π

Kinesis Advantage2 LF Keyboard: My Custom QWERTY Layout, Touch-Typing, Dampening, Switches

Show Sidebar

This article is part of a current project of mine to re-think keyboard haptics, ergonomics and efficiency:

  1. Keyboards
    • Basics of (Mechanical) Keyboards
    • My Personal History of (Desktop) Keyboards
    • My Personal Desktop Keyboard Requirements
    • My Current Plans for Getting a New Keyboard
  2. Keyboard Switch Tester
  3. Kinesis Advantage2 LF Keyboard: Initial Review and Plans
  4. Kinesis Advantage2 LF Keyboard: My Custom QWERTY Layout, Touch-Typing, Dampening, Switches (this article)

As you have read in the previous article (you should do so before continuing here), I was unsure how to use my Kinesis Advantage2 keyboard in my daily life.

Meanwhile, I'm using it as my solely keyboard for over a month. I can not say that I'm as fast as I was with my non-touch-typing roughly eight finger method from before on my Z-88. However, I am positive to continue using the Advantage2 for the upcoming months as I don't have any issues with switching keyboards while working in home-office only.

One thing I think is true is that with the Advantage2, I do have much less tensions of my shoulders. I assume this is related to the much more "relaxed" and wider positions of my arms while typing.

Alternative Layouts and Layout Decision

I refrained from trying an alternative layout like Neo2 or KOY because it was hard to start typing QWERTY already and I'm still skeptical on alternative layouts. Mostly because I would not like to completely lose the ability to type on other computers. I hope that the physical properties of the ergonomic Advantage2 compensates for the bad layout. So I started with standard QWERTY and US international layout with dead keys like I was using for over a decade.

I soon found out that the Advantage2 is not well suited for a lot of keyboard shortcuts I frequently use. After writing down all those hard to type combinations I need, I just added an additional layer by re-mapping the End and the Page Down keys as modifiers. QMK is a big win here as it is much more flexible as the original Kinesis firmware.

Furthermore, I swapped the position of the minus and the equal keys since I could not find any argument for them being placed like Kinesis did but many reasons to swap them. Minus is on the left hand side and equal on the right hand side. Both in the out-most corners of the main key sections.

On the additional layer, I mapped all those hard to reach shortcuts as easy to memorable as possible.

Please note that the requirements for your shortcuts are most certain completely different. You might not want to use my additional layer setup but find out about your shortcuts that are hard to type in this keyboard.

You can see a graphical representation below. In blue color, you see the keys and shortcuts that are enabled while one of the previous End or PgDn keys are pressed.

My current QWERTY with the additional layer in blue font color. (click for a larger version)

So far, this layout is stable for a couple of weeks as I did not find further modifications that were necessary.

Touch-Typing Status

My touch-typing is still far from perfect. I do find it hard to type certain things. For example, I still type 1 and - with my left ring finger instead of the pinkie. I do think it not doable with the pinkie without moving the whole hand more than necessary. I may keep it that way. Same for p, 0 and the equal character.

I struggle with keys like ,[]` and have to get used more to the positions of b, n and m.

The F-keys are still pressed by the middle finger or index finger after spotting them with my eyes. The missing intersections between F4/F5 and F8/F9 cause some minor orientation troubles.

And the arrow keys are also hard to type, especially in combination with modifiers like Shift or Alt which is a common thing in Org mode. Maybe I need to map them to the additional layer as well somehow.

Finally, I sometimes seem to now know if my thumb is pressing the space or the enter key. Same holds true for back-space and delete. Let's see if this improves over time. Overall, I'm happy to have different options for my thumbs other than just pressing space.

I'm positive that my hands will start to relax in the future. So far, they seem to be a bit tense.

The ortholinear layout is awesome despite all my issues with touch-typing. I already struggle typing on a conventional keyboard. This might improve when I switch between keyboards. For now, I try to avoid typing on other keyboards so that my muscle memory is not irritated during the learning phase.

Dampening

The Advantage2 is a hollow thing. This results in a noise level far from normal compared to other keyboards. People reported very good results after dampening the thing on the inside.

I do think that for this purpose I need something against vibrations of the case and sound propagation in the hollow object.

To my astonishment, it is fairly hard to get good dampening material.

I bought a rather heavy rubber mat with approximately two millimeter thickness. Unfortunately, it smells pretty badly. Contrary to my hopes, the smell did not diminish after a week placing it outside. So I had to give up on this approach.

Many visits to local hardware stores later, I bought a rather large protection mat for workout hardware or workbenches. The material is a heavy and rough foam of four millimeter thickness. It is hard to cut with a utility knife. The dampening effect is excellent.

alterantive-text for the image
Heavy foam cut into form and put into the Advantage2 without glue for testing.

Unfortunately, there was also a noticeable smell coming from that material. Even my hands smelled after typing a bit. I had to take it out again. Glad that I did not apply any glue so far.

My current approach is using simple dish towels and two old socks. Of course, I don't want to get into any smell troubles again, so they are washed, of course. :-)

Old dish towels and two socks in my Advantage2.

The dampening effect is also great. I should have tried this first, before investing too much time and money in unhealthy smelling stuff. But hey, you can learn from my mistakes here, right?

A nice side-effect of this dampening is that the keyboard itself now has a weight impression which adds subjective built quality. It's just about right from weight perspective and not a cheap impression any more.

Switches

You remember, the (used) keyboard came with Cherry MX Red switches. I just don't like them. Sometimes I do not know if a certain key was pressed or not, especially when typing with the smaller fingers. I may miss the clicky sound. I miss the haptic feedback. I really do.

In the upcoming weeks, I try to find out my options on fixing this. I'm willing to spend time and money. My current favorites would be Kailh Speed Bronze (the most satisfying switches to me) or the Zilents V2 67g (trade-off for a silent keyboard for my business calls) and maybe order even blank caps with that.

Instead of desoldering the old switches, I will try to follow this recommended process. Let's see how difficult it is to get this keywell kit from Kinesis.

At least this pricey hobby is a fun hobby and my daily IT life profits from its result. I work with my Advantage2 for way too many hours each day.


Related articles that link to this one:

Comment via email or via Disqus comments below: