Switching Keyboards and Layouts

For the past nine years, I have been using the various versions of Apple’s external Magic Keyboard with a German keyboard layout and was pretty content with them. Even on the MacBook Pro I didn’t experience the Butterfly keyboard as bad as its general reputation.

But being as easily tempted by new gadgets as I am, one topic got me curious over the past few months: Mechanical Keyboards. To test out these water, I gave in to this craving and bought a Keychron K2. And while I was at it, I also opted for the US layout to give it a try.

These are my first impressions three weeks in.

Keychron K2 - A Quick Review

For a lack of proper comparison I will keep my thoughts on the keyboard short. My main reasoning for this model was the relatively standard layout, the good macOS support with bluetooth and also a bit the price.

  • It’s a very different typing experience. I tasted various switches briefly and settled on the Gateron Brown ones. I’m still in the learning phase to figure out how much force I must apply.
  • Bluetooth and battery are nice. No drops in connection; switching devices works well; only one recharge since I got it.
  • It seems odd that they put a ctrl key to the right of the spacebar instead of an option key.

I resolved the last point by remapping right_ctrl to right_option using Karabiner Elements — A nifty tool to do all sorts of funny things with keyboards.

Switching to the US-Layout

The switch from a German ISO layout to the US ANSI layout is a much harder topic. I’m currently probably at around 75% in terms of accuracy and speed. In particular the special characters still give me quite some trouble. That being said, I see now where a lot of the shortcuts in developer tools and the syntax of some language constructs are coming from.

A very specific topic: Umlauts. I’m still writing a lot in German as well, so the absence of Umlauts is actually a handicap. Long-pressing the bare characters until macOS’ character picker appears is a no-go. Looking at alternative layouts, I started out with using the EurKey layout which adds all sorts of special characters with the option and option+shift modifiers. However, it broke all the regular characters usually reached with these modifiers, in particular I noticed it on the en and em dashes missing.

In the end I settled on the USGerman Keyboard Layout which only adds the umlauts. It’s a huge timesaver and I cannot recommend it enough to anybody writing in English and German.

A First Summary

Using this mechanical keyboard and switching to the US layout surely won’t make me a better typist all by itself. So, I’m not sure if there are enough benefits warranting all of this but it is a nice experiment and the novelty makes it pretty exciting for now.

And the overall topic already led me down the next rabbit hole: Setting the caps lock as Hyper Key and configuring all sorts of shortcuts. But that’s for another post.