Despite all that we can do with software remapping tools sometimes a specific hardware layout that is more non-standard would fit your needs better. P.I. Engineering is a small company in Michigan in the US that manufacturers just such unusual hardware devices.

The majority of their line is part of the X-Keys system, a great way to get a number of keys, dials and touchpads, usually arranged in a grid, as an extra to or replacement of your regular keyboard.  The system is USB and runs on the PC, Mac or Linux.

The keys are programmable with macros or emulations and can be set to do almost anything, like launching programs, opening files or chain multiple actions to a single key. All of this is similar to what a GlovePIE or AutoHotKey script can do, but the variety of X-Key physical shapes is very impressive. Software scripts are great to remap the hardware you already own, but a new adapted controller with custom remappable keys that can be placed in whichever configuration you want, is rather appealing.

Most of the X-keys have red or blue back lighting for each key and the keys also include key blockers or blanks allowing you to  selectively remove and add keys to get the custom layout you are after. The caps of all the keys are removable and you can insert a custom label for each key.

X-keys start at around £150 plus shipping for a 24 key unit and modularly expands. It can be purchased from UK resellers Keyboard Specialists and Keytools or directly from the US based manufacturer, detailed purchase information here.

This article was first published on 13 March 2012 and last updated on 6 June 2017.