I’m writing this on my newly arrived Model 100. And it’s not easy.
Previously I’ve used a Kinesis Ergo. No one else in my office could use it (a nice benefit to keep them off my system) but I adapted relatively quickly. The keys were in locations that felt natural as a touch typist. It was quite awkward for gaming.
I want to get the same comfort level with my Model 100. The act of typing this is helping but…I can tell this is going to be a much steeper learning curve. It would help if I could get some insight from more experienced users. I have questions that include:
What is the recommended hand position? Palms resting on the board or elevated? It feels like resting is ok for “home” row keys but limits the ability to reach others.
I assume the default key layout is based on…something. I just don’t know what. The “extra” column of keys on the inside (the tab/esc/enter/menu/etc.) - which finger is supposed to work them? The forefinger or the thumb? Neither feels natural.
The default mouse keys are setup in a WASD layout - which means they’re convenient if gaming? But not natural from a typing position - I would think ESDF better. On the other hand, the arrow keys are setup for HJKL - which means the hand must offset. Again, I’d think JKL: to be more natural.
I’m trying to understand the reasons why the keys are how they are. I know I can remap, and I’ll probably need to get some translucent keycaps to reflect those changes, but I’d like to give the defaults a try assuming there’s some justifcations for them.
I am in the same boat. I have had my model 01 for years. I have tried using it a few times and really don’t like it. I am not sure how other can love this keyboard when it veers so far out of the other ergonomic keyboards forcing you to relearn. I think I am going to just finally give up on it and resell it. I wish I knew “Why” they though that the space key should be a where it is, no delete key, tab… I could go on. I bought during the crowd funding and waited years only to be disappointed by a terrible layout.
I’ve used the Model01 for three years as my primary keyboard, and the Model100 for about a month now.
I rest my wrists on the wood. Palms are raised just enough that I don’t press the Fn/Fun button.
I use my index fingers for Esc/Tab/Enter. This seems natural to me, though I admit I keep typing Enter instead of h, and b instead of Esc, or vice versa.
I don’t use the mouse emulation, but I assume WASD was chosen because it is used in games and thus familiar to many.
HJKL for arrow keys is familiar to anyone using the vi family of text editors.
All of these require getting used to, as did QWERTY when I was first learning to type. Luckily, changing the bindings is fairly easy, if you’d rather change them than learn the defaults. There’s no wrong choice here.
I may be there myself. Exactly the same feelings as you expressed.
For multiple reasons I want to like it. The build quality is terrific. First impressions on taking it out of the box were great. But hands on…
I haven’t seen a keyboard as software configurable as this. So I’m going to keep trying for a while. Learning to use the palm keys to switch layouts makes a big difference - it means I actually have an enter key in the default layout. Sort of.
It just doesn’t feel right. Especially the thumbs. And I’m finding my forearms cramping in ways they shouldn’t when using an ergo keyboard like this.
Some of the questions I have myself. But some thoughts which might be helpful.
People how get problems when using the keyboard for many hours often seem to rest the palms and not type floating. The angle of a split keyboard (like MS Natural or Sculpt, Logitech K980) is IMO the most important ergonomic feature hardware-wise. But I strongly believe that one should not rest the palms normally. Imagine playing the piano with your palms planted before the keyboard (even when one would not need the reach of 7 octaves). Can you imagine that being ergonomic? I know that many people rest their palms. If you do the rest should be high enough – here using the model 100 is better than using a standard keyboard and resting the hand on the table. Also the Kinesis Advantage seems relatively good suited to rest the palm without too much trouble. Still Kinesis does not recommend doing that while typing! I personally rest my palm very occasionally on the table or now the m100, but only for just a few minutes, when not typing lots of text, but maybe while browsing and only sometimes entering some keystrokes.
Middle keys are also not totally clear to me yet. I started to use the lower one with the thumb, which seems to work o.k. I swapped Butterfly with Enter for that reason. I find the butterfly (AltGr) a waste of space here and think a more important key should be on that position.
