb cluster. I would extend the two-key columns starting with ‘Enter’ and ‘Space’ in the picture into full height 5 key inner columns. Essentially it would have superficially the same arrangement that you suggest consisting of six columns of five keys plus an inboard column of 2 keys to give 64 keys total, but a columnar stagger that places the home position of the pinkies on the outer column for widest typing stance. The space between the two halves could perhaps house an arrow cluster?

Yeah, this is where necessary compromise will offend half of the user base. Putting the QP keys at the maximum physical separation from each other lets us mount the keyswitches closer to right angles re the laptop case without compromising wrist position. But moving keys from the columns outside of QP into the centre of the keyboard is unfriendly to touch typists, particularly a) non-English speakers for whom the keys to the right of P; are letters and not symbols, and b) programmers for whom symbols are more important than letters. :stuck_out_tongue:

I do like the idea of adding an arrow cluster, which is one of the things that I most miss when using a reduced keyboard, and one of the things that most laptop users would naturally expect.

Just for fun, I have made a poll of the various options. I am working on the assumption that there is the opportunity to put a navigation arrows in the middle gap of those Atreus versions with five full columns each side but not in the six column Atreus62.

  • Atreus44 (as per Keyboardio model)
  • Atreus44 with central nav keys
  • Atreus58
  • Atreus58 with central nav keys
  • Atreus62 (no room for nav keys)
  • Other (please describe)

0 voters

Whilst I have my preference for the minimal board, truthfully any of these arrangements is acceptable. The 58 and 62 key variants simply extend Keyboardio’s 44 key design with extra rows and columns, somebody smitten to the smaller layout could just choose to leave those extra keys unassigned. As such the logic behind choosing largest format that will fit in the keyboard space of the Framework laptop seems unassailable. But let’s see what everybody else thinks!

To find out just how many keys could be fitted onto a laptop, I drew out a rough plan. The key pitch on the paper is 19mm, exactly the same as on all three laptops that I had to hand (MacBook Air 13", Dell E5470 14", Thinkpad E480 14"). You can see the results attached below - without rotating the columns away from vertical you could easily fit in at least 80 keys (allowing some to be half height like standard laptop function keys). Rotating the columns would reduce this of course.

Having the two halves non rotated lead you to the same arms geometry problem I have with traditional keyboards : your wrists will suffers from being badly twisted :frowning:
That’s why I never had a great feeling with Typematrix or Planck keyboards.

But the columnar organisation will be far beyond Remington heritage !

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I have started a thread on the Framework forum to argue the case for an Atreus option on the Framework. Please drop by and add your opinion or just a like!

I am getting very excited about the Framework as I read more about the brand and their product. I can really see a staggered column keyboard happening for this laptop if we can build popular consensus around one model, and at the moment I think the Atreus is that which has the best chance.

I agree with @Rom1deTroyes regarding the convergence between the two sets of columns; it may be a better keyboard than the ANSI row staggered sort, but it would no longer be an Atreus! I came up with what I see as an elegant solution to keep everyone happy: go with the standard Atreus on the current 13.5" laptop, and the Atreus62 on a larger model in the future. There is an active thread calling for Framework to consider >15" size which would appeal more to power users who (probably think that they) need a more impressive looking keyboard. :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

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Here’s a rotated version for comparison. You might want to move the whole thing slightly upwards to get as much room as possible for the thumb keys, even if that means shaving the top off some of the number row.

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