Inputs Of Interest: My First Aggressively Ergonomic Keyboard

Ever since my RSI surgery, I’ve had to resort to using what I call my compromise keyboard — a wireless rubber dome affair with a gentle curvature to the keys. It’s far from perfect, but it has allowed me to continue to type when I thought I wouldn’t be able to anymore.

This keyboard has served me well, but it’s been nearly three years since the surgery, and I wanted to go back to a nice, clicky keyboard. So a few weeks ago, I dusted off my 1991 IBM Model M. Heck, I did more than that — I ordered a semi-weird hex socket (7/32″) so I could open it up and clean it properly.

And then I used it for half a day or so. It was glorious to hear the buckling springs singing again, but I couldn’t ignore the strain I felt in my pinkies and ring fingers after just a few hours. I knew I had to stop and retire it for good if I wanted to keep being able to type.

Rectangle keyboards can make you tingle, and not in a good way. Image via Kinesis

Ergo, I Must Go Ergo

I can’t go back to that compromise keyboard, though. It’s got ABS keycaps, and they’re all slick and gross now because that’s what ABS does. The thing is, that keyboard is hurting me in other ways — namely my neck and shoulders. Something this rectangle-keyboard-shaming image doesn’t mention is that the ten-key, or number pad of a standard keyboard makes things worse because of the extra distance to the mouse and back.

For a second, I thought about going back to an original Microsoft Natural keyboard. I used one for many years at my old job, and stopped for the stupidest possible reason — I was tired of the gigantic footprint and wanted more desk space. But honestly, a Natural isn’t going to cut it for me anymore. I need more distance between my hands. I want mechanical switches, and a key layout designed for my needs.

So I started investigating aggressively ergonomic keyboards. Spoiler alert: they’re expensive. And these days, there are all kinds of open-source ergo keyboards out there, which is great to hear if you want to casually fall down the keyboard rabbit hole and make your own. The ErgoDox is a well-documented project with many variants. The one that caught my eye is the Dactyl, which is essentially a bowl-shaped ErgoDox.

Of course I want to make my own, but that will take a while, and I have to keep typing in the meantime. So I had to act fast. While the world of DIY ergo keyboards is mind-boggling, the number of off-the-shelf options is nearly as bad. I’ve never typed on anything crazier than a Microsoft Natural, so how am I supposed to know which one is right for me? Or what keys I would want on the thumb clusters? Which switches? My head was swimming.

Yesterday’s Keyboard of Tomorrow, Today

Fortunately, there’s a company called Kinesis that started making split keyboards with contoured key wells in the early 1990s. You’ve probably seen one and not realized it — there are a bunch of them around the Men In Black headquarters. Kinesis is still making new models for $300+, so you can find older versions starting around $100. I bought the best-looking old one I could find within a few days of searching. Isn’t she a beaut?

I wanted to like this keyboard — heck, I needed to like this keyboard, and I do. There’s no going back now.

It has a great personality! Nice tan, too.

Why Is This Better Than a Regular Keyboard?

In a word, ergonomics. And not just the obvious ones, like the split and separated halves that allow me to type without turning my forearms in or hunching over the board. Since the keys are also set into contoured wells, I don’t have to move my fingers or wrists as much, which means less overall strain.

Lined-Up Layout

You may have noticed that the key rows aren’t staggered. For instance, 1-Q-A-Z are vertically aligned, which means this layout is considered ortholinear. That in itself can take some getting used to. I had no idea how it would go, but it’s one of the things I was looking forward to about this keyboard. Surprisingly, it doesn’t feel all that different to me, but it depends on your touch typing skills.

I consider myself a touch typist in the sense that I don’t need to look at the keys. My typing is not quite textbook, though it’s close. As I waited for this keyboard to arrive, I focused on the fingers I was using and compared them to touch typing diagrams.

My biggest sin is that I use my index finger to type ‘c’, and you’re supposed to use the middle finger. I took an informal poll around the Hackaday dungeon and although a few do it correctly, the index fingers won 11-5. My guess is that it has to do with the brick-wall layout of standard keyboards that places ‘c’ closer to the index.

Under My Thumbs

The best thing about this keyboard has to be the thumb clusters. Moving heavily-used keys like Enter, Backspace, and Control from the pinkies to the thumbs is genius, and has already helped quite a bit.

I have had surprisingly little trouble adjusting to these changes, especially Backspace — it’s as though I’ve been doing it with my left thumb all my life.

Other thumb moves have taken a bit longer to get used to: sometimes I leave my right thumb on Enter instead of moving it back to rest on Space, or I hit Backspace when I really mean Delete. Other than that, I was used to it within a day or so, and started to get back up to speed within a week.

Browns are bumpin’. Via Cherry

Satisfying Switches

Part of good ergonomics is in the switches. Your modern came-with-the-computer keyboard doesn’t have springs that bounce the keys back toward your fingertips — instead, it either has little rubber domes that collapse and feel like mush, or chiclet keys that are like popping bubble wrap that’s too low-profile to be fun. The only feedback you get is from bottoming out, or pushing the keys down as far as they can go. It may not seem that stressful to your fingertips, but if you’re punching switches all day, the abuse will add up, especially on the weaker fingers.

Mechanical switches aren’t just better for you and more satisfying to type on — they are often rated for millions more key presses than rubber dome and membrane-only switches.

The Model M has good switches, yes, but they take a great deal of actuation force — something like 65 g. The Kinesis Advantage has Cherry MX browns, which only take about 55 g of force, or a stack of eleven United States nickels. Legend has it that Browns were developed especially for Kinesis after they asked Cherry to make a quiet version of their Blue switch. Cherry liked them so much that they eventually started offering them in their own keyboards. Here’s a clip of what they sound like (no, really — I’m not shredding hard drives here):

Browns are tactile and not ridiculously clickykjj, but they definitely have a sound. The Kinesis controller also provides audible feedback for every key press, sort of a gentle ticking sound that can be turned off. I like it, because it makes them feel more like Blues, but without the extra required actuation force. Along with the standard LED indicators, there is audible feedback for Caps/Num/Scroll Lock in the form of two weird robotic buzz-beeps for on, and one for off. Also handy, also turn off-able.

It’s Not Perfect and That’s Okay

There are a few things I don’t like about this keyboard. Some I’ve already taken care of, and some are fueling my desire to build my own.

The home row keys are a different color (which is awesome), but they don’t have those little homing bumps on them like you can find on literally any cheap keyboard. Instead, the home row keycaps are sculpted differently than the rest. This might work for some people, but my callused fingertips can’t really tell the difference, so I got some aftermarket blanks with homing bumps for F and J.

The Dactyl Manuform, via [tshort] (corrected)
Unfortunately, all the keycaps except for F and J are ABS, so they will get shiny and gross eventually. Not only that, the legends are pad printed, so they’re like little stickers you can feel and pick at that will definitely disappear given enough time and fingernail contact.

I thought I would miss the ten-key more than I do, although there is a ten-key embedded in the right side that’s accessible with the Keypad F-row button. Mostly what I miss is the ten-key Enter, because it’s right there by the mouse. But it’s okay, because I can reprogram it!

Since I was never a right-Shifter and I recently started using a foot pedal for it anyway, I took five seconds and copy-pasted the Enter key on to the right Shift, right by the mouse. Sometimes I even remember to use it.

Do You Really Own Your Keyboard?

If all you can do to change things is toggle Caps Lock, Num Lock, and Scroll Lock, then I would say no. This keyboard is fully programmable, meaning you can switch a few keys around or go full Dvorak if you want. You can also program macros into the F keys. With the Advantage 2, this is all done through an editor.

The Dactyl Manuform, via [tshort] (corrected)
While it’s true that you can use a program like Autohotkey to bind macros to any key you want, those are all tied to one computer. The Advantage of the Kinesis is portability — all the macros and mappings live inside it.

Unfortunately, the Kinesis’ portability ends there. Yes it’s lightweight, and no it’s not that big (16.5″ x 8″), but if you want to throw it in a backpack, you’d better have a pretty big one. I’m already dreaming of being able to put my hands even farther apart with a split keyboard.

There are tons of open-source alternatives to drool over, thanks to the 2010s boom in mechanical keyboard interest. Many of them use firmware like QMK that allows for layers of key functions, so you’ll see minimal, highly customized, perfectly portable builds.