ESDF is better ergonomically. I see no reason to use WASD (besides being standard in games - I do not play anyways…). Moving HJKL one key to the right also makes some sense. I left mine, because I was lazy and have used Vim for many years, so I am accustomed to those movements. But you got me thinking if I should change that. On the other side I mostly use the up and down arrow which with HJKL are on the strong fingers. Mmmh, no free lunch as always… I think I’ll keep mine for now.
But the layout is fully configurable? If you know where you want those keys you can can remap it to be so
In reply to OP: I felt very similarly when I first recieved my Model 100 and also took a similar approach of giving the default layout a fair go before changing things.
- I rest my palms on the keyboard. Reach seems fine for my hands, although I think my palms do lift up to type numbers.
- I use my forefinger for these keys.
- I’ve not integrated the mouse keys into my workflow at all so can’t comment on these.
From the default layout I’ve changed these main things:
- Swapped Shift and Control
- Mapped Esc to Prog
- Enabled one shot/sticky keys on the modifiers
- Made Enter require Fn as well—I was accidentely hitting Enter too much and sending unfinished messages into the work chat
I’ve been using mine full-time for about 2 months and I’d say I’m relatively fluent now. It took a while to get used to keys on the inside columns but they’re ok now. The thing I still find slowest is
 when programming. These haven’t become muscle memory yet.
Exactly. That’s one of the best parts about the keyboard. You can put any key you want anywhere you want.
I had my layout already carefully planned out even before the keyboard arrived at my door step.
I am an average typer, and the first days with the 100 I was a 4WPM typist. Things have become much better, and now I dread having to work without the 100.
- My hands rest on the wood, with the fat part of my thumb just over the Fn keys making them easy to press by rotating my hand down.
The big shift/moment came for me when I found that Fn-space is Enter. No more moving my right index finger to hit enter.
then I moved tab to cmd under my left thumb and cmd to butterfly.
and next I will add () to Fn-( Fn-) so that all of the brackets will require an Fn.
With these small changes I can use emacs in evil mode (vi mappings).
I got lucky, I picked keys that are really smooth and make me feel happy when I use the keyboard.
I’ve recently made a change to my laptop to move the backspace to the left alt so that my thumb presses backspace - just like on the 100.
Based on my personal experience I think that it is worth the frustration… good luck
I’ll add that I think the ortholinear adjustment is the largest step for new owners. My previous keyboard was split ortholinear so when coming to M100 letter keys are mostly where I want them but I had a steep learning curve on the previous keyboard. The mouse keys aren’t for me and if I moused right handed I would move the arrows to the left side of the keyboard instead (as it is I’ve mapped the mouse to esdf).
For me the biggest learning curve has been use of the fun key. Some chords or keys are not comfortable to hit while using the fun key on the same hand so I’ve had to adopt to using opposite hand for fun while chording the keys.
As I’ve made edits to my layers it’s become more obvious that some thought really did go into the initial layout. Hasn’t stopped me from sticking to my changes but the root configuration has generally remained.
I rest my hands on the wood. I don’t really have problems reaching any keys, but I admittedly have big hands.
The forefinger is supposed to work the inner keys. At first I found it super odd, but having return/enter on the pointer finger really cuts down on bad ergonomics. I do wish it either had a different texture or was convex or something, because I still have problems with H/Enter after a month and a half.
I’m not a fan of where the mouse keys are, but you can remap them to be ESDF if you want them that way, which is also where I’d prefer them.
The keys I have the most trouble with are H/Enter, V/B, and 9/0. I’m also seriously considering moving my numlock key and just making it also 0 based on how much I hit it by mistake.
I love having backspace and enter on opposite hands in the same space, it makes typing way faster for me. Not a huge fan of shift where it is, as I have to think about it, it’s not memory yet and not sure it ever will be.
But overall, I’m super happy with my model 100. It took me about a week to not be frustrated, and about 3 weeks to prefer it.
disclaimer: I don’t really use layers or most of the shortcuts. 90% of the time I’m typing emails.
The only time I get frustrated now is using excel and lack of actual arrow keys. I’d love arrow keys in an inverted T somewhere.
