What is the possibility of backlighting keys?

I would very much like to see backlit key markings. Is that feature being given any consideration?

I doubt it. Since one’s hands rarely leave the home row and cover most of the keyboard in that situation, I suspect it would be of limited value (at least to a lot of users). I think it would negatively impact battery life and make keycap variations more effort.


i would use backlit keys. especially if it could be configured to only light up the non primary keys. I still struggle sometimes to find a few keys after years of typing. Especially special keys used when programming. My keys are worn enough that sometimes in certain lighting conditions I can no longer see the characters and the paint has worn off on most of my keys.

I don’t know if it is practical on a device like the TB, but I can see some use for it. You mention the little used keys - though I will say that for some that may still be a problem if they do any customizing after they get it since then those customized characters would no longer line up.

But another benefit if that isn’t a problem is when you just want to reach out and hit a key. I’ve seen studies that say even proficient typists often don’t know where many specific keys actually are. That is, when typing, they move automatically, but if they just want to hit one character without being in normal typing position, they don’t know where some keys are!

So lighting would help in situations where you don’t have much light. Of course, with good lighting, the ink situation is important - though I believe any ink eventually will wear off.

It’s a great idea … for v2 in a few years :wink:

For reference, this is the typical visibility of my keys.
I don’t doubt that backlit keys would look pretty but probably wouldn’t do much for me. As I continue to customise key mappings, the printed text on my keys is becoming less and less relevant.


It doesn’t matter how much your hands cover the keyboard. The backlit keys are for when you need to type in a dark environment, and you need to find specific keys you can’t remember. I sometimes can’t sleep and would lie awake for hours in my bed while using my phone in total darkness, like right this moment. I could be typing on a backlit TextBlade if I had one, instead of thumb-typing, which I hate.

I completely agree that there should be a provision to light the key characters, in appropriate colors, it is particularly desirable in support of key combinations that implement special functions. If battery charge life is a concern perhaps there could be keystrokes to turn the Lights on and off.

That’s a valid point. Even expert typists will not recall where some specific characters are on a keyboard, yet when typing normally, they move their fingers to them automatically.

Type or type not. There is no find!

My keycaps are all blank, not every typist needs to look at the legends.


Backlighting yours would turn it into a flashlight!! :crazy_face:


Your humor is misplaced, and it mocks those who would transition from the keyboard layout on which they learned, to the strange layout of the TB. Lack of adequately visible markings also limits the usefulness of the TB to those transitioning typists to well lit environments.

Well, if you’ve specifically chosen the blank key caps like @linux4ever , then yes, I am mocking you if you don’t know where everything is.

If you are referring to

Then I think it’s time for everyone to step back and take a pill. This was meant as a joke, you know what they are right? A story with a humorous climax. And no, I really don’t care if you are offended by that.

Because keys can be re-mapped, and there are different “layers”, what a given key will do can change as you remap and go to a different layer. As a result, a normal “backlight” (which is just a light behind the keys shining through a thinner part of the key cap which matches the printed label on the cap) will not work.

The most common way that keyboards do this is to have each key cap be a display (OLED is common) which is changed as the layers and mapping change.

I sure hope the team at waytools isn’t watching this thread - all we need is to introduce more delay with a hardware change this big.

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Remapping keys does not change the inscribed markings, and it is those markings I would like to have backlit.

Interesting discussion by all on the topic of backlight keys. We’ve put quite a bit of thought into this on TextBlade’s design.

Illuminated legends have had utility for past keyboard hardware, but many things have changed since then.

Keymaps were typically static, so permanent legends, whether printed or backlit, used to be more meaningful and stay accurate. This has changed now.

TextBlade legends are dynamic, remappable, and multilayer. So a different solution for labeling works better here.

Legacy keyswitch arrays were typically 10 times the number of your 8 fingers, so it was easy to get lost in the sea of keys, and legends were useful for visual recovery of your position.

TextBlade has one multitouch key per finger, so it’s easy to know you’re on home row, and easy to feel the alternate positions without looking.

TextBlade has a small desktop footprint, that matches the size of your hands. To look at the keytop legends, you’d need to raise your hands. We think there’s a much better way. See below.

Legacy keyboards were much larger, so their 1- 2 lb packages could have big batteries or cords and burn much power in backlight LEDs.

TextBlade is just 1.5 Oz, and the multiple processors in TextBlade are highly power efficient. Its self-contained battery runs 10X longer than most phones between charges. Backlight LEDs would actually consume about 4X more power than the entire computation platform itself, so they’re not a good deal for battery life.

With that in mind, here’s our design ethic -

  1. Legends must be dynamic, refecting all layers

  2. Legends must be easily user remap-able by consumer

  3. Legends must be readable without moving your hands

  4. Legends should let you stay focused on your content screen, without looking away.

  5. Legends should consume no power whatsoever, to maximize TextBlade battery life.

With those requirements in mind, we think the best solution is -

Dynamic high res legend map, rendered in a low profile strip on your content screen. You can make it appear or go away at will by a gesture.

We’ve implemented a first version of this as a keyboard plug-in for iOS, but with the new infrastructure firmware, we can extend this to other host platforms.

On a retina screen in total darkness, it’s far more richly detailed and readable, fully dynamic in real-time as your dart through layers, and you can fully customize it to your liking.

And it uses zero power. Compared to printed backlit legends, the retina color screen images are gorgeous.

As the keyboard evolves, there’s an opportunity to make legends much better, so we took it.


I very much like the “ Dynamic high res legend map, rendered in a low profile strip on your content screen.“ Thank you, Waytools, for implementing that very useful alternative to backlit keys. Such a display supports those who are still in the learning phase and who ae not yet comfortable with the TextBlade layout.


@waytools if the on-screen legend can also give visual feedback on where your fingers appear to be striking, some kind of graphical representation of the numbers in the signature display of the Sense test of the current iOS app, that would help a lot with training yourself to strike the keys properly. It would let you look at your fingers while you’re typing without, you know, looking at them.
And speaking of fingers, two thumbs up for your future on-screen keyboard map!


I want to add to my last post that there are more than a few occasions when I have trouble getting a key. This problem, along with issues with the blades not connecting to each other as reliably as I’d like, are my two biggest gripes, though neither has me anywhere near wanting to use a legacy keyboard. When it’s working well, typing mixes with editing effortlessly and my mouse collects dust. But I do keep a legacy keyboard close by.

I’d specifically like to see a ‘finger glow’, a highlighted area showing with an opacity gradient or a color highlight of varying intensity, where the TextBlade saw my finger. That way, when I’m struggling to get an ‘x’ and repeatedly get ‘s’ instead, I can see what’s going wrong and what it feels like when I get it right. Looking at my finger wouldn’t be nearly as helpful as a visual representation.

Having the TB app at the ready would help. Since the app is limited to iOS, which is a tertiary system for me, buried on a 2012 iPad 3, I tend not to drag it out to go into Sense to see what’s going on. Just having the app handy would be a big improvement, but a keyboard legend with a ‘finger glow’ overlay would be a step change over that. A man can dream. :slight_smile:

Meanwhile, keep plugging away. I do love this thing. And I’m one of those (please no one derail this thread!) that thinks the firmware rewrite is necessary. There are times I’d have killed for some extra boundary settings on adjacent keys. S/X in particular but there are others as well.