My    Keyboard
My X-Keys devices

X-Keys devices

I have several X-Keys USB programmable keypads.

I also own an [X-Keys Matrix board].

128 key keyboard - based on the matrix board:

X keys matrix board keyboard
X-Keys Matrix Board keyboard

This keyboard is made using Saia-Burgess G3 low force microswitches.

There's a page devoted to this device and its construction here.

My X-Keys desktop device has had major surgery. It too now uses low force microswitches.

Keyboard - X-Keys
X-Keys Desktop - new switches (plan view)

Keyboard - X-Keys
X-Keys Desktop - prep for surgery

Keyboard - X-Keys
X-Keys Desktop - board sawed in half

Before this surgery, I had the keyboards set up something like this:

Keyboard - X-Keys
X-Keys Professional (58 keys)

X keys 58 keymap
X-Keys Professional (58 keys) keymap

X keys 20
X-Keys Desktop (20 keys)
X keys 20 keymap
X-Keys Desktop (20 keys) keymap

I nearly bought a second Kinesis keyboard - having been decidely converted to programmable keyboards by having cut/copy/paste/undo/redo/save along my top left row - and figuring that X-Keys couldn't be much better than more of what I already had.

I'm glad I didn't do that: the X-Keys devices are great.

If I had to criticise, I would say:

  • Keyswitches offer too much resistance to being pressed;
  • No built-in key click sound;
  • The keypads have a huge black border all around them - wasting valuable desk space;
  • The keypads have useless wrist rests - wasting even more desk space;
  • Keycap tops are only curved in one direction - and then only slightly;
  • Using 'memory resident mode' is more tricky than it needs to be;
  • Devices and accessories are rather expensive;
The X-Keys devices uses the same Cherry MX microswitches as the Kinesis keyboard - but the lack of built in audio feedback makes them seem to be of lower quality.

Lack of audio feedback when pressing keys can be dealt with to some extent by playing audio files manually when keys are pressed. I have a library of short keypress samples that I use for this purpose. I also use speech synthesis - so keys repeat their actions back to me verbally, confirming my intended actions.

However, this is a bit of a hack. Ideally, better support from the driver for playing audio files on each keypress seems desirable. Also, software feedback can be subject to delays with today's feeble parodies of multi-tasking.

I would like the hardware to have its own means of making small clicks on every keypress - like the Kinesis keyboard does.

I originally tried keyswitch surgery on one of my X-Keys devices. It was not successful. Unsoldering all the switches proved to be impractical. I considered cutting the tops off the switches to provide access - but did not attempt this. In the end, I replaced all the switches entirely.

Macro Works II

I'm currently using Macro Works II to program my X-keys devices.

AFAICS, you currently need to reprogram everything again from scratch, the first time you use it.

Macro Works II is a major rewrite - and represents a very useful upgrade.

Application-specific layers is a very useful feature - though if you are using macro software, you probably have this functionality already.

Drag-and-drop programming of execution of commands, programs and shortcuts also works well.

Bugs involving keystroke menu navigation seem to have been fixed.

The new software is also easier and less cumbersome to use.

I had some problems when the software was in beta test:

  • Application-specific layers can corrupt the script files - if the application name has a hyphen in it;

  • Deleting application-specific layers does not always work properly - and can sometimes corrupt any 'subsequent' layers in the script file;

  • There's no equivalent to memory resident mode yet;

  • It is crashy software when in editing mode - so you must remember to keep saving your work frequently;

  • The software occasionally overwrites one key command with another one. This seems to happen randomly while editing;

  • There seems to be no way to simulate single shift/ctrl key presses - no way to send ctrl-alt-delete - and there seems to be some strange behaviour surrounding the arrow keys and numlock.

...but the current version has yet to crash on me once. About the only problem is that it asks me to press a key on the device with flashing lights each time I boot up - though it is the only X-keys device I have plugged in.

I'm not sure that the software is up to emulating a whole keyboard yet.

The original Macro Works software was more flexible in this respect - you could send key up and down events independently.

Anyway, the new Macro Works is a huge improvement over the original version.

Congratulations to the PI-Engineering programmers.

Memory resident mode tips

The so-called 'Splat' mode has many advantages under Windows - but...

If you want to experiment with [memory resident mode], first make sure you have downloaded both the [Macro Recorder] and the [Splat Converter]. Without the [Splat Converter] there's no way to get out of memory resident mode again.

Memory resident mode works - but can take a while to figure out.

I found the Macro Recorder software was buggy, produced poor quality error messages - and had a hard time reading Macro Works files.

I contacted X-Keys technical support. They advised me that Macro Works files were not compatible with Macro Recorder - but that Macro Recorder files work with Macro Works - and recommended that I reprogram my device from scratch.


This site

From here you can go back to My keyboard page.

Relating to this page

Photos of previous X-keys configurations are available.

The page about low force microswitches is related to this one.


X-Keys keycaps
Macro Works II (Beta) - UK supplier - UK supplier - UK supplier - US supplier - US supplier
How to make your X-Keys glow

X-Keys matrix board

X-Keys matrix board
X-Keys electronic dartboard project
X-Keys matrix project photos
X-Keys matrix board with terminal blocks - photos

Other keyboard encoders

KE USB 24 Keyboard Encoder Module
Keyboard Encoder Modules
IPAC1 encoder - UK
List of keyboard encoders
Vetra "SmartWye" Series PC Keyboard Encoders
Vetra "SmartWye" VIP-312
KeyWiz Eco 2
KeyWiz Max 1.5 - UK - general info

Tim Tyler | Contact |