Why you Should Get a Mechanical Keyboard for Your Laptop

separate mechanical keyboard for your laptop and macbook

I really have a hard time typing fast and pain-free on the keyboard of my laptop, and this is where a mechanical keyboard comes to mind. Although it means bringing an extra mechanical keyboard, it’s 100% worth it. I did some research and experimented by bringing a mechanical keyboard to work with me to use to see. Is bringing a separate mechanical keyboard for my laptop worth it? Should you get one?

Bringing a separate mechanical keyboard to use with your laptop is worth it because it will enhance your typing or gaming experience. The keyboard that comes with most laptops do not have extra features such as N-key roller, mechanical switches, and make you type awkwardly because of the positioning.

Mechanical keyboards can be positioned wherever you want, the switches will be personalized for you, and you can decide to add other things such as dedicated media keys, productivity macros, and a dedicated number pad if you do a lot of number entry. A key benefit is being able to position your keyboard and mouse further away from the laptop screen to decrease neck strain and awkward wrist and finger positioning.

We’ll be going more in-depth about what N-key roller over and different positioning tips to improve the ergonomics involved with using a laptop computer. Many people that type a lot or use their laptop for gaming opt to bring a separate compact mechanical keyboard for many reasons.

The Benefits Over a Mechanical Keyboard Over Laptop Keyboards

Imagine this. You are planning on going to the local coffee shop to write a blog post or type up some paperwork for work. You take your laptop out of its sleeve, place it on the table, and you realize that looking at the monitor requires you to crane your neck down.

The next step may be to place your laptop on top of a textbook you have lying in your backpack. That helps a little bit.  But now you must reach your hands up higher to type. It’s a little awkward, but you think, “This isn’t so bad, it’s just for a little bit.” Or you go back to craning your neck, it’s one or the other.

Mechanical Keyboards Improve Your Screen Positioning When Using a Laptop

Having a separate keyboard is going to let you place the laptop further away and on the stack of books so you’re looking straight ahead instead of down.

It also lets you type in an ergonomic position with your elbows at 90 degrees and wrists are not in extension (or tilted up.)

uncomfortable wrist position when using laptop

Mechanical Keyboards Lessen Your Risk of Repetitive Strain Injuries

Many laptops also have short, flat keys that have awkward spacing, so you may have to spread and stretch your fingers out more to type on them. With a mechanical keyboard, the switches are at the same distance and since you happen to use one at home, you’re already used to the layout. Alongside that, you also know exactly the distance you need to press to register each key press.

Usually on a laptop, the switches make you bottom out so that you know the key has registered. Bottoming out keys increase the pressure on your fingers and joints each type you do it. With a mechanical key, especially tactile ones, you know the point to stop pressing and never press the key harder than it needs to be pressed.

Mechanical Keyboards Decrease Your Risk of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, also called CTS, is when the nerves within your carpal tunnel (the area right below the palm and wrist) get compressed or irritated. There is a nerve that runs inside there called the median nerve. It is responsible for the sensations of your thumb, index and middle finger.

When this nerve is pinched, you may feel tingling or burning in the fingers affected. If the nerve is compressed for too long, the muscles may begin atrophying (or getting smaller), resulting in a weak hand and decreased sensation in the most important fingers.

People who do a lot of work with their wrist extended or on a keyboard that is not positioned properly, the risk of CTS is increased.

Okay okay, my occupational therapist side is coming out. But enough about the science, we know that having a mechanical keyboard can improve your wrist positioning, enabling you to type with a neutral wrist position. Also, it’s possible to get ergonomic keyboards.

We wrote an in-depth guide to ergonomics, desk positioning, and the top ergonomic keyboards in another article if you’re interested in that.

Mechanical Keyboards Improve Your Productivity When Working with a Laptop

Many people who switch to using a mechanical keyboard say, “Once you go mechanical, you won’t go back to your laptop keyboard.” I’ve had enough of using a laptop at work with the short, small keys with a ton of space in between each key. I mean, why?