I’ve got my eye on building a Dactyl Manuform (corrected link), which is like a liberated Kinesis with even more ergonomic thumb cluster design. It kind of has to be hand-wired, which I’m actually looking forward to — flex PCBs would be too fiddly. Just have to get the halves printed and I’ll be on my way to split ergo freedom.

55 thoughts on “Inputs Of Interest: My First Aggressively Ergonomic Keyboard

  1. I’ve long had an interest in ergo keyboards, and had my cursor over the buy button more than once on a Kinesis or something like a P.I. Engineering X-Keys macro board only to chicken out at the price. I’ll have to check out the secondhand market.

    Early DIY ergo boards were often hacked-up traditional keyboards modified with wood or plastic bits and hot-glue – not very durable and certainly not very attractive. 3D printing and easier access to CNC processes have revolutionized DIY keyboards and I’m loving some of the wild designs people have come up with.

    I still want a RailDriver controller. I don’t play sims… but it would be so much more satisfying to execute a large automation script by pulling a lever!

  2. I’ve gone through this same process. Used a series of old MS Natural for years. Eventually started hoarding them. But the PS2-to-USB conversion started getting flaky, and I really wanted mechanical switches, so I looked for alternatives.

    I tried an Ergodox EZ. It’s a really nice keyboard, but I just couldn’t change my typing habits. I needed a more standard layout.

    I eventually ended up with an X-Bows, which I truly love. Split unstaggered layout, but with normal keys off to the right. I didn’t need to do much retraining of my touch-typing, yet still reaped the benefits of a better layout.

  3. If you ever get the chance to get in front of one of the remaining IBM selectric typewriters left in the world, put your fingers on it and try it out. I bet you won’t believe the difference – ignore the spinning type ball and the associated noise and vibration – but the keyboard ‘s feel is so much better than what is out there today – much better on your fingers and smooth as silk. Too bad nobody can make a modern keyboard that compares with that one.

    1. I would love to! I wish I could remember the name of the typewriters we used in typing class circa 1993. I suppose they could have been Selectrics — so much of of our school’s equipment seemed to be from the 60s. I just spent way too much time looking through a yearbook looking for pictures of typing class.

      1. In the 60’s my typing class was on non-electric typewriters, AKA manual…

        I have an issue with notebooks and other boards that have a touch pad under the space bar: my thumbs keep brushing it, and hence random jumps of the cursor that I don’t notice at first lead to a lot of re-typing (and cursing…). I got hooked on IBM’s Trackpoint (very few mouse “detours”) before the touchpad fad took over, although they were not easy on the finger tips once the rubber cap started to dry out. So I always tried to get my employers to get the biz type notebooks with both pad and TP, but those compromises could cause more finger confusion and re-typing than necessary unless there was a setting in the BIOS and/or with the Windows driver to disable the pad, and it wasted space that could have been used to make bigger keys, and have more of the specialized ones such as Home, End, PgUp, PgDn, etc.

        Now I have the option of using updated TrackPoint-only keyboards from Lenovo. One is the bluetooth model for their Windows 8 Thinkpad Tablet 2 that has most of those special keys, and decently sized dished semi-chiclet keys, and an optical TP that is very easy on the fingertips. I am using it now for this missive while having it lie directly atop the built-in keyboard of my Dell Inspiron 13″ 7000. The trackpad is partly uncovered, but the tablet keyboard keeps the space bar and below that the TP paddles under my thumbs, so generally no problem with the thumb brushing. I can use this bluetooth keyboard with most computers nowadays, and it even works well with my 10″ Nook Tablet as it is almost the same dimensions as the tablet for packing away, and the slot above the keys can hold the Nook almost as well as it does the original Thinkpad Tab 2. If I have a stable surface, it will even hold the Nook in portrait mode which is ideal for reading PDF format magazines and documents in their more usual orientation. I did initially by the Nook’s matching folio keyboard, but was not impressed with its feel compared to the Lenovo tablet board, and it was about impossible to use with the Nook in portrait mode. The Lenovo keyboard has been readily available (some even “new in box”) on eBay for about $30-60, or so.

