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Keyboard Hack (johndcook.com)
20 points by mgrouchy 1602 days ago | hide | past | web | 46 comments | favorite



Arghh, another otherwise knowledgeable practitioner who have chosen a Mircrosoft keyboard, believing that it's ergonomic. (Edit: not that it's his fault: there's a serious "fame bias" here.)

Not that it does no better than the regular dirt-cheap keyboard. It is an improvement over that. But it still have those damn keys slanted towards the left for both hands. We could do better: http://loup-vaillant.fr/articles/better-keyboards

I also hope he started using a Dvorak layout or similar. The learning curve is not cool if he already types fast, but the gain in comfort is noticeable.


There is http://TrulyErgonomic.com as well, which has the added benefit of being a mechanical keyboard, It would be the next keyboard I would look at buying (since my current Leopold is giving me a lot of strain during extended coding periods)


Holy expensive, $230? I realize it's mechanical but that's still a lot of money. If the design is so superior why would there not be non-mechanical alternatives in the $50 range?


For the same reason the keys are still staggered on most keyboard: ignorance, stupidity, and risk aversion. You don't need much of each: they feed on each other to preserve the status quo.

Many people seem to believe that slanting the keys to the left is actually more ergonomic than a straight "matrix" design. And I think manufacturers aren't willing to risk selling keyboards that don't have the usual look.

The natural keyboard is no different. They sell one idea: splitting the keyboard. The rest doesn't change because it would spur too many questions, and maybe cost them customers.


It's because people shopping for a $50 keyboard don't care about that sort of thing.

They probably want backlit keys or macro buttons.


It has the same bug as the original MS keyboard, the arrow keys are in a cross and not an inverted-T. Not sure if I agree with the placement of pgup/dn, enter and backspace either.


Maybe it works well enough for him? It sure alleviated my RSI a lot. Switching to a MS Natural, remapping Ctrl and using US layout instead of Swedish more or less saved my wrists.

(Not that I wouldn't mind a Kinesis, but those weren't available when I really needed one).


I'd love to learn Dvorak but the problem is not all computers are easily configured to Dvorak. Then when you have to use someone else's computer you'll look like an idiot or have to ask them to install/configure another keyboard layout which is not much better. I've seen it happen to people and it's quite painful. Operating systems should have a trivial way of switching between layouts (perhaps even a physical button dedicated to this).


I purchased a QIDO[1] just for this reason. It obviously doesn't work for all situations in which you are on someone else's computer, but it has served me well so far. I mainly use it for when I am on Windows (see next paragraph).

In regards to OS support, the only OS I have really had problems with is Windows. Maybe I just wasn't checking the right checkboxes, but Windows seems to default to "I assume you want a different keyboard layout for each window, so have fun with that!" OSX and Linux have always been very sane, defaults-wise.

1: http://www.keyghost.com/qido/


> I'd love to learn Dvorak but the problem is not all computers are easily configured to Dvorak.

Changing layout on OS X and Gnome (I'm not sure about Win) is quite fast, usually if I need to type on someone else computer for more than 10 minutes I tell them and change it.

Also even if I've switched to Dvorak a year ago I can still type at a good speed on qwerty.


Switching in Windows is easy. With the right configuration it's just ctrl+shift to swap back and forth.

I've been using Dvorak for 12 years. Initially my QWERTY speed was seriously hampered, but after being in environments where switching was less convenient (public labs and the like) it recovered.


I find it hard to believe that dvorak or any other ergonomic keyboard layouts would have that much impact on my productivity that a QUERTY keyboard.


I can't imagine DVORAK adds enough enough value to justify constantly switching back and forth between DVORAK and QWERTY keyboards.


You would be surprised, I was.


But the MS 4000 is the absolute best feeling keyboard, ergo or not (allowing for the fact that you can't in a normal situation use a model m or variant because of the noise). I defy anyone to name a better non buckling spring keyboard. Logitech? don't even suggest it.


I feel better on my Typematrix (EZReach 2030). Best would be a combination of the two concepts, of course. Like the Kinesis Contoured, or http://trulyergonomic.com (if you can stand the mechanical keys).


My two Rosewill keyboards, and my Das Keyboard, will happily stand up to that challenge.

The key is the switches, and anything that uses mechanical switches will almost automatically feel better to type on than keyboards that do not.


you may have got me there; i was under the impression that the das was a buckling spring, but googling reveals that it isnt. But how does it compare for noise?

<EDIT> Ah, according to Ars "How loud is this product? Very loud". So for my situation (quiet open plan offices usually), probably no good.

http://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2010/02/office-warfare-our-mo...


Yup, it's fairly loud - though a lot of the noise comes from old habits of pushing the key all the way to the bottom of its travel - required for membrane switches, but not for mechanical switches.

