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Review of ergonomic keyboards

I have been experimenting with some new options in ergonomic keyboards. Most of us spend hours per day on a keyboard. But most keyboards are built for the convenience of the manufacturer–with all the keys in a straight line– not for the way that our real, non-linear hands work. To learn about the newest and most creative options in ergonomic keyboards, see this useful Extremetech review.

I used a split-key keyboard (similar to the Microsoft Natural) for years, which was acceptable but not ideal. The folks at SafeType keyboards were kind enough to send me one of their patented and very unusual vertical keyboards, which I used for a month. ($295 new). To understand the creative design, I recommend see the photo on their site.

The advantages of this keyboard:

+ It forces your hands to work in parallel to one another, rather than side by side. This is a much more natural position.

+ It forces you to improve your touch typing, since you cannot readily see most of the keys.

+ Easy to install

+ I took only a few hours to return to about 80% of my normal typing speed.

The disadvantages of this keyboard:

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+ It looks like the joystick for the commander of the starship Enterprise. You will get many surprised reactions from other people in the office, because this looks so unusual.

+ Certain key combinations (particularly with the Control and Alt keys) were extremely awkward to create.

+ I was moving my hands around a lot, from the main keyboard to my mouse, because the Safetype keyboard does not come with a built in mouse. In addition, I had to move my hands a lot from the keyboard sides to the central well, which was extremely awkward.

After a month, I switched to the Kinesis Advantage keyboard. It’s $299, but you can get a better deal if you ask for a refurbished one. This is the primary keyboard I use now. The keys are built into a curved well around your hand. The advantages of this keyboard:

+ Feels much more natural. Instead of you forcing your hand flat to adapt to the keyboard, the keyboard is built around your hand. I thought that it was more comfortable than the traditional split -keyboard design.

+ Easy to install

+ I took only a few hours to return to about 80% of my normal typing speed.

The disadvantages:

+ A few keys (e.g., the Insert key) are awkward to create. However, the keyboard comes built in with a macro facility, so you can reprogram around those issues.

+ Again, this keyboard does not come with a built in trackpad, so you constantly have to move your hands to get to the mouse. I really don’t understand why it is designed this way; it seems much more logical to me to build in a trackpad.

I think my next keyboard experiment will be the Datahand. It is twice as expensive as the others, has a long learning curve, and looks even more bizarre, but I think will impose dramatically less stress on the hands.

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