Venabili is the Delightful Keyboard You Can’t Buy

If you code or write a lot, you live or die with your keyboard. The Venabili web site calls Venabili “the delightful keyboard” which begs the question: what makes a keyboard delightful. The site continues:

“Venabili is a 40% mechanical, programmable, ergonomic and hackable computer keyboard.

Being a fully programmable keyboard, it gives you the ability to create layers of functionality, declare multifunction keys that can operate as both modifiers and normal keys, control the mouse, define macros, and more.”

Sounds at least 40% delightful, right? Where do you buy one? You don’t. The keyboard is a set of plans and like a Jedi lightsaber, you have to build your own.

The heart of the keyboard is the STM32F103 “BluePill” Maple Mini clone which we’ve looked at many times before. The mechanics are 48 Cherry MX switches and a keyboard enclosure you can laser cut or otherwise fabricate using the provided PDF files. You can also modify the SVG source file if you prefer to change the physical layout. In addition to the Bluepill and the switches, you’ll need a mess of diodes.

Configuring the keyboard with layers and macros is easy for hackers, but not exactly user-friendly. You modify a C file and recompile and flash the firmware in the keyboard. You can get all the details regarding construction and configuration in the build guide.

We’ve seen 3D printers used to modify mechanical switches. If you want to read more about the BluePill, we’ve done that, too.

31 thoughts on “Venabili is the Delightful Keyboard You Can’t Buy

    1. A 40% keyboard is one with less keys then a full one. Usually without the numeric keypad and with some keys with double duties. “40%” and “mechanical” are both referred to keyboard.

        1. It reads fine, it’s just jargon of a special interest group. You may remain angry and bitter in general, but in time, you will forget this particular thing on the internet ever happened :)

      1. Exactly, given that ‘40%’ is used here as an adjective there should be a comma after it. “Venabili is a 40%, mechanical, programmable, ergonomic, hackable computer keyboard.”

    2. It’s a fully mechanical keyboard, the ‘40%’ refers to it being 40% the size of a full-size keyboard and is a common term among DIY keyboard enthusiasts. In decreasing size:
      – Full size: Standard IBM-style keyboard with numpad and everything
      – Ten-keyless: Removes the numpad
      – 75%: Moves the separate insert/delete and arrow key regions and squishes them under/besides the enter key, similar to a laptop keyboard
      – 65%: Removes the function keys
      – 60%: Fully removes the arrow, navigation and insert/delete keys
      – 40%: Removes the number keys.

      These give a general idea of the categories, but as these things are very customised the exact keys included will vary.

      1. Thanks for the explanation. I am clearly not l33t enough, I don’t fancy coding with no numbers or spacebar. I have enough trouble when I can’t type a # in a LinuxVM using a UK Mac keyboard. I think that this is not for me.

        1. There’s no keys missing; layered keyboards can do all the things better, with less hand movements… hold a key on your left hand and the arrows on the home row on your right hand become arrow keys. Hold another key and the numbers and special characters can be the row above the home row. Space bar key is there, too, it’s just not taking up 7 or so key squares. Take a look at the space bar on your daily-driver keyboard: you’ve likely worn only a very small area of it… that is where the single key size space bar key should be, and all the rest of the area can be handy keys for other things. over-sized keys are seriously stupid because which muscle memory, you’re just not hitting the whole area. All this and layered keyboards can typically do macros and other fun things too. People may not be as crazy as they seem at first glance, these layered keyboards really are superior, particularly for people that need to do super fancy things on terminals.

          1. I am vaguely convinced by the arguments in some ways, I rather wish that the Microwriter had caught on (yes, I am old enough to remember that) and I quite liked coding on the ZX spectrum where all the language keywords were modal single keypresses. But I would need key legends, I really would. I have enough trouble finding pipe, hash and quote. Partly because they move about so much on different keyboards.
            But I disagree about the spacebar, mine is worn for almost the entire length, no original texture remains all the way from V to M inclusive.

