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Planck

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Has anyone got one?

I think its a work of art to look at - but whats it like to type on?

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prob with hand separation is it can look ugly, i'm thinking the matias ergo and UHK, TBH maltrons and kinesis' look pretty ugly as well

that one in the pic is a beast!

the minimalism of the planck is what caught my eye - but i'd imagine you couldn't just start typing on it

like my minila but on steroids..

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I have retired all my keyboards and replaced them all with Plancks. My goto keyboard before that was the Poker2 which the programming layer allowed me to implement my own variant of the angle mod to gain left hand symmetry -- I essentially, right shifted the whole layout one key making the Z key my shift key. It was radical but worked -- albeit, the stagger of conventional keyboards still didn't provide perfect left hand fingering symmetry to the right.

With the Planck and its ortholinear layout, presto, perfect symmetry. My hands loved it immediately -- took me zero time to get used to. Now I cannot return to staggered layouts. Over months of fine tuning layouts and layers I have arrived at a wide mod which jetisons all pinkie finger extensions. Layers replace number and symbol key reaches in a keypad layout format which is vastly superior to use IMO.

Add to that the opportunity to use whatever keyswitches and keycaps your fingers prefer, you can build a pretty fine keyboard. With the wide mod, one's hands are actually further apart despite the diminutive size of the keyboard. The centre two columns are used as one shot modifiers (tapped, the modifier chord is applied to the next keystroke) which I use extensively to construct key sequences to control my desktop (my workflow utilizes a highly customized tiling window manager environment).

I have a writeup of my latest Planck layout here which I use for writing and coding -- the number and symbol layer overlays reflect regex usage. I overload thumb usage -- I already was using the left thumb for space and right for backspace on my Poker2 so transitioning to additional thumb usage was natural. In fact, using the thumbs to take the burden off the pinkies is one of the Planck's major benefits IMO.

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sdothum - very nice link - that planck looks very nice

i'm keen, but its pretty much a full departure from a standard ISO keyboard

i.e. i'd only be able to type on plancks if i took it up

i'm hovering in nomansland at the moment with a minila

but damn, that planck looks good

you have your own colemak mod there? looks a bit different to standard and the dh mods?

PS are you UK based, how do you even go about buying one?

Last edited by bph (17-Feb-2017 17:51:27)
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sdothum, very nice work indeed. I'm impressed by your wide Planck layout.
I'm having Planck keyboard as well and experimenting with it. My major concern is that by using Planck with the standard hands placement I'm forced to keep wrists parallel and close to each other. My hands are getting sore in about 5 minutes of typing this way.
I'm using Colemak DH mod together with Wide mod now, wide hands placement feels very comfortable on the standard keyboard and I do not want to get rid of it.
Your wide layout for Planck looks very promising, and sure it requires to left the standard keyboard behind :) I do not see much problem in that for the people from this forum who already left the standard layout behind :)
One thought about your wide planck layout, the middle of the bottom row is accessible for thumbs with not much stretching, the maximum stretches for middle keys are the same as it is for the second large key in ergodox's thumb cluster. The rest of two middle columns could be used by visualizing at least at the beginning of studing, they have modifiers only and never covered by hands.

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BTW, sdothum, at what point you decided to swap B and V in your DH mod layout and why? I did not find anything about that in your blog.

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Ah yes, the B V controversy :-) I know it is a departure from the Colemak design to keep the XCV modifier combinations on the bottom row. I used the DH layout with XCDV for the longest time but eventually opted to swap the V and B because I wasn't married to the need for modifier V on the bottom row. With that bottom row key being an easier reach (for me) and B having a slightly more frequent usage than V in the English language, I tried it out and never went back. There did not appear to be any bigram impacts either way. Arguably, the B is now returned to its QWERTY position :-)

I am not sure I follow the comments regarding the two center columns. But if you have some Ergodox ideas to share please do!

The thumbs each use the bottom three keys from center. The left thumb rests naturally on the Space key, the right on the Enter key. Either held down effect Shift. The left thumb has to the left and right of it, the Esc and Tab keys (when tapped), and Number layer and Navigation layer (when held down). Similarly the right thumb has to the left and right of it, the Backspace and Left cursor keys (when tapped), and Dynamic Macro layer and Symbol layer (when held down). Both thumbs could learn to tuck in even one more key (under the middle finger) for a four key responsibility.

In my original Wide Layout the remaining center column keys above the modifier row contained common symbols (not shifted numbers) such as Minus, Grave etc. I found the index finger stretch for those keys, while achievable, awkward. Once I relaxed the idea that I needed to have all the standard keys (except the brackets) on the default layer, I was able to dedicate the upper center columns to one shot modifier chords (which when tapped or held down, are applied to the next key -- which I use for the many window management key mappings I have defined for my workflow), and discovered along the way, that the thumb Shift key layers made those missing symbols much more accessible and easier to type by capitalizing on the Shift keys themselves and redefining the Comma and Period. Win win.

