I've been thinking to write a post about the process of building a Dactyl. The main idea is to add more information about this and make the job easier in case I want to do it again, and to add more information for someone thinking to start this adventure. At this exact moment I'm in the middle of the process, I've already acquired the basic components that I need. I think it's a good time to start documenting stuff. But I'm terrible on being concise, so here it is the first post explaining what is dactyl and why I'm building it. I belive the next post gonna be about the actual compoenents and my approach on this project.

What is Dactyl

I've been talking about Dactyl but probably no one has the slightest idea of what is dactyl. Dactyl is a DIY opensource keyboard project inspired by Kinesis Advantage and Ergodox. Ergodox itself is another DIY opensource project, you can find some kits to build one yourself or buy one already assembled, Ergodox-Ez for example. Both Ergodox and Dactyl use a firmware for mechanical keyboards called QMK. I'll dedicate a post exclusively to QMK and tweaks that I'll do on my build.

Getting back to Dactyl. I guess the main difference between Dactyl and any other DIY project is that the 3D printed case that you need for the project is built actually with code. So you can tweak some parameters and change the layout to accomodate better to your preferences. Matt Adereth, the creator of Dactyl, gave a talk called cloure.core/typing. By the name of the talk you can guess it's done in Clojure. That's beautiful.

Dactyl flavors and sources

Since Dactyl case is generated with code, you might expect that a lot of people would change that code to come up with their own customized version of it. And that's what actually happened. Going through the forks of the original repo is it's own adventure, you can find a lot of cool changes on the project. But I could spot 3 main flavors of the Dactyl project.

The Original Dactyl

Dactyl Keyboard

Dactyl Keyboard

adereth/dactyl-keyboard is the original repository.

Dactyl Manuform

Dactyl Manuform Keyboard

Dactyl Manuform Keyboard

tshort/dactyl-keyboard This project change the thumb cluster to looks like the ManuForm keyboard.


Dactyl-CC Keyboard

Dactyl-CC Keyboard

mjohns/dactyl-cc I guess this one is just based on the original one, because the actual code is in C++.

Other flavors

You can find a lot more flavors of the Dactyl keyboard, a friend is building an awesome list of everything dactyl, that you can find at PotHix/awesome-dactyl.

Why I'm doing this

I guess this section is more about me justifying to myself why I decided to do this project. I hope I finish it at some moment.

So my introduction to mechanical keyboards was through the Kinesis Advantage 2 keyboard. I've had the chance to buy one very cheaply(that I still own). I used for a few years. I loved the concavity of the keyboard. Typing in it was a very nice experience. But customizing it wasn't a good thing. You can just remap keys and create macros.

Then I came in contact with the Ergodox. I've searched several kits of Ergodox but I've just found group buys and none of them as running when I wanted it. What fascinated me about Ergodox was that it was splitted. I loved the concavity of Kinesis, but I always felt it was small. I've always felt that the two wheels where too close to each other. The QMK power just got me when I finally bought a Ergodox-EZ. Now I can't envision a life without a layered keyboard.

So I loved the ability of moving the two halfs of Ergodox around. I loved the power and But I still missed the concavity of the Kinesis Advantage keyboard. This is when I came to know Dactyl. I've just saw there I dream come true, the power of QMK firmware, a split keyboard and the concavity like a Kinesis Advantage. It's been quite some time that I always plan on building a Dactyl, and finally I'm doing this. I wanna keep this short, so in the next post I'll talk about the parts and the choices I made for this build. It will have it all, switches, microcontroller, pcb, leds, hotswap sockets. That's it for now.