Keyboard Remapping

Sometimes I spend way too much time automating or customizing things on my computers, usually with an exceptionally bad cost/benefit relation. But hey, it’s fun, and after a while, the cost is forgotten and the benefits actually feel really good.

A few years ago, my poison of choice was finding the perfect keyboard layout. I know many people are fans of using a US keyboard layout even when they write other languages, such as German, because that’s so much better for programming. For most programmers, I guess that’s a very good choice, especially if you write most texts in English, too, and only occasionally need special characters for another language. For me, it’s an actual mixture of a lot of German, quite a bit of English, and (sadly) only occasional programming, so I really needed something that made all three convenient. For example, I need German characters such as ü, ä, ö, ß somewhere where I can type them quickly. I could never get used to having to type some weird dead key combination to get them.

So I was extremely happy to discover a rather obscure keyboard layout called Neo (German website only), and I’ve been using it for a few years now. Needless to say, getting started was a pain, and I spent a few weeks typing with an excruciating lack of speed. But I really like the way it allows me to get all the characters I want, including real German and English typography chars such as ‘„’, ‘»’, ‘–’, etc. and type all kinds of braces, parens really quickly. I also finally learned to touch-type, because you simply have no other chance if almost none of the letters on your keyboard’s keys have anything to do with the characters that appear when you type them. Again, you need to be a little crazy to actually invest the time to relearn typing, and I’m not at all sure I’d recommend it. I’m reasonably happy, though.

I recently watched this video of John Lindquist demonstrating how he uses the macOS keyboard remapping tool Karabiner, and it has led me to a new rabbit hole, too. I’ve been using it as part of my Neo2 setup for a while, but I never really bothered to learn it in detail. It seems incredibly powerful, and my first experiments with the tool mentioned in the video, Goku, seem to support the claim that it makes creating Karabiner configurations rather painless.

It’s not hard to imagine how I’ll spend my free time during the Christmas break.