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Dygma Raise - Mechanical keyboard for coders
by dygma on January 19, 2018
Dygma’s Raise keyboard is being marketed as an ergonomic keyboard for gamers. As the technical lead on the project, and daily Raise user - I wanted to share some reasons why Raise isn’t just for gamers.
Open source firmware, plugins and configurator
The software that runs on the keyboard is a new open source firmware called Kaleidoscope. You can find out more about it here. Its plugin based architecture makes it easy to write your own functionality and extend the keyboard’s uses.
Many of the contributors to the Kaleidoscope firmware are computer programmers or system administrators and they are having fun making very personalised setups for their keyboards.
For example, the SpaceCadet plugin makes it faster to type matched parenthesis, while the Steno plugin allows for shorthand chorded input.
You can compile your own firmware using the Arduino IDE.
A lot of programmers don’t need to use the mouse much, and this plugin allows you to control mouse movement and buttons without leaving the keyboard.
Automated communication with keyboard.
As well as showing up as a USB keyboard and mouse, the keyboard can present a virtual serial port for exchanging data. This can be used to update layouts and control the LEDs. Check my video for an example of automating the keyboard’s LEDs in response to the command line and remote service monitoring here.
OK, apart from looking cool, what use are the LEDs? Well if you don’t like them you can always turn them off! But having LEDs under each key is handy for showing which layer you’re on and for learning where your shortcut keys are. For example as we don’t have a numpad, you might have a numpad layer that you turn on with one of the extra under row keys. You can have the keys that are not active go dark, and the numpad keys light up. This can help reduce the time it takes to learn a new layout.
Ergonomic & Split
The split keyboard is great for anyone who types a lot, keeping the arms and wrists at a neutral, relaxed angle can help your desk ergonomics. While we really wanted the keyboard halves removable for when gamers play with one side and a mouse - this is also the setup a lot of animators and CAD operators use. Use one side for all your shortcuts and then keep the other side away or disconnected so you can comfortably use the mouse or tablet.
If you spend all your working hours in front of a computer using a keyboard and mouse, why not enjoy a really well made keyboard. If you haven’t tried mechanical keys, they really do feel so much nicer than the crappy ones most of us are used to using. And if you decide your clicky ones are just too loud for the new office you can change them thanks to the hot swap sockets.
As our CEO Luis enjoys pointing out, using the thumbs for just one button (OK a very common one) is crazy. The Raise gives each thumb 4 keys, giving you easier access to the modifiers, or using them to switch layers or activate plugins. I’ve moved the control keys in next to each space and then have a second layer toggled or momentarily activated by two of the under-row keys. So I still have another 2 keys I haven’t decided what to use for yet.
Customise your layouts for specific applications
Most applications allow the use of shortcuts, and if they don’t, with Raise you can easily program a custom macro to get the function you want with a single key. However, shortcuts can vary across programs, so for example zoom in and zoom out are page up/down on one app and F1 and F2 on another. Defining application specific layers where identical functions remain in the same key positions is a nice way of reducing the time it takes to learn each program’s shortcuts.
Hopefully this gives you an idea of some of the possibilities of Raise, a keyboard not just for gamers!