Maltron Layouts

Has anyone put any work into a Maltron compatible layout? I have a Maltron knock-off that I’ve been meaning to learn to type on for quite a while.

1 Like is roughly what I was thinking of, way back when. Not that I’ve ever typed on it.

(Also, a Maltron knock-off? Other than the Kinesis advantage, I didn’t know that there was such a thing)

Teleprint was the local US manufacturer. It’s not as impressive.


I’ve got the beginnings of a Maltron layout that I’m typing on; I’m not quite sure I’ve got the thumbs finalised yet, and, but I have the feeling that they will end up being ‘rearrange to taste’ anyway. You can find my fork on GitHub at:

It’s very much a work in progress at the moment though. In particular, the SpaceCadet based E and Space keys need this Pull Request applied to the Kaleidoscope-SpaceCadet plugin, unless you never want to type a capital E again.

Also, I’m not a vi user, so I’ve rejigged the function layer somewhat. The left hand is now mostly navigational stuff around a ‘YNIS’ inverted T. The right hand becomes where the brackets and a few other symbols live.

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A year ago I had a couple of months trial of a Maltron board using Malt layout, and I decided that the concept of the ‘E’ on the thumb key is a keeper. I now use RSTHD on a split keyboard and commend this layout as Malt, but optimised with what we learnt about efficient typing since.

I have said it elsewhere, but Maltron developed the columnar keyboard with thumb clusters (the ancestor therefore of Kinesis Advantage, Ergodox and Keyboardio) and the Malt layout as a system. Keyboard analyser programmes consistently rank layouts with thumb mounted ‘E’ more highly than the best qwerty competitors such as Dvorak, Colemak et. al. which are still designed for traditional staggered row boards.

Will the Keyboardio have a Malt-style keycap set that puts the ‘E’ on the thumb for those who like that sort of thing? And if so, would you consider RSTHD over Malt? I know there is an installed user base on Malt, but probably not enough to justify a keycap set and not something I feel should be a barrier to a better layout within the same evolutionary fork and whose efficiency might attract many more users to that family of layouts.


Wow Rsthd looks awesome! I’d love to see a version of this for the keyboardio! I think the thumb keys should be BkSp, Ctrl, Shift, Space, E, T, A, O.

Do you have a keyboardio version of Rsthd in mind?

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I am a little puzzled as to your suggestion of four different letters on the thumb keys, as that would no longer be RSTHD! I am running a truncated version of RSTHD on Minidox, my layout is here. It works reasonably well but is too easy to inadvertently trigger layers just when getting into the flow, so now I am looking for something with a few more keys. As you can see, I chose to allocate quotation marks to the thumb!

I agree that if we were designing a set of keycaps for the Keyboardio with the letter E (or indeed any other letters) moved to the thumb keys, we would be forced to rejig that area. I suggest that Keyboardio’s supplied thumb keys are too analogous of Qwerty orthodox practice and that anybody adopting Malt or another layout incompatible with traditional staggered row keyboards might be more willing to be adventurous here too. For instance Malt-90 assigns ‘tab’ to a 2x key on the thumb cluster and now I would not want tab anywhere else!


I was not familiar with Minidox - I just looked it up. So cool! I had actually just been thinking about turning my spare keyboardio into something very similar by disabling or taking off the keys on the top and outside rows as well as one thumb key on each side (that would make each side 3x6 + 3thumb, so it would have one more column than a Minidox).

Well, anytime you adapt a layout to a new keyboard it’ll be a little different, but I think my idea is very true to the spirit of Rsthd!

That page says:

I think putting the E on the thumb key is the main differentiating factor in breaking past the sort of efficiency plateau that other layouts hit; getting an extra home row key for free is kind of a big deal.

So I’m extending that principle, since the keyboardio has so many thumb keys.

Yeah, the default layout is not very good. I think most people at least change the thumb keys from the default.

My current keyboardio layout keeps Qwerty, but has Ctrl, BkSp, Shift, and Space on the thumb keys. I wouldn’t want those 4 anywhere else! Tab is a thumb key plus the function key.

I also use OneShot so I never have to hold down a modifier key - I can just press it and it stays active for a couple seconds.

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I think the problem would be that you start to get “same-thumb” conflicts… If you have E on one thumb and space on the other (a la Maltron), then you avoid a lot of the same-finger penalties as both of those often come before or after any other letter. If you put more letters on the thumbs, now you will often have to use the thumb twice in succession.


In hindsight I would have chosen the Gergo from Gboards - same thing but just a little more headroom than 36 keys to ease compromises in my keymap. The Gergoplex is his implementation of the minidox configuration - but lighter and thinner. I suspect you would enjoy his blog posts, particularly the keymaps for those boards just mentioned and theories using ‘chords’ as an alternative to layers.

I use OneShot for my shift and all the other modifiers are tap/mod under the both thumb and regular keys.

I agree with Frogmouth that it would give the thumbs too much to do. RSTHD (and indeed Colemak et al) is designed with so much care that if you start moving keys around chances are you will not make it any better but will make it much worse.


Unfortunately there is no way to map it to keyboardio without moving at least a few keys around. I’d be curious to see some attempts.

