Some ideas about sub-30% layouts involving the Enigma, pain27, Alpha and 30wer

The Idea

So I did some quick and dirty mock-ups with the Keyboard Layout Editor, mostly based on the layout of the minimal pain27 keyboard.

The outcome are a set of minimal 26% (27 keys) keyboard designs inspired by the Enigma, the pain27 keyboard, the Alpha keyboard, and the 30wer keyboard. (Thanks to u/pyrocrastinator on Reddit, designer of the Alpha keyboard, for making me aware of the 30wer keyboard by @8o7wer.)

The Idea Providers

The Enigma Machine

Keyboard of the Enigma D






The main idea taken from the 30wer is the bottom right position of the spacebar.

The Designs

JSON files for these can be found on Github



The real Enigma keyboard layout plus spacebar based on the pain27.


I somehow dislike the off-center spacebar, so I made a variant where this is fixed:


The real Enigma keyboard layout plus a centered 7u spacebar—compared to the off-center 6.25u spacebar of the pain27.



A less awkward deviation from the standard layout by only moving the P key to where the Enigma moved the L key. Everything else is again identical to the pain27.


Here, the off-center spacebar is far less irritating, so there’s no centered variant (yet :smirk:).


Sparked by the Enigma’s usage of the spot right of the M key, this is a pain27 with a SpaceFn key at the bottom right corner of the keyboard like with the 30wer keyboard.


I used a 2u spacebar as they’re quite common with ortholinear keyboards and which is also the spacebar used in the Alpha keyboard. A potential alternative might be a 1u space key, which probably is though harder to hit.



Same idea as with the pain27wer, but based on the 28 keys, half-ortholinear Alpha keyboard by simply moving the B, N, and M keys back to their classic position and positioning the SpaceFn key right of the M key instead of between the V and B keys.



All this can also be found on Github.


When I lived in Boston I used to frequent the MIT flea market and there was this dude that would always show up with his real enigma machine in a glass box to show off, it was wild to see. I don’t have much input on the layouts tbh, I have a hard time being effective on even a 40%, 60% is my sweet spot.

Hehe, similar here, although in a probably less unexpected setup: During a guided tour through a collection of historic Swiss Army devices, they also showed one Enigma—but only touched it with silk gloves. :slight_smile:

No problem. I know that I’m quite happy and also efficient enough with 40%, especially the MiniVan and the Zlant. Got used to the tap-or-hold logic there.

Common layout for me on 40%:

  • Raise and Lower are Backslash and Slash on tap, and Fn2 and Fn3 on hold
  • Spacebar is space on tap and Fn1 on hold.
  • Fn1 + Cursor keys are Home, PageUp/-Down and End
  • Fn3 + Cursor keys is mouse control, Fn3-Space is left mouse click
  • Fn1 on R2 gives numbers, Fn2 on R2 gives F1 to F12
  • Both, Fn1 as well as Fn2 on R3 give those special characters which are usually on Shift+number.
  • Fn1|Fn2 + Enter is “=”, Fn1|Fn2 + M is “-” (mnemonic: M as in Minus), Fn1|Fn2 + N is Single Quote, Fn1|Fn2-V is Insert (mnemonic: Ctrl-V).

So I recently ordered an Alpha kit on Etsy to see if I can also use a 30%. I though realise that many of the layer concepts used above, won’t work together anymore.

I currently imagine the following layer logic:

  • Spacebar is space on tap and Fn1 on hold.
  • ZXC and MNB are Ctrl, Super/Win/OS and Alt on hold. (You won’t be able to play Doom with this… :smirk:)
  • A is Shift on hold.
  • V is Fn2 on hold, V on tap; and Fn1-V is Insert.
  • Fn1-BNM are »,«, ».«, and »/«.
  • Fn2-BNM are »[«, »]«, and »\«.
  • Fn1 on R2 gives numbers.

Rather unsure:

  • Fn1-HJKL are cursor keys (or Fn2-WASD or maybe something in HHKB style?)
  • Fn2-Q = Escape
  • Fn2-A = Tab
  • Fn2-HJKL or Fn2-GHJK are »;«, »'«, »-«, »=«
  • Fn2-L or Fn2-P might be Enter. Or maybe Fn1-L with L being Fn3 on hold and then cursor keys HHKB-style on Fn3-IJKM, similar to the pain27.

Yet unclear: Where to put

  • F1-F12,
  • Home/PageUp/PageDown/End?

Oh well, trying to use a sub-30% keyboard will be a lot of experimenting and fun. :wink:

Funnily I definitely prefer TKL over 60%. So I seem to have more than one sweet spot (TKL and 40% so far), and 60% is inbetween. Nevertheless, for historic reasons, my daily driver at work is a 60%: a Tex Yoda II. :slight_smile:

But 65% is also a size I still have to try. I mostly miss dedicated cursor keys on 60% keyboards. That’s probably also the reason why I like the MiniVan so much—it’s a 40% with dedicated cursor keys. But then again, I didn’t really get warm with the GK64 layout, a 60% with dedicated cursor keys and just a 0.25u offset between R3 and R4 instead of the common 0.5u—I’m though sure it’s not that offset as the Zlant has the same offset there.

And 75% like the Race 3 and the Niz Plum84 were nice in the beginning, but I kept hitting the wrong key when I wanted to hit the Enter key due to the additional column. So that issue might happen with 65% as well. (And it even was worse on 95% keyboards with numpad but without any gaps between the different blocks. It’s so bad that I’m actually thinking about selling mt Vortex Tab90M again, despite I really like the slim, but heavy case and the stock Dolch keycaps. Even replacing the Dolch cursor keys with yellow cursor keys didn’t help as much as I hoped.)

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I think we need more layouts that eliminate the columns between alphas and delete/enter. Its so much more comfortable that despite really wanting a number row on my minivan, I have zero desire to buy a new keyboard because my experience switching back to a standard TKL is just so painful and awful.

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I assume with “delete” you mean “backspace”. :slight_smile:

Funnily that’s what I miss most—but not that much—with the MiniVan. I can easily cope with the missing number row, though. :slight_smile: Will soon start to build a KeyHive Nightmare 50%—basically a cheaper, 3D-printed TMO50 clone—to see how a 60% reduced to four rows works for me.

Funnily switching back and forth between the MiniVan and a TKL (currently my two most preferred layouts) isn’t an issue. Usually just takes just a few minutes to acclimatize for me.

But I have a problem if I sit at a keyboard where the printed alpha legends do not fit, e.g. if legends are German or Swiss German and the configured layout is US English. Similar issue with completely blank keys—even despite I can type US English mostly blind.

I assume this is because

  • I grew up at an university where four different layouts were common (German and US English, both in Sun and PC variants) and I got used to adapt quickly, but I needed to have the legends to see what I need to type. Can even cope with a French AZERTY layout if necessary. (But Colemak, Dvorak, NEO, Bèpo or PLUM are too far away to easily cope with these layouts.)
  • And probably also because I never learned to type with 10 fingers… It’s more like a 7.5 fingers (non-)system I use. :wink: