To put it simply, the 40% keyboard form factor are keyboards with much fewer keys than the 100% keyboards. A good way to understand that is to see both form factors in action, like this:-
As you may have noticed, 40% keyboards don’t have F-keys, numbers keys or numpad, They may or may not have arrow keys. To enter numbers or any of the missing keys, you will have to use modifier keys. Each modifier changes what the main keys do. These are called layers, meaning that each time you hold a certain modifier, the layer changes, and so you get new functions for the main keys for as long as you’re holding that modifier.
Layout of 40% keyboards h
Generally speaking, 40% keyboards have less standard layout than the other keyboard form factors. The characters keys follow the standard QWERTY design. But the modifiers & other keys are different depending on the keyboard itself. Some keyboards only have FN key, but many also have other modifier keys, like Lower, Raise, Meta & System. The modifier keys on the keyboard depend on the keyboard itself. There’s not standard for that, so you have to check the layout of each keyboard to see what modifier keys it has.
Many 40% keyboards are either made by people in the community, or by a manufacturer, and that’s one of the reasons why they don’t have a standard layout. You could make your own and customize the keys to your heart content.
Quickly go to:-
40% keyboard form factor can be either staggered or ortholinear. Ortholinear keyboards have keys straightly aligned. Where the keys in staggered keyboards have the keys diagonally aligned, and it’s the kind we use all the time. You can clearly see the difference between the two here:-
40% keyboards may seem like a gimmick at first, but they are not. They are great keyboards if you are willing to spend the time to learn how to use them. That could take some time because of their unusual layout. People who are into these keyboards are serious about them. Some of them spend a lot of time designing their own keyboards, making them as efficient as possible. There are kits sold so that you could create your own 40% keyboard if you so wanted. I talk about that in more details later in this article.
To use a 40% keyboard, you hold a modifier key with your finger to change the layer, and 9 of the keys turns into a numpad (other keys in the same layer can do other things, as well). You hold another key, and 4 keys turn into arrow keys, and so on. Having more uses for each keys makes up for the fewer keys. That may sound like trouble to some, but by doing things that way, you don’t move your hands to type any key at all, which could make you more productive & comfortable, some people wouldn’t mind working for hours that way.
You can see that in action in the following video:-
Some of the other advantages of 40% keyboards is saving desk space. The smaller form factor makes them much easier to carry around too. Because of their small size, they can be a good option for artists & designers who want a small keyboard to use alongside their graphics tablet, which is a common case where a small keyboard is desired. The customizability of this form factor makes them even more useful in that case.
While 40% keyboards are great & have their own following. They are not for everyone. There are some disadvantages to them that could make some people shy away from using them.
40% keyboards usually require you to use both hands to have all the keys. So using them with one hand may not be feasible for some.
Those who use numpad on a regular basis may not like the lack of them. Unless you’re willing to buy a separate numpad to go along your keyboard.
Also, not everyone is willing to go through the learning curve to use one (although I would encourage you to do so if you type a lot).
For some people, using a larger keyboard form factor is the better choice. Other keyboard form factors also have compact design, but without sacrificing so many keys or requiring you to spend time learning how to use them. ☇
While you can buy a ready-made 40% keyboard, you can create one on your own if you so desired. There are kits that allows you to build your own keyboard. The kits offer all sorts of options, depending on the kit itself.
Here are some of the customization you can have in your own 40% keyboard:-
- Have one spacebar, or double spacebar (One for space key, and one for another function or modifier of your choice).
- Choose the MX switch type of your liking.
- Choose Led colors
- Pick between Ortholinear or Staggered layout
- Pick key caps to your liking.
- Map the keys to your liking.
When building your own keyboard, you can customize the keys to your liking. You’re not forced to use any layout or keys mapping someone else decided for you (although you can start with that). If you opted for a ready-made keyboard, you can still map the keys later on.
40% keyboards can be used for gaming, as long as you have the right layout for the game(s) you want to play, or you’re willing to create a layer to make it work. Many keyboards have the keys needed for FPS, like ASDW, CTRL, Shift & Alt keys, so you could play those games using these keyboards easily. The small footprint of 40% keyboards makes it easy to have both the keyboard & mouse in front of you while playing.
There’s no consensus on using these keyboards for gaming to be honest. If gaming on a 40% feels difficult, you could always have a separate keyboard for that.
40% keyboards are interesting & unusual. I so like the fact they are trying to solve the issue of having to move your hand around. I also like how you customizable they are. These keyboards aren’t for everyone. But for those who like them, they are the best thing that happened since the invention of the computer mouse.
I hope my article has shed some light on 40% keyboards & their advantages.
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