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algernon's ErgoDox EZ layout

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algernon's layout

This is the layout I used to use on my ErgoDox EZ, while I was using QMK. I no longer do so, and this repository is obsolete, and not updated anymore. My current firmware is based on Kaleidoscope, and is located elsewhere. I'm keeping the repo around for historical and educational purposes.

Nevertheless, this is an unconventional layout for the ErgoDox EZ. For more details about the history of the layout, see my blog posts about my ErgoDox journey.

Some of the things in the layout only work when one uses Spacemacs and GNOME under Linux. Your mileage may vary.

Table of Contents


Base layer

Base layer

At its core, this is a Dvorak layout, with some minor changes. The more interesting parts are how certain keys behave:

  • The number row is the same as in the ADORE layer. The function keys are on the Media layer.
  • The
    , and
    modifiers are one-shot. When tapped, they are considered active for the next key press only. When double tapped, they toggle on, until a third, single tap sometime later. When held, they act as expected. My usual pattern is that I use these for the next keypress only, so this behaviour is perfect. If I need them held, I'll just double-tap.
  • The
    key is special, because while a single tap works as usual, when double-tapped, it turns the number row into an application selector, and when triple tapped, it runs an application selector program on the host.
  • The
    key also doubles as a one-shot cancel key: if tapped while any of the one-shot modifiers are in-flight (as in, single-tapped, and not expired yet), it cancels all one-shot modifiers. It also cancels the Hun layer, if active. Otherwise it sends the usual keycode.
  • The Media and Hun layer keys are one-shot, the STENO key is a toggle.
  • The Fx key is one-shot, and activates the Media layer, along with a one-shot
  • When holding the
    /Arrow key, the arrow layer activates while the key is held. Tapping the key produces the normal,
    key. Double-tapping it toggles the Arrow layer on until a third tap.
  • Tapping the
    key once yields
    , tapping it twice yields
  • Tapping the
    keys once yields
    when shifted), tapping them twice yields
  • The Lead key allows me to type in a sequence of keys, and trigger some actions:
    • LEAD l
      uses the unicode input method to enter a
    • LEAD s
      does a lot of magic to type in a shruggie:
    • LEAD y
    • LEAD w m
      maximises the currently focused window.
    • LEAD a
      makes the ADORE layer the default.
    • LEAD v
      prints the firmware version, the keyboard and the keymap.
    • LEAD d
      toggles logging keypress positions to the HID console.
    • LEAD t
      toggles time travel. Figuring out the current
      is left as an exercise to the reader.
    • LEAD u
      enters the Unicode symbol input mode.
    • LEAD r
      Right Alt
      , which is the
      key of my choice.

The symbols on the front in the image above have the same color as the key that activates them, with the exception of the Arrow layer, which is just black on the front.

ADORE layer

ADORE layer

My experimental layout, that I keep tweaking. No full description here, because things are very much in flux.

Note that the HUN layer does not work well with ADORE: it still has the same layout as on the Base layer. This will remain until ADORE becomes the default.

Steno layer

Steno layer for Plover

This is to be used with Plover, nothing really fancy here. The STENO key toggles the layer on and off, and sends the toggle command to Plover too.

LED states

The primary purpose of the LEDs is to show the modifier status, a secondary, to show which layer is active. Each modifier,

each have their designated LEDs: the red, green and blue, respectively. When a modifier is in a one-shot state, the respective LED will turn on with a dimmer light. If the modifier is toggled on, the brightness of the LED turns full.

For the layers, the following rules apply:

  • When the ADORE layer is toggled on, LEDs will light up from left to right in a sequence, then turn off. When the layer is toggled off, the LEDs light up and turn off in the other direction. No LEDs are on while the layer is active.
  • When the Hungarian layer is active, the green and blue LEDs are on.
  • When the Media layer is active, the red and green ones are on.
  • When the ARROW layer is active, the red and blue ones are on.
  • For the Steno layer, all LEDs will be turned on.

Unless noted otherwise, the layers use a dim light for the LEDs, while modifiers use a stronger one, and modifiers override any layer preferences. For example, when on the one-handed layer, with the left side active (red light blinking), if

is on, the red light will be constantly on.

Special features

Unicode Symbol Input

Once in the Unicode Symbol Input mode, one is able to type in symbol names, press

, and get the Unicode symbol itself back. When in the mode, a capital
is printed first. Once the sequence is finished, all of it is erased by sending enough
taps, and the firmware starts the OS-specific unicode input sequence. Then, it looks up the symbol name, and enters the associated code. If it is not found, it will just replay the pressed keycodes.

For the list of supported symbols, please see the source.

This is an experimental feature, and may or may not work reliably.



When the keypress logging functionality is enabled (by

), the keyboard will output a line every time a key is pressed, containing the position of the key in the matrix. This allows one to collect this information, and build analytics over it, such as a heat map, including dead keys too.

Included with the firmware is a small tool that can parse these logs, and create a heatmap that one can import into KLE. To use it, either pipe the output of

into it, or pipe it an already saved log, and it will save the results into files in an output directory (given on the command-line). See the output of
tools/ --help
for more information.

The generated heatmap looks somewhat like this:


Layer notification

There is a very small tool in

, that listens to the HID console, looking for layer change events, and pops up a notification for every detected change. It is a very simple tool, mainly serving as an example.


To make my workflow easier, this layout is maintained in its own repository. To build it, you will need the QMK firmware checked out, and this repo either checked out to something like

, or symlinked there. One way to achieve that is this:
$ git clone
$ cd qmk_firmware
$ git clone \
$ make ergodox_ez:algernon_master

From time to time, updates may be submitted back to the QMK repository. If you are reading it there, you can build the firmware like any other firmware included with it (assuming you are in the root directory of the firmware):

$ make ergodox_ez:algernon

Using on Windows

The keymap default to forcing NKRO, which seems to upset Windows, and except the modifiers, none of them work. If you experience this problem, recompile the firmware with

added to the
command line.


The layout, being a derivative of the original TMK firmware which is under the GPL-2+, this layout is under the GPL as well, but GPL-3+, rather than the older version.

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