What is most important to you as a programmer with a keyboard?

For me, ergonomics is most important to a keyboard.

The keyboard is one of the most important hardware tools of a programmer.For decades, you enter your program code, write documentation, emails, chat, enter command line commands, etc. However, these small movements, repeated over a long period of time, can lead to health problems (see RSI).Unfortunately, I am also affected by this and have gained more and more ergonomic keyboards over time. From the Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000 to the Truly Ergonomic Mechanical Keyboard (TEK) to the ErgoDox EZ.

It is important that the wrists do not bend upwards.The MS Keyboard has, for example, front fold-out feet instead of the usual rear. As a result, the keyboard drops backwards and the wrists do not buckle.

A lateral buckling of the wrists should also beavoided.For this purpose, the keyboard areas for the respective hand are separated from each other. The ErgoDox goes so far that you really have two completely independent keyboard parts for each hand. If you have slightly wider shoulders, then the TEK in particular forces you to hold your arms together unnaturally at the front.

In addition, the keys are arranged in columns (TEK and ErgoDox) instead of rows.Ideally, this means that you only move your fingers forwards and backwards. It’s hard to tell if it really helps, because when you change the keyboard, you usually don’t just change that one trait. But I think there’s something to be said for it. However, it takes a few days to hit all the keys again, as the previously used key positions are slightly changed.

In my opinion, the increased use of the thumbs when typing by so-called thumb keys (TEK and especially ErgoDox) has an effect that should not be underestimated.In the normal keyboard layout, the thumbs are usually used only for the space bar, although the thumbs are the strongest fingers. However, the weakest little fingers are used very intensively, e.g. for the return button or backspace. The idea is to involve the stronger thumbs more when typing and to relieve the weaker little fingers a little bit. With the ErgoDox, you have two easy-to-reach buttons for each thumb (the inner long buttons of the thumb block) and four additional slightly harder-to-reach buttons for each thumb. In addition, there is an additional inner key column for the index fingers on each side. My two right long thumb keys are e.g. Space and Return and left Esc and AlgGr (Esc due to Vi input scheme and AltGr for easy reaching of the curly and square brackets).

In addition, it is important to me that I can set the keyboard layout myself (TEK and especially ErgoDox).There is also a web interface with which you can create the desired layout. You then download the firmware and push it onto the keyboard using a small program. The ErgoDox goes the furthest. Multiple layers are supported as well as combination keys (e.g. short-pressed one letter, long held Ctrl). After initial scepticism, I particularly loved the combination keys, as it allows you to solve space problems elegantly.

The ErgoDox I’m using is very extreme.There is no number pad and no function key series. I almost never used the number pad anyway. And with the function keys, I was always bothered that I could never use them blindly, because they are so high up that I had to get my whole hand to do it. But I didn’t want to have to look any more. Therefore, I have now placed the function keys on the second layer on the number keys of the first layer. However, in addition to the function key, you must either hold down the layer shift key or switch permanently to the second layer beforehand. Admittedly, this is a certain loss of comfort, but overall there are more advantages than disadvantages.

When executing the individual buttons, I am convinced of mechanical keys.They do not eat out so quickly and are permanently reliable despite high demands. I use Cherry Silent Red Switch. They feel a bit like non-mechanical buttons, without click and palpable pressure point. And they are extremely quiet, which is an advantage in the office with several colleagues. (With the current ErgoDox EZ version, you can easily replace the switches without soldering if you are dissatisfied with the selection. Works very well.) You just have to try it. For me it was Cherry Brown (click and with pressure point), Kailh Silver (not so loud, without click but rattle) and Cherry Silent Red (quiet, without click and a little more difficult than the Kailh Silver).

By the way, the space between the keyboard halves is excellent for a trackball.

Looks unusual, but to reach inward instead of further to the right is more pleasant for me.

I would like to say a few words about TEK.I had the previous model and despite mechanical buttons constantly having problems with double stops or unresponsive buttons. Others had similar problems, which could not be managed by cleaning the keys with alcohol. This has rather diminished the otherwise quite good impression of this keyboard. However, I cannot say what this is like with the current model. The TEK has only really made me realize the usefulness of the thumb keys. However, the ErgoDox offers much more with the larger thumb button blocks and also the complete division.

Of course, the whole thing only makes sense if you can also write blindly in the ten-finger system.Admittedly, I am slightly obsessive and try to get the best out of me, such as by adjusting the keyboard layout, using Vim or Vim. the Vi input scheme in other editors, the command line (set -o vi) or in the browser (Surfingkeys Plugin).

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