What keyboard options will be available?

I would like to see a keyboard option that has trackpoint. Not having to move my hand from the home row in order to use the mouse is very nice.

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This might be a totally unworkable idea, and probably more complex to manufacture, but given the number of keyboard variants people seem to be interested in, what about a mostly-solid input cover (no key grid, just cutouts for the touchpad and power button) with an indented portion for users to install custom keyboards in? Somewhat like old Thinkpads where one could easily remove the keyboard and it was only held in place by a few tabs or screws, IIRC. (Though it might be difficult to make sufficiently thin keyboards…and if it’s not too difficult to manufacture an input cover, e.g. with a CNC machine – I haven’t looked at the schematics or anything – just having people make fully custom input covers might be more practical…)

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This. It seems like it shouldn’t be that difficult to manufacture “blanks” (with no key holes cut) and custom cut the key holes. It would probably cost a moderate amount, but I bet a lot of folks would be more than happy to pay a decent chunk of change for a keyboard they really like. Especially since with a frame.work, there’s at least a potential to get 10-15 years or more out of it.

Making “custom” keyboards to go with them might be more of an issue…

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I’m not certain it’s quite clear just how thin the current input cover is. You’re not talking about the kind of cross section that you can casually mill on a CNC router, there’s simply not enough meat there in the current design for you to have sufficient stiffness to make avoiding a chattering/bouncing workpiece a trivial thing, resulting in terrible geometry and surface finish (at least for a high end product). The input cover has the type of dimensions that really lends itself to sheet metal work, without being exorbitantly expensive. Going with CNC results in possibly multiple hundreds of dollars for a single input cover blank, if you have decent-but-not-massive volume production, just because of the tooling costs alone to get a CNC mill and tooling that can handle precision work of that degree and volume.

Now, with a laptop that has even an extra two or three millimeters depth for a “blank” input cover… I can see this idea starting to make sense. CNC milling is probably still not the economical option, but you can get very stiff reinforced sheet metal work that’s either a single piece or spot welded together with that kind of footprint. And the blank could well serve as a drip tray to protect the internals of the laptop

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Right. And we have no technology capable of precision cutting sheet metals. Actually, I think a (still CNC!) laser / water-jet cutter might be cheaper than a CNC mill? (Yeah, yeah, laser cutting aluminum is hard. Not impossible, but hard. Still, I suspect there exists some method for CNC cutting aluminum sheet that would have acceptable precision.)

…but it’s much cheaper to make one that already has holes? I was assuming the same process would be used as to make ones with holes. At worst, that would require new dies / molds, but in the long term, the costs should be about the same. Depending on when/how the holes are cut, it might be as simple as skipping a step in the current process.

Ortholinear Keyboard Response

All those technologies are for 2-D subtractive processes. See: all of my comments on sheet metal being a better alternative than CNC milling/routing.

I’m not referring to the difficulty of making an 18 gauge sheet metal part with a hole in it the size of a keyboard layout, that’s trivial - heck, maybe the next-generation glowforge could do it. I’m referring to the difficulty of making a three-dimensionally milled part, with custom routed extruded cuts and reinforcing geometry to maintain stiffness, that you can then slap any keyboard you want into, regardless of layout, while STILL maintaining enough torsional stiffness without needing to use the keyboard as an additional structural component. Yes, it’s possible to mill a piece that thin. I’m arguing it’s not cost-effective to use a CNC mill or a CNC router to make precision partial-depth cut surfaces, and a vacuum bed to lock the part in place. And then you need the kind of sales volume to make the design, labor, tooling, and logistics worth it, for a niche feature of having a keyboard deck that you can swap arbitrary keyboards in and out of…

…and? I don’t think you understand what I’m suggesting.

Make the cover however it’s made now, only without the key holes. That shouldn’t be difficult; it should range from “trivial” to “equally as hard as making one with holes”. Then cut the holes using a CNC process.

First, I’m unconvinced this is as “niche” as you think, given how many requests are floating around for different keyboard layouts. Design costs should not be that significant; it’s not that hard to lay out a bunch of rounded rectangles. Maybe they could do some sort of kickstarter-like campaign where at least ten people pledge for a certain design before someone lays it out. As for logistics, plenty of companies are able to sell custom products. Everything else you said is independent of the number of custom designs produced; that’s the beauty of the idea. Yeah, it’s going to cost more, but I bet if it cost $100 more, most of the people that aren’t happy with the current keyboard would pay that, or more. (I definitely would.)

Or they could just sell “blanks” and let the marketplace (or individual consumers) figure out how to cut them.

