Feasability of this custom keyboard layout for FWL16


My interest in getting a Framework hinges on how much flexibility the platform has.

I’ve managed to hobble together a mockup of generally how I’d like the keyboard to be laid out, assuming the trackpad is the same dimensions as that on the 13.

But as this goes beyond the standard sizes of the input module documentation, shifts the trackpad up top, and I have no way of knowing what the spatial limits of the FWL16 are beyond that defined area, from my position I can’t really know whether this is possible or not. So if anyone from FW could possibly take a look and say whether it’s quite possible or not, it would help set my expectations moving forward.



The top 10mm or so of the Touchpad row is the interface area most of the way across the laptop, and also because of how the Input Modules insert, it’s not really possible to have modules that span the top and bottom rows.


You can, if you split the “big piece” into two.
You can have jagged edges around where the keys meet.
Kinda like how these keyboard folds.

Personally I own multiple ergo keyboards (Microsoft Ergo 4000 and Logitech Ergo Wireless). I also tried a few flat decks from my friend but I don’t really see the point of this.
The entire point of a split keyboard is so you can have the signature “hump” in the middle so your hands wont have to twist 90 degrees.
But if you insist, perhaps it can be made to work.

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You might want to consider the Atreus as discussed Here.


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Thanks @nrp!

Continuing on, I decided I’d lop off two of the thumb keys, which would still leave 18, and repurposed what FW uses for function and arrow keys, a little, to allow the necessary space up top, assuming they can be used like this. And after doing all that, it lead me to this…


And with a little bit more work…


It would have been smart to ask about the border limits of the module area, or if the large module dimensions are a hard limit, but I couldn’t really wait, so I hope at least one of these fall in line “enough” to be realistically possible, or close enough with a few minor tweaks, especially given both span the entire width of the area. They’re not finished, especially in the corners, but they’re getting there, and at least no buttons are theoretically hanging off this time…

Again, if you wouldn’t mind Nirav, or anyone else from FW. It’d be much appreciated!


I’m sorry. I don’t understand what you were trying to get across with that folding keyboard. Perhaps these versions avoid whatever you were trying to convey anyway.

The goal of this project is to come up with a layout that maximises the number of options available to each and every finger and thumb, whilst improving travelling efficiency, and balances the workload of each, with as little regard for space efficiency as possible. If attempting to achieve those goals requires something ergonomic-like, then I don’t mind. If anything, it’s a damn sight more interesting that the rubbish I’ve had to type and game on all these years. As long as its necessity won’t add too much complexity, it’s all good!

Having taken a look, I think I’d prefer to walk my path. I haven’t come across any keyboard that comes remotely close to doing all that I’d like, and sadly, this is no exception. I appreciate the thought and effort though.


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The obvious question to ask is: what are you running at present? Then we can perhaps look at whether it is possible to adapt it within the constraints of a laptop.

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It doesn’t seem obvious to me, but if you say so…

this is what I'm running, more or less.


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Oh, I was wondering why your desired layout had so many keys, especially in the first draft.
Have you already tried using such kind of layout. While you probably have some reasons behind your layout design, I wonder if it will work as well as you want in practice.
What kind of ergonomic keyboards have you tried so far ?

For example, in your first draft, that’s … a lot of keys :sweat_smile:
Espeically those two lateral clusters have my pinkies screaming :sweat_smile:

The sub-sequent drafts also have a lot of keys, which is kind of defeats the purpose of an ergonomic ortho / columnar staggered layout in the first place.
Also, not sure if having different keys size as in the cluster below is comfortable to use:


From my personal experience, I went with an ergo mech keyboard with a relatively high number of keys, but getting used to layers has completely changed the way I view a keyboard, and I feel like you won’t need that much keys to be productive.

Looking forward to see how your project pans out, in any case.


I don’t recall ever trying any ergonomic keyboards. And given all their layouts appear to use QWERTY and such, I have no intention to.

My keyboard concept was born out of my many annoying experiences with typing and coding, but based predominantly on my attempts to find a layout that worked best in a particularly demanding video game.

~1.8k word story about the origins of the layout, and a little ranting.

Consider in an FPS that three of the five members on your hand will be relegated to directional control, another probably for jumping, and the last for crouching/walking. But you’re not always doing those three. Perhaps you may need to heal, or open a door, or do a combination of things.

