My Atreus layout

I’ve had my Atreus for a while now and have settled on a layout I like. I replaced the switches with Kailh BOX Silent Pink, as I wanted quiet, linear, and waterproof-ish. I love those switches and wish I could put them on my Model 01.

I use the keyboard on a Mac, and wanted to include:

  • QWERTY as a base
  • easy-to-reach brackets and squigglies and parentheses for programming
  • left-handed navigation page navigation. This is mostly so I can scroll stuff with my left hand while drinking (often coffee!) or while driving (a mouse!) with my right.
  • slightly modified punctuation and modifier layout

I’m coming from a Model 01, and before that, a Kinesis Ergo. I think the punctuation and modifier layout changes I made are because that’s where my Kinesis muscle memory wanted me to be.

I have a separate dumbpad I use for macros. I might move back to macros on the Atreus someday, but having to mix and match Chrysalis and the firmware to edit macros is a pain and I could never get it to work right. Doesn’t help that there’s no Fine Manual for how to mix and match the two; as a result, macro support feels very half-assed.

I have three layers. At first layer shifting was frustrating, but then I saw someone use the magic that is Secondary Action/Layer Shift When Held, and my life got a whole lot easier.

Layer 0:

Standary QWERTY letter layout. The Z key does double duty as a modifier to get me into Layer 2, and the Fn key (to the right of Space) lets me one-shot into Layer 1. I made a point of moving the whitespace keys (enter, tab, bksp, space) at least one key apart; at some point I had them next to each other, and I kept hitting enter instead of backspace.

Layer 1:

Numbers, some punctuation, and vi-style arrow keys. At one point I had WASD mapped to arrows and I like that better, but this works OK too. I might move the arrow keys to a separate layer and do WASD there, but since OSL-to-Layer-1 is on the right side, this gives me one-handed arrow movement. Del is above Backspace rather than replacing it because I often want backspace when I’m entering numbers.
It was also important to me that the layer 0 punctuation keys ( the set ,./;-’ ) be available in Layer 1, as I type IP addresses a lot so I need dot and slash along with numbers on the same layer. I also wanted all of the modifier keys to be available in this layer.

Layer 2:

Fn-keys which I never use, left-handed navigation, and two-handed utility things. Remember, Z is the key I shift to this layer with, so anything on the left side of the keyboard, I can do with one hand.

I really, really like the left hand side. Home/End/PgUp/PgDn navigation is all one-handed. Cmd+_ and Cmd+= are the Mac window zoom in and out functions. I might map up and down movement to the V and B keys but haven’t really had a need yet.

On the right side, Ctrl+left and Ctrl+right move me between Mac virtual desktops (spaces, I
think they’re called?). I don’t use those that much as my external dumbpad has a pair of rotary encoders and one is bound to the same keys, but it’s handy occasionally. Shift+Cmd+4 is a Mac shortcut to take a screenshot, and I use it every day. Much more than I would have expected.

I’m pretty happy with this layout, although I’m sure I’ll never finish tweaking it. In particular, I’m not real happy with the punctuation layout, and keep hitting the wrong brackets. I also don’t like having to do Fn+Shift+1 to make !. As I think about it, maybe I’ll make the top row of Layer 2 into !@#$%^&*() and move the Fn keys somewhere way out of the way, as I never use them. I never use the Alt key so I may make that into another layer shift or something.

I wish the Atreus had a small LED to tell me which layer I was on, as I keep forgetting. Some of my Layer 2 layout comes from not wanting to accidentally hit pretty significant key combos because I forgot what layer I was in. And I wish I had a dedicated number row. But overall I really like the Atreus and it has gone from my travel keyboard (since the Kickstarter was pre-COVID) to my daily driver.


Posting my layout the other day inspired me to jazz it up a little. Here’s the new layout - philosophy is the same and many of the keys are the same, but I:

  • added a Layer 3 to hold Fn-keys
  • added layer identifier keys to layers 2 and 3
  • fiddled a little with screenshot shortcuts

Here are all three layers:

Layer 0:

Z and M now hold-shift to Layer 2 so I can do one-handed things on either side of the keyboard.
Alt (above Esc) is OSL to Layer 3.

Layer 1:
No changes from above, but here it is for completeness:

Layer 2:
Replaced Fn keys with dedicated punctuation. I think I’m going to like this better, but muscle memory still has me doing Layer1+Shift+.

I mapped the A key (left column, second from the top) to the number 2. That way if I’m not sure what layer I’m in I can just hit A. Did the same thing in Layer 3.

Added an additional screenshot key, so that the second keys from the bottom in the two rightmost columns both take one. One of them saves the screenshot to the clipboard and one of them to disk.

Added left and right arrows to the left-hand side to further enable one-handed scrolling.

Layer 3:

Not much here yet, just Fn keys and a layer identifier at the A key. If I do anything with this layer it’ll be to put more complicated keyboard shortcuts and macros here.


Nice ideas, but your Layer#3 screenshot seems to be very close to your layer#2 :microscope: :wink:

Fixed - thanks!
(this is garbage text to meet the 20char minimum post length, please ignore)

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I really like the idea of having a key that display the layer number :nut_and_bolt:


This was some good food for thought for me to get me started on my own customizations. I really like the secondary layer shifts… I think what I may do is leave BkSp and Space where they are in the default layout, but add a layer shift action as secondary, which will give me either-thumb access to the second layer where I can put numbers and vi-style HJKL movement keys. We’ll see where it goes from there!

I’m curious why you chose a one-shot layer-shift to get to your numbers and arrows layer. While you can still hold it down as a regular layer-shift, I’m curious what the use case is for a two-stroke OSL, then number/punctuation/arrow key combo would be.

Thanks again for the inspiration!

I like OSL because sometimes I enter a bunch of numbers in a row and I don’t want to chord for all of them. So I double-click the OSL key to enter number mode, enter my numbers, and single click to get back out.

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Aha! I missed that double-tap function of OSL (I can’t find it documented anywhere) and because that key on the new layer wasn’t Transparent (or another OSL) in my setup, it didn’t work that way (just executed that key). Indeed that’s super useful and mimics the way the layer shift keys work on my Ultimate Hacking Keyboard, so I’m an immediate fan.

I really appreciate your answering, thanks much!

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With the newest Kaleidoscope (master branch), you won’t need the key on the target layer to be transparent (or the same OSL(n) key); OneShot has been rewritten so that it behaves as if the key(switch) is being held, rather than keeping the key’s value active.