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System76 are teasing their own brand Keyboard again

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System76, the company that provides various Linux hardware along with their own Pop!_OS Linux distribution have started teasing their upcoming Keyboard again.

Originally talked about in a blog post back in March last year, we haven't really heard much since then. Things sounded pretty experimental back then but in a fresh blog post from July 30, it seems it's moving forward. However, it also sounds like it's not close to being finished yet either, as they stated:

We’re approaching our keyboard in 3 different ways: Redesigning the keyboard itself, maximizing your efficiency when using it, and empowering you to fully customize your keyboard to your whims.

We’ll announce the release of our keyboard through our newsletter and social channels once the prototyping phase is complete. This will take some time.

System76 say they want to build a keyboard you will 'fall in love with' and it seems they're going to be moving some keys around to make more use of all your fingers and thumbs. They're going with three key sizes:

  • 1U (letter/number keys)
  • 1.5U (tab keys)
  • 2U (shift keys)

They're also chopping up the spacebar into two '2U' sized keys, they said that apart from just making it smaller it will also 'bring useful functions closer to the center of the keyboard, but this also allows you to remap another commonly-used key to where it’s easy for you to smash with your other thumb'.

Swapping around keys will be part of the design focus to allow you to customize it, and to help with that they're planning to release an application to configure your layout properly. This application will also work with their laptops that have the System76 Embedded Controller Firmware which they say will 'enable you to use the same custom keyboard layout on both your laptop and desktop'.

Certainly will be interesting to see what design they ultimately settle on, with it also being design to work well with the new Auto Tiling feature found in their Pop!_OS Linux distribution. Speaking about testing their new keyboard layout, the System76 CEO, Carl Richell, said "I’ve found using the new keyboard layouts with Auto-Tiling is so addictive that when I go to another computer, it feels like I’m in a foreign land.".

If you were to change one major thing about the standard keyboard design, what would it be? Let us know in the comments.

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I am the owner of GamingOnLinux. After discovering Linux back in the days of Mandrake in 2003, I constantly came back to check on the progress of Linux until Ubuntu appeared on the scene and it helped me to really love it. You can reach me easily by emailing GamingOnLinux directly. Find me on Mastodon.
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prueba_hola Aug 3, 2020
i really hate the Windows logo in the super key

if they provide a ISO keyboard, i will buy it if the price is not crazy
slaapliedje Aug 3, 2020
I am kind of a keyboard nut, so I will most likely pick one of these up. Surprised they don't do what Roccat does and just have firmware inside the keyboard that gets flashed by the software config. It has been useful there, as I can move keyboard or mouse to another computer and not lose any function.
flesk Aug 3, 2020
View PC info
  • Contributing Editor
Two things I really dislike on standard keyboards:
  • Windows key

  • Caps Lock key

randyl Aug 3, 2020
I'm a keyboard nut so I'll keep an eye on it, but what I hear so gives me concern. It doesn't sound ANSI standard so replacing keycaps would be very expensive.

Some things I'll be looking for:
1. Is it going to use Open Firmware like ErgoDox and Hexgears feature? There are already configuration utilities for this firmware. This means no lock in.

2. Are the keycaps and layout ANSI standard? This is important if you want to switch keycaps because they wear out, break, or just want a different set of caps.

3. What switch selection will they offer and will the switch sockets be hotswapable? That means they're user serviceable.

4. Will they offer PBT over ABS keycaps?

5. How portable will their keyboard be to other distributions and OSs?

There are already some really good open keyboards on the market designed with users in mind. The blog article wasn't very encouraging either. I got the impression they're trying to design a keyboard experience in the mindset of Apple, rather than focusing on keyboard features power users want.

Last edited by randyl on 3 August 2020 at 4:17 pm UTC
randyl Aug 3, 2020
Quoting: prueba_holai really hate the Windows logo in the super key

if they provide a ISO keyboard, i will buy it if the price is not crazy
You can buy keycaps (singles or sets) without the Microsoft logo on the super key.
I use a mac wired keyboard (aluminum). No windows key...

Edit: Sadly, they stopped making them.

Last edited by no_information_here on 3 August 2020 at 5:25 pm UTC
slaapliedje Aug 3, 2020
Quoting: fleskTwo things I really dislike on standard keyboards:
  • Windows key

  • Caps Lock key

Awesome thing about the Roccat keyboards, the Capslock is moved to a place where you have to hold down another key to press a key to enable it. Granted, like anything else on those keyboards, you can change where it is assigned.
appetrosyan Aug 3, 2020
ErgoEmacs here I come!!!
elmapul Aug 3, 2020
I’ve found using the new keyboard layouts with Auto-Tiling is so addictive that when I go to another computer, it feels like I’m in a foreign land.".

i have mixed feelings about this.
at the same time that i aways wanted an keyboard with extra keys that i can configure to do whatever i want, nowadays i dont have time/motivation to change my workflow anymore.

as much as it sounds like empowering users, giving then more freedom, at the same time it sound a bit like vendor lock-in, unless the entire industry adopt it, you will be adicted to an feature that only they provide, wich isnt a big issue until they start to put their computers at an ridiculous price like apple...

and speaking of it, this is sounding more like apple, were their product dont give the user any significant advantage anymore, but everyone was brainwashed into thinking they do.
i mean, its just an small gimmick, why not buy an Stream Deck instead?
dmoonfire Aug 3, 2020
My problem has always been size. After so many years of touch typing plus having really large hands, I struggle a lot with keyboards that don't follow the patterns I need (namely inverted T and the two row/3 column home/end space). Sadly, there isn't a laptop out there that has it.

On the other hand, the edges don't bother me at all.

A shorter space might be interesting but I would need it across all machines to really consider the physical pain of switching layouts to be worth it.

Oh, and mechanical. I go through so many membrane keyboards in a year (3-4, partially due to children, partially due to the quarter million words written) as opposed to mechanical (1/18 months).
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