        My other option is a desktop Lenovo TP-only SK-8855 keyboard with USB connection. It is a good bit bigger than the tablet board, and has even more of the special function key while still have “normal” sized keys in what I consider a more comfortable non-chiclet, traditional layout. The TP cap is a mechanical (as opposed to the optical type above) soft concave rubber with a pebbly surface that is much easier on the fingertips than those old, hardened “pencil eraser” types. It has a rather hard plastic deep heel rest at the bottom that I keep a rubbery cushion on to avoid that carpal tunnel irritant (had the CT release surgery for my left hand last year, but that was more from driving with a white-knuckle grip for many decades, especially during my motorcycling years – years of IT work probably made it worse, but was not such constant typing on a daily basis as to be the main cause, just an added stress).

        And of course, I can keep both keyboards completely flat with none of the rise from bottom to top that worsens CT nerve damage, although not as helpful as those MS natural keyboards that actually have the rise along the middle for the ideal wrist angle. I did enjoy that kind at one of my IT jobs for a few years.

  4. I just don’t understand how any one would use their index finger for c, so I’m wondering what else you are doing that isn’t helping..
    I type thousands of words a day, and have for the last 4 decades or so , and the biggest thing I’ve noticed that impacts if you can do it all day or not is the height of the keyboard and monitor. Going to a table that has a height adjustable keyboard, and monitor stand that can also be adjusted, makes a huge difference..

    And yes, I learned to type on a IBM selectric typewriter in the 70’s – my son doesn’t believe it, but ‘typing’ was it’s own subject at school – I was the only bloke in the class.. :-)

    My current keyboard? A microsoft internet keyboard from a few decades ago (ps2).. Still working, and I have a few of them..

    1. How wide are your shoulders? I’m quite broadshouldered, and my left hand comes in at such an angle so that just moving my index finger straight back from F lands perfectly on C. I’m obviously not pronating my hands nearly as much as I’d need to for a “proper” typing position, but I also want my wrists to last a while longer.

      1. I’m big :-) So it isn’t the shoulder width..
        I really can’t recommend it to much – try and get the keyboard and screen height right..All mine are exactly set and it means I don’t get sore fingers,hands, shoulders etc…

    2. this was the line i was thinking on as well — that it’s not the keyboard so much as the seating position. for what it’s worth, at the moment i’m typing on a 12″ laptop keyboard and my left arm is straight sideways, coming in literally parallel to the spacebar, because my elbow happens to be resting on my couch’s armrest. and i’m using my index finger for v even so :)

      25 years ago, when i was in HS, i would sometimes get RSI, sometimes so bad that i wondered if it’d grow to be life-changing. but as an adult, i have basically never had RSI at all. and i’ve spent on the order of 10 hours a day on one crappy keyboard or another, mostly laptops. some mushy, some a little clicky. i can’t be 100% certain, of course, but in hindsight i think it’s because in highschool there were a number of situations where i had to use a desk.

      when left to my own devices, i usually have the keyboard directly on my thighs. and for a decade or so, it’s just been laptops. with a laptop, not only is my posture different than at a desk, but it’s different from one moment to the next. im at one end of the couch then the other. reclined or upright. lying on my belly or lying on my back. i might sit at the table for a bit, but only for half an hour. i occupy about 5 positions over the course of every work day. i think that makes a big difference.

      i did actually have a bout of RSI recently. i realized i’d just bought a new phone that would have been called a phablet a couple years ago. without noticing it, i’d gotten in the habit of holding it in my left hand and tapping with my right index finger, but with my right wrist held totally rigid so i was moving my whole arm around for every keypress. stopped doing that and the problem went away in a couple days.

      but you know, you just have to go with what works. i would just recommend that if you’re going through the keyboard game, try changing keyboard height too.

  5. I’ve gone down the ergonomic split keyboard path myself with a heavily modified Ergodox. Not complete yet, but it’s ticking most of the boxes for me: portable, comfortable, and a consistent input paradigm whether at work, home, or traveling.

    Definitely a ton of work – especially the way I decided to complicate it – but so, so satisfying to have a bespoke keyboard!

