Like Scott Hanselman, I view the mouse as an optional computer accessory*. Manly coders love the smell of compilation in the morning and we know that speed = keyboard. A mouse? C'mon. That's so teenage girls can pick emoticons in AOL Instant Messenger. And for flash "developers". Us tough guy software developers know that if it doesn't have a keyboard shortcut, it's not worth doing.

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

I use the Belkin Ergo (yes it’s ugleeee), I like the key bounce better than the Microsoft. But I admit, I only used the weird MS Ergo and not the aforementioned Pro. I need a new board for a machine at home, gonna have to pick one up on ebay I guess… I hate the mouse (well, maybe hate is too strong) and all keyboard all the time is the way to go. I used my mouse on the wrong side like was mentioned above. It has forced me to do things with the KB and my right hand don’t hurt so much…

The old Microsoft Natural keyboards are the best. I have started collecting them when I see them laying around. Maybe I can sell them on eBay for thousands of dollars one day.

The only other keyboard I would mention is one I got for around $20 online from a company named A4Tech. This is the second keyboard I have bought from them, and I just like the feel of the keys – real soft. The Ins/Del group is all screwed up though, which is the only downside. Oh yea, it’s wireless as well. If you are wondering, I only use it for my HTPC in the living room. No development.

Anyway, stick with the old MS keyboards for as long as you can.

  • Joshua

The only keyboard I’ve tried that I consider truly ergonomic in key layout is the Kinesis Contoured keyboards. The rest are crap, ergonomically-speaking. A mere pretense at ergonomics.

I mean, c’mon, the columns of keys all slant from upper-right to lower-left on both sides of the keyboard. Shouldn’t the slant on one side be a mirror image of the slant on the other? Shouldn’t there be no slant at all, considering the fact that my fingers don’t slant to the left on both hands?

The Kinesis board has the keys in straight columns, and in ‘keywells’ that reflect the fact that my fingers make arcs when they bend and some fingers are shorter than others. This think is a dream to type on.

Unfortunately, while they’re really comfortable for regular typing, they’ve rearranged the home/end/insert/delete/page up/page down/enter/backspace to be clusters under the thumb.

Additionally, cursor controls have been split apart, the escape key’s been radically rearranged, the numeric keypad is gone entirely, and the function keys are little rubber buttons with a horrible feel to them.

I long for Kinesis to create a keyboard that’s a mixture between the extreme Contoured keyboard’s placement of the letter/number keys and the normal key positions for everything else.

I’d like five minutes alone with the rocket scientist at Microsoft who decided to put the “6” key on the wrong side of the split on the Natural keyboard… I’ll even bring my own folding chair. Maybe it’s because I was a clerk-typist before I was a programmer, but I touch type, damnit, and “6” is and always shall be the right forefinger!

It is, to me, the canonical example of Microsoft unnecessarily redefining a standard.

I hear you brother, preach on…

I am using the logitech “so-called” Elite, and the F-keys are mapped to “useful” functions by default (with no easy way to turn them off). The most frustrating bits are that F9 opens the My Computer Explorer and that (and this really winds me up) F5 maps to Undo. Just take a moment to think about that…write code, hit F5 to Debug…code won’t compile cause the last word has been deleted…aaargh!

MS Natural Keyboard Pro, of course!

If these weren’t so expensive, I’d try one out:

Plus they have a totally blank one so you can show how cool you are :).

I’m a keyboard fanatic myself. I bought one from these guys, and I am very happy with it.
It’s a good, solid, buckling-spring keyboards, where you actually feel the keys being pressed and hear that satisfying clickety-click sound echo through the whole room…
It has the traditional layout, and no extended functions or wheels.

At work, I surreptitiously switched keyboards late one evening and took a Dell AT102W keyboard from a workstation that nobody was using at the time, to replace whatever over-designed spongy quiet keyboard was attached to mine. It’s not as good as what I have at home, but it’s far better than most new ones that I’ve tried.

Way back in '85 I got an IBM 101- keyboard. The Russian Iron type someone called it. I’ve gone through at least 10 pc’s, but have kept the same keyboard. Their is something about the feel and response that the other keyboards don’t even come close. It’s not ergo or split, just the standard layout and after all these years works like when I first got it. Why adjust to something else?

I use the MS Natural Keyboard Pro too. Tried some other ones, but keep coming back.

“What keyboard areas are “sacred” to you, as a developer?”

The Ins-Del-Home-End-PgUp-PgDown cluster. I need it on a 3x2 array, and it has to be absolutely alone, not side by side with anything or surrounded by any other keys. I had a keyboard at work who had a 3x3 array, being the Suspension, Power Down and another one the three extra buttons. The result: I ended up hitting Power down everytime I wanted to del anything! Solution: a little screwdriver and the surgical removal of the offender keys.

I also think the BackSpace key is quite crucial: I need it BIG. And allow me a little heresy: I’ve always thought a design error to have Ctrl + C + X + V for the copy, cut and paste operations. There are times, when being in a hurry, that I want to copy something and I cut it, or the other way around…

“How important are the extra multimedia functions such as sleep, calculator, scrollwheel, volume control, etc? Do you use this stuff frequently? Rarely? Never?”

I don’t mind those things. As long as they don’t interfere with the “normal” 102 keys, I’m fine. I recently bought a Genius keyboard with an integrated calcutator and it’s quite useful, though.

“Does it really matter if your keyboard is wireless?”

I don’t trust wireless devices.

“Does an ergonomic layout help?”

I don’t like them. I can’t get used to the split keyboard. What I do like and recommend is the extended wrist suppport at the base of the keyboard.

“What keyboard(s) do you recommend, and why?”

At home I use a fancy a href=",CRID=2166,CONTENTID=5011"Logitech/a, quite good. At work, since we have Dell computers, I have the simple black Dell keyboard; which I like a lot: simple, everything in place and of the appropiate size.

$300?! With those tiny arrow keys specific to a single model, and no PgUp/PgDn cluster?

Aaargh!! They’ve discontinued the MS Natural Keyboard Pro?? Tell me it’s not true.

Yes - my requirements are exactly what you described. Ergo-shape, PageUp/PageDown at the right hand end of a rectangular block. Inverted-T arrow keys. How hard is that to get? Are they morons? How could they discontinue a keyboard that has all that?

All I want is a regular (NOT MANGLED!) keyboard, split into two SEPERATE pieces (either connected by a wire, or each being a seperate USB device). No funny wrist-rests, no wierd angles, just a normal keyboard, split into two parts. That way, I can get both my hands straight and actually be comfortable typing. Why can’t I buy this? Why?


Tog, 1989:

We’ve done a cool $50 million of R D on the
Apple Human Interface. We discovered, among
other things, two pertinent facts:

o Test subjects consistently report that keyboarding is faster than mousing.
o The stopwatch consistently proves mousing is faster than keyboarding.

For my part, I remove these keycaps from my keyboards and thus avoid all kinds of inadvertent errors:
Caps Lock
Scroll Lock
Windows (2)
Num Lock

Use it or lose it, I say.

Hi Jeff,
you mentioned that we as developers use PgUp, PgDn, Home, End, Ins, Del key a lot. That’s the reason I have the mouse on the left side. Yes, that’s right…left side though I am right-handed. The advantage of having your mouse on the left side is that you don’t have to leave it just press the buttons mentioned above. Once have got used to it, it’s soo much better. You’ve got to try it and you’ll never come back having it on the right side. If you do do this than you should know that you can copy with ctrl+insert, paste with shift+insert. Haven’t found a shortcut to cut on the right side of the keyboard. So there is basically no disadvantage.

I haven’t had a good experience with my wireless mouse, because the battery died to quickly on my mouse. I don’t care about layout and special keys on my keyboard.

MS Natural Keyboard Elite for me.
I have like 3 of them laying around the house.
I bring one to client sites if I’m going to be there a while. Typing on a normal layout keyboard seems so crampt. My mistake level goes way up.

I’m still using whatever non-ergo rectangular keyboard I’m given. I’m fine with that but I need to switch to an ergo.

Not too long ago I worked with a bunch of super-seasoned C++ hackers who used Kinesis Ergo keyboards. They have programmable footswitches so you don’t have to reach for the mouse. Kinda surprised they haven’t been mentioned on this page yet.

Yeah, these are the ones with the foot switch:

$300, though? ouch. I’d like to try before I buy on something so radically different