Model01 and Emacs

Hello everybody,

I just got my Model 01 and I’m starting to customize it. I’m trying to get at least decent at it, before I dare taking it to work. I often use Emacs for all sort of things, I use it in regular mode (without evil). On normal keyboards I always remap Caps Lock to be Ctrl, and I have a strong urge to do the same on the Model01. Having Ctrl where PgUp is, is the norm for me (same for Tab where Tilde is).

What I would like to know is what other fellow Emacs users have done. Is this just my muscle memory playing tricks on me? Did other people get used to having Ctrl in the thumb cluster? Or did you just do something completely different?

While am at it, I’ll sneak in another question: what do people normally do for Alt+Tab? Having to use two hands for that is slightly annoying.


I use Emacs, though I went with Spacemacs and Evil, so keep that in mind when reading my responses. :slight_smile:

I got used to all modifiers being on my thumbs. I even made them one-shot, so I don’t have to chord them, ever. Oneshot modifiers on the thumbs is something I find very, very convenient. Though, I mostly use Shift, but Alt and Ctrl are on the thumb arc too.

I tried many different ways to make it convenient, but ultimately, I went a completely different route: since I live in Emacs, and only run a few applications beside it, I programmed my Model01 to have a few “application selector” keys. These simply print a command to the serial port, which a small daemon on the host side interprets, and switches to the appropriate application. I can switch between Emacs, a terminal, a web browser, my mastodon client, and my music player with a 3-key Leader sequence. If I want to switch to anything else, I just press the GUI key, and select the window. Or do LEAD GUI GUI, and a small helper tool pops up, that lets me type the window name.


Thanks for the reply. I had a quick look at your layout and it looks interesting. Personally I’m not a fan of Dvorak and although I like your custom application I’d like to not become completely useless if I have to use my laptop’s keyboard or if I’m sitting at home without the M01.

Right now I still think that having Ctrl as PgUp and possibly Alt where LCtrl is, sounds like a better alternative.
I’ll try to stick to the default controls a while longer tho.

Don’t you (or other people) ever have to use other keyboards? What do you do then? Keeping some sort of resemblance to other layouts you may bump into (fairly) regularly sounds like a good idea to me.

I can type QWERTY at reasonable speed (about half of my Dvorak speed, so about 40WPM), but I have to hunt and peck at times. Thankfully, I have to abandon my Model01 (or ErgoDox EZ) very rarely, so I don’t do this often. I can get by on other keyboards, but I try to avoid doing that - not because of the logical layout, but because my hands hurt when I type on conventional keyboards. I usually bring my own keyboard with me, if I know I’ll be typing more than a few sentences.

I was told that there are many people who can use two very different layouts efficiently. I’ve even seen a few switch between QWERTY and Dvorak effortlessly. Myself, I can’t do that. So for those who can make different layouts work, keeping some sort of resemblance is not important. For the rest of us - we either suffer through when not using our own layout, or stick to something traditional.

I’m lucky because I don’t have to type on other keyboards, unless I visit my parents. This makes the choice easy for me =)

Did other people get used to having Ctrl in the thumb cluster?

For me, it was fairly easy. It’s just a matter of time.

Or did you just do something completely different?

Both. I have Ctrl on a thumb key, but I also make heavy use of special function
layers for Emacs. I have a few layers where I replace a lot of the
default (and awkward) Ctrl/Meta keybindings with new, simpler, faster, and more comfortable FN keybindings. This is because chording with the FN keys is incredibly
comfy (much more so than thumb cluster keys).

In total, I have 3 FN layers dedicated to emacs functions. I also have a
common layer with commonly shared keybindings between different
programs (like saving a file). I use Autohotkey (Windows) for that. The keyboard
sends a command sequence string (like F13+“001”) to the pc, which is
then interpreted and dispatched by Autohotkey with a real command
(e.g. ‘save file’) to the currently focused program (Emacs, Notepad, IDE, …)

Don’t you (or other people) ever have to use other keyboards?