The wide layout as I have implemented on the Planck has four columns of separation on the home row as opposed to three. Plus, I do not assign symbols to the center two columns (or in the case of the wide mod, its center column). Nor are there any pinkie finger extensions. I find it quite comfortable.

As for sourcing Plancks, I reside in Canada so had to have the kits shipped from the USA from olkb.com. Jack Humbert, the author of the Planck, is accommodating and easy to work with.

Last edited by sdothum (18-Feb-2017 04:27:31)
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This is interesting, I have the opposite situation, it is easier for me to reach top row than the bottom row, for the bottom row I keep pressing between keys. In the standard keyboard though, ortholinear is easy either way. This is mostly happen for the left hand, I might not completely adjusted to the angle mod yet. Regarding your B and V swap, your B is in QWERTY position for ortholinear keyboard, for the standard one the V is in QWERTY position in DH Mod :)
Could you please share your keyboard.c file? I really would like to try your Planck's layout, but not familiar with special syntax for all features you are using.

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You can find the keymap file in my dotfiles

EDIT: I have updated the blog and dotfiles to reflect a layer change, effectively swapping the function key and navigation key clusters so the navigation keys can be conveniendly accessed with one hand. I may just be done now.. :-)

Full list of keyboard layout layers can be found here.

Last edited by sdothum (21-Feb-2017 21:35:00)
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Thank you sdothum, I will give your layout a try.
I'm going to change some stuff, return V and B to their original DH mod position :), and I do not think I need so many GUI modifiers, but overall, I'm going to try your wide idea with centered modifiers for Planck. You solution for layers and layer modifiers is quite advanced as well and greatly fits the wide layout.

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You're welcome.

Switching back the V and B is easy enough, especially if you've already developed the finger memory! The center column modifier chords are specific to my window manager control requirements so you have lots of options as to what assignments work will work best for you in those key locations. Moving some of the bottom row modifiers there as one shot modifiers can even free up some keys on the bottom row if you choose. Lots of possibilities which is the beauty of the Planck: you can iteratively fine tune the layout as best suits your needs.

Please post your layout when you're done and let us know how you find this extra wide mod :-) You may have some ideas I need to consider!

Last edited by sdothum (21-Feb-2017 15:28:54)
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@sdothum - so does the programmable firmware do away with having to muck about with layouts in the OS?

that would be an *enormous* advantage from my perspective having endured much pain over various OS updates

to be fair, dreymars tools, and the fact that I've now been through the process several times have made it less daunting

but to have it all taken care of on the keyboard side, well I think that would be better..

its the same way of thinking that has me keen on one of those 'man-in-the-middle' usb devices

your blog is excellent by the way, a real trove on keyboards and particularly the ins and outs of the planck

it has piqued my interest still further into getting my hands on one of the diminutive devices

seems like an obvious progression from the minila

Last edited by bph (21-Feb-2017 16:33:56)
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Exactly. The layout and layers emit whatever key codes you designate indepenpendent of the computer the keyboard is attached to. So no needing to load keymap drivers for each OS -- just leave the QWERTY default keymap.

With the Planck, you have any layout you've configured available despite what computer you are connected to. And the Planck is diminutive enough to be easily transported!

Last edited by sdothum (21-Feb-2017 21:32:58)
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well, as and when it may become possible, I think I'll try and get one

prob in the grid layout like yours, its so asthetically simple, I love it

I've signed up with massdrop so hopefully I'll find out when its next available

what switches did you go for and have you bought extra keycaps since?

did you have to solder the switches in?

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The Planck is a kit and requires assembly. Inserting the keyswitches into the top plate and soldering the keyswitches to the pcb is a very easy task, though -- anyone can build a keyboard. The only other thing you need to do is screw that assembly onto the five posts of the milled case. (Of course, you need a computer to compile and flash your keyboard -- but the pcb does come flashed with default QWERTY, Colemak and Dvorak layouts.) You can buy the individual components from olkb.com -- so you could, if you wanted, start with just a top plate and build up a hand wired keyboard (something I'd like to do one day)! Massdrop I believe will be offering the full Planck kit soon if I remember correctly from Jack Humbert which will include the top plate, pcb, milled aluminum case and your choice of key switches and key caps.

I currently have built Plancks with Matias (Alps) silent linear, Zealios 62g (tactile), Gateron brown (tactile 45g) and Gateron clear (linear 35g -- which are probably too light for most people, especially if you are unfamiliar with linear switches) keyswitches. My next build will try the new Cherry silent reds (dampened linear 45g) keyswitches. Every switch type and brand has its own "feel".

For keycaps, I prefer PBT Cherry profile (prefer these over OEM profile) whose lower profile seems to feel "closer" (to me) to the switch (especially with tactile switches). Having said that, I often swap in tallish ABS SA profile (think of old IBM selectric typewriters -- I am giving away my age: started on manual Royal and Remington typewriters.. wish I still had them!) keycaps which provide a totally different feel and which I quite like on linear switches (eager to try them on the new Cherry silent reds). Alps style keyswitches offer very limited keycap choices which is unfortunate, as they are very nice switches -- I sourced 3D printed key caps for my steno Planck with Matias switches but they have no where near the quality feel of heavy PBT or ABS keycaps..

