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Farewell to the Kinesis

I’ve decided to call it a day with my Kinesis keyboard.

This hasn’t been an easy decision. The Kinesis Advantage is a very nice piece of hardware, and I actually quite like it. Once you get used to it, it is very comfortable to type with, though you need to use Dvorak or Colemak to make the most of it. However, there is one very important thing that I have never been able to get used to on it: programming.

I’ve tried it with qwerty, and with Dvorak, and more recently in the past couple of weeks with Colemak, but these haven’t made any difference. The fact remains that there are some keys which are rarely used in normal typing that are used very frequently in writing code. Keys such as the square and curly brackets, the backslash, plus, minus and equals, and the cursor keys. These are frustratingly awkwardly placed on the Kinesis, and I have never managed to get used to them.

Yes, I know that the keyboard is reprogrammable, but you would have to reprogram something else in their places, and that something else would just be as awkward.

A while ago, someone left a comment on my blog assuring me that I would get used to it and I just needed to bear with it. Well, I’ve now had it for eighteen months and I still haven’t got used to it. There comes a point when you just have to face the fact that something isn’t going anywhere and you need to throw in the towel.

Since programming is what earns me my daily bread, I just can’t carry on regardless.

I’m going back to the Microsoft Natural line of keyboards, which are a tried and trusted solution that I’ve always found very satisfactory. I’ve ordered myself a new Microsoft Natural Ergonomic 4000 keyboard, and I am expecting delivery on Wednesday. I first saw one earlier this year on a visit to a client and I was fairly impressed with it. The key beds are curved slightly to make it more ergonomic, though the effect is much more subtle than the Kinesis. And while the £30 price tag may sound a tad extravagant given that keyboards come pretty much free with computers these days anyway, it is a lot more reasonable than the £225 you spend on a Kinesis. Besides, I don’t like flat keyboards that don’t give you the separation between the hands.

I’m not sure whether I will settle for one of the alternative layouts in the end. I found them almost essential on the Kinesis, on which qwerty is particularly cumbersome, but on more conventional keyboards the difference seems much smaller to me, and probably not worth the effort involved in switching. I never managed to match my qwerty typing speed on Dvorak, and now that I’ve switched back over the past few days I’ve realised that I can manage quite a good rate on qwerty, though I haven’t actually measured it properly. There is also the Remote Desktop Problem — when you have to use other computers, alternative layouts tend to get in the way somewhat. Besides, I’ve expended far too much time and energy on this whole kettle of fish and I am rather disinclined to experiment any further now.


  • # Reply from Rajeev at 08:30 on 14 Apr 2008

    Hi James,

    I too have ordered Ergo 4000. In the picutres, saw that the “=” key with “+” key is shifted to above numpad. Instead of “=” a “-” key is present.

    I am a programmer and “=” key is very important.
    is there a way to map it to its original location ?

  • # Reply from James at 11:35 on 14 Apr 2008

    I suspect that the answer is yes, though I haven’t actually looked into that as it’s never really bothered me. I know it’s possible to re-map the zoom key, and there are tools such as KMapper (http://colemak.com/pub/windows/Kmapper-1.0.zip) that can re-map other keys in your registry.

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