ErgoDox EZ Users

Nathan Friend

Senior Frontend Engineer @ GitLab
Nathan Friend

Who are you, and what do you do?

My name is Nathan Friend, and I’m a Senior Frontend Engineer at GitLab.

Like everyone at GitLab, I work from home. Working remotely allows me to live in a truly remote location — I live in Prince Edward Island, Canada (population: 150,000) with my wife and son. If you haven’t been to PEI, here’s a taste of what you’re missing:



PEI1
Prince Edward Island
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Prince Edward Island
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Prince Edward Island
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Prince Edward Island

At GitLab, I work on the Release team, which is responsible for all areas of the product related to shipping finished code. I spend most of my time in Vue.js and JavaScript, although I occasionally dip into our Ruby codebase as well.

Outside of work, I play Ultimate frisbee in the PEI Ultimate League during the two weeks of summer we get on the island 😄. I play the cello and do session work every chance I get. I’m almost done with my Master’s degree in Human-Computer Interaction, which I’m working on remotely through Iowa State University.

What hardware do you use?

My daily driver is my space gray 15” MacBook Pro. When I’m at home, I use my white ErgoDox EZ Shine with sculpted, blank keycaps and Cherry MX Blue switches. Here are some photos I took while unboxing this beauty:

Unboxing
ErgoDox EZ Unboxing
Unboxing
ErgoDox EZ Unboxing
Unboxing
ErgoDox EZ Unboxing
Unboxing
ErgoDox EZ Unboxing

At my coworking space in town, I currently use a Microsoft Ergonomic 4000 keyboard, but only because I haven’t yet saved up for my second ErgoDox EZ, which will have black, sculpted keys and brown switches 😄.

My mouse is a Magic Trackpad 2, and for video calls, I use my Jabra Elite 65t Bluetooth headphones and a Logitech C920S webcam.

Setup
Setup

My coffee addiction is fueled by beans ground in my Cuisinart burr mill and brewed in a BODUM pour over.

I occasionally pull out my Epiphone Les Paul electric guitar or my Ibanez SR505 bass guitar and make weird sounds with my Boss GT-10 effects processor. I lead worship at my church with my Breedlove acoustic guitar.

Home office
Home office

And what software?

I spend most of my day editing code in VSCode and communicating with my coworkers through Slack, Zoom, or GitLab. I use Paste to manage my clipboard and 1Password and KeePassXC to manage my passwords. Krisp helps keep my background noise quiet on video calls, which is important with Blue switches 😄.

I have a few custom mouse gestures that I’ve programmed using BetterTouchTool. On Windows, I paper over some of the keyboard shortcut differences using AutoHotKey (although I’m trying to move some of these band-aids into my keyboard using QMK macros).

In my precious few minutes of free time, I like making my lights turn on and off automatically with IFTTT.

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

I arrange my ErgoDox EZ fairly wide and place my touchpad mouse between the halves. I began customizing my keyboard layout using the EZ Configurator, although I’ve since switched to a raw QMK layout to allow me to take advantage of some features that aren’t (yet) available in the Configurator. You can see my layout here. Some notable features include:

  • Colemak, QWERTY, and Dvorak layouts
  • A custom symbols layer

    • I looked up character frequency charts for common JavaScript libraries and tried to strategically arrange the symbols to minimize finger movement
  • An “arrow key” layer that allows me to jump around code without leaving the home row
  • A “window management” layer for snapping windows to certain areas of my monitor
  • A Unicode emoji layer
  • A “Windows” and “macOS” mode that makes all my keyboard shortcuts consistent across the two OSs (still a work in progress).

Perhaps the biggest adjustment has been my switch to the Colemak layout. I had been meaning to switch away from QWERTY for some time, and learning on a new board seemed like the best way to kickstart the process. I’m currently moderately comfortable with Colemak, although I haven’t quite matched my speed on QWERTY. Interestingly enough, I can’t type QWERTY at all on my ErgoDox — my brain now associates ortholinear layouts with Colemak. My QWERTY typing is mostly intact, other than mixing up S and D occasionally.

What would be your dream setup?

A second ErgoDox EZ for my coworking space in town. Switching between QWERTY and Colemak every other day really messes with my brain 😄. I’d also love to get some custom keycaps, but I’m scared to go down that road for the sake of my wallet.