Keyboard what a joke!

I’m a classically-trained touch typist who uses a Model M keyboard for most of my typing (when my laptop is on a desk) and heavy-use of the Left shift and lack of use of the right shift is my one break from true touch-typing rules.

Trying to pick a laptop keyboard layout that will please everyone is like trying to pick a text editor or distro to please everyone. Laptop keyboards end up being a compromise between a few competing and contradictory demands. For instance, a laptop of this size has to cut off the number pad, which some people are indifferent to and others absolutely demand.

However, it’s amazing how adaptable the human brain (and muscle memory) is. I thought I’d never get used to the weird Fn key placement on Thinkpad keyboards (swapped w/ the Left Ctrl key), at least until I did. And then I thought I’d never get used to “normal” Fn key placement when I switched to Librem laptops, until I did. The same goes for trackpoint vs. touchpad, switching from a tiny Libretto keyboard to a Fujitsu P2110 to a “full size” laptop keyboard. The brain is pretty amazing in its adaptability.

That said, something we do not want to compromise on is keyboard quality as the feel of the keyboard is incredibly important. That’s why we focus on key travel depth and tactile quality even though we are using the island keyboard layout all modern laptops use. Before I worked here I directly compared my personal Librem 13 keyboard to the Thinkpad X230 I had for work. Both had island keyboards but I was pleased to discover the feel of the Librem 13 keyboard was much better.

[edited to add the section on keyboard feel]


What I dislike in the keyboard:

  • The small right Shift key is an extra reach when typing. I am going to press Up arrow, when I try to capitalize letters.
  • Lack of dedicated Home, End, PageDown, PageUp and Insert keys. It is a huge hassle to press Fn and another key, since I use those keys all the time when writing. Any time I have to use the mouse, it takes me twice as long.
  • The Power button as a key in the upper right corner where I my muscle memory tells me should be the Delete key. I am liable to accidentally turn off the machine, because I frequently hit Delete, then Enter, when typing, which will turn off the machine. I also dislike that Power key because it means one less key in the keyboard. We could have had a dedicated Insert key, instead of a Power key.

What I like:

  • The embedded number pad. A lot of laptops like Lenovo’s Thinkpad, have gotten rid of embedded number pads. One thing that I can’t figure out is where is the NumLock key.
  • It is unclear whether the F1-F12 keys are the default or the functions (vol up, vol down, mute, etc.) are the default, but at least the F1-F12 keys have visible labels and appear to be normal sized. I consider the F1-F12 keys to be essential and I wish that they were still the default keys.
  • The SysRq key, which has virtually disappeared from every laptop.

It is seriously annoying that laptop manufacturers keep eliminating keys and trying to make keyboards smaller. People buy Thinkpads because of their keyboards, and Thinkpads are the favorite keyboards of Linux users. How hard is it for Purism to find a keyboard manufacturer who has something like the Thinkpad key layout?

The issue is that building a Thinkpad keyboard with separate Home, End, PageUp and PageDown, and Insert keys means not having a perfectly rectangular keyboard, because the arrow keys are set below the other keys. Having the Power button in the keyboard and having a perfectly rectangular keyboard probably does save on costs, but Purism could gain a lot of new sales if it caters to the old Thinkpad Linux users, who feel that Lenovo has abandoned them. Give people a keyboard with all the keys, and I bet the extra costs will be made up in extra sales.


100% agree - For me keyboard is very important, and the keyboard from the old X220 is the absolute best. This new way combining buttons (not even separate buttons for PgUp/Dn) is not for me. Even the newer Thinkpads are better than this. And adding to this the lack of localized keyboard is … meh.


I bought 2nd hand T400 on my shelf because it is the legacy freedom laptop with best keyboard there

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Pretty much any keyboard internal to a laptop will not have enough key travel distance to be ergonomic for a wide variety of typing styles and hand configurations. I recommend going with a compact external ergonomic instead, such as / or … it would be nice if Purism had a ‘null’ keyboard option where the internal keyboard option is not installed and replaced with a blank to fill the holes similar to their ‘airgapped’ offering where the wireless module is disincluded; then again, even with an external keyboard, the internal one can be useful for debugging when the USB stack has not yet loaded in boot or is going haywire :wink:

I’m a big fan of ThinkPads or at least I was. But have you guys not noticed how the shape of the L14 has a ThinkPad like angularity to it? I love it.

