QMK VIA Keyboards: are they worth it


Are you looking to take your mechanical keyboard customization to the next level? Have you heard of QMK and VIA, but aren’t sure how they can elevate your typing experience? Get ready to unlock a world of Keyboard Customization with QMK and VIA!

QMK and VIA are two powerful firmware options that allow you to customize your keyboard like never before. Say goodbye to standard key layouts and hello to a personalized typing experience tailored to your specific needs.

Key Takeaways:

  • QMK and VIA are firmware options that enable extensive customization of your keyboard.
  • QMK is an open-source firmware that requires flashing the keyboard’s controller.
  • VIA is a user-friendly interface that works with QMK to make real-time changes without constant firmware flashing.
  • You can remap keys, create macros, manage layers, and customize lighting effects with QMK and VIA.
  • Don’t be limited by a stock keyboard. Customize it with QMK and VIA for a truly personalized typing experience.

What are QMK and VIA?

QMK and VIA are two integral components of keyboard customization, offering users the ability to personalize their typing experience. Let’s delve into the details of each:

QMK: Quantum Mechanical Keyboard Firmware

QMK, short for Quantum Mechanical Keyboard Firmware, is an open-source software that empowers users to customize various aspects of their keyboards. From redefining key bindings to programming macros, QMK provides extensive functionality for keyboard enthusiasts. However, QMK requires users to flash their keyboard’s controller with new firmware whenever changes are made, which can be time-consuming.

VIA: User-friendly Firmware Configurator

VIA is a user-friendly interface and configurator for QMK firmware. It simplifies the customization process by allowing real-time changes to the keyboard without the need for constant firmware flashing. With VIA, users enjoy a greater level of customization, including the ability to create custom keycodes, configure backlight effects, and even assign mouse commands to different layers of their keymap. VIA streamlines the customization process, making it accessible to users with varying levels of technical expertise.

Now that we have covered the basics of QMK and VIA, let’s explore how to prepare your keyboard for customization in the next section.

Preparing your keyboard

Before configuring your keyboard using QMK VIA, it is essential to ensure that your keyboard is compatible with QMK Firmware.

If you have a QMK-compatible keyboard, you’re all set! VIA supports around 1400 keyboards, so chances are your model is supported. However, if your keyboard is not included in the list, don’t worry. You can still find the correct JSON (JavaScript Object Notation) file in communities and forums where keyboard enthusiasts share their configurations.

The JSON file contains all the necessary information for configuring your specific keyboard. It defines the keymap layout, LED settings, and other customization options. There are two versions of the JSON file available: V2 and V3.

The V2 JSON file format is simpler to code and modify, making it a good choice for beginners or those who prefer a straightforward configuration process. On the other hand, the V3 JSON file supports newer features and advanced customization options, but it requires more complex coding knowledge.

Once you’ve identified the correct JSON file for your keyboard, you can download it from the manufacturer’s website. Make sure to verify the source and ensure the file is free from any viruses or malicious software.

How to access VIA

VIA is available as a web app or as software for Windows, macOS, and Linux. To access VIA, you can visit the VIA website or download the software from the official GitHub releases page. Once you have installed or accessed VIA, it will automatically detect your keyboard in most cases. However, if it doesn’t detect your keyboard, you can easily upload the JSON file you downloaded earlier to ensure compatibility. Alternatively, you can authorize your device if it is not detected automatically. Once you have successfully set up VIA, you will be able to customize your keyboard directly from its main screen.

Before we dive into the customization process, it’s important to understand how to access VIA via web or software. By following these steps, you’ll be ready to unleash the full potential of your QMK VIA keyboard.

To access VIA, simply follow the steps below:

  1. VIA Website: Visit the VIA website by typing the URL into your preferred web browser.
  2. VIA Software: If you prefer to use the software version, head over to the official GitHub releases page and download the appropriate version for your operating system.
  3. Automatic Detection: VIA will usually detect your keyboard automatically upon opening the webpage or software.
  4. Manual Detection: In case your keyboard is not detected automatically, you can manually upload the JSON file you downloaded earlier to ensure compatibility.
  5. Authorization: If your device is still not detected, you can authorize it manually within the VIA settings.
  6. Main Screen: Once you have successfully accessed VIA, you will be able to see the main screen, where you can start customizing your keyboard.

