planck keyboard review

Categories:   productivity   tech  
Tags:   dvorak  

/images/planck.jpg

The Planck rev6 Keyboard Review

This is the review of the planck rev6 keyboard, a 40% ortholinear keyboard from olkb.com.

This keyboard is an amazing choice for new people interested in the ortholinear layout.

tl;dr:

  • Improve productivity.
  • Enough keys for beginners
  • The cool factor.

Let’s clear up some confusion:

  • Why is it aligned in a grid?
  • Is 48 keys enough?
  • Where are the letters?
  • Is this a practical keyboard?

Why the grid layout

This layout is called the ortholinear layout and is well known in the mechanical keyboard community. The grid layout is designed for intuitive typing. Whether you’ll grow to like or not it is completely personal. It took me a few days to get used to this layout.

Now that I’m used to this layout, I’m able to touch type with minimal errors.

Is 48 keys enough

Since a full sized keyboard has over a 100 keys, is 48 keys going to be enough?

These keyboards that run the QMK firmware can utilize layers to enable multiple layouts.

For example, I made these layers for the Planck keyboard:

  • 1st layer: has the alphabets
  • 2nd layer: has the numbers and symbols
  • 3rd layer: has useful navigations
  • 4th layer: even more useful shortcuts

You activate a specific layer by holding down certain function keys.

As every key is within easy reach, this will rapidly reduce errors and increase productivity.

As for the Planck keyboard, It’s probably possible to use this with only 1 or 2 layers.

Why are there no letters?

This is a personal choice as I thought blank keycaps were easier to find.

Is this a practical keyboard?

This keyboard is absolutely amazing.

This keyboard will probably give you better performance than typical full sized keyboards under two conditions:

  • You can touch type.
  • You plan the layout thoughtfully.

I think the 40% keyboard layout is the best balance between size and functionality.

My current Planck layout

Here is my current layout for the Planck keyboard.

I try to keep my layouts the same across all keyboards: (preonic, planck, levinson, gherkin).

Layer 1 - Dvorak


,-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------.
| Tab  |   "  |   ,  |   .  |   P  |   Y  |   F  |   G  |   C  |   R  |   L  | Bksp |
|------+------+------+------+------+-------------+------+------+------+------+------|
| Nav  |   A  |   O  |   E  |   U  |   I  |   D  |   H  |   T  |   N  |   S  |Enter |
|------+------+------+------+------+------|------+------+------+------+------+------|
|Shift |   ;  |   Q  |   J  |   K  |   X  |   B  |   M  |   W  |   V  |   Z  |Shift |
|------+------+------+------+------+------+------+------+------+------+------+------|
| Ctrl |      | Alt  | WIN  |Lower |    Space    |Raise | LANG | INS  | DEL  | Ctrl |
`-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------'

This is a standard Dvorak layout with the exception of the - (hyphen.) I had to sacrifice this space for the more frequently used Enter key.

The LANG key is mapped to alt+shift which toggles between languages.

I got in the habit of using the DEL key in addition to the Bksp key. A small habit like this makes a huge difference over time.

I have the lower & Raise button next to the space keys, as well as another lower key on the left.

When held down, these lower & Raise keys activate the other layers.



,-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------.
|      |      |  up  |      |      |      |      |      |      | P.Up |P.Down|      |
|------+------+------+------+------+-------------+------+------+------+------+------|
| Nav  | left | down |right |      |      |      |      |      | HOME | END  |      |
|------+------+------+------+------+------|------+------+------+------+------+------|
|Shift |      |      |      |      |      |      |      |      |      |      |Shift |
|------+------+------+------+------+------+------+------+------+------+------+------|
| Ctrl |      | Alt  |  WIN |      |    Space    |      |      |  INS | DEL  | Ctrl |
`-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------'

The nav key enables my arrow keys as well and the home/end, page up/page down short cuts.

The HOME & END keys are crazy useful in coding, especially when used with the left shift key.


