When we think of keyboard customization, the first things that come to mind are changing the keycaps and possibly the switches. While changing the keycaps is mostly for aesthetic purposes, changing the switches is something we do to improve the feel.
That being said, these customizations are only scratching the surface, as those who like to take it to the next level build their own keyboards from scratch with custom components.
One customization that immediately stands out when custom boards are involved is a split spacebar, which definitely sounds odd considering that the spacebar is a key that never shows a difference no matter which keyboard you are using.
So, what is a split spacebar, and what purpose does it have?
A split spacebar is when the spacebar key is split into two or more separate keys, with each key having its own function.
As these keys are remappable, you can use them for various functions, such as binding them to the Enter or the Backspace key.
While the idea of a split spacebar may sound very inconvenient at first, the logic behind it is solid, with many enthusiasts preferring it over a regular spacebar key after giving it a try.
What Is a Split Spacebar?
Technically speaking, what a split spacebar really means is that the standard spacebar key (usually wider than 6U) is replaced with a narrower key to make room for a few more extra keys.
Considering that these extra keys all have different functionalities, we believe the term narrow spacebar would be more fitting to make the situation clearer, but it is what it is 🙂
Since the spacebar takes way too much space for no reason, this change is actually a great way to increase the functionality of your keyboard without having to sacrifice things such as keyboard size or weight to add extra keys, especially considering that the spacebar area is very convenient to press.
While it’s such a simple change from the outside, you can’t have a split spacebar by replacing the spacebar key on your regular keyboard as the extra keys require extra switches, and this means that the layout of the whole keyboard needs to be changed.
Unfortunately, keyboards with split spacebars are extremely hard to come by, especially in retail. While it’s possible to find a few options that you can order if you really look for them, the best way to get a keyboard with a split spacebar is to buy a PCB and build your own keyboard from scratch.
With that, let’s talk about why a split spacebar is desirable, as you may think that narrowing the spacebar key down can cause difficulties in typing.
What Is the Point of a Split Spacebar?
The idea of a split spacebar can be outlandish at first, but the point of it is as simple as they come.
By making the spacebar key narrower, you will be adding extra remappable keys that you can use for any function you want in an area of the keyboard that is perhaps one of the easiest to reach.
The possibilities are endless when it comes to what you can do with these keys, depending on what you use your keyboard for, but it’s an undeniable fact that they bring a lot of convenience to the table.
Let’s take a look at a few examples of how you can utilize the extra keys that come with a split spacebar to really drive the point home.
- If you are a gamer, you can use these extra keys as extra keybindings that are extremely easy to reach. For instance, if you are a World of Warcraft player, having two bonus keys within reach would make your life so much easier as it would save you from having to bind keys that are way too far.
- If you are a developer, you can use these keys as macro keys to speed things up. For instance, using them to insert templates is an idea that we can think of right away.
- If you are a writer, you can use these keys instead of Backspace and Enter, which would mean that Space, Backspace, and Enter are all right next to each other. While it would take some getting used to, you can press all of these keys with only one finger and boost your typing speed.
We could keep going, but you get the idea!
The Argument Against a Split Spacebar
It wouldn’t be right if we didn’t mention the argument against using a split spacebar, as there is no denying that employing a split spacebar is a tradeoff rather than a direct upgrade.
Simply put, the argument is that a split spacebar leads to input errors due to the spacebar key being too narrow.
In reality, if you pay attention to the way you’re pressing the spacebar key, you will notice that you hit the same exact spot most of the time, as that is what you are used to doing.
As a result, narrowing the spacebar key down wouldn’t change anything as long as you place it in the spot where you hit your standard spacebar key.
What Is a Split Backspace?
A split backspace is a backspace key split into two separate keys, where one key carries the standard backspace functionality, and the other is a remappable extra key.
The reason behind such a change is to add extra functionality to the keyboard in the form of bonus keys by narrowing down keys that are too wide without a purpose.
What Is a Split Right Shift?
Similar to a split backspace, a split right shift is a right shift key split into two separate keys, where one is the standard right shift key, and the other is a remappable extra key.
While a split spacebar is an odd concept from the outside, the extra keys are really handy once you get used to them, considering the functionality they add to your keyboard.
Perhaps the biggest problem about split spacebar keyboards is that they are hard to find, making it quite challenging to give them a try before fully committing to building a complete custom keyboard.
At the end of the day, the choice comes down to preference, and while we believe that more people would be using split space keyboards if it was easier to find them, this is not the case for now.