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Multiple 45% to 55% keyboard designs
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Images Also rename layouts from "XT<nn>" to "XT[KW] <nn>" and "XTHH<nn>" to … Sep 8, 2019

XTK and Friends: 45% to 55% Keyboard Designs

("XTK" is short for "XTaran's Keyboard(s)")


  • Four rows of keys only (40% style): R2-R5
  • Though all common columns including brackets, single/double quotes, backslash/pipe. → more 50% than 40%
  • Dedicated arrow keys in turned-over-T layout.
  • Either HHKB layout or additional column with Home/PageUp/PageDown/End.
  • Should probably support both, single or split spacebar.
  • Running free software (QMK) as firmware.
  • Bezel-less sandwich case design with standoffs between the switches, similar to the Zlant (see the plate and bottom in this picture) or the Candybar Standard (see this picture).

Dropped requirements

  • GMK Paperwork compatibility
    • Misses the bracket and backslash/pipe keys anyway.
    • The HHKB variant (XTHH) comes close, but there's no 2u Shift in GMK Paperwork included. Might be compensated with a 1u Shift plus another 1u key (as in the XTHH 49 layout).

The Designs

I started with a 60% layout and wanted only four rows like 40%, but with all columns of a 60% and dedicated cursor keys. The latter caused the design to gain that additional column typical for 65% keyboards.


  • 15.5u width (a common 60% has 15u width, a common 65% has 16u width, most 40% have between 12u and 13u width)
  • 52 to 56 keys (the possible layouts are dubbed XTK 50 to XTK 53 below)
  • All these layouts should be doable with one plate and PCB design.

XTK 51

  • 53 Keys = 51%

Was the first design I came up with as it's most close to a 65% design. It has a standard 6.25 spacebar.

XTK 51 XTK 51 with GMK Nines

(Note: GMK Nines does not have all these keys.)

XTK 53

  • 55 Keys = 53%

The same again, just with dedicated Lower and Raise keys and split space:

XTK 53 XTK 53 with Signature Plastics PBT DSA keys in OAL and WAN


  • 52 Keys = 50% (single space)
  • 54 Keys = 52% (split space)

XTK 51 and XTK 53 could actually support an ISO Enter key as by coincidence Backspace and Enter together already have the exact size of an ISO Enter key. So let's move Backspace to where the Home key was and offer an ISO Enter, too:



  • W = wide
  • 15.75u width
  • So far only one layout (XTW 54). Theoretically there are further layout variants possible:
    • It should also be doable with a single spacebar. Haven't checked, though.
    • ISO support is theoretically possible, but would need 1.25u Home/Backspace and PageUp keys which surely would look rather ugly, not to mention that a 1.25u PageUp key cap is rather difficult to find.
  • Actually a superset of the XTHH/XTHH 48 layout shown (see below) if you consider the Ctrl/Win/Alt keys to be rather flexible in width.

XTW 54

  • 56 Keys = 54%

Having seen Zambumon’s Tokyo66 on the Nautilus Nightmares page, I couldn’t stop thinking how an arrow up key (and the according keys below) between /? and the right Shift key. This though needs 0.25u wider Backspace and Enter keys and hence a different plate and case.

XTW 54 XTW 54 with GMK Terminal


  • HH = Happy Hacking
  • 14.75u width
  • HHKB-style bottom row with 1u blocks (the possible layouts are dubbed XTHH 48 and XTHH 49 below)
  • All these layouts should be doable with one plate, case and PCB design.


  • 50 Keys = 48%

But actually that arrow keys position works nicer with a HHKB style setup as the right arrow key is on the edge of the key space, so I also made a HHKB style design without that additional key column:

XTHH 48 XTHH 48 with GMK Terminal


  • 51 Keys = 49%

And as a variant, here’s also a 1u right Shift plus an additional 1u key, e.g. a function key like the HHKB, because 2u Shift key caps are hard to find:

XTHH 49 XTHH 49 with Laser SA

(Note: The colors used in the Laser SA render are just guessed.)

Intended features

Layout Files

All the JSON files are made with and meant for the online Keyboard Layout Editor. The images are made with it, too.

To generate the files needed to produce the plates, you might want to use Will Steven's Online Plate & Case Builder.

Colored Layouts rendered with KLE Render.


HHKB-style Keyboards With Dedicated Cursor Keys

40% Keyboards With Dedicated Cursor Keys

Other 40% Keyboards

  • Zlant (bezel-less design and standoff position)

Similar Keyboards

… but not really inspirations.

  • Don Park's Slim 55% Layout (very similar in size, but with different incentives; learned of it only after I made my designs initially)
  • DDmicro (a 40% with potentially dedicated cursor keys, and hence close, but without the additional column and unfortunately wireless — and sold out; heard and forgot about it before I did my designs and after I showed my designs around, someone made me aware of it again.)

HHKB-style 40% Keyboards

Basically any 40% HHKB-style keyboard is similar to the HHKB-variant of my design.


General Keyboard Resources

Micro Controller

Where To Buy


  • Ermel for helping on my way to find a proper project name. The name under which I initially published this, "XTKb", was his idea (though with different capitalization) after I wasn't happy that my idea "XTK" was already in use quite often. At some point I though decided that I'll use "XTK" anyway as "X Tool Kit" is definitely a different type of thing, so after a while I switched to this initial idea.
  • Stephan for reminding me of the DDmicro.
  • Marcel for remembering where I saw that Pro Micro comparison.

Copyright & License

These keyboard designs are free software: you can redistribute them and/or modify them under the terms of the GNU General Public License as published by the Free Software Foundation, either version 3 of the License, or (at your option) any later version.

These keyboard designs are distributed in the hope that they will be useful, but WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY; without even the implied warranty of MERCHANTABILITY or FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE. See the GNU General Public License for more details.

You should have received a copy of the GNU General Public License along with these keyboard designs. If not, see

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