Switch and keycap combinations are highly subjective. Tactile switches are very satisfying. Strangely, though, I find I can type faster on linear switches. I alternate my keyboards a lot. Some days, the hands just feel more comfortable typing on one keyboard over another. But that's just me!

Last edited by sdothum (22-Feb-2017 16:45:36)
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thanks for the info

my minila is cherry blue

i don't have experience of anything else

the one issue I have is if I'm working late then I have to swap to a rubber dome as my son complains it keeps him awake!

hence the thought of going for something quieter..

Last edited by bph (23-Feb-2017 15:14:21)
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I have keyboards with Cherry Clear, Brown, and Black. I like all of them, sometimes prefer Clear, sometimes Black. Brown is kind of in the middle. I tried clicky switches and found that I do not like the sound. Never tried light linear like Cherry Red.
One thing I know for sure, I'm not going to use rubber dome keyboards any more.

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I'd probably try browns next

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@bph If you are looking for a programmable keyboard, but are not wedded to the ortholinear design, what about the Ultimate Hacking Keyboard?
The good thing is though you wouldn't have to to any assembly. It's not ready yet though, according to their website it ships Apr 30, so you'd have to wait a bit.

Using Colemak Mod-DH with some additional ergonomic keyboard mods.

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only problem I have with the UHK is that it is ugly as hell - its not the one for me

it genuinely looks like someone has snapped the fekker in two

Last edited by bph (23-Feb-2017 17:28:17)
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sdothum, I finally tried your layout. Not exactly yours though, but inspired by yours. First I tried just to compile your keymap, and although it is compiled right, but the resulting hex file is seems to be too big for the planck. Anything else is made about 73KB, but yours is 93KB, dfu programmer keep saing "Address error" and do not proceed.
I made my own layout which uses the wide hands placement, dual purpose rest thumb keys (left thumb is Space - Shift and right thumb is Backspace - Shift), one shot modifiers for Control, Alt, Shift, and GUI, tap dance for brackets, braces, and quotes. I did not create so many layers, no special layers for shifts, basically besides Colemak I have a layer for numbers and symbols, a layer for Fs and brackets, and a navigation layer.
Everything works fine and I really like wide hands position on planck more than the standard position, but definitely it requires relearning. I have to think every time before using Shift although they are conveniently located under thumbs :) It is doable, but I think I postpone the "complete departure from the standard keyboard" for now. I so used to the navigation cluster of the standard keyboard that I probably need to pass through the 60% keyboard first before going to planck. Right now I already migrated to TKL keyboard after years of using the 104 keys, so the process is going. :)

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I'm thinking about Tap Dance (allowing different things to happen depending on number of taps):

I see a problem with it: Same-finger bigrams aren't generally so nice. One could take it very far but the ergonomic cost in repeatedly tapping one key would increase correspondingly.

So... how about a real tap-dance movement? I imagine (Calling LShift/RShift LS/RS for this purpose):
• LS-RS: (
• RS-LR: )
• LS-RS-LS: [
• RS-LS-RS: ]
• LS-RS-LS-RS: {
• RS-LS-RS-LS: }
etc

It'd be a higher number of presses for the brackets and braces than normal AltGr operation, but with a nice alternation and no holding down a modifier. Might this be a good idea?

Not sure, it could be a little tough on the pinkies for normal Shift key placement – or? What about thumb Shift users?

It shouldn't be too hard to implement in TMK at least.

Last edited by DreymaR (12-Mar-2017 20:06:35)

*** Learn Colemak in 2–5 steps with Tarmak! ***
*** Check out my Big Bag of Keyboard Tricks for Win/Linux/TMK... ***

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DreymaR said:

I'm thinking about Tap Dance (allowing different things to happen depending on number of taps):

Haha, it's an interesting idea, but would quickly start to feel a bit like morse code! For the standard shift keys it would be pretty awful. Mind you, even with thumb keys, I can't see how it would be better than simply using the thumb key as a layer and then having your brackets on a normal key. You could even have the thumb key sticky if you were against holding the keys down.

On a related note though, it makes me think how it would be possible to invent a typing system that only had ten keys - one for each digit - and then each characters is typed using a sequence. Common letters might only have a sequence of two, rarer characters would require longer sequences.

Last edited by stevep99 (13-Mar-2017 10:35:45)

Using Colemak Mod-DH with some additional ergonomic keyboard mods.

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For ten key typing, I believe that chording is more powerful than pure sequencing. But the best would be a combination.

*** Learn Colemak in 2–5 steps with Tarmak! ***
*** Check out my Big Bag of Keyboard Tricks for Win/Linux/TMK... ***

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plancks currently available on massdrop for $110

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