Now that you have accessed VIA, you are ready to embark on the journey of customizing your QMK VIA keyboard to suit your unique preferences and style.

Configuring keybindings using VIA

When customizing your keyboard with VIA, you have the flexibility to configure keybindings to suit your preferences. To get started, navigate to the main screen where your keyboard layout is displayed. Here, you can easily reprogram any key by simply clicking on it.

Once you have selected the key you want to customize, VIA provides various options for assigning specific functions or controls to that key. Whether you need to assign a specific function or control a lighting effect, VIA makes it easy to tailor your keyboard exactly how you want it.

One of the exciting features VIA offers is the ability to customize lighting effects. You can choose from a range of presets or create your own unique lighting pattern to add a visual flair to your keyboard. Adjust the brightness and speed of the lighting to suit your preferences and create an immersive typing experience.

In addition to keybindings and lighting control, VIA also offers specialized options for media control, layers, and special buttons. This allows you to further enhance your keyboard’s functionality and make it truly personalized to your needs.

With VIA’s intuitive interface, configuring keybindings has never been easier. The customizable options and visual control make it simple to create a truly unique and tailored typing experience.

How to set up and bind Macros using VIA

In order to enhance your keyboard customization with VIA, you can easily create and bind macros to specific keys. VIA offers two options for creating macros—you can either record the key strikes or manually code the macro using the QMK website as a reference for key codes.

To record a macro, follow these steps:

  1. Navigate to the Macro tab in VIA.
  2. Click on the Fullscreen button.
  3. Press the shortcut keys you want to assign to the macro.

Once you have recorded your macro, you can assign it to a specific button on your keyboard. This allows you to execute multiple commands with a single keystroke, saving you time and effort.

Macros are useful for automating repetitive tasks or creating complex key combinations. Whether you are a gamer, programmer, or simply looking to streamline your workflow, macros can greatly enhance your typing efficiency.

Here’s an example of how to bind a macro using VIA:

  1. Navigate to the Keymap tab in VIA.
  2. Select the key you want to bind the macro to.
  3. Choose the macro you want to assign from the dropdown menu.
  4. Save your changes.

With VIA’s seamless integration with QMK firmware, you have the flexibility to customize your macros according to your specific needs and preferences.


How to manage layers in VIA

Layers are a powerful feature in VIA that enhance the functionality of your keyboard by allowing you to assign multiple functions to a single key. This feature is particularly useful for compact keyboards that have limited physical space for all desired functions. With layers, you can switch between different layer configurations effortlessly, expanding the capabilities of your keyboard without adding extra keys.

When using VIA, you can easily manage layers by clicking on the layer numbers displayed on the main screen. Each layer can have its own unique set of keybindings and functions, giving you the flexibility to customize your keyboard’s functionality based on your specific needs.

By assigning different functions to various layers, you can effortlessly access a wide range of commands and shortcuts without cluttering your keyboard with additional keys. Whether you need to switch between gaming modes, access media controls, or activate macros, layers provide a seamless solution.

With VIA’s intuitive interface, managing layers becomes a breeze. Simply click on the corresponding layer number, and your keyboard will instantly switch to the designated layer, enabling you to utilize the pre-configured functions and keybindings. This flexibility allows you to adapt your keyboard to different tasks or preferences without any cumbersome setup processes.

Discover the boundless potential of layers in VIA and unlock a new level of keyboard functionality tailored to your specific needs.

Customize lighting using VIA

When it comes to personalizing your mechanical keyboard, lighting customization plays a significant role. With VIA, you have access to a wide range of customization options to create the perfect lighting effects that align with your preferences.

Within the VIA interface, navigating to the lighting section allows you to control various aspects of the lighting, including patterns, brightness, and speed. Whether you prefer a subtle RGB glow or a vibrant and dynamic display, VIA gives you the flexibility to create a lighting setup that sets the mood for your typing experience.

By customizing the lighting patterns, you can choose from a selection of presets or even create your own unique effects. Whether it’s a mesmerizing wave effect, a pulsating breathing pattern, or a reactive mode that responds to your keystrokes, the possibilities are endless.