I think I probably muddled the discussion a bit by suggesting both an input cover with an empty keyboard tray and bringing up CNC machining as a method for making fully-custom covers with a metal grid (like the current keyboard’s) in the same comment. (Thank you @Frosty for explaining so clearly why they’re likely not practical, or at least not cheap, options here; personally I have zero actual experience with CNC machines just yet :slightly_smiling_face:)

Selling “blanks” of the standard input cover, to be modified with an appropriate subtractive process (waterjet cutting? I’m no machinist, obviously), seems like perhaps the most practical option – assuming that people can make keyboards thin enough to fit inside!

(It sounds like my “tray” idea would be substantially more complicated/expensive, if it’s even feasible – and would have some inherent tradeoffs compared to imitating the current input cover design, like limiting the size/shape of alternative keyboards.)

I do wish the Framework were a bit thicker and then this would probably be a non-issue, but it’s a little late for that :wink:

Also, I’d anticipate a lot of bikeshedding over the details, but something close to @Brad_J’s design with a more traditional arrow-key cluster might be popular enough for a group buy…

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Even if an extra column isn’t feasible, I would still love to see full-height arrow keys by putting the up arrow to the left of the right shift, something like this:

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That would honestly drive me insane, because I’m used to shift being there, and I’ll go to capitalize a left hand letter, and find myself typing in the middle of the line above.

Why do we need full height arrow keys? Isn’t it better to have the two half height keys as a homing mechanism for the right middle finger, so that you can move around without looking at the keyboard?

PS: I type in a Workman layout, so I’d love to see the ability to swap the keys around to suit my layout. I’ll be getting the clear ANSI keyboard once its available, and see if I can manage a way to remove the keycaps of the original board and rearrange them without destroying it.

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Some of us really dislike half-height arrow keys. They’re also harder to press, due to needing more precise finger placement compared to every other key.

What I’d like to know is why we can’t just add a row (of only three keys). Yeah, it’d be a little different (but so are half height arrows which already place ‘up’ in the wrong spot), but it would give us an extra two total keys.

Personally, though, I think my first choice would be adding a few millimeters so we can have a proper keyboard tray that allows any layout (and allows using the space all the way to the edge so we can have one more entire column)… and, incidentally, a thicker (and thus higher capacity) battery.

Or (heresy!) we could make the side bezels the same width as the top and bottom, which would make the whole thing just a little wider, which would also give us that extra column of keys. (But that would require redesigning everything, or having different and incompatible expansion cards.)

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I’d rather get rid of the typewriter layout of keyboards and go ortholinear. There is no reason why we couldn’t have full height arrows and right shift in the right place at the same time on a keyboard where 1 and z are in line with each other. Make the arrows 1U wide instead of 1.25U and that would leave room for probably a 1.75U right Shift, AND an up arrow on the second to bottom row of the board, without intruding further south beside the touchpad with the arrows. I use only ortholinears on my desktop now, and wonder why people still use qwerty, personally. I type faster on Workman than I did on qwerty 3 years ago, now. Your issue and mine solved in one go, and it would add room for maybe the pgup pgdn home and end along the right side.

I’d also be down with adding a longer hinge to the screen to raise it a bit when it is closed, and giving the top cover a larger thickness, adding some space so that we could put a thicker more customizable or homebrew keyboard in. More space for a larger battery would also be a plus, too.

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I like the idea of the larger hinge. Would love be able to put in a custom planck stlyle keyboard

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I use a Planck both at my home and office desks. The offset keys on the Framework are honestly kind of jarring to me, moreso than seeing qwerty keys and typing Workman layout. It really seems bizarre to me that a typewriter layout still prevails.

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yeah I think that when I have rebuilt my planck I may spray paint the keys.

My home build planck is the image that I use for my avitar

The right shift key is the second largest key on the US keyboard. Why not make it shorter and put standard size up arrow key left of it, allowing the down arrow key to be full size between left and right arrows to create the standard inverted T layout? This would not require a modification of the keyboard grid. While we were at it, we could shrink the caps lock key and add another key left of A. For the person who would like the spacebar to be centered above the touch pad, it could be made narrower to open a space for an additional key left of it.

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Caps lock is only about 1¾ keys wide; that would be a very small key…

But bigger than the up and down arrow keys! It is not touch-typed and is seldom used. Somebody was lamenting the lack of a “programmer’s key” (<>) left of the A on a different language keyboard.

I’m probably going to get a framework, but I would 1000% get one and pay an extra ~$250 if there were an ortholinear layout. I know someone in the staff said the restriction is what fits into the cutouts, but is it possible framework or a third party can make an entirely new “input cover” where that is supported?

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