Lower


,-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------.
|      |ws bk |ws fw |back  |forw  | Vol+ |      |      |      |      |      |      |
|------+------+------+------+------+-------------+------+------+------+------+------|
|      |als+tb|al+tb |P.tab |N.tab | Vol- |      |      |      |      |      |      |
|------+------+------+------+------+------|------+------+------+------+------+------|
|Shift |alt+sp|  c   | Copy |Paste | Mute |      |      |      |      |      |Shift |
|------+------+------+------+------+------+------+------+------+------+------+------|
| Ctrl |ctl+w |      |      |Lower |    Space    |      |      |      |      | Ctrl |
`-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------'

The lower key enables my useful shortcuts to reduce switching between the mouse and keyboard.

ws bk / ws fw are for switching between workspaces (tested on windows and linux).

als+tk / al+tb are for swithching between applications.

back/forw and p.tab/ntab are for switching between tabs in chrome (unfortunately not the same in firefox).

alt+sp / c and ctl+w is used to quickly close tabs and applications.

The copy is mapped to Ctrl+insert , the paste to Shift+insert. This is important since C, V, X are scattered on Dvorak.

In case you didn’t know, Ctrl+insert & Shift+insert also works in the terminal.


Raise


,-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------.
| Esc  |   1  |   2  |   3  |   4  |   5  |   6  |   7  |   8  |   9  |   0  |      |
|------+------+------+------+------+-------------+------+------+------+------+------|
|      |      |      |      |      |      |      |   [  |   ]  |   `  |   -  |      |
|------+------+------+------+------+------|------+------+------+------+------+------|
|Shift |      |      |      |      |      |      |   /  |   =  |   \  |      |Shift |
|------+------+------+------+------+------+------+------+------+------+------+------|
| Ctrl |      | Alt  |  WIN |      |    Space    |Raise |      |      |      | Ctrl |
`-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------'

This layer is for the numbers and symbols.

You can see the - makes it’s appearance here. This was annoying at first but you get used to it.

I find the symbols to be very intuitive here and better than any layout I’ve tried.

The symbols are placed right above the Raise button so that they align and start with the index finger.

The shift keys are on both sides for every layer to allow easy access to all secondary keys.

summary

A pretty intuitive layout IMO; it is missing some important keys for some developers though like the F keys.

How can I get one?

You can purchase the Planck or planck PCB kit from https://olkb.com.

You can get standard:

  • PCB
  • top plate
  • grid
  • bottom case

or the EOTW:

  • PCB
  • grid
  • EOTW bottom plate

Either way, you need to becareful choosing a grid as there’s two types:

  • mx compatible
  • alps compatible

This board is compatible with cherry mx or alps switches.

You’ll need to purchase the switches separately.

You’ll also need some keycaps (size: 1U) for either the cherry mx or alps respectively.

Note: The mx and alps switches are different and thus require different types of key caps.

The PCB version I bought was rev 6 which was “hot-swappable”, which means I didn’t have to do any soldering.

I just push to switches into the the pcb; if I want to change it in the future I just pull them out.

Note: The “Hot-swappable” is only for MX switches. This board is also compatible with Alps switches but you’ll have to solder them.

If you do wish to solder the components, you’ll need:

You’ll need:

  • Soldering Iron
  • Solder
  • Flush Cutters
  • Screw drivers

You can follow the official guide on olkb for instructions.

Installing the QMK firmware

Once you built the keyboard, you need to flash it with the QMK firmware.

I won’t go in details on the flashing process here, but this version is different from the previous planck versions.

The documentation here on https://docs.qmk.fm is good.

If your on a windows, here’s what you probably need:

The github page will have some instructions along with a Planck folder with the default keyboard layout.

You can customize this layout to your liking before you flash it on your board.

You’ll need to run a few commands in the terminal for this.

You can also check my layout on my github.

Conclusion

It may seem difficult to get started but there are lots of good documentation online. If your profession requires you to type all day, you’ll save a ton of time in the long run and also prevent injuries.

If you’ve never typed on a mechanical keyboard you should give it a go. They really are amazing to type on, ortho or not.

Another popular choice is the “Anne Pro 2”, a 60% bluetooth RGB keyboard with Gateron switches.

If you’re interested in learning touch typing or the Dvorak layout, you can check out that article too.

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Categories:   productivity   tech  
Tags:   dvorak