      1. I stubbed in a project on Hackady.io to post a picture: https://hackaday.io/project/170212-travel-deck

        Basically I cut the Ergodox apart and mounted the key platesm in a custom case that keeps them at my preferred separation (32″) and angle. The deck is wide enough to rest on the arms of a chair I’m sitting in, or I can set it on a desk… It’s got a touchscreen embedded between the keyboard halves and an SBC inside, so it functions as a self-contained laptop with mechanical keyboard; or I can plug it into another computer and use it as a mechanical keyboard for that system. This lets me use my Ergodox and custom keymappings everywhere but keeps it to *one* thing to carry.

        This isn’t finished yet; the top panel in the picture is done, but I’m still building the case. At some point I’ll undoubtedly replace the keycaps, and possibly add a trackball.

        As time allows I’ll flesh out the description on the hackaday.io page.

        1. A nice, sort of like the cyber-decks that some people have built. Will the SBC do anything when you’re plugged into a computer? Will you switch inputs between systems? Maybe you could add a USB NIC in the keyboard so you could effectively network with the SBC.

          1. I’d probably use it for music; the touchscreen interface world be fine for that while the keyboard was connected to something else.

            Some of the places I work would get quite upset if I was putting a computer ‘of unknown provenance’ on the corporate network, so I want to keep the SBC explicitly (and demonstrably) isolated.

            That said, I hadn’t thought of a USB NIC; that bears thinking on. Thanks!

  6. I guess I have the advantage of not having my posture thoroughly ruined by bondage and discipline application of formal keyboarding techniques. I have a passing familiarity with them, and can even fake it real enough to touch type like that at 40WPM or so. But I don’t. I learned “wrong”, which gives me a huge flexibility in typing position. Closest I come to formal mode, is when I have the keyboard a full arms length, but even then I just tend to use only three fingers and use the pinkies for returns, shifts and tabs only. Fingers tend to ramble three keys each way and overlap arcs. Nevertheless I can peak over 100wpm on a model M like that. Then with the keyboard close to me, I guess I do an ergo position without the hardware, index fingers homing on V and B and mostly tending to a finger per half row instead of finger per column, and I can bash along like that at 60ish. Arm straight or bent though and I can use one hand for something else and type one handed at 20-30wpm, which is the main reason I hate full ergo. I don’t mind the “comfort” style half ergos, no huge chasms to jump in the middle, though unequal key sizes throw me off a bit.

    Anyway, full ergo solves no problems for me, closest I came to carpal tunnel or tendinitis issues was when I tried to do it all “properly” and had gel wrist rests (Laptops I make sure I’m at an angle to use them purely as palm rests). So I was figuring out that wrist rests were evil around the same time as the studies on that went round. I do spend a lot of time on various keyboards though so I do my elastic band exercises to keep the tendons centered up. I get more issues from mice really. Did kinda solve that for 4 years, but there wasn’t enough to rebuild any more in the end, model discontinued of course.

  7. You should just switch to Dvorak and ditch all these monstrosities. My right hand was numb for 3 years due to a traumatic injury: I have RSI carpal tunnel symptoms multiplied by 10. I type happily all day on a laptop keyboard, as long as it’s Dvorak.

    1. 1000 times this. I switched 14 years ago when the wrist pain started. It immediately went away and nary a twinge since.
      It’s way more comfortable. And you don’t have to buy anything. And it’s compatible with laptops. And nobody can look at your fingers to figure out what you’re typing.

    2. Years ago I got interested in Dvorak and made the switch to the point of surpassing Qwerty typing speed with Dvorak. Interestingly the speed and ergonomic benefit existed only when typing English and were completely gone when typing Finnish. It had not occurred to me in advance how strongly Dvorak’s benefits are tied to the language you type in due to considering the proximity of commonly grouped letters. I ended up falling back to Qwerty due to the amount of Finnish I was typing at the time. Now may be a good time to re-evaluate, however…

    3. A programmable keyboard doesn’t preclude the use of Dvorak. I think some of the Kinesis models actually have a switch to change between Qwerty and Dvorak. I use an Ergodox and have some layers for Dvorak and some layers for Qwerty. Also layers for: navigation, mousing, media control, programming symbols, mirroring the other half of the keyboard for 1 handed typing. I’ll stick with my monstrosity.

    1. When you have the ability to program your keyboard you don’t need extra keys, you just use chording combinations, you’ll find your keyboarding experience improves when you don’t have to move your hands all over the keyboard.

