Saturday, October 17, 2020

Epomaker Skyloong SK64S Mechanical Keyboard on a Mac OS

Why have I bought a mechanical keyboard for my Mac?

If you don't care about why I bought the Epomaker Skyloong SK64S Mechanical Keyboard scroll down to get to the setup and Mac OS troubleshooting information.

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I learned to type on a huge old Microsoft Natural keyboard, many moons ago. Since making the switch to Mac about ten years ago I've never really got on very well with either the kebyoard on my Macbook Pro or the Apple Magic Keyboard I use for my Mac Pro (Cheesegrater). After typing on a 'big' keyboard my whole life trying to use the Mac keyboards felt horribly claustrophobic.

So recently I have been trying out different keyboards. I tried the Logitech MX Keys Advance first. The keyboard was wonderful. Brilliantly responsive and smooth in every way. Even the keys felt smooth to the touch, it was gorgeous. But there was one problem I just could't get past. Because my Mac Pro is a 2011 model I couldn't connect the MX Keys using Bluetooth. It did not work at all. So I connected using the Unify dongle. The Unify dongle worked great... most of the time.

I can type fast. Really fast. Getting into a 'flow state' while typing is really important. So having the keyboard disconnect for even a few seconds is a real problem. It interrupts my work and I lose that crucial flow state. So after about a week. I had to send the keyboard back. It's a lovely product but not right for my application. 

The problem I then had was that having seen the way forward with regards to bigger, more reactive keyboards going back to my Apple Magic keyboard made it feel even worse than it had before. The edges of the device and the keys are so abrupt and sharp. It feels bad. Considering most of my work involves typing having this 'contact point' that felt horrid is a problem.

Given that wireless connectivity is known to be a problem on all old Mac Pro computers I decided flow state and a reliable connection was more important than a lack of wires. So I made the decision to buy a wired keyboard.

So I looked for a new keyboard. This is when I fell into the rabbit hole of mechanical keyboards. After much shopping around and reading of reviews I decided I wanted to buy the Epomaker Skyloong SK64S Mechanical Keyboard. 


Epomaker Skyloong SK64S Mechanical Keyboard
The Epomaker Skyloong SK64S Mechanical Keyboard I use on my Mac


Epomaker Skyloong SK64S Mechanical Keyboard - lessons learned

I made this choice even although I couldn't find much info on how well the SK64S performed on Mac OS. I could see reviews on The Epomaker Skyloong SK64S on Amazon, written by Mac users. So I figured things couldn't be all that bad for us Apple users.

This mechanical keyboard is Bluetooth capable, but I partly choose this model because it can also be used as a wired keyboard, and was delivered with a USB C style lead.

When the device arrived I fell at the first hurdle; I couldn't even get my Mac to recognise the keyboard. That's when I found out the control software on the Epomaker website support pages is for Windows only. So I tried my next logical place to hunt for information, the mechanical keyboards sub on Reddit. I didn't find a ton of joy there either. 

I've got the Gateron Optical Brown switch option and I'm amazed with how wonderful this keyboard is to work with. I want to keep it. So I decided to write this blog post so that when I solve the problems I'm having then other Mac users who buy this keyboard will hopefully find answers easily than I have.

The 'manual' that came with the SK64S is a single sheet of paper that appears to cover almost every keyboard made by the manufacturer. So no joy there either.


Problems (and some fixes) for the Epomaker Skyloong SK64S

PROBLEM - Out of the box the keyboard is set to Bluetooth mode so will not be recognised by your Mac if you connect it with the USB cable. The lights on the keyboard will start doing their thing, but Mac OS will not 'see' the keyboard.

FIX - Press the Fn key and the space bar. This toggles between Bluetooth mode and the wired mode.

PROBLEM - Out of the box the keyboard is set to Windows mode. 

FIX - To switch to Mac mode press the Fn key and Z for a few seconds, (I think, I'm a little vague on this).

PROBLEM - There is no 'play' function on the keyboard by default. So when the phone runs it's tricky to automatically stop my music!

FIX - Holding down the Fn key and the A key stops (or starts) music! It works the same way as the 'play' function on the stock Mac keyboard.

PROBLEM - Despite the fact it is very easy to remove the Windows keys and replace them with Mac keys, the Command and Option keys are the wrong way round by default. So OPTION is next to the spacebar and COMMAND is to the left of that. This is probably the worst problem at the moment. Every time I want to perform basic functions like copy and pasting it's just not happening. I don't have a fix for this one yet, but I need one!

I have used a Windows computer that a neighbour has to install the SK64S software but I can't for the life of me figure it out! It looks like this:

SK64S Keyboard control software screenshot
SK64S Keyboard control software looks like this

When you double click a key on the top representation of the keyboard (with your mouse pointer) you can then click a button on the bottom representation of the keyboard (again, with the mouse). The label from the key on the button on the bottom keyboard then appears on the label for the key you double clicked on the top keyboard image. Then I hit save, then apply. Then nothing at all changes. Am I missing something obvious?

UPDATE 18th October 2020

So it turns out that pretty much straight out of the box you can simply hit the Fn key and E and then the Command and Option keys switch to the 'correct' places. Oh mercy how did I not figure that out. Hopefully if you're reading this and you've bought one of these great keyboards you won't need to bother with the software at all, unless you really want to get into the fancy lighting gubbins!


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