Besides patterns, VIA also provides precise control over the brightness and speed of your RGB lighting. Adjusting the brightness allows you to fine-tune the intensity of the lighting, ensuring it complements your workspace without causing any distractions. Similarly, adjusting the speed allows you to set the pace at which the lighting effects transition, providing you with a visually appealing experience.

Ultimately, VIA’s lighting customization capabilities allow you to transform your mechanical keyboard into a visually stunning centerpiece. The ability to create personalized lighting effects that match your aesthetic preferences enhances not only the typing experience but also the overall ambiance of your workspace.

Key features of VIA lighting customization:

  • Create personalized lighting patterns
  • Adjust brightness levels for the perfect ambiance
  • Control the transition speed of lighting effects
  • Choose from a variety of preset patterns or create your own
  • Enhance the overall aesthetic of your keyboard

With VIA, you have the power to make your mechanical keyboard truly unique. By customizing the lighting to your liking, you can elevate your typing experience and showcase your personal style.

Saving and loading of customized JSON files

Once you have customized your keyboard to your desired settings using VIA, it’s important to have a backup of your configurations. VIA allows you to export your settings as a customized JSON file for easy backup and transfer purposes. With this backup, you can always restore your keyboard to its customized state without losing any of your preferred configurations.

To save your customized settings as a JSON file, simply follow these steps:

  1. Click on the Save button in VIA.
  2. Choose the option to save your settings as a JSON file.

By saving your settings as a JSON file, you ensure that all your keybindings, macros, layers, and lighting effects are preserved. This is especially useful if you plan to switch keyboards or share your configurations with others. It’s always a good practice to have a backup of your customized setup so that you can easily restore it whenever needed.

In addition to saving your settings, VIA also allows you to load previously saved JSON files. This means that if you had stored your keyboard’s configurations as a JSON file, you can easily reload them into VIA and have all your customized settings back in place.

Whether you’re an avid keyboard enthusiast or simply looking to personalize your typing experience, the ability to save and load customized JSON files with VIA gives you the flexibility and convenience to effortlessly manage your keyboard configurations.

Test your configuration

After customizing your keyboard using VIA, it is important to test your configuration to ensure all changes have been applied correctly. By utilizing the built-in VIA keyboard tester, you can easily verify the functionality of each key in real-time. Take the following steps to test your keyboard configuration:

  1. Type Test: Begin by typing on your keyboard to ensure that all keys register as expected. Start with simple text inputs and gradually test complex combinations to ensure accurate keystrokes.
  2. Layer Switching: Test the functionality of layer switching to ensure that you can seamlessly transition between different layers and access all assigned keybindings.
  3. Macro Activation: Validate that your macros work correctly by activating them while using the keyboard tester. Verify the desired actions are executed without any issues.
  4. Additional Functions: Explore any additional functions you have configured, such as media controls or special buttons, to verify their proper functioning.

If you encounter any issues or unexpected behavior during the testing process, don’t worry! VIA provides a user-friendly interface that allows you to easily adjust settings and troubleshoot on the go. Modify your keybindings, macros, or layer configurations as needed until you achieve your desired functionality. Regular keyboard testing and configuration verification are crucial for ensuring a smooth and optimized typing experience.

Final thoughts

QMK and VIA keyboards offer an exceptional level of customization, empowering you to create a typing experience that is truly tailored to your preferences. Whether you’re a seasoned keyboard enthusiast or a newcomer looking for user-friendly options, QMK and VIA have got you covered. QMK Firmware allows you to remap keys, create macros, manage layers, and more, while VIA provides a seamless interface to make real-time changes without constant firmware flashing.

With QMK and VIA, you can unlock a world of possibilities for your mechanical keyboard. You have the power to remap keys to improve workflow efficiency, create personalized macros for quick command execution, and manage layers to access different functions on the same keyboard. Additionally, you can customize your keyboard’s lighting effects to match your style and create a visually stunning setup.

Optimizing your keyboard setup is an iterative process. Take the time to explore the customization options, experiment with different keybindings and macros, and fine-tune your configuration until it perfectly aligns with your typing style and aesthetic preferences. Whether you’re looking to enhance your productivity, express your creativity, or simply enjoy a more personalized typing experience, QMK and VIA keyboards offer the versatility and flexibility to make it happen. So, start customizing and unlock your keyboard’s full potential today!

Leave a comment