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Meh and Hyper for normal keyboards

~3 min read

Using Meh and Hyper modifiers on a normal keyboard is difficult, but it doesn't have to be.


What are Meh and Hyper? #

Meh () and Hyper () are aliases for modifier combinations that are so awkard to hold that almost no application uses them, making them great candidates for global hotkeys you may want to set using something like Raycast.

Accessing these combinations is pretty easy on a customizable keyboard with plenty of keys on the thumb cluster like the Dygma Raise, but what are you supposed to do when you are using your laptop’s built-in keyboard? Just suffer through the same awkwardness that affords you the ability to use those as global hotkeys to begin with?

Dygma Raise keyboard which is a split keyboard with many customizable keys around where your thumbs would rest

It’s time for Caps Lock to go #

The Caps Lock key is so rarely used and located in such prime real-estate on the keyboard. If we bind Caps Lock as the Meh (), it can be held with the left pinky and unlocks a full keyboard of shortcuts. Additionally, it’s easy to add ⌘ to the mix with the left thumb to make it Hyper () which adds another entire layer on top of that!

The sins of the past #

Ever since Apple removed the physical Escape key in favor of the touch bar I’ve had Caps Lock bound to Escape, and as a Vim user that muscle memory is pretty hard to unlearn now.

After having spent some time messing around with homerow mods though when I built my Chocofi keyboard, I knew it was possible to bind a key to do one thing when tapped, and another thing when held.

If you’re not cursed with the same afflication, this solution is even better for you since you won’t even need to worry about the dual functionality.

While I ultimately ended up moving away from homerow mods because I found the them to sometimes be problematic, I’ve found that it’s not really a problem for me with the Escape key since I don’t really use it while typing prose. I just tap it when I need to tap it, and pretty much never need to hold it down.

Karabiner-Elements #

Karabiner-Elements is an excellent piece of software that lets you re-map keys for any keyboard (including the built-in one) on MacOS by installing a virtual keyboard and intercepting real key requests to re-map them to the virtual keyboard. I use the configuration below to achieve the desired result:

{
	"description": "Caps Lock → Esc on tap, Meh on hold",
	"manipulators": [
		{
			"type": "basic",
			"from": {
				"key_code": "caps_lock"
			},
			"to": [
				{
					"key_code": "left_option",
					"modifiers": [
						"control",
						"shift"
					]
				}
			],
			"to_if_alone": [
				{
					"key_code": "escape"
				}
			]
		}
	]
}

If you don’t care about using Caps Lock as Escape, then just remove the to_if_alone key!

Go forth and bind keys #

I found this pattern to be super useful and helps keep the muscle memory intact across keyboards, and I hope you’ll give it a shot! 💪🏻

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