Alternative Keyboarding

The standard computer keyboard is the quintessential human input device. Although it's amazingly adaptable, a recent Tom's Hardware review of the Ergodex DX1 underscores the limitations of the keyboard as an input device-- and also highlights some of the crazier keyboard alternatives out there:

This is a companion discussion topic for the original blog entry at:

Should we be at all concerned with an input device that has a button reserved for “Bug Report”? Maybe spend some more time on the software before moving to a peripheral.

It’s common for apps in beta testing to have menu items for bug reporting. So I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and assume this app was still under development :wink:

I’m kind of fond of this one myself:

I’m still planning on ordering one eventually.

A keyboard I used for quite a while is the Kinesis Contoured keyboard (a href="" Unfortunately, I used it to the point of failure, having purchased it almost ten years ago.

Now I’m still trying to save up for a replacement, since prices haven’t gone down at all on those keyboards. Meanwhile, I torture my carpal tendons daily on a standard keyboard.

Something that the Kinesis keyboard addresses that normal–even so-called ‘ergonomic’ split keyboards–don’t address at all is this:

Fingers do not naturally grow with a slant to the left on both hands.

The slanting key columns on keyboards were implemented so it would be easy for the mechanical levers that the keys were once mounted on to fit around each other. And this on a device whose key order was chosen specifically to slow down typists to prevent jamming.

Place your fingers on the home-row keys. Now try to type the letter C with the correct (middle) finger without taking your other fingers off the home-row keys. Why is it such a stretch to do so? Why is this the preferred layout we’re trying to preserve?

Well, It’s been a really long time since any keyboard I’ve used has had levers under it. And my fingers still haven’t grown to slant to the left.

Keyboard manufacturers should have used the years since manual typewriters went out of style to slowly straighten the key columns and get us more and more adjusted to the idea of a straight lineup. Doing so overnight isn’t going to work, obviously.

Splitting a keyboard in the middle and angling the key groups doesn’t quite work. Each keygroup still keeps the leftward slant, even if it’s easier on the left hand with the tilt. But it just emphasises the leftward slant for the right hand. Not to mention the fact that several popular ‘ergonomic’ keyboard manufacturers erroneously put the number 6 on the left side of the keyboard. Despite the fact that it is indeed easier to reach on a slanted keyboard with the left hand, touch typists are trained to reach it with the right hand. You move it to the other side of an inch-wide plastic no-hand’s-land and touch typists are going to spend some time regularly jamming index fingers into unyielding plastic until they retrain.

Retrain? Didn’t we split up the slanted keyboard to improve it without the need for retraining? If we’re going to retrain, why not get rid of the slant and solve the 6 key problem by making it easier to reach with the correct hand?

do you think that the ability to heavily control the layout of the buttons makes a big difference

I think so, yes. A “grid of buttons” doesn’t offer the same usability as a button panel with a specific layout to reflect the task.

The abKey is interesting but looks like it was just made available in April. I can’t find any reviews, only previews:,39041749,39197375,00.htm

As for the kinesis, it is a bit expensive at $300, but if it lasts for 10 years, that’s a reasonable investment. The USB model should keep you going indefinitely…


I’ll second your recommendation of the Kinesis contoured keyboard. There are a lot more comments about them here

Kinesis stoled their design from Maltron. Maltron is the original ergonomic keyboard, and I swear by it.

Found a P5 Glove development area setup

Interesting take on the DX panel:

Normally, applications for beta testing in the menu items in error reporting. So I give him the benefit of doubt that this app still in the design phase;)

Dvorak is tricky yeah. Colemak is much better!

Thanks for responding Jeff. That’s a good point about usability.

Jeff, I’m a big fan of having extra keys for common functions. But regarding the DX-1, do you think that the ability to heavily control the layout of the buttons makes a big difference; as compared to a more traditional fixed layout, lotsa-buttons peripheral

Thanks for responding Jeff. That’s a good point about usability.

This is the second time I’ve asked about input devices (I asked in the logitech mx518 thread how useful the resolution buttons were). I have an input device, well, fetish myself and while you can find some reviews of these devices, it’s hard to find real comparative discussions; particularly with a software developer focus.