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QMK Keyboard Guidelines

Since starting, QMK has grown by leaps and bounds thanks to people like you who contribute to creating and maintaining our community keyboards. As we've grown we've discovered some patterns that work well, and ask that you conform to them to make it easier for other people to benefit from your hard work.

Use QMK Lint

We have provided a tool, qmk lint, which will let you check over your keyboard for problems. We suggest using it frequently while working on your keyboard and keymap.

Example passing check:

$ qmk lint -kb rominronin/katana60/rev2
Ψ Lint check passed!

Example failing check:

$ qmk lint -kb clueboard/66/rev3
☒ Missing keyboards/clueboard/66/rev3/
☒ Lint check failed!

Naming Your Keyboard/Project

All keyboard names are in lower case, consisting only of letters, numbers, and underscore (_). Names may not begin with an underscore. Forward slash (/) is used as a sub-folder separation character.

The names test, keyboard, and all are reserved for make commands and may not be used as a keyboard or subfolder name.

Valid Examples:

  • 412_64
  • chimera_ortho
  • clueboard/66/rev3
  • planck
  • v60_type_r


QMK uses sub-folders both for organization and to share code between revisions of the same keyboard. You can nest folders up to 4 levels deep:


If a sub-folder has a file it will be considered a compilable keyboard. It will be available in QMK Configurator and tested with make all. If you are using a folder to organize several keyboards from the same maker you should not have a file.


Clueboard uses sub-folders for both purposes, organization and keyboard revisions.

  • qmk_firmware
    • keyboards
      • clueboard ← This is the organization folder, there's no file
        • 60 ← This is a compilable keyboard, it has a file
        • 66 ← This is also compilable- it uses DEFAULT_FOLDER to specify rev3 as the default revision
          • rev1 ← compilable: make clueboard/66/rev1
          • rev2 ← compilable: make clueboard/66/rev2
          • rev3 ← compilable: make clueboard/66/rev3 or make clueboard/66

Keyboard Folder Structure

Your keyboard should be located in qmk_firmware/keyboards/ and the folder name should be your keyboard's name as described in the previous section. Inside this folder should be several files:

  • info.json
  • config.h
  • <keyboard_name>.c
  • <keyboard_name>.h

All projects need to have a file that explains what the keyboard is, who made it and where it's available. If applicable, it should also contain links to more information, such as the maker's website. Please follow the published template.


This file is used by the QMK API. It contains the information QMK Configurator needs to display a representation of your keyboard. You can also set metadata here. For more information see the reference page.


All projects need to have a config.h file that sets things like the matrix size, product name, USB VID/PID, description and other settings. In general, use this file to set essential information and defaults for your keyboard that will always work.

The config.h files can also be placed in sub-folders, and the order in which they are read is as follows:

  • keyboards/top_folder/config.h
    • keyboards/top_folder/sub_1/config.h
      • keyboards/top_folder/sub_1/sub_2/config.h
        • keyboards/top_folder/sub_1/sub_2/sub_3/config.h
        • keyboards/top_folder/sub_1/sub_2/sub_3/post_config.h
      • keyboards/top_folder/sub_1/sub_2/post_config.h
    • keyboards/top_folder/sub_1/post_config.h
  • keyboards/top_folder/post_config.h

The post_config.h file can be used for additional post-processing, depending on what is specified in the config.h file. For example, if you define the IOS_DEVICE_ENABLE macro in your keymap-level config.h file as follows, you can configure more detailed settings accordingly in the post_config.h file:

  • keyboards/top_folder/keymaps/a_keymap/config.h
  • keyboards/top_folder/post_config.h
      // USB_MAX_POWER_CONSUMPTION value for this keyboard
      // fix iPhone and iPad power adapter issue
      // iOS device need lessthan 100
      #ifndef IOS_DEVICE_ENABLE
        #define RGBLIGHT_LIMIT_VAL 200
        #define RGBLIGHT_VAL_STEP 17
        #define RGBLIGHT_LIMIT_VAL 35
        #define RGBLIGHT_VAL_STEP 4
      #ifndef RGBLIGHT_HUE_STEP
        #define RGBLIGHT_HUE_STEP 10
      #ifndef RGBLIGHT_SAT_STEP
        #define RGBLIGHT_SAT_STEP 17


If you define options using post_config.h as in the above example, you should not define the same options in the keyboard- or user-level config.h.

The presence of this file means that the folder is a keyboard target and can be used in make commands. This is where you setup the build environment for your keyboard and configure the default set of features.

The file can also be placed in a sub-folder, and its reading order is as follows:

  • keyboards/top_folder/
    • keyboards/top_folder/sub_1/
      • keyboards/top_folder/sub_1/sub_2/
        • keyboards/top_folder/sub_1/sub_2/sub_3/
          • keyboards/top_folder/sub_1/sub_2/sub_3/sub_4/
            • keyboards/top_folder/keymaps/a_keymap/
            • users/a_user_folder/
          • keyboards/top_folder/sub_1/sub_2/sub_3/sub_4/
        • keyboards/top_folder/sub_1/sub_2/sub_3/
      • keyboards/top_folder/sub_1/sub_2/
    • keyboards/top_folder/sub_1/
  • keyboards/top_folder/

Many of the settings written in the file are interpreted by, which sets the necessary source files and compiler options.