I think everyone encounters a learning curve with this keyboard. Just keep trying and eventually your brain will get used to it. You probably can’t remember the pain and agony of learning the “normal” keyboard waaaaaay back, but we all went through that. For the first few days I did nothing but typed out news articles to practice and remapped the keys accordingly. Personally my fingers and thumbs are too short to bother with the inner column keys, so I remapped everything, and I moved the shift keys in from the default position. So yes, you have to adjust and play around with what’s comfortable to you. I also love that the fun key + space = enter, and I can’t remember if I made the change or if it came this way of having fun + backspace = delete. Anyways, not really offering anything further others haven’t mentioned already, but don’t give up! Good luck!
Model 100 is the only split ergonomic keyboard I’ve ever tried. Maybe not having tried any ergo before let me start things with an open mind and a clean slate. I expected a steep learning curve and to be honest it was actually not as bad as I thought it was going to be. When I first got it late September this year my speed was literally at 10 to 20 WPM on typeracers etc. I then practiced fairly frequently on keyhero.com and also programmed with it on a regular basis (Python and Rust). Right now I do those typing tests pretty consistently at 90 to 100 WPM which is about 95% of my normal speed. So yeah, learning curve yes, impossible no.
One thing I did very early on that helped a ton is to identify the most annoying mis-clicks and unnatural key positions I found. Turns out they are all located on the thumb clusters. Then I just changed the thumb clusters layout to suit my own preference which basically eliminated all of those problems. I know people sometimes say to give the original layout a serious try before changing things. I strongly disagree. I think if you can isolate a clear dislike in the layout now, just experiment and change it until it doesn’t annoy you as much, preferably immediately so you don’t end up building a muscle memory that you have to unlearn later anyway. I certainly changed layout within a week of getting the keyboard and it helped my transition tremendously.
Curious what the main layout changes you made were.
You can find them here. I did end up switching the position of alt to the left as well.
Stick with it. Give it enough time. Before the Model 100, I was fully committed to the Atreus. I really like the small form factor and how I don’t need to move my hands at all (except when reaching for the mouse, an MX Master 3)). And after a few months, forcing myself to use it really payed off. I didn’t need a regular keyboard anymore.
But then I went on using a Magic Keyboard again (new job and all) and some mechanical keyboards like the Keychron Q3, K2, K3, K4, IQUNIX F97. The muscle memory made me doubt my decision to commit to the Atreus (and the upcoming Model 100, which I backed at Indigogo).
But, then some aching in the wrists resurfaced while using a regular keyboard layout for a full day of work. On those moments I regret not using the Atreus. Of course, the muscle memory is still something that makes me want to use a regular keyboard and all the Mac keyboard shortcuts. But I’m confident that after 4-6 months of using the Model 100 I don’t want to go back, just like the Atreus.
I’m still adjusting to the Model 100. It’s bigger than the Atreus, obviously. But I do like the layout. A column layout is so much better than a staggered one. Staggered just doesn’t make sense anymore.
I had set aside the Model 100 for a couple of months and now I have decided to give it a serious try. For me, there is just no way you can “just” start using the keyboard: you have to train for it. I have been using https://www.keybr.com/ to practice for 20 minutes daily. I am definitely not there yet. It’s my first time with an ortholinear keyboard as well.
I have also made some changes to the layout. For example:
- Esc key to the top left
- Cursor cluster in T shape on the bottom right
One difficulty as well is to relearn gestures for shortcuts, especially for OS and programming tasks.
The thing I still find slowest is
 when programming.
You know how the shift keys make
() if you don’t hold them? Make
I found the default layout to be terrible for me. I changed a lot of stuff and arrived at a layout I love and am very comfortable typing with. I do not like the palm keys at all for instance so I moved layer shifting to the outside thumb keys. The biggest change was moving all the shift like keys to secondary actions on the home row, duplicated on both sides. That freed up all the thumb keys so they could include more useful things like enter, esc, tab, del, parens, braces and brackets. I don’t have to stretch for anything I use regularly now.
Don’t try to make the default layout work for you. Figure out what bothers you and change it until you settle on something good for you.