          2. @Andy …chording keyboards are super interesting, but in general for most letters would be a slow-down, but for “other” keys where you’ve shifted a thought (like hold one key to turn the whole right half into a keypad) is pretty darn productive. Spacebar worn all the way across?… would be the first I’ve ever seen/heard of. it’s crazy handy to have each thumb be able to hit three extra keys, it’s just how I think keyboards should have been all along.

      2. That’s really weird. The keyboard on my CF-17 is referred to as 80%, but it has a full complement of keys minus the ten-key, they’re just squished to smaller scale. Identical size to the eee-pc netbook keyboard, but some layout differences.

        I always thought these percentages referred to key pitch spacing, until today.

    1. It’s just a legend. This is a programmable keyboard. So, it could be anything the user wants it to be. It could insert “vim rocks” or open a terminal and open vim, or just be 8.

  1. I don’t understand the desire to have less keys. I even bought a separate number pad for my work computer because it did not have one. Can anybody explain in a way that makes sense to somebody who has almost never bought a keyboard without a number pad, laptops included, why you think fewer keys are desirable?

    1. The idea with fewer keys is that you don’t have to move your hands around as much. Extras characters and keys are activated using a function key or key combination. Moving your hands less, and not having to contort your fingers to get certain ctrl and alt key combinations helps reduce RSI injuries. I use an Atreus keyboard, which is similar to this keyboard. It took some getting used to, but the reduce movement has helped with wrist and arm pain.

    2. Layered keyboards are superior, and not restricted to typical modifiers… Hold a key on your left, and the keys under your right hand are now the num pad. hold different key, now the arrows are under you right hand on the home row. Another and the F keys are the the row above the home row… the flexibility is endless as to how you can configure them. If you look into it, regular keyboards are seriously stupid by comparison.

      1. All of that can be accomplished on a “Full size” keyboard with the proper software. I could write an AutoHotkey script that does all three of your examples in a half hour or less (I might later just for fun).
        Your answer does not explain why fewer buttons are better.

        1. If you can change layers quicker and easier than moving your hands, then the rest of the keys of a “full size” keyboard are pretty much useless. Less keyboard needed, less movement better with less chance of RSI… better is better. AutoHotkey… unless you’re using it’s UI features, the baking-into-keyboard-config is totally superior, don’t need to install anything to use it on another computer, works with whatever you plug it into, works across VM’s or anything, linux, mac, whatever. Autohotkey means you’re stuck with piece-of-shit windows, which is a step backwards by all measures. Anyways, short story, you’re wrong, but don’t worry, some people think the earth is flat too :)

          1. ” works with whatever you plug it into, works across VM’s or anything, linux, mac, whatever”

            Oh, it is really not that simple… Keyboards send scancodes not characers, and then the OS converts those scancodes in to characters. Assuming that these keyboards behave like any other USB-HID device then the OS can still mess things up by interpreting the scancodes as different characters. (or, looked at another way, can easily allow you to switch to a different language layout, Dvorak etc). I probably see this more than most as I travel a lot (so end up using the French, German and Turkish keyboard layouts) and also use Macs and PCs and lots of VMs. It seems that I can rarely count on the keyboard legends to accurately predict the characters that appear on screen. A “layered” keyboard with no legends sounds like a way to make this even worse.

  2. I have cubital nerve traped in Guyon chanel, the usual keyboards (lapto ones mainly) obly to make a cubital deviation of the hands that make me sympthoms at 15 seconds of using. I remembered those wave like keyboards but din’t find any in local shops and there were very few online to make a blind buy… Finally I foun an ergonomic keyboard (with the wave and key distribution anti-cubital) at my local Carrefour (kind of Walmart), from Microsoft!!! Just 20 euros! And worked like a charm.

  3. Reading through the documentation and seeing the features it lacks, I can’t help but wonder why you’d put their controller in it instead of just running QMK firmware off a pro-micro clone instead? I mean, it’s basically just a Planck.

  4. I think that all the work that has been devised is a waste of time…according to the number of keys it is an ordinary plank and according to the shape it is atreus. As it is said, it is about rediscovering the wheel …

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