Now, you say your pinkies’ll be screaming, and yet, if you look at the requirements of most people’s right pinkies when typing, they have a great deal of responsibilities, what with having to ‘backspace’, ‘enter’, ‘shift’, along with some punctuation, and if you’re a coder, those parenthesis and arithmetic symbols must also be used quite frequently. So I think it’s fair to say that our pinkies are very capable, but only one is being pushed, and I believe slightly too far at that.

So if our pinkies are ideal for doing other things, great. But it’s on the wrong side with limited options! And your thumb has range of movement, but will have immense trouble reaching up, as well as run into conflicts with the ‘spacebar’ if you really try.

You can attempt to off load responsibilities to your mouse, but they only have so many buttons. So instead, you have to temporarily sacrifice one of the fingers dedicated to directing your avatar. And doing that means having to pick and choose when it’s appropriate, so as to minimise chances of being punished, because the only keys left available are those upwards, below, and to the right. The sacrifice is usually small, but it’s silly. Silliness that could be avoided if there were a way to spread the load out between your pinky and thumb.

With the goal to eliminate that, I decided I’d try shifting directional controls into the centre of my keyboard, finally providing options for my pinky. The new layout wasn’t ideal due to the parallel nature of the rows, and I could get lost early on, but things got better and it kind of worked! Thus solidifying my belief that having lots of pinky keys isn’t a bad idea. Unfortunately there was one thing I missed. I would find at times I wouldn’t get a response when I was sure I’d pressed the correct key. Turned out, I had overlooked the signal limit!

Disappointed, I did some research, and learned that WASD is used because it’s extremely unlikely, if not impossible, to create a signal conflict using it in a typical video game.

Relearning that my laptop had this limit, but being unable to figure out what the exact criteria was for hitting it, I thought, “If there is a conflict by having directional keys in the centre, perhaps there could be somewhere else I could place them that just threads the needle between activating it”. So I wasn’t ready to give up just yet, but this current game also wasn’t serious enough for me to bother trying. It wasn’t until this next game did I decide to really pursue it.

3D shooting games, to me, create some of the most complex environments in which to play, having to juggle, not just lateral and longitudinal position and velocities, but also those vertical too, though admittedly to a lesser degree. All that combined with perspective control simply means many things to manage from the get go. I’m sure you have numerous titles that come to mind. But there’s one I know of in particular that goes just that bit further than most.

Movie Battles II, a free, multiplayer, community driven mod of Raven’s own Jedi Academy, which already combined strong gun play with complex saber combat and magic powers, along with options to switch to either 1st or 3rd person view at will, thanks in part to Quake III.

That wasn’t satisfying enough for these folks however, who not only decided to add to, modify, or rebuild each of those combat systems, but also, add a hand to hand combat system, advanced mobility options, a plethora of customisable character options, some of which with many more weapons than you might traditionally carry in other games, and finally a huge quick speech system; off the top of my head.

With all that said, what you’re left with is a game that sounds, plays, and feels like no other. It is incredibly complex and nuanced, making it highly unforgiving, and extremely difficult to master. But that still didn’t stop people trying. And over time, people did manage, turning the higher levels of gameplay into almost an art form.

But, while it’s great fun, and at times awesome to watch, it’s even more fun to play. And having dabbled before, I had a good idea of what I needed. But after taking stock of what I wanted to control, I now required every key I could possibly find if I wanted to really play the game. The perfect reason to suss out that ideal control scheme.

So I began by going through every WASD like possibility I thought reasonable, to find the ideal layout. But after shifting further and further right, I hadn’t found one single promising candidate.

So, I opened up my criteria a little and started looking into controls based on ERDF, like a game pad, but after it and its siblings all tripped up, I opened things up as wide as I could with 46TH and its brethren, a bow-like layout. I was looking for anything by this point. But even with that massive effort, just as before, they all failed…

I figured I’d give it one final go with a position I had overlooked, because, well… I did end up finding… something, on my fifth and final attempt. But, as you’re about to see, I had to make some “concessions”.

I’m sure we’re all familiar with WASD by now. But perhaps not for this. So get ready, for its wilted cousin seven generations removed! Now, introducing…

*Drum roll*


Yes, you see it right! 9IOP, the future of all control schemes! So futuristic, you may have to place your hand more than halfway across the board, and even tilt the screen outwards slightly, just to make things comfortable enough to wield. And not only does it have a large number of pinky options, if you’re willing to move ‘Jump’ onto the mouse, it also comes with a whole load of thumb keys, all at your disposable! A small sacrifice for immense gaming potential!

