The Custom Clicky Shortcut Keypad

You’re not cool unless you have a mechanical keyboard. Case in point: if you were to somehow acquire an identical keyboard to the one I used to type this, it would set you back at least seven hundred dollars. Yes, it’s mechanical (Topre), and yes, I’m cooler than you. Of course, you can’t be as cool as me, but you can build your own mechanical keyboard. [Robin] is, I presume, a pretty cool dude so he built his own keyboard. It’s the amazing shortcut keyboard, and it can be programmed graphically.

The idea for this keyboard came when [Robin] was studying as an engineer. We assume this is code for wearing out the Escape key on AutoCAD, but many other software packages have the same problem. The solution to [Robin]’s problem was a shortcut keypad, a 3 by 4 matrix of Cherry switches that could be programmed for any task.

The design of this keyboard started out as an Adafruit Trellis matrix keypad. This was combined with some software written in Processing that assigned macros to each button. This was a sufficient solution, but the switches in the Adafruit trellis look squishy. These are not the right switches for someone who craves a soft snap under every fingertip. It’s not the keyboard of someone who desires the subtle thickness of laser etched PBT keycaps. The Adafruit keypad doesn’t have the graceful lines of a fully sculpted set of keycaps. Oh my god, it’s doubleshot.

[Robin]’s completed keyboard has gone through a few revisions, but in the end, he settled on PCB-mounted switches and a very clever 3D printed standoff system to hold an Arduino Pro Micro in place. The enclosure, too, is 3D printed, and the end result is a completely custom keyboard that’s perfect for mashing key combos.

You can check out a video of this keyboard in action below.

37 thoughts on “The Custom Clicky Shortcut Keypad

    1. Hey, Robin here, the keypad you linked is a really cool project and something I drew a lot of inspiration from. Glad you like the software I made, it took like 500 hours to code so it’s good to know it was time well spent!

      1. It seems pretty cool. I’ll have to have a look :)

        I made a similar-ish keyboard too: gateron switches with 3528’s RGB LEDs, cheapo 2.4″ LCD from fleabay (shows current key mappings and what not), TM4C MCU (USB composite device, with a USB HID keyboard/mouse, and a USB CDC UART to configure it from the PC + reading the keyboard and driving the LEDs). Similar features (repeating stuff, etc). And of course a crappy looking 3D printed case. I don’t have a fancy graphical keyboard configurator though (I have a simple program blasting the info away on the right COM port, which is autodetected via the Windows setup API)

  1. Smells like a Geekhack group buy.

    I’ve thought about doing something like this with a Trinket Pro. For video editing at church, some of the most useful shortcuts are ridiculous chords that are extremely difficult with one hand.

    1. The original TV remotes were purely mechanical. They had beefy buttons that snapped into metal bars and produced an ultrasonic tone. No batteries required.

      I often wondered if you could arrange for 8 tone bars, you could map them to 16 possible combinations just like DTMF. Then the receiver could discriminate between noise and signal when it could detect 2 valid tones at the same time.

  2. News Flash: A break-in has been reported at the Hack A Day editorial offices. The only thing taken was a computer keyboard. “Cool Guy” Brian Benchoff was seen sobbing and screaming at police officers to “Save my baby!”. A ransom note found on the scene simply said “You asked for it”.

    Actually I think Brian has brass balls for putting up with all the shit in the comment section, but that first paragraph was really asking for it ;-)

  3. That’s cool and looks easy to use but it will require something installed and always running on the host. I have used several commercial macro keypads and the bloat of the client side software always annoys me. Plus if it crashs or hues unresponsive you have to fidget with it and requires drivers probably. These types also may not work over Remote Desktop or vnc. I ended building a couple these of my own using a Leonardo which just sends raw mouse and keyboard commands that’s my favorite way to go right now although the programming is hard coded. Could program it over serial though but not needed for me. Anyway it’s an established market to break into good luck

    1. According to a friend, well more of an acquaintance, okay some random jerk on 4 chan, you want one of the roll up dead flesh rubber ones and plenty of lube….. unless you’re not into necro then warm it up a bit first.

    1. Pfft. Mine costed almost 100 times that (Winkeless B.87 hand-assembled with MX ergo clears, with PuLSE SA keycaps). Of course it will probably outlive me. So that’s like 2 bucks a month if I use it into retirement. I regret nothing.

  4. What Topre are you using, Brian? I have a Realforce HiPro AND an HHKB Pro 2S, and both of them together cost me around what you paid for the one KB… And both of those keyboards are notoriously expensive.

    Just curious, that seems insane to me, even as someone who’s more financially tied up in MKs than I would really care to admit.

    1. Novatouch TKL and Penumbras. The Novatouch has since been discontinued, and the prices have shot through the roof. The penumbra caps are also out of production and rare as hen’s teeth. Did I *spend* $700? No, but that’s what fair market value for this thing is.

      Compared to you, I’m a *far* more sophisticated consumer and my taste is impeccable.

      1. I just looked up the Novatouch TKL and the marketing brags about leaving out something I would never buy a keyboard without, let alone pay extra for the privilege of not having, the number pad.

        1. They do make separate numpads with mechanical keys, both ‘dumb’ plain ones as well as fancy ones with backlighting and all that stuff.
          But I agree, numeric keypad are very annoying to be without on a keyboard.

          I for me even want the scroll lock key to be present though. But so do many others, as logitech found out once when they removed it at one point.

      2. Ok I see how this pricing works. My Topre is going to cost my over $5000.00. I’m flying business from U.S. to Osaka and staying for 3 weeks for business. I’ll stop by the Sofmap or Yodobashi Camera and pick it up. Maybe I’ll look into a company tour while I’m there.

        Currently using 5 Model Ms of various vintage and specialty OEM keys. Three of them are personnally/professionally bolt modded.

  5. For the life of me i don’t see why there isn’t a standard user interface function that lets me assign at least strings to function keys or whatever – macOS comes close with keyboard shortcuts but windows and linux don’t seem to. Also, multiple clipboards!

    1. Multiple clipboards add a hassle that negate the convenience of a clipboard I would say.
      Although I suppose it’s something an OS should make available as an option. But these days MS won’t even let you choose what CPU to use..

  6. That’s sweet. A nice companion for it would be a little LCD screen, or even a smartphone, showing the current key assignments. Remembering what key is what on a generically- or un-labeled device is my problem with such things.

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