Remapping Your Keyboard

I've always been in awe of folks like Xah Lee who do extensive remapping of their keyboards. I have enough problems remembering key sequences without changing the keys around on my keyboard so I don't do that. Now abo-abo has taken this to extremes with his keyboard layout.

First, he repurposes 【;】 as a modifier key to select alternative mappings for the other keys. For example, 【l】 just inserts the letter l but 【;+l】 inserts <. He also has special keys to insert various sorts of brackets, and to do things like jump to a bookmark or change windows. Take a look at his post to see the full setup.

This sort of thing is definitely not for me but I do think it can be very useful, especially for adding key sequences with an additional modifier key. You should definitely take a look even if you don't think it's for you. Perhaps you'll find it more useful than you think. Abo-abo says that after using his setup for a while, the plain QWERTY keyboard feels unbearably sluggish.

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  • It is delightful to study Xah's philosophy. It is well thought out. It doesn't make much sense until you think it out yourself. That is true of most important things, right? My was to make it simpler, for me. I just have 4 levels of key-usage difficulty. The further I have to reach, the more difficult it is. Everything I do falls into those zones. Key-chord is a nice way to open up namespaces. When you combine that with Hydra, you suddenly don't have to worry about re-binding `;' to creating new namespaces, you get them with a logical progression of key presses. You also don't get upset that you haven't got a Super key on your keyboard anymore :).

    My simple 4 zones live here:

  • FWIW, I took the simple route on opening up new namespaces: key-chord and nothing more. Once you identify the 2-key combinations that you are very unlikely to type, suddenly you've got another 15 modifier keys available to you. It is very easy and powerful! Just bind your key-chord to your map or whatever you want and life goes on. My config is so "settled", I haven't cut over to much of this approach, and haven't even added Hydra, despite its sweetness.

  • Nathan

    To see how extreme this idea can be taken, consider the neo project ( It’s a layout for the german language, but the part I want to make aware of is that it introduces further modifier keys: Mod3 and a second Mod4 (i.e. Alt Gr). The second Mod4 is not possible on US keyboards, but Mod3 might be a good idea for QWERTY users out there.