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The ErgoDox EZ is one of the best ergonomic keyboards you’ve never heard of

By Alvin Soon - 27 Mar 2018

But the real power is in the software

My current config. It might look weird to you but that’s the point. It works for me and you can make one that works for you. Plus I can change it at any time.

But the real power is in the software

After I felt a little more confident typing with the ErgoDox EZ, I started experimenting with different layouts via ErgoDox EZ’s online configurator. That’s when I realized that the ErgoDox EZ’s real power lay in its software, waiting for my stumbling fingers to catch up so I could unlock it.

The entire surface is programmable, and you can customize every single key to your liking. Keys can be programmed to return a single key, dual keys (tap for one, long hold for the other) or a combination of dual commands (key plus modifier). I can set a single key to return either CMD or CMD + Space, for example. This comes in useful if you use shortcut keys often, like how CMD + Space brings up Spotlight on the Mac.

I’ve set this key to return a combination of key (Space) plus modifier (CMD) so it launches Alfred on my Mac.

After you’ve designed your layout, you download the configuration file, and flash the keyboard using the Teensy app and inserting a paper clip into the hole on the top right of the keyboard. It’s easy.

Download the config file, load it into the Teensy app, stick a pin into this hole, and you’ve just reconfigured your ErgoDox EZ.

With the configurator, you can make your ErgoDox EZ entirely your own. I use Markdown to write, for example, so I modified the center keys for my most commonly used Markdown modifiers, like # and *.

However, the real power for me is in chaining shortcuts onto a single key. I use the Photoshop ‘Save to Web’ command frequently, which has the long shortcut key of CMD + Shift + Option + S on the Mac.

I customized a single button to combine a keystroke (CMD) with two modifiers (Shift + Option). So now, I only have to hit this key and ‘S’ to save to web, instead of four keys. In the same vein, I’ve customized three other keys for combinations of my most commonly used shortcuts, like CMD + Space for Alfred and Shift + CMD + O for a new task in OmniFocus.

This is a finger-saver. Because I could layer three commands on this one key, I now only have to hit two keys to trigger the same command instead of four.

Layers are another powerful way to customize the ErgoDox EZ. Think of it like having depth for your keyboards, which you can customize through software. The ErgoDox EZ, unfortunately, has no Function keys. But by hitting a layer key, I can shift into a separate software layer, where the number keys are Function keys.

The second layer on my ErgoDox EZ. By hitting the momentary layer toggle key LT1, I can shift into this layer and hit the keys I need, then shift back when I let go of the key.

It’s a powerful way to adapt the ErgoDox EZ to your own needs, especially when you consider that it can hold up to 32 layers, and there are various ways to configure the toggle (momentary, direct, switch, etc.). Your keyboard is suddenly more than the physical hardware that controls it, and it makes me wonder why shouldn’t all keyboards be built like this.

The bottleneck, unfortunately, is memory, and how good yours is. Mine isn’t great — keeping a screenshot of my ErgoDox EZ layout helps, but I hardly remember what’s on my second layer, except for the Fn keys and the media controls I’ve mapped there.

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  • Design 8
  • User-Friendliness 8
  • Features 9
  • Performance 9
  • Value 8.5
The Good
A comfortable, ergonomic typing experience
The thumb cluster is more versatile than a plain Space bar
Fully customizable keys makes the keyboard your own
The Bad
Seriously expensive
Utilitarian looks and chunky chassis
Unusual layout has a steep learning curve
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