With the orange coloured being the resting keys, and grey being proven unreliable, it actually worked! I was managing to pull off movement combos like never before. Able to swiftly switch to any mobility mode or weapon option without needing to panic browse with my scroll wheel, all at any time. Finally I could start to get to grips with the game, and get a feel for what I could and couldn’t do. And it felt good to use; no strains, aches, or pains. And if that couldn’t stop me, nothing could. I had gone toe to toe with my keyboard, and won. I felt like a God!

But I just knew, deep down, it was too good to be true; knew I hadn’t been thorough enough. I had assumed that what worked in light testing, worked in all cases, because no other candidate had managed to offer so much, and there were no more options left. But I checked again, very carefully, and lo and behold, a likely combination of movement keys would interfere with a couple of very important buttons. And while I found a work around.

Trying to make use of this would prove a step too far.

In a final last ditch effort, I brought out my NKRO keyboard and attempted to find a layout like 9IOP, but it had two fatal design flaws to my plans. It’s bumpiness and relatively sharp edges meant I couldn’t slide my thumb around. And it was very easy to get my pinky lost, with the comparatively large actuation distances, lots of deep gaps, and lack of solid feedback.

Perhaps you know of a game with even more complex control requirements, but I hope you can begin to see that, the vast majority of keyboards and mice combinations wouldn’t be able to fully immerse you into a game like this. It was after this that I decided I had been defeated. But, despite it, for my efforts, I was left with that partial layout of what “half” of a real gaming keyboard should perhaps look like, but no foundation worthwhile to develop it further with, since I had no interest in a stand-alone keyboard.

Thankfully, having kept an eye on FW since LTT first shed light upon it, their vision was captivating enough that I saw a possible intersection. I knew what I wanted, but it was always a question of whether FW, or really anyone, would be able to meet me somewhere in the middle. And now, with the addition of AMD chips and what looks to be promised in the FWL 16 with the details released, for the first time, things genuinely look tangible for me to finally have my perfect “enough” laptop.

So with that story, and scrappy diagrams, I hope it’s not too hard to understand what inspired the keyboard designs above, and that they are based heavily on those hard learned truths from games, about my own physicality, NKRO, and the QWERTY layout.

Also, to me at least, this means that the vast majority of manufacturers claiming their laptops are “gaming” oriented, really is just a marketing ploy. They may have the latest and greatest hardware, outputting large and crisp frames at high refresh rates, a serious cooling system to keep it all in check, and give you RGB with highlighted WASD keys on top, but if they don’t try to provide a sufficient enough of an interface for the gamer, they don’t deserve to claim it. What’s more, they even know it’s not ideal because they’ve provide extra keys on the left side for some of their machines. So I have high confidence in the extra pinky buttons in my design, especially now I may align them with their natural resting position and reach limits.

As for the game, MBII, if you intend to check it out, you’ll need to own a copy of Jedi Academy, and be aware that the quote, “You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy.” is not too far from the truth. But at the same time, you’ll never come across the type of shenanigans and absolute chaos that can ensue.

With the controls, they are complex but it’s not necessary to have good fluid control or fun. Also, be warned, the learning curve is beyond beyond as the population consists mostly veterans of the game over there.

Story, over!

With regards to the variety in key size, I don’t know exactly how it’s going to pan out if I make it that far. Their role is purely to aid in ease of reach and won’t be doing anything immensely special, which I imagine to be fine. I mean, the ‘backspace’ key is huge and special, but I still occasionally hit ‘enter’ (another special key) instead because it’s right up at the limit of what my pinky is capable of reaching, uncomfortably. These little ones should be much easier to reach, and, while a smaller target, I think “so long as the gaps between the keys are able to be felt, I can know where my pinky is”, so there shouldn’t be a problem of getting lost in it. And if I do, I imagine adding accents to the outer keys to feel like walls and corners should do the trick.

You’re right in that there are a lot of keys, 106 if I counted correctly, with more to come. But everything in that board layout contains all I’ve learned or believe to be better, so they should all have a good reason to exist. And having lots of keys isn’t a problem if you intend to make good use of them all. A quick count gives me ~41 keys of ~103 keys on my laptop I’d describe as of little to no common use. ~40% wasted.