Due to the key layout, I have to stretch my fingers out and not every key registers when I press it. The backspace is often overused because of the mistakes.

My typing speed on a mechanical keyboard average around 110wpm. However, when typing at work, it goes down to about 80wpm (even if I know what I’m typing about).

The reason here is, with research and self-experimentation:

  • The space between each key is too wide and maybe increase the amount of typing mistakes
  • The keys do not have N-key rollover (This means that you can press more than 1 button at a time, and it will also register) – Sometimes it won’t capitalize when I tell it to
  • The touchpad in front of the keyboard OFTEN interferes with the typing experience and may be touched accidentally, moving my position on the screen somewhere else

Also, if you’re already bringing an external mouse for your laptop, might as well improve the positioning even more and have an external keyboard as well.

Mechanical Keyboards Are Still Super Portable and Convenient

Just because you’re bringing around a separate device doesn’t mean it still isn’t portable. There are so many different mechanical keyboards that you can pick from.

There are different sizes (that we explained in another in-depth article as well) such as 40%, 60%, 65%, TKL, a separate number pad, full-sized, and more). They can go small. You can ditch the number pad, ditch the function row, ditch the arrow keys if you don’t need that.

There are also wireless mechanical keyboards too that connect via Bluetooth or a USB receiver. If you’re interested in some of our recommendations, we wrote a guide to those too.

If you still enjoy the short keypresses, there are mechanical keyboard versions of that called low profile keyboards. We also looked at the best low-profile keyboards if you’re interested in those.  

We have looked at many different 40% keyboards, 60% keyboards, 65% keyboards, and even the best mechanical keyboards for typing.

The options are almost endless, and you can bet you’ll be able to find the perfect mechanical keyboard to pair with your laptop.

using separate keyboard black for black macbook

Increasing Laptop Resale Value

Using a separate keyboard can improve the resale value of the laptop because you’re not messing around with the keys. If, when typing on a laptop, you happen to be eating chips or drinking soda and oops, something bad happened. The laptop is basically done for.

Laptops are difficult to open and the electronics inside it can get damaged easily with water spills. Mechanical keyboards are different.

Mechanical keyboards are much easier to clean. You can choose between different plastics, colors, and designs. It’ll increase the overall hygiene of the user too.

There are also waterproof or water-resistant mechanical keyboards. We also covered this subject in a more in-depth article if you are interested in learning about IP rating and different water-resistant keyboards.

Laptop keys are made of cheap plastic and can accumulate grime and nastiness easily. By choosing not to use the laptop keyboard, you are keeping it more pristine and thus, keeping its resale value higher. No more shiny finger oil stains, no dust, no hair, none of that stuff that could turn away a buyer from a good product.

Summary and More

For some of our most-recommended keyboards that we’ve done thorough reviews on that may be good to pair with your laptop, check out:

If you have any additional questions, please post a comment down below. We love doing research for you guys and providing quality content. If there’s anything we can improve, shoot use an email at theswitchandclick@gmail.com

As always, happy typing!

Seattle Mechanical Keyboard Meetup, January 2020

Today, we went to our first ever mechanical keyboard meetup!

The Event

The event was hosted in Seattle, Washington at Living Computers: Museum and Labs, in the downtown Seattle area. The entry fee was $22/each, but if you brought your own custom keyboard, entry was free.

We we’re very excited to meet some fellow hobbyists and deepen our understanding of mechanical keyboards.

Upon entering the museum, we were absolutely overwhelmed by the amount of people that had shown up! There were at least 200 people, all showing off their custom keyboards and chatting about the intricacies of mechanical keyboards.

The main attraction of the event was a meet and greet with Twitch streamer Nathan Kim, also known as Taeha Types. Nathan has a popular stream where he builds custom keyboards and assembles them, live, on camera. He is well known amongst the mechanical keyboard community.

