Magicforce 68 Mechanical Keyboard and Karabiner Elements

After reading “Why I Love Compact Mechanical Keyboards and You Will Too” over at The Wirecutter, I stuck the Magicforce 68 with Gateron Brown switches in my save for later list on Amazon. A few days ago, a 20% off sale on the Magicforce prompted the purchase of my first mechanical keyboard in years. Once upon a time, my Northgate OmniKey Ultra was a reliable companion (wish I still had it). In the intervening years, MacBook and Apple wireless keyboards have been my go-to input devices.

I’ve been missing that mechanical feel, of late, so when this keyboard with respected switches dipped to US$55, I went for it. It showed up a couple hours ago, and this post is its first test.

The first thing I did was remap the keys for macOS using Karabiner Elements.

Screenshot of Karabiner Elements showing mappings for left_command to left_option, left_option to left_command, right_control to right_option, and right_option to right_command. The target device is “USB Gaming Keyboard (HOLDCHIP)”.

Here’s what that looks like in the karabiner.json file.

 


"simple_modifications": [
{
"from": {
"key_code": "left_command"
},
"to": {
"key_code": "left_option"
}
},
{
"from": {
"key_code": "left_option"
},
"to": {
"key_code": "left_command"
}
},
{
"from": {
"key_code": "right_option"
},
"to": {
"key_code": "right_command"
}
},
{
"from": {
"key_code": "right_control"
},
"to": {
"key_code": "right_option"
}
}
]

That swaps the Cmd and Alt keys around to match the standard Mac configuration.

After that, I used the keycap puller included with the Magicforce to swap the keycaps to match the new mappings.

Something to be aware of when using this and other 65% keyboards with macOS is that the tilde and Esc share a key. When Cmd+tab switching between apps, Cmd+~ is used to cycle backward through the app list and Esc is used to abandon the switch. The Magickey defaults the Esc+~ key to Esc, which interferes with Cmd+tab flow. Use Fn+q (built into the Magicforce) to switch the default behavior of the Esc key to ~ instead of Esc.

In this mode, Fn+Esc is needed to send Esc. I’m not fond of that, so I overload the Caps Lock key to serve as a hyper key and an escape key. I do this for all my keyboards, not just 65 percenters.

Screenshot of Karabiner Elements showing the complex modifications page. The rule “Change caps_lock key to command+control+option+shift. (Post escape key when pressed alone)” is installed and active.

To install the “Change caps_lock key to command+control+option+shift. (Post escape key when pressed alone)” rule, click “Add Rule” in the bottom left and then choose to import rules from the internet. On the resulting web page, import the “Change caps_lock key” ruleset in the “Modifier Keys” section.

I wrote this blog post with the Magicforce and enjoyed my reunion with that mechanical clack of memory. My typing speed and accuracy have declined over the years due to neuropathy, RSI, a broken wrist, and muscle cramps that frequent my hands. So far, I’m feeling more accurate on this keyboard than I have in a while. Perhaps the clack and travel give the extra tactile feedback my diminished senses need. Hopefully, my hand spasms will be okay with that.

My black Magicforce mechanical keyboard with keycaps swapped for a macOS layout. The backlit keys glow white. The keyboard sits on my lap desk, which is a green cutting mat with white layout lines laid on a grid affixed to a piece of plywood with contact cement. The cutting mat shows its history as a hard working surface, complete with stains and gouges.

 

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