ErgoDox EZ Users

Mikkel Malmberg

Software Engineer @ Elastic
Mikkel Malmberg

Who are you, and what do you do?

I’m Mikkel Malmberg. I work as a Software Engineer at Elastic and run a small set of my own services and apps on the side. I write an almost weekly (Danish) newsletter that people seem to like, and even though it’s sometimes hard to sit down and actually write it (the “almost” in “almost weekly”), I love it when I do.

I live in a mid-sized Danish city called Aalborg with my wife and two small children. When I’m not spending my time with them and on the house and garden, I love to learn and to create. Lately, I’ve been baking a lot of sourdough bread and playing Apex Legends.

What hardware do you use?

My main computer is a 13” MacBook Pro from 2017. Right now, the keys that are barely working are the T, the two Shift keys, and the left Option key. I really, really hope that the current line of MacBooks will be the last ones with the dreaded butterfly keyboards.

Luckily, when I’m plugged into my external 5K LG monitor, I have my beloved ErgoDox EZ. Next to it, I have a pair of the official wrist rests and an Apple Trackpad. I use a Space Gray iPhone Xs with no cover, a pair of Bose QuietComfort IIs, and Apple AirPods when on the go.

And what software?

I spend most of my day in vim inside tmux inside iTerm2 inside macOS. Actually, it’s been NeoVim for a few years now.

I opened vim 9 years ago and haven’t been able to quit since (haha). Like with the ErgoDox EZ, there is a steep learning curve, but it’s been such a good investment. Vim becomes so ingrained in your fingers’ memory that it sometimes feels like you’re directly manipulating text with your mind. Key commands become so detached from their actual textual value that when you, by accident, hit a wrong key and vim spits out the command in insert mode as text, it looks completely foreign. In my brain, pressing ciw is equivalent to the concept change in word, not its textual representation.

I currently use Safari as my main browser. I go back and forth between Safari and Firefox. Both are really, really good –- way better than Chrome. (You ought to switch!) I don’t use many extensions. Instead, I built Joof.app to share tiny JavaScript and CSS modifications between all browsers.

My most visited sites are GitHub and Twitter.

I use Mail.app. I mostly chat via Slack or Messages.app. I’m typing this in iA Writer, although VimR is also pretty good. I keep my notes in plain Markdown files but have recently been moving much of it to a personal Notion workspace.

I use Quicksilver all the time. I’ve tried all of the launchers but none are better than good old slowly-dying Quicksilver. I use Hammerspoon to map Ctrl+h/j/k/l to the arrow keys with or without my ErgoDox EZ. I also use it to launch my most often used apps and move windows to a few preset placements and sizes. I use an ancient app called Zooom to move and resize windows. It is also seemingly dying a slow death; I just keep copying it over when I reinstall macOS. Don’t know what I’ll do when it eventually breaks. I use Pastebot for clipboard history, 1Password for all my passwords, Encrypt.me for VPN when on the go, and Dropshare to quickly share things.

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

colorful_caps
Mikkel's ErgoDox EZ

I have the white Shine version of the ErgoDox EZ -– but I only ever turn on the lights to impress. I have a mix of the official, blank, white caps on it and some rainbow colored blanks. I use a custom layout made to look more like a “normie” keyboard layout.

My mechanical keyboard journey started with a few 60%-sized ones. Drawn to the scene mostly by the aesthetics, I lurked on /r/mechanicalkeyboards for a while before I gave in and ordered one. Then I ordered a few more, but when I saw Mintlodica’s ErgoDox post on Instagram, I was too intrigued to not try a keyboard that looked so awesome.

I haven’t looked back since. There’s definitely a learning curve, and I spent the first week or two with very frustrated hands, used to their weird, self-taught, monstrous version of touch-typing. But the investment has been so worth it. I love to work on my ErgoDox EZ.

We have a #mechanicalkeyboards channel in our Elastic Slack and it’s almost turned into an ErgoDox Converts Convention.

What would be your dream setup?

I am already pretty blessed with this setup. I have everything I need and more: all the expensive, shiny Apple stuff, the monitor, the ErgoDox EZ. But if we’re nitpicking:

I don’t use all of the ErgoDox EZ’s keys. I’d love a slightly smaller ErgoDox with fewer keys (but can’t be bothered to build one myself). I might have to get myself a Planck EZ.

I have mixed feelings about the direction Apple is taking their laptops. TouchID is great. I like the USB-C thing. I can live with the Touch Bar. (You have to make it always show the Expanded Control Strip.) The general build quality is great and I appreciate the efforts to make them so compact. I really tried to not be bothered by the butterfly keyboard but I’ve given up. What a disaster. Let’s just say the laptop in my dream setup includes a keyboard with working keys.

drawing
Mikkel's keyboard drawing