@squizzler: I’m sorry, what do you mean by ‘tap/mod’? Is that the same as OneShot?

The Keyboardio not so. The Atreus is something has begun to appeal to me precisely because the keys are all the same size, including those on the the thumb clusters which even on the minidox are 1.5x. So with that I can arrange the letter keys where I want them. If the Keyboardio company sold the Atreus with keys in RSTHD and Malt configuration out the box, they could test the market for a Malt-esque layout for the flagship product.

No, it’s a QMK feature: a summary is here: QMK Firmware
If you see my keymap linked above I use it for the GUI and Raise + Lower on thumb keys and for Ctrl + alt mirrored on both halves under letter keys. Works well on the whole I find. The shift gets its own ‘one shot’ key.

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Sorry, I don’t know what you mean “the keyboardio not so.” Both the Model01 and Atrius 2 have very different layouts and so you’d have to change the RSTHD config to fit.

So tap/mod works the same as QuKeys?

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I am saying that I could achieve RSTHD on the Atreus simply by moving keycaps around (and changing keymap in firmware to suit). Because the 01 has irregular keycaps I could also implement the keymap in firmware but in the immediate future would be restricted to blank keycaps and a crib sheet, like I am doing now in fact.

I would be interested in a Malt style set of keycaps for the 01 family. I argue that RSTHD is a better bet in view of the negligible installed base of Malt users. With an increased number of people learning better keyboard layouts and Malt style layouts inherently more efficient than those compatible with legacy hardware, is that something likely to happen?

Possibly. I am a prospective Keyboardio owner on the forum to see where the project is going and whether it will meet my requirements.

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To solve this problem I printed labels to put on the blank keycaps - look!

My question, though, is how you would modify the RSTHD layout to fit either the Model01 or the Atreus 2. I’d be very interested to see.

I believe the current keycap sets for the Model01 were decided through a vote - maybe @jesse and kaia will do another vote for the successor of the Model01, which will be called the Model100 and will be out in a year or so.

But we don’t even have a RSTHD-style layout for the Model01 yet for anyone to potentially try, use, or vote on!

Obviously, you, or someone, would need to design one and experiment with it first, for that to be a possibility. The layout you’re talking about doesn’t even exist yet!

If you have one in mind, please post it - maybe it’ll catch on!

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The effect on those translucent caps looks pretty nice, although it would be *dox.

The RSTHD layout was originally designed native to the Ergodox which is comparable in size to the 01/100 family, so it would just be a case of porting it across more or less. Much easier than me adopting it on the Minidox. The Atreus would be a great learning experience where I could take what I learnt on the Minidox and just give it a little more elbow room.

I couldn’t resist sharing this chart on the RSTHD inventor’s page, showing comparative efficiency compared to other layouts (according to his own assumptions used to evolve the layout, of course). My experience confirms the uncanny lack of physical effort involved even though I am still having to think what I am doing:

Here is another layout with a thumb pressed vowel - ‘I’ this time. Whilst I don’t know the letter layout, perhaps some of the layers are instructive to what we might be trying to do?

Finally, I am running a poll over on Deskthority asking what layout people would learn if starting again from scratch. I see there is a poll function on this forum, maybe we can look at one here sometime?

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I apologise that it took me a while but I have got round to putting my Minidox layout on Keyboard Layout Editor. Interesting features are ‘tap dance’ to alternate comma and question mark on the same key, ditto fullstop and exclamation mark.

The bracket also uses tap dance to fit all shapes on one key, I got that idea for that from @algernon via his blog.

The comma on the thumb next to the ‘E’ I regard as a failure and the result of wanting it easily available despite being cropped off the ergodox implementation of RSTHD. Part of the late response was wondering whether to fix that and bring a new layout to the party, but this way you can see what doesn’t work. :slight_smile: I intend to move the quotation mark to the bottom left corner occupied by the slash.

I intend to get the hold/tap off the ‘E’ and the space keys is I can often trip myself up with inadvertent layer activation which always happens when you are getting into a flow! Conversely, assigning ctrl and alt under the more peripheral letter keys works very well for me.

All in all, I am excited with the offering of the Atreus as it will allow most of these compromises due to lack of keys to be eliminated with minimal trade-off from what I am running.

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I agree @frogmouth that the poll on Deskthority is generating perhaps somewhat more heat than light! I do find the case for this layout compelling, although I feel my minidox implementation still leaves a little to be desired. No matter how great the layout, I suspect what makes the difference is a user community for development and advocacy. Look at the relative success of, say, Colemak and Arensito (perceived ease of conversion from Qwerty might also have something to do with it!).

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Sorry, had some issues trying to edit here. I’m keen to try RSTHD (still waiting on a programmable keyboard, then have to build it…) as it makes the most sense (to me) out of all that I’ve read about. I also can’t help thinking that there’s a lot more to a good keymap than just the alpha layout, and that part is very dependent on the specific keyboard. I would guess there’s no research on any of that (e.g. optimizing layers) because it hasn’t been a thing until recently.
Which, I suppose, leads me to thinking that the community of interest is less about the alpha layout and more about the other stuff… ? Personally, I dislike the “advocacy” part of it, I think it inhibits progress.

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