The file can interpret features of a keyboard-level before For example, when your designed keyboard has the option to implement backlighting or underglow using rgblight.c, writing the following in the makes it easier for the user to configure the

  • keyboards/top_folder/keymaps/a_keymap/
    # Please set the following according to the selection of the hardware implementation option.
    RGBLED_OPTION_TYPE = backlight   ## none, backlight or underglow
  • keyboards/top_folder/
    ifeq ($(filter $(strip $(RGBLED_OPTION_TYPE))x, nonex backlightx underglowx x),)
       $(error unknown RGBLED_OPTION_TYPE value "$(RGBLED_OPTION_TYPE)")
    ifeq ($(strip $(RGBLED_OPTION_TYPE)),backlight)
    ifeq ($(strip $(RGBLED_OPTION_TYPE)),underglow)


See and for more details.


This is where you will write custom code for your keyboard. Typically you will write code to initialize and interface with the hardware in your keyboard. If your keyboard consists of only a key matrix with no LEDs, speakers, or other auxiliary hardware this file can be blank.

The following functions are typically defined in this file:

  • void matrix_init_kb(void)
  • void matrix_scan_kb(void)
  • bool process_record_kb(uint16_t keycode, keyrecord_t *record)
  • bool led_update_kb(led_t led_state)


This file is used to define the matrix for your keyboard. You should define at least one C macro which translates an array into a matrix representing the physical switch matrix for your keyboard. If it's possible to build your keyboard with multiple layouts you should define additional macros.

If you have only a single layout you should call this macro LAYOUT.

When defining multiple layouts you should have a base layout, named LAYOUT_all, that supports all possible switch positions on your matrix, even if that layout is impossible to build physically. This is the macro you should use in your default keymap. You should then have additional keymaps named default_<layout> that use your other layout macros. This will make it easier for people to use the layouts you define.

Layout macro names are entirely lowercase, except for the word LAYOUT at the front.

As an example, if you have a 60% PCB that supports ANSI and ISO you might define the following layouts and keymaps:

Layout NameKeymap NameDescription
LAYOUT_alldefaultA layout that supports both ISO and ANSI
LAYOUT_ansidefault_ansiAn ANSI layout
LAYOUT_isodefault_isoAn ISO layout


Providing only LAYOUT_all is invalid - especially when implementing the additional layouts within 3rd party tooling.

Image/Hardware Files

In an effort to keep the repo size down we're no longer accepting binary files of any format, with few exceptions. Hosting them elsewhere (such as and linking them in the is preferred.

Hardware files (such as plates, cases, pcb) can be contributed to the repo and they will be made available on Downloadable files are stored in /<keyboard>/ (name follows the same format as above) which are served at<keyboard>/, and pages are generated from /_pages/<keyboard>/ which are served at the same location (.md files are generated into .html files through Jekyll). Check out the lets_split folder for an example.

Keyboard Defaults

Given the amount of functionality that QMK exposes it's very easy to confuse new users. When putting together the default firmware for your keyboard we recommend limiting your enabled features and options to the minimal set needed to support your hardware. Recommendations for specific features follow.

Magic Keycodes and Command

Magic Keycodes and Command are two related features that allow a user to control their keyboard in non-obvious ways. We recommend you think long and hard about if you're going to enable either feature, and how you will expose this functionality. Keep in mind that users who want this functionality can enable it in their personal keymaps without affecting all the novice users who may be using your keyboard as their first programmable board.

By far the most common problem new users encounter is accidentally triggering Bootmagic while they're plugging in their keyboard. They're holding the keyboard by the bottom, unknowingly pressing in alt and spacebar, and then they find that these keys have been swapped on them. We recommend leaving this feature disabled by default, but if you do turn it on consider setting BOOTMAGIC_KEY_SALT to a key that is hard to press while plugging your keyboard in.

If your keyboard does not have 2 shift keys you should provide a working default for IS_COMMAND, even when you have set COMMAND_ENABLE = no. This will give your users a default to conform to if they do enable Command.

Custom Keyboard Programming

As documented on Customizing Functionality you can define custom functions for your keyboard. Please keep in mind that your users may want to customize that behavior as well, and make it possible for them to do that. If you are providing a custom function, for example process_record_kb(), make sure that your function calls the _user() version of the call too. You should also take into account the return value of the _user() version, and only run your custom code if the user returns true.

Non-Production/Handwired Projects

We're happy to accept any project that uses QMK, including prototypes and handwired ones, but we have a separate /keyboards/handwired/ folder for them, so the main /keyboards/ folder doesn't get overcrowded. If a prototype project becomes a production project at some point in the future, we'd be happy to move it to the main /keyboards/ folder!

Warnings as Errors

When developing your keyboard, keep in mind that all warnings will be treated as errors - these small warnings can build-up and cause larger errors down the road (and keeping them is generally a bad practice).

If you're adapting your keyboard's setup from another project, but not using the same code, be sure to update the copyright header at the top of the files to show your name, in this format:

Copyright 2017 Your Name <>

If you are modifying someone else's code and have made only trivial changes you should leave their name in the copyright statement. If you have done significant work on the file you should add your name to theirs, like so:

Copyright 2017 Their Name <> Your Name <>

The year should be the first year the file is created. If work was done to that file in later years you can reflect that by appending the second year to the first, like so:

Copyright 2015-2017 Your Name <>


The core of QMK is licensed under the GNU General Public License. If you are shipping binaries for AVR processors you may choose either GPLv2 or GPLv3. If you are shipping binaries for ARM processors you must choose GPL Version 3 to comply with the ChibiOS GPLv3 license.