Dygma Raise Keyboard Reflections Part 1

My Dygma Raise Keyboard.

Introduction

I have been using Microsoft Natural Keyboard 4000 for several years and it has served my programming and writing needs pretty well with my Ubuntu laptop .Xkeymap configurations (more about that later). But last spring I followed Koodiklinikka Slack’s “nappaimistot” (“keyboards” in English) channel in order to read experiences regarding mechanical keyboards. There I read some experiences regarding the Dygma Raise Keyboard. I ordered the Dygma Raise keyboard while the company was manufacturing the second batch of the keyboard. I ordered the keyboard in May and I got the keyboard a couple of days ago. Now that I have spent a couple of days configuring the keyboard and using it I thought that it might be beneficial for other programmers to write a bit about my experiences regarding the Dygma Raise - because I fell in love with it immediately.

Build Quality

The build quality of the Dygma Raise Keyboard seems to be really good. The chassis is very rigid and sturdy. All keys feel very consistent and there is an overall feeling of premium quality when using the keyboard.

Ergonomics

You can split the keyboard into two halves and place the halves on your table as you wish. I keep some space between the halves and also have a small angle between the halves so that my shoulders and wrists are in a pretty natural position on my table. I also have a large elbow support on my table. All these together provide pretty good ergonomics for my programming. Not to talk about the ergonomics regarding the key presses but more about that in the following chapters. Dygma provides in its website a more detailed description regarding the Dygma Raise Ergonomics.

Led Lights

I haven’t found any real use for the various colors — I do programming. I type with all my ten fingers — I took a typing lesson in the Finnish Elementary school about 40 years ago and has been typing with 10 fingers ever since — so, I don’t look at my keyboard at all when typing. But the colors are kind of nice anyway. Maybe gamers use these colors for some real tasks or they just “look cool”, I don’t know. Anyway, I don’t mind the colors. I did use the Bezecor to categorize certain buttons with consistent colors (see the two pictures below). And it is also kind of nice that the Shift to 1 button also changes the color in the frame of the halves - a visual aid that we are now in the next layer.

Layout

One of the most important reasons to buy Dygma Raise was that I could order it with the Nordic layout. There are other split keyboards in the market but some of them provided just ANSI layout, and the rest didn’t provide the kind of programmability of the keyboard like Dygma Raise. The keyboard layout itself is really important to me. There are certain special characters in the Nordic languages (e.g. Ä and Ö) and I want those keys to be in their right places so that I can write Finnish text fluently both using the laptop keyboard and my external keyboard and I don’t need to remember that those letters are in different positions in different keyboards. There are many different ANSI and ISO layouts available for the Dygma Raise - consult the Dygma Raise website for the options.

Switches

Dygma Raise is a mechanical keyboard and you can order the kind of mechanical switches you like. Dygma Raise is my first mechanical keyboard for recent years so I ordered rather standard switches not to have too extreme experience to start with: Cherry MX Brown. Dygma Raise provides a good introduction to the mechanical switches - I really recommend reading it before placing the order for your Dygma Raise. All Dygma Raise switches are swappable so you can change the switches later on if you think that you want to experiment with different switches. I kind of like the “clicky” touch of the Cherry MX Brown switches but I might next try a bit “lighter” touch (but with a tactile feeling with a clear click sound).

My Linux Keymap

Before understanding how I configured Dygma Raise I need to tell the reader a bit about my Linux key mapping. For a programmer, the CapsLock key is a totally useless key. In the Nordic layout the various parentheses ( {, [, [, }) are in the first row behind 7, 8, 9 and 0 keys when you press Alt-Gr key at the same time. The problem is that this Alt-Gr key is in a really awkward position in the last row behind your right thumb - practically impossible to press this Alt-Gr and 7, 8, 9 and 0 keys without getting a Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in your wrists after a few years. Therefore many Nordic programmers tend to configure these special parentheses in new positions. My solution was to keep the special character keys where they are but to configure CapsLock key as Alt-Gr key since hitting the CapsLock key with my left little finger and at the same time hitting 7, 8, 9 and 0 keys with my right hand fingers to produce {, [, [, } was relatively easy. Since I could now configure keys with CapsLock for special functions, I also configured I, J, K and L keys to be arrow keys with CapsLock, D to be delete with CapsLock (as Ctrl+D is delete in Emacs) etc.

Configuring Dygma Raise: The Bazecor Software

Ok, let’s go back to Dygma Raise and how my Linux Keymap works now with Dygma Raise. It turned out that Linux Keymap and Dygma Raise is a match made in heaven.

  • Kill S-expression in Clojure code: Shift+Ctrl+K. Adding Shift since it is logical because it´s kind of kill like the previous one. Now very easy with Dygma Raise: Just press with left hand thumb the lower thumb keys (Left Shift and Left Ctrl - at the same time) and with right hand middle finger press K. This used to be a bit awkward before Dygma: I had to press the left side Shift and Ctrl keys with my left hand little finger…
  • Send Clojure form for evaluation to REPL: Alt+L: Now very easy: Left Alt with left hand thumb and L with right hand ring finger.
  • Move cursor to right: CapsLock+L (remember: CapsLock is Alt-Gr and I have configured I, J, K and L as arrow keys).
  • Because move the cursor to right is CapsLock+L it is logical that Slurping right is CapsLock+Alt+L: easy, left hand: just press Alt with thumb and CapsLock with little finger.
  • Send text to Slack: Ctrl+Enter: Now very easy: left hand thumb and right hand thumb in the lower thumb keys.
  • [ => Shift to 1+CapsLock+J
  • ] => Shift to 1+CapsLock+K
  • } => Shift to 1+CapsLock+L
  • \ => Shift to 1+CapsLock+Ö
  • ( => Shift to 1+Shift+J
  • ) => Shift to 1+Shift+K
  • " => Shift to 1+Shift+I
  • # => Shift to 1+Shift+O
  • % => Shift to 1+Shift+Å
  • & => Shift to 1+Shift+~
  • @ => Shift to 1+CapsLock+I

What Next?

Who knows? Maybe I realize that there is a way to make my new Dygma Keyboard even more ergonomic with some new astounding realization how to configure it using the Bazecor.

Conclusions

If you are a programmer and you are looking for a top-quality mechanical keyboard with absolute configurability — look no further: you want Dygma Raise. With Dygma Raise your imagination is your limit on how you can configure your new keyboard.

I’m a Software architect and developer. Currently implementing systems on AWS / GCP / Azure / Docker / Kubernetes using Java, Python, Go and Clojure.

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