I used a Das Keyboard for a little over a year, and I loved it. I have fond memories of it, and it's a very well built and super solid product. I've long been a fan of mechanical keyboards. I used to use an Apple Extended Keyboard II at home, and a Das Keyboard at work, and I thought I was in heaven.
But one day I had to do some maintenance on some random computer in a closet at work, and the only spare keyboard we had sitting around was one of the old Microsoft Natural Ergonomic 4000's, and using the split-wave layout was a revelation. I was officially intrigued by ergonomic keyboards. I've since tried typing on a Truly Ergonomic and an ErgoDox, looking for the sweet spot between mechanical and ergonomic, but it just wasn't the same. I have yet to try a Kinesis Advantage because I don't know anybody that owns one.
I now have two Microsoft Sculpt Ergonomic keyboards, one at home and one at work. And I love them. I didn't even realize that normal keyboards were causing me pain until I had to switch back to my old Das temporarily for a day and the whole of both of my forearms were on fire at the end of it. But in spite of all that, I still really really miss the Cherry MX Blue switches from my old Das Keyboard.
My point is that my dream keyboard, ignoring whether or not it's possible/feasible, would be a split-wave Microsoft-style ergonomic form factor with Cherry switches. If somebody out there put up a kickstarter for a keyboard like that tomorrow, I would empty my wallet backing the project. Maybe the Das Keyboard folks are here reading this.
They are currently in prototyping phase and they expect to go to Kickstarter this summer. I'm not from their team, I only want a good keyboard and this one looks promising.
I also own a Das Keyboard and I absolutely love the feel. But this "traditional" layout is just not good enough for today's typing-intensive professions. I have already experienced first RSI symptoms on both of my pinkies, so I'd like to try a true ergonomic keyboard.
Agreed, the MS 4000's split design helped tremendously with my ulnar nerve irritation. Keeping my wrists aligned with my forearms is the key. I've also been keeping an eye out for a mechanical keyboard in a similar form factor without any luck. The few alternatives that I've seen are such an enormous price premium over the 4000 that I can't justify the expense. Maybe I'll be the second contributor to your putative Kickstarter campaign.
I don't really seeing 'thick' keyboards as being a pain-point for anyone buying mechanical keyboards, but the size of the actual board is. A lot of people start with a full board like this, then transition to a tenkey-less board or an even more reduced layout. The Das boards don't offer TKL/Reduced layouts, and even dwarfs most other full-sized boards as well because of that stupid bezel around the board. Das makes good quality boards, but they are just too big and clunky for me; I don't think being thin is going to help that at all.
The only reason I'm using a full sized Das instead of a Filco tenkeyless is simply that the latter are harder to find in the US. In my case, my employer only orders office supplies through certain retailers which limits my selection.
I never use the number pad, and wish more manufacturers would offer tenkeyless models.
This may sound trite, but: Use shortcuts instead of the mouse.
(This is one reason that Emacs and Vim are incredible editors and tiling window managers absolutely rock. There's basically never a need to touch the mouse unless your stupid window manager has decided to defocus the window.)
Sort of an off-the-wall question: Is (VS + R#) usage correlated with increased use of shortcuts? ;)
Btw, I don't think the mouse is altogether useless, but I tend to regard it as a last resort. If only we could actually mandate UIs which required that all functionality could be accessed via the keyboard (and have it actually work). One can dream...
Why not? I have a Tenkeyless (no numpad) keyboard with mechanical switches that I use every day. It takes up a lot less space, and I don't find that I need a numpad (thanks to using a laptop keyboard for many years).
I believe that it has modifier keys to allow access to function keys and the like. I think the idea is that all of the keys can be pressed without removing your hands from home row, so it's more efficient/faster than a regular keyboard once you get the hang of it. Kind of like how VIM purists will insist that you don't need to use arrow keys to navigate.
I switched to a compact version (Poker II) after developing some wrist pain from keeping the mouse so far from the typing position. The mechanical switches tend to hurt my wrists a lot less and the compact layout is ideal (with a bit of customization via KeyRemap4Macbook).
I've found that the scissor-style workings found in many "slim" or laptop keyboards mitigate nicely the general mushiness of membrane keyboards -- and as an added bonus, they have a short travel (if you like that sort of thing).
After switching to a mechanical keyboard that is backlit for night time gaming I'll never go back. This looks great, just wish they would reduct the footprint. I tried a Das and it was just enormous. My ducky keyboard even with the 10key was quiet smaller on my desk.
Why do so many keyboards still raise the back? I thought this is exactly wrong ergonomically because it forces your wrists to bend up. They should raise the front of the keyboard so it slopes downwards and leaves your wrists in a more natural position.
Bend your fingers. Now straighten them. See how your fingertips trace out a curve? That's what the sloped keyboard is for. Your wrists should never bend up. If they do, either your chair is too low, or you're trying to put your wrists on the desk and type at the same time!
