CyKey - a chording keyboard

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In January 2022 I ordered a CyKey from here: Bellaire Electronics. It is a 'chorded keyboard'.

Wikipedia page: CyKey

Mailing list: none?

Discussion forum: none?

Setting up

It took me a few moments to realise how it talks to the PC.

Linux compatibility

I found it simply worked. The usual Linux experience for devices.


It has three groups of keys. Three are covered by the middle three fingers, three by the little finger and three by the thumb. Pressing different combinations of keys results in different keystrokes.

When pressing the hidden power-on button and the middle key, it powers up in left-handed mode. It is then in a mirror-image mode. The device itself is left/right symmetrical so it works either way round. I am right handed but I am teaching myself to use it only with my left hand. The idea being, to be able to use it in one hand while using the mouse in the other.

In essence, there are 5 keys under the fingers allowing 25 = 32 characters, except when none of the keys pressed it means nothing so there are 31. These are a-z plus SPACE, ENTER, full stop, apostrophe and comma. Taking the space as the first 'digit', the characters in binary sequence are: " eiocadsktrny.fuhvlqz⎆'gj,wbxmp" where ⎆ is the ENTER key. Any other characters or key strokes require pressing different buttons than the default five.

Accessing extra characters is done by various shift modes. There is:

  • SHIFT (the next key will be in upper case)
  • SHIFT LOCK (all alphabetic keys following are upper case)
  • COMMAND (press a specific key with the thumb when forming a letter to make a command key input)
  • NUMBER (press a specific key with the thumb when forming a letter to make a digit or special character)
  • NUMS SHIFT (press the key that activates numbers with the space key and get access to more characters)
  • NUMS SHIFT LOCK (as above, but on until turned off)
  • cancel any shift.


Selecting E Shift requires simultaneously pressing the two buttons between the thumb button and the index finger button. I can't find a comfortable way of doing that without removing my hand from the buttons, which means I end up pressing something in error when I try to replace them.

The semi-colon is a bugger to get to.

I find the keys too soft; trying to locate my hand on the buttons ready to type results in keys being detected as pressed despite me barely touching them.

The DELete key means moving the thumb up to the next level of keys, which means moving the entire hand, and putting it back in place means I press a key in error, meaning I need to press DELete and so on.

I need to make a comprehensive table of what keys do what in the various shift modes.

It would be really nice if there could be an audible acknowledgement of each of the shift modes.

Where the thumb rests, it would be better if there was another button inside it, as you can move your thumb toward your palm without moving your hand. That would be a great place for the COMMAND shift key. That key and each of the three finger keys bring RETURN, DELETE and TAB would make typing documents and filling in online forms much easier and quicker.

Things not clear from the manual

The USB gadget needs to be plugged in using the USB extension lead, and the end of USB gadget positioned so it points to the CyKey. It is much less sensitive than the usual USB connectors like for a wireless keyboard or wireless mouse.

Command keys

Instead of using the thumb on the bottom-most button, use it on the outermost of the pair of buttons above to action a command key.

Normal Key Command Mnemonic
C ENTER Completed line
D Backspace Delete
F Right Arrow Forward
I Backspace none
J END Jump to end
K Left Arrow bacKwards
L (nothing) N/A
P Page Up Page up
R TAB none
W DELete forWard Wipe
X ESCape eXscape
Y Page Down paYge down
Z Down Arrow Zip down
' Up Arrow apostrophe is up

Number keys

Instead of using the thumb on the bottom-most button, use it on the innermost of the pair of buttons above to action a numeric key. I find digits 9 and 0 do not match the preceding pattern and have to be memorised.

Normal Key Becomes number
c 0
i 2
d 3
f 4
p 5
v 6
j 7
x 8
w 9

Other characters using the NUMBERS key

Instead of using the thumb on the bottom-most button, use it on the innermost of the pair of buttons above to action a different key from the letter.

Normal Key NUMBERS character
a N/A
b N/A
c 0
d 3
e N/A
f 4
g N/A
h 6
i 2
j 7
k $
l £
m N/A
n N/A
o N/A
p 5
q N/A
r +
s N/A
t N/A
u N/A
v N/A
w 9
x 8
y #
' -

Upper case and other characters using the Shift key

To get an upper case character, press the outermost button above the SPACE. This is the same key used when doing a Command. When used on its own it works like SHIFT and means the next character is to be a capital. Press it twice to turn on CAPS LOCK. Note that when you have used SHIFT or SHIFT LOCK a red light appears on the USB gadget. As well as creating upper case characters, it also provides:

Normal Key Upper case character
a-z A-Z
. .
' '
, ,

Other characters using the NUMS SHIFT setting

Press the SPACE and the button used to activate numbers and you turn on NUMS SHIFT. The next key is then changed. Press the SPACE and the button used to activate numbers twice to activate NUMS SHIFT LOCK.

Normal Key NUMBS SHIFT character Mnemonic
SPACE 1 (same as the number key)
a +  Add
b { Braces
c 0 (same as the number key)
d 3 (same as the number key)
e = Equals
f 4 (same as the number key)
g > Greater than
h 6 (same as the number key)
i 2 (same as the number key)
j 7 (same as the number key)
k $ (same as the number key)
l £ (same as the number key)
m * Multi
n - Negative
o ( Opening bracket
p 5 (same as the number key)
q / Quotient
r + (same as the number key)
s [ Square bracket
t TAB Tab
u _ Underscore
v ! Vertical
w 9 (same as the number key)
x 8 (same as the number key)
y # (same as the number key)
' - (same as the number key)
. . (same as the number key)
, , (same as the number key)

Left-handed use

Getting the device to start up in left-handed mode requires pressing a button you cannot see.

The manual advises using the keyboard guide as it is for right-handed people, then switching it over in your mind. This actually works, although whether it is better than having a left-handed key chart I am not so sure.