Keyboard - more control over layout (if there is no way we get more keys)

I’m very interested in Framework Laptop project.
But I can’t see myself happily using it due to poor keyboard layout.

I’m a programmer, I’m using Home/End/PgUp/PgDn keys a lot. Current layout requires both hand to input them, which I find unacceptable.

What alternatives exist on the market, other than 100% layout with Num block:

  • Vertical Home/PgUp/PgDn/End keys block at the right side of the keyboard. This is well known solution and it was proposed a lot in other threads already. Unfortunately, I’m quite pessimistic about the chances it will be offered. Current state seems to be half-assed cost-optimized and totally depends on mass-market.

  • Fn key next to arrow keys. Would allow to use most frequent combinations singlehandedly. I think it was most often seen on Sony laptops. Without sacrificing Alt or Ctrl key that would require a different hardware layout with space key moved to the left.

  • Dedicated Home/End/PgUp/PgDn keys in the F-keys row instead of other special keys. I wonder whether this is patented by Microsoft, because it is exclusive to their Surface laptops and keyboard covers afaik. Honestly, I would prefer Surface laptop just because of this feature. If there is no legal argument against such layout then it can be offered on the same hardware.

  • Good support for permanent OS-independent custom layouts, so anyone could make something acceptable with the hardware we’re given. I see there is some firmware editing experiment already but it seems to be non-permanent and OS-dependent (I use Windows so it doesn’t seem suitable for me).

More topics (sorry, as a new user I can’t put many links even to existing forum topics):

  • Framework | Framework Laptop Keyboard (blog post)
  • Alternative Keyboard layouts - Framework Laptop - Framework Community
  • PgUp PgDn Home End Keys - Framework Laptop - Framework Community
  • What keyboard options will be available? - Framework Laptop - Framework Community
  • A QMK configurable keyboard - Framework Laptop - Framework Community

Sorry for creating an another one.
In this topic I suggest to focus on options that will not require a different keyboard hardware and therefore are more likely to be supported.

  • Does current hardware design allow a custom permanent layout in principle?
  • Or would it require another mainboard revision?
  • Can we have at least bios flags for a couple of alternatives, possibly with cap kits? (Fn instead of RCtrl, “Surface-like” layout if it’s not patented.)
  • If embedded controller firmware is open source, can we have custom builds with permanent custom layout or is it signed?
  • Any other ideas? (I was going to ask about a possibility of a mod board between the keyboard and the mainboard, but figured that would probably won’t work very well in many cases with logic performed by embedded controller.)
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It’s only OS-specific insofar as the only OS that can currently communicate with the EC is Linux. I’m working to change that!

That’s an excellent question. I can offer up my experience here, as I think I’m the only Framework Laptop owner who’s running custom EC firmware[1].

Yes, it is open source. In my free time, I’m working on building support for QMK-like layout customization here (which has been extracted into its own repository for easier future ingestion into other ECs using the same codebase.)

I’ve been using it as a daily driver for about a month now, and everything that’s implemented today works the way it’s supposed to. Here’s some source code glamor shots:

[1]: Having also written a tool to assist in reflashing your EC safely: Announcement: ECTool.efi - talk to the EC from the UEFI shell (and reflash it!)


@DHowett Thank you for your great work!
I’m now more confident I can seek for buying a Framework laptop (I’m also not in a country where it would be easy to buy).

I wish the keyboard had at least a couple more keys (like some laptops from Japanese manufacturers repurposing hardware designed for Japanese market). But at least we can expect to be able to do what Microsoft does.

How often does the original EC firmware get binary updates?
I hope it won’t be an issue to keep the custom firmware in sync.
I can imagine this implementation is going to be way too nerdy to be considered for merge into upstream. I wonder what would be the company solution when trying to address the same issue…

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