      1. Or learn to use the compose key.

        I can type in Norwegian, Swedish and Icelandic, as well as using various mathematical symbols (≈, ±, °, etc) all on a “normal” English-language QWERTY keyboard. Yes, it takes me longer to type stuff like

        Þjóðvegur eín

        or

        (-b ± √(b² – 4ac)) / 2a

        or

        (x + y)² = x² + 2xy + y²
        where 0 < y < 1, y² < y
        ∴ x² ≈ 2xy

        or

        sin²(θ) + cos²(θ) = 1

        but I can do it without needing to assign special keys.

  8. Nobody mentioning the Microsoft Sculpt Ergonomic keyboard? Using a normal keyboard flares up the RSI in my right wrist within minutes. It just wouldn’t go away. So I started using ergonomic split keyboards, and that has helped me tremendously.

    I tried many different brands and models, but have always for some reason gravitated back to Microsoft ergonomic keyboards. Always the full size keyboards.

    At my last job, however, after a while, my colleague sitting next to me exploded: “If you type any more on that noisy keyboard, I will throw it out of the window!”. They all make such noise (but I guess I also hit the keys quite hard while typing :)).

    So I went to look around for yet another alternative. And found the Microsoft Sculpt Ergonomic. It has laptop-style keys, feeling close to the keys of the Apple Macbooks of the 201x’s (which are great too, to be honest, unlike the keys of the modern Macbooks).

    This keyboard is great. Makes a lot less noise than the larger keyboards, the keys feel great, I never mistype, although I think the keyboard would be even better for my hands if the keys were a little bit closer together (smaller). And the F keys are plain crap! They can get stuck, and then the keyboard won’t register certain keys anymore.

    I do think that the keyboards could still improve a lot. For one, the build quality could be better. I went through 3 of them in the last 5 years. Luckily there are lots of people who try it out, can’t get used to it and sell it for a nice price.

    But I really feel that for $100, it should be possible to have keys of Apple Macbook 2015 quality. That would make them even less noisy. What I like about the Macbook keys is that they seem to be dampened by a little bit of silicone rubber. So when you smash them down, they don’t smash into the plastic carrier with a click.

    I did consider making my own keyboard, and maybe that will happen once, using the new Cherry MX low profile keys. But I’m not sure how I would make the right curve. Probably make a curved aluminium bracket to click the keys in, and then solder the keys point-to-point with wires.

      1. This is actually one of the things inspiring me to get a 3D printer too. A few years ago I was trying to find an ergonomic mechanical keyboard for a good price and considered ordering from one of the online 3D printing companies. I could not believe how expensive such a relatively small pair of items came out at. It was hundreds of dollars per keyboard half.

    1. This was my choice as well. I like the low profile low travel keys, the general shape, and the separate numpad. I don’t like the rubber that deteriorates or the fact that all 3 devices have different batteries. I’m still considering making a custom keyboard. The main thing I want to change is the curve – I want more of a “V” shape or a full split so that it’s easier to hit modifiers.

  9. I hate how most split keyboards put the 6 key on the left side, it’s a pet peeve of mine. If you’ve properly learned how to touch-type, the 6 key is always typed with the right hand. I clicked on the thread expecting yet another one of those layouts, and was surprised and impressed to see that it wasn’t. It gets thrown over to the left side because of that slight shift between the rows, which as far as I know was to give space for the lever bars in old mechanical typewriters.

    As for the F and J keys, I’ve found that the bumps on some of them aren’t big enough if the keyboard is in my lap, when I’m trying to type blind while playing a game, with my right hand going back and forth to the mouse with eyes glued to the screen. It drives me crazy. I’ve been planning to stick some bits of gaff tape on the F and J of a couple of keyboards, going to do it today. But I’m also now a believer in having a ledge on the right edge of the Caps Lock key to align my left hand when typing completely blind.

  10. I’m starting to suspect that “correct” touch typing is a big part of the problem here. If you use a multi-fingered hunt and peck, then your wrists can stay diagonal to the keys so there’s never any wrist flex or pronation as long as the keyboard is high enough to push your elbows to the side.

    1. Then you’d just get different problems, constantly changing your view between screen and keyboard, constantly lifting your arms for no reason. Using a split ortholinear keyboard really is an ergonomic game changer.

