The case for an Atreus keyboard

Split laptop keyboard? Where do I sign up and which kidney would you like? Please make this happen.


+1 for a split keyboard on the framework laptop. Once you’ve tried a split keyboard, you can never go back.

Ideally, the keyboard would be fully programmable and support multiple layers - like the QMK firmware on Moonlander/Ergodox EZ etc.


This is perhaps the biggest challenge for implementation of an Atreus, as there is a greater likelihood that the user of unorthodox keyboard configurations also adopt obscure layouts. Without a relatively easy way to programme key actions the Atreus would be dead in the water, as it relies on layers.

There is already a discussion of QMK-esque functionality within the framework keyboard here.

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I tend to agree on the programability but would be happy enough if there was something like kmonad ( in the system that gave a config option


This is the first I’ve ever heard of this. I kinda want one now.


The GergoPlex is very similar to my daily driver, the Falbatech Minidox. I agree with you insofar as I greatly prefer typing on it to the Atreus, which is newer and thus less familiar. I run RSTHD layout, and submitted a keycap to the QMK repository. My proudest feature is a “virtual inner column” on each half made from combos of the adjacent inboard keys. I subsequently switched from Oneshot shift to space invader shift/parentheses, and the layout works really well for me.

However I think the Atreus is a more pragmatic choice for a laptop because it fits the classic arrangement of a trackpad in front better, and most people are probably not ready to manage on a mere 36 keys in total. If we want an unorthodox keyboard configuration I think it is important to avoid a “Peoples front of Judea” situation developing amongst advocates for different but similar ergonomic keyboard projects where we become unable to agree whose design should be implemented.

In my view the Atreus has the most going for it: it is commercially successful and the right shape for existing laptops, with just enough keys for most people.


If the atreus had a few mil more length on the middle keys then it would be fine. I am thinking of replaceng the key caps that I have with shift key sized keys for that reason.

I also have a 36 key layout based on with a pile of tweaks


This is a really great idea, and, I think, deserves some serious consideration. The standard QWERTY staggered layout is really a technological debt that has yet to be resolved, for no other reason than convention. The stagger was originally made for typewriters, and has no place on a computer keyboard. Thus, rethinking the design of a laptop keyboard, I think, is long overdue.

The Atreus is an excellent design: it fixes the staggered key problem with ordinary layouts, adds columnar stagger to account for the shape of human hands, and adds in thumb keys where it makes sense. It’s practically a perfect keyboard. I would LOVE to see this as an available Framework keyboard.


agreed I use one just about every day and that would make me want to buy a framework even more than I do at the moment


I signed up for this forum just to reply to this thread. Woohoo!

I hate to point out the obvious, but instead of trying to have a low-production-run topcase with a split keyboard, why not design a two-piece topcase that is modular? What I mean by that is imagine a topcase that has clips or snaps for the entire human-input-device surface area. I’m talking about being able to pop in/out a giant rectangle that has your trackpad and keyboard. The mainstream, non-split Qwerty layout with a standard trackpad can be mass-produced for economy-of-scale purposes, but then enthusiasts and professionals (or even people with physical problems, such as myself) have some kind of upgrade path. Expensive, yes, but possible.

This could even support alternative pointing devices such as pointing sticks, jogwheels, trackballs, or even new innovations. No need to stop at the keyboard. Make the entire thing modular. We could even swap out the screen hinges to intentionally make the laptop thicker, as a tradeoff for a better keyboard, if we really wanted to.

Why not? Seriously.

It’s 2021 and 2022 is just around the corner. Staggered, Qwerty keyboard layouts were developed in 1878 to decrease the chances of a mechanical typewriter jamming. This isn’t news to anyone talking about keyboards; everyone knows this. Can we please move on to better, more sensible keyboard layouts? It’s time. As a society, we really need to let go of the past and someone needs to take a risk.

Open up the design of the top case. Make it like Legos. Let the community do the work.

With love and frustration,

  • Someone who just signed up for these forums, but I’m passionate about what I had to say. :slight_smile:

I would love to have a keyboard like this, especially if it also included a trackpoint nub, and left/right mouse buttons! Looks like there would be room in the middle of the keyboard.


I would be happy enough with a simple planck 48 key keyboard.

I like the atreus but find some of the offsets do not fit my hands

I would love to see an ortholinear option. Whether that be a planck, atreus, or another layout. It would be practically impossible to create a layout that would please everyone though, and I imagine the tooling would make it prohibitively expensive to make multiple ergonomic layouts.

The biggest deal for me is the ortholinear part. I can get used to different placement of modifier keys, and setup multiple layers as necessary. But staggered layouts are just so difficult for me. Particularly the c and m keys are hard to hit because of the horizontal movement required.