Also, if you want a quieter keyboard but still want mechanical switches, you can go for the Rosewill keyboards with Cherry MX Brown switches - it gives you a tactile bump, but no associated "click". You'll still make a lot of noise if you bottom out, however. If you get out of that habit (easier on your fingers, by the way), they're quiet as a mouse.


on that recommendation, i'm getting one :)


Good luck! If you find you still have issues with bottoming out after awhile, you can look into getting rubber washers to cushion the landing of the keys at the bottom of their travel.

See this for an example: http://www.wasdkeyboards.com/index.php/cherry-mx-rubber-swit...


Have you had actual objection to using a Model M? I've used my Unicomp Customizer (sort of like a Model M replica) at least four different developer jobs and not had any complaints.


I suppose it depends on your work environment, but yes, one at a previous employer ended up being the server room keyboard because of the noise.


The noisy space bar is the worst part of the MS keyboard. The other keys are fine. Seems like such an obvious problem that they'd fix it.


I'm on a TypeMatrix 2030, but I find the ctrl keys a bit out of the way (emacs... :D)


Remap some of your most used shortcuts to alt. It just requires you to bend your thumb under your palm, and less so than most keyboards. I very much like to use Alt + JKLI to move the cursor.


That's a neat trick. I wouldn't use that for control since I map that to caps-lock instead, but it might be a good way to distinguish between windows/alt/function, which often move slightly from desktop to laptop.


The home keys are all a touch-typer needs; muscle memory can fill in everything else.

For the same reason, a pianist doesn't need to look down at the keys unless he's making a large jump across the keyboard (and even then, muscle memory often serves him well).

Nor does a guitar player need to look at the strings he's picking or fingering. A common technique is to anchor your righthand pinkie on the soundboard to serve as reference point ("home key"). From there, your muscle memory knows the rest.


> Nor does a guitar player need to look at the strings he's picking or fingering.

When playing the guitar, you can't see what your left (on the fretboard) and right (with the pick) hand are doing at the same time so muscle memory is the only viable option.

Similarly, you can't really see what your hands are doing on the keyboard and what is actually being typed on the screen so you have to pick one to choose. Looking at the screen is the obvious choice, but for typing practice you might actually want to look at your keyboard.

I learned more ergonomic touch typing using two tricks. The first one was to train using the Dvorak keyboard layout, although I don't use it normally. It just made me hold my hands in the right place on the keyboard. The second was getting a blank keyboard with no inscriptions on the keys and look at the keyboard, not the screen when typing.


I agree, but a hack can help temporarily when you're training your muscle memory.

Also, musical instruments are more consistent than computer keyboards. I play saxophone, and it's easier for me to move back and forth between soprano and tenor sax than to move between desktop and laptop keyboards.


If only keyboard manufacturers - especially laptop manufacturers - agreed on where to put modifier keys other than Shift. A small difference in locations can thwart your muscle memory.


Once you have your hands in the right starting point (using the `j` and `f` key cues) why do you need any more tactile help? Isn't the entire point of touch typing that your hands "know" where all the keys are?


Your hand eye coordination must be impeccable then. Especially on Mac keyboards, hitting the ctrl versus command key is difficult.


On the other hand my Apple keyboard is by far the keyboard I'm most comfortable using, the logitech illuminated keyboard coming second. I generally don't like all those ergonomic keyboards, they are all too bulky and take up too much space on your desk.


I love the Mac keyboards but those tiny fn, ctrl, alt, and cmd keys all right next to each other do cause errors.


I find most of my typos occur with my pinky. I think maybe it's just harder to hit those outer keys.


I've always changed caps lock to be ctrl. Since it's always by the 'A' key I find it easy to find.

The downside is that I'm always frustrated when I have to use someone else's computer and I'm toggle caps all the time.


I do that too. I use the caps lock for control when I have my left hand on the keyboard and my right hand on the mouse, e.g. selecting with the mouse, then C-c to copy etc.

But when I have both hands on the keyboard, it feels better to use the left control key, maybe because it's more symmetric with my right hand.


For me, using left-Ctrl hurts so much after using Caps as Ctrl I never ever use it, except for the Ctrl-Alt chord for releasing the mouse pointer in VMware.


If you're a Vim user, you might want to make your caps lock an additional escape instead. It works like a charm and I've never looked back. Although sometimes I accidentally write in ALL CAPS when I'm on someone else's keyboard.


I find backspace works just as well and can be remapped in Vim itself (unlike caps lock which must be remapped in the driver, affecting all apps.)


Caps lock as escape is surprisingly convenient in other apps than Vim too. I thought I'd run into trouble, but in fact it's very nice.


I'd love a keyboard with braille on top of the keys...


A quick google search has plenty of results: http://www.keyboardoutlets.com/braille_keyboards/


I did google, but I was thinking more along the lines of a keyboard that is already known to be good that has a braille option (Kinesis, Das Keyboard, an Apple keyboard even...). Though I suppose adding braille stickers myself isn't that bad of a plan.


You could always dab on some epoxy for the same effect.




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