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Layouts - Alice/Arisu keyboards

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Researching the Alice layout turned out to be both challenging, as well as, not 100% conclusive. A so-called, win-win situation. Jokes aside, the first Alice keyboard as we know it today was created by a Malaysian designer, collector, and mechanical keyboard community member Yuk Tsi. Yuk Tsi is also the designer behind the TGR line of keyboards, which are considered by many as the holy grail of customs, similar to the likes of Keycult and Norbauer.

Yuk Tsi released the original interest check for his TGR Alice in April 2018 on the well-known mechanical keyboard forum Geekhack. Yuk Tsi used the layout of a Kustom (Korean Custom) keyboard called EM7 as the base for the Alice. He then refined the details and materials for the board and released a very limited group buy. The original pricing was around 400-500 USD and limited to only around 40 keyboards. While the TGR Alice wasn't the first keyboard with this style of layout, it gave us the taste for the design of a non-split ergo board and showed how good it can look.

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Alice Keyboard Layout (approximation)

 

The Alice boards are an exercise of balance between ergonomics and aesthetics. No wonder 2020 was a year when Alice boards got much more mainstream attention (within the custom keyboard community) and numerous GBs utilized this layout. Designers made many boards with Alice layout in various materials and finishes. Raging from your typical aluminum in different colors to various types of plastic, or a combination of materials.

At the same time, there have been variations of the Alice layouts with either addition or removal of key clusters. Another large boost of Alice layout came from a Belgian designer Qlavier, known for his "Quasi" brand of stacked acrylic cases for keyboards/PCBs. Qlavier, being an amazing product photographer, managed to bring a level of virality to acrylic Alice keyboards by posting his photos on Instagram and Twitter.

 

TRG Alice (source: Reddit.com)

 

Alice layout usually utilizes keys based on a 60/65% keyboard which are split into right and left halves, separated by a small gap. The Alphas and the bottom row of Modifiers are angled at 10° to bring the fingers tips of your hands closer to each other. This position of hands is supposed to reduce strain on your wrists and lower the chance of developing any pain or similar conditions. The spacebar is split into two to be accessible with both hands. Alice layout, however, still uses a staggered position of keys, unlike Ergodox or other ortholinear or ergonomic keyboards. The side modifiers are positioned perpendicular to the user, just like on a regular keyboard, and have slight horizontal offsets to accommodate for better ergonomics and angled alphas. Lastly, Alice layout sometimes features an additional "B" key on the right half of the Alphas, as well as, a navigation cluster on either the left or right side.

Some of the notable Alice keyboards are AVA, Maja, Arisu PCB (and compatible cases), and others.

 

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