Emacs Keyboard Design 35: Mainstream 96 Key Emacs Keyboard Layout

  • Going too far from the mainstream pushes the cost up too high
  • Let key do things that Emacs knows how to do well to leverage keyboard firmware


  • EasyAVR is great, but stick closer to mainstream with tmk
  • Start with layout 34
  • Six rows is closer to a common row count, lets you use any type of keycap
    • First two rows are unoccupied anyway
    • Remove first two rows
    • Layers can handle common keys
  • Easier to source keycaps using a 104 key donor
    • Fine that it isn’t double-shot, deal with wear later
  • Balance Fn like the other modifiers
    • Makes them easily reachable for handling all F keys
    • Fn is only used for Function keys right now, that is fine, simple
  • Move Esc to its place
    • Good for VI users
  • Add a layer below Fn
    • Keeping it balanced
    • Layer 1 (base is 0) most frequently used
  • In the empty row in the middle, add layers
  • Still an Emacs keyboard
    • Use firmware macros to input Unicode for example Greek-a would send
      • M-x ucs-insert RET GREEK SMALL LETTER ALPHA
        • Unlikely to be re-bound
      • Hex would be easier
  • Layer listing
    • 0 Base
    • 1 Fn
    • 2 Balanced below Fn
    • 3-9 Middle row (balanced by location)
      • Greek
      • APL
      • Emoticons
        • Faces
        • Brackets
      • Double-Struck
        • Upper
        • Lower
    • 9 layers
      • Perhaps 10th layer can be accessed by double tap
  • 96 key layout

8 thoughts on “Emacs Keyboard Design 35: Mainstream 96 Key Emacs Keyboard Layout”

  1. Hi Grant,
    what software do you use for generating the images of the keyboard layout? I plan to blog about my personal layouts for the EK-128 i will (hopefully) get tomorrow.
    The layout should have an emphasis on emacs (especially org-mode) and coding, starting with an ordinary german tenkey layout.

      1. You can find my first iteration here: http://remline.de/2016/ThePerfectKeyboard/
        Unfortunately Amazon cancelled my first order (out of stock), and the second arrived with a dead sixth row, so I’m waiting for my third EK-128 now which has been sent on Saturday. So it should arrive today.
        The Software for programming it is a little “raw”, but it does its job.

        1. Thank you for this post!
          That is delightful.
          Can’t wait to hear more about it’s use.

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