    2. Sounds reasonable. However, in practice I have benefitted tremendously from a split keyboard design. So somewhere there is a flaw in your suspicion. Probably the issue that to do all that you’re saying means that you constantly have to pay attention to your posture, and then you’ll be fine with a normal keyboard. However, with my split keyboard I don’t have to pay attention to my posture.

      As I already have to pay a lot of attention to other aspects of my posture, having to pay attention to the posture of my shoulders, arms and wrists becomes too much. And I will forget one aspect or another, and then my RSI will flare up again.

      So, a split keyboard makes me have to spend less attention to the posture of my wrists, arms and shoulders. And that lets me pay more attention to other aspects of my posture (neck, back, feet setting, etc.).

      So overall, the ergonomic keyboard helps me with all aspects of my posture, not just my wrists, arms and shoulders.

      The science is undeniable, and from experience, I find that the practice follows the science. So the split ergonomic keyboard is undeniably the best thing ever. :)

  11. Unpopular opinion here: Won’t most of the issues caused by having your hands bent in an uncomfortable way be solved by simply not using your thumbs to press the space bar?

    Biggest issue with using the split ergo keyboards is the inability to use the mouse and keyboard easily at the same time, ie one handed lefty typing.

    Not that I don’t use keyboard shortcuts as much as possible, when they make sense. A great test: what is the key that iterates through ctrl+F results? Answer F3!!! Those ergo keyboard also ironically sacrifice the grouping of the F keys, which I often utilize in my own programs.

    For typing reports though, they definitely make sense, which is why I also own one of the microsoft ergo keyboards… Currently typing this on a thermaltake backlit mechanical w/ brown switches and 5mm x 1mm o-rings

    1. If you would have used a Mac, you would have used cmd-F and cmd-G for Find and Find Next. It is a mystery to me why on Windows, it’s still ctrl-F and F3, even after like 30 years? Function keys are meant for special functions that you don’t use very often, and ‘search next’ is not quite special imo.

      I actually think that the use of F3 stems from the time of the PC-XT, whose keyboard had the function keys on the left instead of the top. Talk about Law of the handicap of a head start…

      1. Yes I remember and I’ve used mac computers for years and am still fond of the UI. For debugging f5, f9, f10, f11, f12 are often used. It’s simple to remap them but I prefer the function keys… The ergonomic keyboards are great for compositions.

  12. Buy a bottle of clear fingernail polish and apply it to the pad-printed keycaps. Repeat as necessary to protect letters from wear.
    A keyboard that would otherwise lose its letters in 3 months can be good for years.

  13. Another way to reduce the strain of reaching over for the mouse is to not use the mouse!

    I’ve found that I get shoulder pain when I’m using my standing desk setup, but only reaching “out” for the mouse. My solution has been to avoid the mouse at all costs.

    For browsers, Saka Key (https://key.saka.io/) has been great.

    Obviously, there are some things where you’ll still need the mouse, but repetition and frequency matter. If you can remove some/most of the mouse usage entirely, it will help.

    Also, don’t discount finding an ergonomic mouse. They can also make a big difference.

    1. Alternatively, use a trackball: you move off the keyboard to reach it, but your hand and wrist are stationary to operate it – much less wear and tear on your wrist and rotator cuff.

      Plus, you need let desk space!

      1. Lenovo has trackpoint in the middle and I found it very usefull. But my new thinkpad keyboard and trackpoint seem to be significantly less usefull.

        Was there any keyboard with trackball? I think I saw once.

  14. I wonder when will ergonomic keyboard reach laptops? Most of 15″ and bigger have enough space to at least “curve” it. Laptops often are kept close and it bends wrist even more. Even my 14″ laptop seem to have enough space for that. The biggest chnge in laptop keyboards in years was removing function keys and making cursors completly useless ( to the point I was serously considering using vi type apps).

    1. Just to add one point:
      Screen, keyboard and mouse are things that have most significant impact on your health. Properly chosen and set up will also improve your productivity and overall experience. But most people are buying chepaest possible. Also those who understand how important is that.

      1. Or nice mobile ergonomic keyboard which could be combined with some tablet or notebook with detachable screen.

        Anyway thank you for this article – I have been thinking for a long time about investing more money in keyboard and mouse and you gave me a lot useful info in organized way.

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