There’s something about computer keyboards…even in this age of tablets and phones they remain the primary way we get significant amounts of text and code into computers. I’ve spent time with the original IBM Model M “buckling spring”, the first generation Kinesis Advantage, ThinkPad keyboards (still one of the absolute best laptop keyboards ever), the abysmal Dell Latitude d610 (stiff as a board, required significant force just to press the keys), the Apple Extended Keyboard, various MacBook Pro keyboards, as well as lots of terrible rubber-dome and membrane keyboards.

I’m in the minority in that I actually like the 3rd generation butterfly keyboard on the 2019 and later MacBook Pros. I like its tactile feel and the short travel of the keys.

When I started at SaltStack I was introduced to the mechanical keyboard community by some co-workers. Some of the above might qualify as “mechanical” keyboards, but I had no idea that there was such a cult surrounding them.

I was intrigued by the ErgoDox and participated in the MassDrop for the unassembled keyboard, bought a soldering iron, and like a Jedi padawan, I constructed my own keyboard.

I used it for about 8 or 9 months, and sold it in favor of a Filco Majestouch 2 with Cherry MX Brown switches. That was a great keyboard, and I still have it.

When the Keyboard.io folks initiated their Kickstarter for the Model 01, I was completely hooked. I ended up getting two of those (one for work, one for home). The learning curve was surprisingly steep, but I grew to really appreciate the palm buttons.

Through a fortunate happenstance another co-worker participated in the kickstarter for Keyboard.io’s latest creation, the Atreus. He had irreconcilable differences with it, and was willing to sell it to me. I’ve spent the last few days with it, tweaking the layout and getting used to it, and I think it might be the best keyboard I have ever owned.

This unit came with Kailh BOX Brown switches (here’s a comparison article on Kailh switches), these are tactile but non-clicky like CherryMX Brown switches, which I had on my Majestouch and ErgoDox. I like these much more, however. They seem “tighter” somehow, there’s no discernible wiggle in the keycaps. Actuation force is slightly less than my other keyboards. My typing speed on the alpha characters actually increased over my Model 01.

I had been eyeing the Atreus for a while but was highly concerned that I would not be able to get used to the lack of a number row at the top of the keyboard. Losing real function and Escape keys to the Apple TouchBar has been a sore spot. I took a closer look at the layout and realized there were plenty of keys available to use for layer shifting.

Paradoxically I’ve noticed that fewer keys enables more accuracy for me. I think it’s because the keyboard is so small my fingers don’t get “lost” as easily.

It will take a while to get used to my custom layout. I include an image below for anyone who finds this article and is curious about how others have setup their Atreus.

The above is from this Google Sheet. Feel free to copy if you want to make your own layout. Many thanks to Github user mattmc3 who created that sheet and posted it in this PR discussion on adding Atreus layouts that are similar to the Model 01’s.

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