Professor, Designer, Husband, Father, Gamer, Bagpiper

Background:  I've been wanting to replace my aging Kinesis Freestyle keyboards with something new.  After diving into the nitty-gritty of mechanical keyboards,  buying a few different ones, and even settling on a favorite switch,  I'd tried a few new ergonomic keyboards (including the Model 01 and the Kinesis Advantage2).  But these keyboards are very different that normal keyboards, and I was having a hard time motivating myself to learn a new setup, especially when I would need to use regular keyboards a lot, and I mostly just wanted a split keyboard (like the Freestyle) with nice switches and solid construction.

In  November I happened upon the (then closed) Kickstarter for the Dygma Raise, which seemed a really promising replacement for my aging Freestyle. They were taking pre-orders for the post-Kickstarter delivery, so I ordered one.  This week it arrived (while I was at a meeting in Berlin), so today I finally had a chance to set it up and play with the configuration software.  Here are some initial impressions.

The Raise next to my old Freestyle
  1. I'm definitely going to want to figure a good solution to angle the two halves.  Notice in the picture above, the angling on the Freestyle to the left; I notice the lack of tilt on the Raise more than I expected.  Dygma tweeted this week they were working on a solution, and someone else tweeted a version they were making.  I don't need much of an angle, and I want it to be something that wouldn't prevent the keyboard from travelling with me.
  2. When I opened their Bazecor configuration software, I was pleasantly suprised to see it was based on the Keyboardio Chrysalis software that I was already familiar with.  A really nice example of the benefits of open source!  This also probably means that the guts of the Raise are based on the Arduino platform, and there will be lots of opportunities for future upgrades, perhaps even hacking.
I rearranged the modifier keys to be more Mac-like.
  1. I remapped the modifier keys to be more like a traditional Apple keyboard, and moved the keycaps appropriately. You can see this in the picture above.
  2. The compact layout with no dedicated function key row means there isn't room for both and escape key (usually at the end of the Fn row) and a `/~ key. I remapped Escape to `/~ and put the escape key on lower right instead. I use `/~ a lot and changing my muscle memory to move it would be a huge challenge, especially because I want to be able to keep using traditional keyboards.
Remapped cursor layout for the alternate key layer 1. (pardon the dirty fingers, I was doing some work with oil-based paint at that's "as good as I could get" the cleanup without using harsh cleaners)
  1. There are no arrows keys! I confess I didn't register this before the keyboard arrived, but it wouldn't have disuaded me from purchasing. I haven't decided on where I want the arrows yet, and which thumb modifier key to use. But I do know I did not like the defaults. So, I moved the left triangle to fall under where my fingers sit on the home row (instead of the intuitively appealling gamer-oriented WASD), and to the far lower right (close to were the real cursor keys would be). I also mapped both of the single-dot (pink, here) thumb keys to select the alternate key layer 1 only when pressed (the default was a switch). I suspect I will use the left thumb modifier and the lower right triangle, based on the last hour or so of us.

So far so good.  The lack of arrow keys is going to be a challenge since I use them all the time while editing text and code, but this should be dramatically easier to get used to than the other ergo keyboards I've tried.  We'll see!  

I'm just happy to have an ergo keyboard with Kailh Speed Bronze switches in it! (Although after reading this story about the $3500 (!) keyboard Tfue had custom made, I'm curious about the new Kailh Cream switches than NovelKey sells)

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