So I don’t know enough about cutting aluminum or PCB (that’s the term for the underlying circuit board, though I have no idea what it stands for) design, but I feel like it would be possible to custom-build a keyboard just like this, if the top chassis plate on the laptop is flat and replicateable, you could scan it somehow and then CNC out a top plate with the cutouts for whatever keyboard you wanted instead of the normal ones. The issue of getting the PCB to recognize everything and finding individual switches thin enough for that would be exceedingly difficult, and I’m not enough of a keyboard wizard to be that passionate about it, but i think it is certainly doable on a small scale if you have access to a CNC Mill and 3D-design software (and you could probably find a company online willing to cut the aluminum for you) And I know for a fact you can custom-order PCBs, it’d be a soldering nightmare, and you’d have a hard time getting it to interface with the rest of the machine, as it still needs to fit and incorporate with everything else.
If you’re passionate enough and are willing to put in the time (and money), it should be totally doable

As an alternative to designing your own top plate, you could buy an extra and then cut in the spacing you need, ignoring or filling the excess created by the original keyboard holes. (then you’d even have switches and keycaps to use, assuming they’re removable)

edit: PCB stands for Printed Circuit Board

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I don’t think you’ll be able to find individual switches thin enough to fit in the Framework. There’s a reason thin and light laptops use scissor switches. Even low profile mechanical switches are much too thick.

I’m not very familiar with how they’re made, but as far as I’m aware, small batch manufacturing of a custom scissor switch keyboard wouldn’t be feasible due to custom tooling requirements.

The PCB is not the problem.

Edit: I actually just found this, which is the thinnest individual mechanical switch I’ve seen yet. Maybe it would be feasible. Kaih Low profile Notebook X Switch keyboard switch for laptop,brown switch,Pretravel 1.2mm clikcy tactile feeling|Replacement Parts & Accessories| - AliExpress

Edit2: Here’s an article with some photos of these in use on laptops. I would love to see someone build something with this that could fit in the Framework. Kailh releases “X Switch” PG1425 - deskthority

These switches are still 6.5mm though. I’m having trouble finding the height of the scissor switches used in the Framework, but if it’s thinner than 6.5, and the difference can’t be made up by using a thinner PCB, this wouldn’t work.


The Cherry MX-ULP discussed here (here is the datasheet) appears to be a similar thing, but using metal stamped parts which are less bulky than plastic. It is thus shown as 3.5mm deep, albeit this seems to be due to omission of mounting pins (I guess this switch is surface mount). Current Framework key travel is quoted as 0.5mm whereas Cherry claim 0.8mm for their design (that’s >50% more).

The linked discussion suggests the Cherry MX-ULP fit the framework in terms of height. Not only might this be an interesting option for building an Atreus keyboard, this limited application could perhaps also be an opportunity to evaluate their wider adoption in Framework laptops .


popping in to say that I would also consider an atreus or similar keyboard option to be a huge upside and a must buy.

I currently use an atreus at my desktop. I’m planning a custom keyboard which is going to add some more keys (more thumb keys, and some additional width to make it easier to balance on my lap when I have to do that), but on the whole the design feels really good and I’d be happy to see something like that available integrated into a laptop.


I’m not confident that the audience for split keyboards would unify around a particular layout. What I would really like, however, would be a keyboard option that only had enough keys on it to enter the bios screen and run some basic controls that aren’t always on external keyboards. E.g. just a top-line function key line, but only with the following buttons (some are out of order, since this is just an idea):

  1. “BIOS Setup” 2. “vPRO BIOS Setup” 3. “Boot Menu”, 4. “Ctrl” 5. “Alt” 6. “Del” 7. “Screen brightness +” 8. “Screen brightness -” 9. “Audio volume +” 10. “Audio volume -” 11. “Mute” 12. “Printscreen” 13. “Sleep” 14. “Screen mode”

or maybe some others. These would pretty much be the F-keys or their equivalent with a Fn key chorded depending on the function.

With this in place, and the rest of the keyboard area blank, anyone with a favorite keyboard already would have easy keys to get into the BIOS and execute laptop-specific functions without plugging in a keyboard (sometimes usb-keyboards, especially fancy ones with embedded controllers can take some time to boot and initialize, so having a working default for entering the BIOS and boot is a bonus IMO).

How would others feel about this?

I’m afraid it does not appeal to me, I value that my 12" MacBook - even with the worst keyboard mechanism ever - can be typed on as a last resort, like now when I have it on my lap and decide to respond to a post but cannot be arsed to get up and take it to the proper keeb. Maybe others might see more benefit - perhaps it might be worth starting a new thread to develop the idea?

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A variation of the Atreus with a built in pointing stick is offered by Terminal Velocity, who have a pretty neat name too! I might actually get this for personal use, because I often carry the Atreus with my laptop, and it is fine for typing (quite often on my lap), but using the cursor occasions an ungainly reach for the trackpad on the computer itself.

Of course this is of limited relevance to application of this keyboard format in a laptop, since the Atreus is sufficiently compact that the normal trackpad can be retained.