My new ergonomic keyboard

Since one and a half week I am the proud owner of a Advantage Pro keyboard. My original intention to buy it was that, as a programmer, the keyboard is the peripheral I use the most, over 8 hours per day. At the end of some days my fingers hurt a bit - a sign of your body you should listen to. And since I plan to use my fingers for programming some more decades, it would be careless to not care about their health.

So, despite the fact that we are about to build a house and thus needing all the money we can get, I finally ordered the keyboard. 320 US$ is a pretty big bunch of money, but since I already had to renew my Logitech Cordless Optical Trackman (2 new of them for 120 Euros), it was an investment into my health I should be ok to cope with. I got an email from Kinesis telling me that shipping by UPS would cost me additional 118$, but they would reduce it for me to 50$... After saying ok to that, they finally shipped it and it reached my anxiously self three days later. The UPS guy gave me the packet only after paying him more additional 63 Euro that the German custom wanted to have for letting the keyboard in... It came to be a very expensive health care packet.

After unpacking it stood there on my desk in full glory, me gazing at it full of happiness. The first slight disappointment came when I tried it out for the first quarter hour; my typing and work success rate went down to 0%. You really need to get used to it, and do the training they list in the handbook. I put it aside and worked on with my normal keyboard.

The following weekend was the one I gave the exercises on the keyboard a try; they really helped to get used to the board. One of the problems I had to deal with was that I did never really bothered to learn 10 finger typing; I got along with the 4 and sometimes some more you normally use for fast typing. Now I had to learn it, since one of the reasons I bought the keyboard was not having to move the hands so much anymore. So it was learning the new keyboard layout and 10 finger typing together...

The second problem was that here in Germany we have a German keyboard layout, while the Kinesis keyboard has an english one. My first thought was switching the layout when using the board, but that did not work very well when Jana was supposed to use the normal other keyboard for typing - typing passwords with special chars on the login prompt is kinda hard when the keys are not what is written on them. The solution was to use the key macros the keyboard supports: You can make any key or key combination output any string you want. With that and some spare hour to do it, I now have an english keyboard fully giving me the correct keys on a german layout computer.

After a week of typing with the board, I am at the same speed I was before with a normal keyboard - and I expect my typing rate to go up some more. Having 6 keys at each of my thumbs does really speed things, as well as the arrow keys below the normal letter ones. I exchanged tab and caps lock so I don't need to move my left little finger so much an will probably move plus and minus down a row for the same reason. With an ideal formed keyboard like this, I also became aware of the fact that the qwerty designers did a really good job at making it really hard to type fast on this layout. I guess I need to invest another week for learning dvorak.. Luckily my keyboard has a switch for that and the dvorak letters printed on the keys.

Written by Christian Weiske.

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