So, there is little left: to make a keyboard like the Thinkpad t400 and hinges like the Lenovo Yoga :smile:

I hear that you hardly ever use the right shift and that you play games with it.

But just because you personally don’t use something, … Are you saying we must all be just like you, and type just what you do? That is just disrespect, of others I think. I use the full range of keys offered to me, and that definitely includes UPPER CASE, ON BOTH THE RIGHT AND LEFT HANDS.

I was not being disrespectful just because you took it as such. I’m saying that market demand and the way things are manufactured drive the options available to the consumer. If you have a beef then it is with that.

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Just 2 cents: I love my Librem13v3. But i wouldn’t own one, would Purism not have provided it with my used to keyboard-layout (QWERTZ, DE).

@Kyle_Rankin Without the keyboard-layout users are used to, Purism will sell much less devices than they could. Only some take the unnecessary hurdle to deal with customs & the like due to having to order from the US. But wrong keyboard-layout probably is the final show-stopper for most of the rest of potential non-US-buyers.

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I think the thing that people are not perhaps understanding here is that while your point is true, it doesn’t mean anything to Purism if catering to international keyboard demands would end up costing Purism for each sale because they couldn’t get enough sales on those custom keyboards to make it cost effective. This is what happened in the past, and why the options are not available now. So it would seem that while they could sell more international models, the quantity of those sales were not enough to justify the expense of catering to that demand.

A company like Purism, small and not operating on a multi-million dollar budget, has to deal with such constraints as they are limiting factors that can’t be circumvented; even with all the wishful thinking in the world.

I mean I sympathize with you all wanting the different layout. I really do.

If you keep supporting the company they may one day have more leverage to make custom layouts possible again. Or if you can help increase the demand for your locale this would also help.

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Absolutely fair point and understandable.

I remember, i once made a suggestion, that Purism could separately sell keycaps. Those ones should neither be to expensive, nor would they occupy a lot of storage space. That way people willing to go for a compromise could buy a completely assembled laptop with US-keyboard-layout + keycaps regarding their used to layout. I would have taken this road would it have been on offer.

I think, there was even a discussion on how to change the caps (lift on one side and drag sideways to the other).

Personally i wasted a second thinking of buying a 14 and handing my 13v3 over to my wife. But even typing blindly, from time to time i need to have a look. And so no keyboard in my used layout - no matter which way to properly archieve that - means, no 14.

Being a big advocate for Purism within my country, i already promoted the 14 quite a bit during the last days as it sound marvelous. But everybody brings up the keyboard-nogo…

:wink: Created a poll to help Purism get an idea… Poll: Keyboad-Layout Librem 14

I think there’s a tool for getting the caps off.

Just to shout into the wind with everyone else :wink: I’ve been typing for over 30 years on all sorts of keyboards and I already know this layout on the 14" will not work for me. Makes me sad because I would soooo love to replace my 13"v3 I bought from Purism with this 14" – it seems great on all other fronts!

Which actually brings up another point, lack of consistency. :slight_smile: The 13" laptops all have the right Shift|Fn key pair, which is fine by me, and now this new one has Up|Shift. So if you had to alter your typing to work with the 13" you’ll now have to re-alter for this 14".

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but that can be remapped in the base layer through software to suit your needs … is this correct ?

Yes, you can remap the keys in Linux. See:

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What about a configurable ortholinear keyboard? That way everyone gets
to do their own layout without favour over which keys go where (do try using one exclusively for at least a week before you rubbish or dismiss the idea). Buyers could opt to receive a ready-to-use out-of-the-box version or opt to receive the laptop with a separate set of yet-to-be-attached keycaps (suited to one’s primary language if you like).

Probably, but the labels would be incorrect, of course. Stickers are an option there, but probably not recommended for such a commonly press-and-hold type key.

Also, with this layout you might notice the keys on that row are slightly off their usual positions as you move towards the right side, e.g. the ? key is nearly aligned with the " key. These sorts of seemingly small quirks can really drive a touch typist mad.

Anyway, I’ve spent more time on this than is warranted. Some like the layout, some don’t. There are other laptops on the market, it’s not like I’m forced to buy this one. :wink: I’m just disappointed in one of my favorite builders – can’t please all of us!

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I wonder if this could be solved with a pre-order type approach? Effectively akin to crowdfunding but something like you pre-order a librem14 with a DE keyboard. If 500 orders are placed that month (or whatever the limit is to make it financially viable) the orders are fulfilled and if not they’re refunded or offered to switch to a different layout?

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