The few occasions I’ve had to use a standard keyboard I can count on the fingers one hand, so it doesn’t really matter. If I plan on using my laptop on the go, I take the Model 01 with

What do you do then?

If there is no other way around using a standard keyboard, I type at
~10 WPM, which is fine. I am not planing on altering my workflow just because I have to use a standard keyboard once a year!


I’m a heavy emacs user (90% of my work life is there or in a shell). I have played with a few things but ended up with the 5 thumb keys on both hands still standard.
I certainly wouldn’t recommend putting any modifier keys outside of the thumbs. The point of the keyboard is to keep your hands as static as possible, so you want to use those outer edges rarely. I almost always used left alt, so getting used to using my right hand for alt was the hardest part of the transition.
I don’t want to macro the world out of emacs, it makes it impossible to remember those macros when I have to use another computer, which is often enough to be important to me. My work emacs and shell instances are available from anywhere I need it to be via some ssh+tmux joy.
I have smaller hands than average, so I’ve swapped the inner thumb buttons. Tab and escape are inverted as tab is way more important to me than escape, although I’m now able to vi with reasonable efficiency when I have to. A vi user would not want that extra reach. Butterfly is now enter, as I prefer a dedicated button to a chorded fn+space, and that’s and easier reach.


Thanks all for the replies, it’s interesting to hear other people’s approaches. As expected they’re all different and designed to fit specific scenarios.

I still very much feel the urge of having to have control on the outer edge, but I’ll try to resist a bit longer.
I’m pretty sure I’ll replace left ctrl with alt and have tab on tilde.

Maybe the only solution is buying another M01 for home use :stuck_out_tongue:

I’ve had my 01 for about a month now. I’m a long-time vi user, used to use emacs and now use atom in vi mode.

I put in the effort to learn to use the thumb keys (slightly reordered based on my hand size). I’m very glad I did. After a couple of weeks I was already used to them because I use them all so often.

I’d try to resist turning the 01 into a “normal” layout if I were you - it’s so much… more comfortable to type this way. I found mapping fn-m, fn-, etc to parenthesis, underscore and so on also very helpful.

I also switched to Colemak btw - another great improvement imho.

As others have mentioned, oneshots can really help with the ease of hitting some funny combinations.

I think the more you embrace this keyboard the more rewarding it becomes. That doesn’t mean sticking to the defaults, but first learn those and then enhance them with extra combinations.

1 Like

I know I’m late to this discussion, but I curious for any follow-up. @adma, have you learned anything you found valuable in regards to Emacs?

I have had my Model 01 for about six months. I use Emacs daily in regular mode. I started by moving around a lot of keys. Over time, I keep shifting things closer to the default layout. Today, I’m almost back to stock with OneShot modifiers.

I also use caps lock as control/escape on my MacBook, but I don’t on the model 01. With the shaped keycaps, I find that to be much more awkward than on a standard keyboard. Using control on the thumb keys, as well as alternating hands has become so much nicer.

I really struggled for some time because I have to be fairly mobile. I am not always at my desk with my Model 01. My company is also switching to hot-desking soon. I spend a lot of time on the move with just my MacBook keyboard. It actually made me think of giving up the Model 01. However, I get better and better at switching between the keyboards. The time I do get to spend on the Model 01, I can’t give it up. It’s just so nice in so many ways. As long as I keep getting better at switching gears, it’ll stay on my desk.

One of the best things for me has just been getting my typing speed up on the Model 01. Once that was ok, I move other things around all the time just to get a feel for it. That’s one of the biggest advantages of the Model 01. It’s so easy to try different things and then revert if it doesn’t work out like I hoped.

1 Like

I ended up not remapping Ctrl to PgUp, nor Tab to Tilde, but I did change a few things around.
This is the main layer of my current layout. The rest is pretty much default except a couple of mouse modifiers.