ErgoDox EZ Users

Jacob Barss-Bailey

Design Lead

Who are you, and what do you do? What do you like to do outside of work?

I’m Jacob Barss-Bailey. Professionally, I’m the design lead for Local Business at Nextdoor. We work on building better ways for small, local businesses to manage their presence on Nextdoor, and to help communities support their local businesses.

Outside of that, I typically do a lot of electronics work, mostly at hobbyist scale and ambition. Most of my hardware work for the past five-odd years has been synthesizer modules, though I’ve recently been working on some custom macro keyboards, inspired in no small part by my using the ErgoDox EZ. My Tindie Store is still quite small, but I’m proud of what’s on there, and I hope to get more of the other 20-odd more complex modules I’ve designed over the years up there soon.

Jacob Barss-Bailey's setup
Antiques and IKEA, working together

What hardware do you use?

I have two 13-inch MacBook Pros, a new one for work and the last Touchbar-less model for personal use. Both get used with a cheap HP Z27 monitor, which I’ve never been totally happy with but works perfectly fine for my needs. When I started working from home due to COVID-19, I cobbled together a workable desk from an antique drop-leaf table that belonged to my grandmother and a piece of plywood on top of a cheap IKEA stand. It’s not the most legit setup I’ve had, but it somehow works well, and I’m reluctant to change it.

For input, I use the ErgoDox EZ with Kailh Box White switches, which I absolutely love. On either side of it I have an Apple Magic Trackpad 2 and Magic Mouse 2. I occasionally switch over to a Kensington Expert Trackball or Wacom graphics tablet, but I’ve been finding recently that this particular combo is the least offensive to my wrists. I’ve been dealing with mild/moderate carpal tunnel syndrome for most of my life, and a lot of my hardware choices have entirely dictated by minimizing the chronic pain I get from that.

Since I’m now in video calls so much more now for work, I recently added a Blue Yeti mic and a Logitech C920S webcam. I have a pair of Sony MDR-7520 headphones that sound delightful and are comfortable for hours at a time, despite being total overkill for my usual work needs.

My electronics workbench is a mess of random used equipment, but I have a Fluke 87V multimeter and an AmScope trinocular microscope that both get used constantly. The microscope is great for hand SMD assembly, but it’s also just fun to have at home. I also use an Othermachine / Bantam Tools desktop CNC milling machine for prototyping electronics really quickly; it’s been really helpful in learning how to design hardware by letting me make mistakes faster and cheaper over the years.

Jacob Barss-Bailey's electronics workbench
Random equipment and a few well-chosen favorites

And what software?

For my paid professional work, I’ve recently switched from Sketch to Figma. I still find myself needing Adobe CS now and then, but Figma is my home. Coding and other text work gets done in Atom, with iTerm2 as my terminal emulator.

My electronics CAD is done in AutoCAD EAGLE. It’s weird and clunky, but I know it well, and it’s been quite reliable. Other hardware design work is done mostly in Illustrator; I use Fusion 360, but I try to avoid it.

I use Hammerspoon extensively for system-level modifications and macros. It’s the scripting tool I’ve wanted for years, and I wouldn’t want to go without it again.

For web browsing, I use stock Chrome with uBlock Origin. I use Pinboard for bookmarking.

What’s your keyboard setup like? Do you use a custom layout or custom keycaps?

I tried out custom caps, but I rather like the ones that ship with the ErgoDox EZ, and I’ve stuck with them so far. The only hardware customization I’ve done is adding some short red TRRS cables between the two halves.

I spent years using JIS keyboards, with heavily modified layouts to take advantage of having a few extra keys, and I still use that setup, modified for non-JIS layouts. I remap my modifier keys with Karabiner-Elements—not necessary on the ErgoDox, but still needed on the internal keyboard—to give me Control in the correct position (left of a), and to add 英数 and かな keys. With a collection of custom Hammerspoon scripts, I then use these as ersatz Hyper and Super, with かな mostly used for non-ASCII input and macros, and 英数 used as a system-wide shortcut key. The latter is used extensively for window and screen management, for direct access to a shell, and for keyboard-only emoji picking. I almost never touch a mouse to move windows around anymore.

With the ErgoDox EZ, I’ve added a lot of extra modal layers and remapped everything but the letter and number keys to my liking. Somehow I’ve ended up with three command keys, but they’re all working well for me.

Jacob Barss-Bailey's keyboard
A simple setup

What would be your dream setup?

I will always appreciate faster computers with better screens and all that, but what I really dream about is working in the middle of an overgrown, humid greenhouse.