This could be solved with layers I admit, and which I do intend to use. It’s just that, like all things, there will be trade-offs if I purely go that route. But this is an ultimate keyboard. My goal is no trade-offs at all. Performance and productivity at any cost, no matter how small the benefit. If I can drop that 40% unused down to 20% or 10% while also minimising toggling and shifting, that’s a win for me.

And this keyboard is not intended to be run of the mill, so it doesn’t surprise me if people find it different. It’s intended to serve a variety of common purposes, some unique, but all of which I feel have a good degree of convergence that no one appears to have considered. So its design won’t even attempt to align with any typical design philosophies or conventions people may already have, unless it has to.

I appreciate the interest nonetheless. It’s nice to share with others like yourself and get some feedback. For now, I just have to hope to get a little more from FW. I’m currently wondering if I may need to split my board into three chunks if the keyboard size modules are a max limit. Certainly doable. But till then, I’m blind.


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Thank you for the very detailed post about the motivation.
I can at least understand the motivation for the number of keys and layout.

I happen to also play some games where having a lot of key binding quickly accessible, and I have found layers to be incredibly useful. I use a [GitHub - Bastardkb/Charybdis] where the left side is a 4 * 6 + cluster of 5 keys, with just two layers for games. Instead of WASD, it becomes more natural to use ESDF, thus adding one column of 4 keys for the pink use.
Owing to the 2.5D layout of that keyboard, it is very easy to reach any key, making the experience not only more efficient, but also comfortable.

I am not sure how it would port to Mobile Wars II, but it might be worth a try. Not sure about the NKRO aspect though.

Hope it can be of some use or further inspiration.
Looking forward to see you custom keyboard.

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My pleasure! And thanks for sharing!

It got me thinking of a straight up ergonomic conversion of my flat design. But the central geometry seems bizarre to consider, useful ergonomics aside. Like a pillar of air wrapped in something with negative curvature, or if you could take a normal ergo-keyboard and pull the hump until it stuck straight up.

I’ve only experienced a track ball once and I didn’t like the feel of using it then, but that was a stand alone, and decades ago when I couldn’t touch type. Looking at one again now, I know there’s efficiencies to be had. It’d be good to try one again now to see how it’d feel.

I do already have in mind an ergonomic keyboard. But it too would, again, probably not look like any ergonomic keyboard in existence. And I’m not sure if I’d be able to get away with having “board” in the name anymore. But both would be well beyond my capabilities at present to pursue anyway.

I’ll take another look if ever I manage to get this one finished!

Otherwise, besides the qwertyness, it looks and sounds like a nice bit of kit!

I haven’t wrapped my head around the idea of layers fully yet so it’s something I’m looking forward to having and playing around with, if I can.

MBII has two layers of its own for the quick speech system, and they appear hardcoded to using the integers so it gets silly having to move up and down the board.

If it’s possible to activate layers on the keyboard from the mouse, and vice versa, that’d be nuts!


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qwerty is born in the days of typewriters.

The “Shift” varies between vendors. Some are a toggle (like Caps Lock), others are a “hold down” like modern Shifts.

As new symbols are needed when computers are introduced we just add more buttons to the edgess. We shrunk the spacebar and added Ctrl, Alt, Option/Logo key, Fn, directions, tabs, function keys and numpads.

Then people realized that ergonomics is a thing, and they invented the traditional “split” ergo, like the Logi K860

The two sides are angled (Z-axis, height) so you don’t have to twist your hands from vertical (normal position) all the way to 90 degrees, which make it more ergo. They are also rotated (Rz-axis) so you can angle your hands more naturally. You have a few different flavors of these. Some of them are two physical separate pieces so you can adjust them for maximum comfort.
A flat deck keyboard with angled rows help a bit, but not significantly. I feel like angling contribute 30%, and the height contributes 70%.

And then you have these.

Ortholinear in my opinion doesn’t significantly improve comfort, and on top of that you also need to sort of re-learn the mapping.

Keyboard talk is a super niche nerd thing and everyone have their favorites. I think this angled deck look cool and I might purchase if it did become a thing, but I prefer to keep my numpad, and I would rather just get a Ergo 4000 or something for long typing.