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Hardware Metadata Files


ZMK makes use of an additional metadata YAML file for all boards and shields to provide high level information about the hardware to be incorporated into setup scripts/utilities, website hardware list, etc.

The naming convention for metadata files is {item_id}.zmk.yml, where the item_id is the board/shield identifier, including version information but excluding any optional split _left/_right suffix, e.g. corne.zmk.yml or nrfmicro_11.zmk.yml.

Example File#

Here is a sample corne.zmk.yml file from the repository:

file_format: "1"id: cornename: Cornetype: shieldurl:  - pro_microexposes:  - i2c_oledfeatures:  - keys  - displaysiblings:  - corne_left  - corne_right


ZMK uses a JSON Schema file to validate metadata files and sure all required properties are present, and all other optional properties provided conform to the expected format. You can validate all metadata files in the repository by running west metadata check from your configured ZMK repository.

File Format#

The first line of every metadata file should contain the file format. As of today, the only acceptable file format is 1, which should be written like:

file_format: "1"

ZMK plans to expand on the initial based set of metadata properties, while maintaining backwards compatibility. In particular, new optional properties may be added to file format 1 as time progress, and when new set of properties is settled upon as being required moving forward, a new major version of the file format will be created to encompass those changes.

Item ID and Name#

All metadata files should then contain two key pieces of identifying information, the id for the item, and the name which used a the human readable display name in various UI locations:

id: cornename: Corne

Item Types#

Each metadata file includes a type property uniquely identifying the type of item, be it board, shield, or the less frequently needed interconnect (which is used to document generic hardware interconnects like the Pro Micro format):

type: shield


The url property should contain the canonical URL used to learn more about the board/shield, e.g. the main vendor website or GitHub repository for a given keyboard/controller:


Interconnect Requires/Exposes#

For boards and shields, one of the key pieces of high level information is compatibility between the two items. In particular, a board usually exposes one ore more "interconnects", the physical location/type of connections available, and their assigned possible uses (e.g. GPIO, power, ground, i2c, etc). Similarly, a shield is usually designed around one (or sometimes more) "interconnects" that allow it to connect to one of those boards.

In ZMK, we encode both of those scenarios with the exposes and requires properties, respectively. For example, for a Corne shield that requires a Pro Micro compatible controller to function, and simultaneously exposes a four pin header to be used by standard i2c OLED modules, the metadata file contains:

requires:  - pro_microexposes:  - i2c_oled


Boards and shields should document the sets of hardware features found on them using the features array. There is a fixed enum of possible values to use here, which will be expanded over time. The current set of possible features values is:

  • keys - Any board or shield that contains keyboard keys should include this feature. It is a central feature used to determine if we have a "complete combination" for ZMK to produce a keyboard firmware when performing setup.
  • display - Indicates the hardware includes a display for use with the ZMK display functionality.
  • encoder - Indicates the hardware contains one or more rotary encoders.
  • underglow - Indicates the hardware includes underglow LEDs.
  • backlight - Indicates the hardware includes backlight LEDs.
  • pointer (future) - Used to indicate the hardware includes one or more pointer inputs, e.g. joystick, touchpad, or trackpoint.


The siblings array is used to identify multiple hardware items designed to be used together as one logical device. Right now, that primarily is used to identify the two halves of a split keyboard, but future enhancements will include more complicated and flexible combinations.

The array should contain the complete hardware IDs of the siblings that combine in the logical device, e.g. with the corne.zmk.yml file:

id: cornesiblings:  - corne_left  - corne_right

Future versions of the metadata file format will be expanded to allow documenting any specifics of each sibling that are unique, e.g. if only the left side contains the encoder feature.