I use a Kinesis Advantage LF (Cherry Red switches) at home and work and it's a complete dream. I really recommend it to anyone, especially programmers, though it is pretty expensive. Your coworkers will probably make fun of you though. Before that, I used an Apple keyboard, and it gave me continuous RSI symptoms. The ability to hardware remap all the keys is nice too. I doubt I'll ever use a non-ergonomic keyboard again.
This is a great design! I agree that this would be useful for anyone who is 1) Design conscious, and 2) enjoys typing on a mechanical keyboard (quite superior IMO). Will this ever be Available in DVORAK layout? Or, is this keyboard capable of being taken apart to change the layout (a pain, but I'm willing)?
It's a Cherry MX keyboard. As far as I know, DVORAK keyboards just change which letters go where right?
Then you can just pull the keycaps off and put them where ever you like. Aftermarket key caps are big among mechanical keyboard enthusiasts, and so almost all allow you to pull off the keys and arrange them how you want.
That said, most keyboards have slightly different slopes on the different rows, so if a key goes into the wrong row it'll feel wrong, so it may be a good idea to go for the Das Ultimate, with blank keycaps, or any other mechanical and buy a set of blank key caps, they're about 30 dollars.
I have a couple of mechanical keyboards, including a Daskeyboard. I love the feel, but after a few days, my wrists get sore and I can feel the RSI setting in. I never have any trouble with Apple keyboards, and the tiny amount of force they require. So they sit in my closet.
This is normal after a few days as your fingers aren't used to the high force required to actuate the switches. Give it a week or so and the pain should subside -- your fingers will get stronger and you'll probably never want to use membrane keyboards again.
Edit: It really depends on the switches, as well. Cherry MX greens, for example, have a much higher actuating force which some people find unpleasant even after long-term use. Browns and reds have a lower actuating force and are much nicer as a sort of "introduction" to mechanical keyboards.
Browns are a bit quieter, but still quite clacky when you bottom the keys out. You can reduce that quite a bit using o-ring dampeners under every keycap.
You might also look at a Matias Quiet Pro - they use custom switches based off old Alps designs (much more satisfying than Cherries, imo) and are a fair bit quieter out of the box: http://matias.ca/quietpro/
In a previous startup, I worked in an "open office" room with 4 other developers. Two of us used cherry MX brown key switches, and no-one seemed to mind.
Blues are a different story. Personally, I can't even stand hearing myself type with blues, let alone someone else. If someone had the balls to bring one of those into an open office I would probably need noise cancelling headphones to work in the same space.
As others have mentioned, the noise from brown mechanical switches is from the plastic bottoming out and not the switches themselves. Therefore, some keyboards are de-facto louder than others.
My Das, for instance, is definitely more audible than my backlit gaming Max keyboard. Both use the same brown key switches, but the plastic & keyboard construction is different resulting in a more muted typing experience with the latter.
I work in an open office and my coworkers asked me to take my mechanical home (brown switches). I think it all depends on how tolerant your coworkers are.
Edit: if you're careful not to bottom out, then it isn't so bad. O-rings can help dampen the sound otherwise.
Your coworkers must be really sensitive (or mine are really tolerant). I've used brown switches in a Filco Majestouch for over a year, never had any complaints. I don't bottom out the keys, but there's a noticeable clack when the keys come back up to full extension.
IOW, I don't think brown keys are unreasonable for shared work environments; they're not much louder than a standard Dell rubber-domed KB.
The blue switches in my DasKeyboard at home however... I think I'll have to upgrade just to get something a bit quieter.
Having used Das 2 Ultimate [MX brown?] on a trading floor for last 2 years, i can say that yes, it is LOUD. but not as loud as ambient noise. The people on the phone will hear you type though, even through a good Plantronics headset
The brown switches are pretty nice. You don't hear the switches, but you do hear the clatter of the plastic at that point. I am in an open office plan, and it isn't terribly louder than a normal keyboard.
Blue - different actuation points down and up. Typically better for typing. Has an audible click sound due to a plastic piece actually moving up and down to actuate the switch. Very strong tactile notification that the actuation has happened.
Brown - Same actuation point up and down. Has a tactile bump at the actuation point, but no audible click. Not as strong of a tactile sensation, since there's no moving piece to spring around on the key while traveling.
About halfway down, this page illustrates the different key types and how they work mechanically:
There's plenty of youtube vids comparing the two, I think this one  shows the difference quite well. Both blues and browns feel very similar, but the blues are much louder. Browns are already quite loud, and IMO blues are too loud - especially if you're in the same room as others. I went for browns.
If it's not a Cherry MX blue switch, the only sound is from the key hitting bottom. Since this is not required for key actuation, you don't have to push the keys all the way to the bottom, and can actually even add rubber bumpers to the keys to reduce this noise.