Taeha was seated on stage discussing mechanical keyboards and streaming. Afterwards, he was constantly meeting with people over the course of the event and talking about everything related to mechanical keyboards.

Twitch streamer Taeha Types

In the backroom, there were tables lined with hundreds of custom mechanical keyboards, all with unique layouts, cases, switches, and keycaps.

People were discussing all their unique builds and the work and customization put into them.

It’s hard to go to this event and not start a random conversation with someone about mechanical keyboards, no matter how new or experienced you are with the hobby. Everyone was incredibly nice and excited to talk about their keyboard(s).

If you would like to view all the photos we took during the event, check them out here.

There were also workshops going on that were teaching people how to solder. These workshops filled up fast and had sold out, so unfortunately, we didn’t get the opportunity to join the class. Next time we’ll make sure to sign up for the soldering workshop ahead of time.

At 4pm they had a free raffle for a Das Keyboard, which brought some excitement to the event. We had to leave before the raffle commenced, so we didn’t get to see who won.

Qlavier’s Keyblade

Our Experience

Although we still consider ourselves beginner mechanical keyboard enthusiasts, we have been starting to feel like we have a better understanding of the mechanical keyboard world, and how deep the rabbit-hole goes with this hobby.

Attending this meet-up truly made us understand how much more there is to learn about keyboards, and how into it people can get. We saw interesting combinations of switches, cases built from scratch, hand-wired keyboards, and some ultra-custom keycaps. Giving every keyboard its own personality and aesthetic.

At the event, we were hoping to get some ideas for our own custom keyboard builds. We talked with several people, and they gave us all sorts of advice about building our own keyboard. They shared their own mistakes and tips for building the best keyboard possible.

Overall, the event was surprisingly popular, and the people there were friendly and passionate. The rest of the museum was also free to view, and they had lots of older technology on display. It was interesting to see the evolution of computing and gaming.

Classic computers and calculators on display

Mechanical Keyboards Pro Fortnite Players Use

keyboards fortnite pros use on switch and click blog

Question and Answer

I really enjoy playing and watching other people play Fortnite. Recently, I’ve decided that I really want to get good. I’ve noticed that all the pro players out there on YouTube and Twitch use special equipment that can give them a more competitive edge. Are there specific mechanical keyboards that will help me improve my game?

Great question. Most pro gamers use mechanical keyboards to play on that will give them quick response time and fast keypresses. In this article, we’ll look at the mechanical keyboards that Fortnite pros play on, such as summit1g, ninja, Tfue, Cloakzy, Myth, and Symfuhny. The five keyboards that they use are the Corsair K70 RGB Rapidfire, Logitech G Pro, Ducky One 2 Mini, Anne Pro 2, and the Vortex Pok3r. Their keyboard preferences are very different, but one thing in common is that they are all mechanical keyboards. Let’s get into it, shall we?

5 Mechanical Keyboards the Pros Play On

Twitch on a cell phone
Twitch is one of the most popular streaming websites to watch gamers play.

Corsair K70 RGB Rapidfire Mechanical Gaming Keyboard – Cherry MX Speed Switches – Summit1g and Ninja

First, let’s start with a popular keyboard made by Corsair, the K70 Rapidfire. It is a standard 104 key, full-sized, mechanical keyboard. This keyboard is used by summit1g and ninja. This keyboard has a 4.5-star review on Amazon with over 1,180 reviews in total.

Summit1g used to be a pro on CS:GO (Counter Strike: Global Offensive) and has transitioned to PUBG and Fortnite, more recently. He streams on Twitch as well as has a YouTube channel.

Ninja is one of Fortnite’s most popular players. His name is Tyler Blevins, and he started competitive esports with Halo 3. He began playing Fortnite in March 2018. He used to stream on YouTube with over 14 million followers, but he has recently transitioned to Mixer, another streaming website.

It is currently being sold at $169.99 on Amazon. It comes with three different versions: The low profile with shorter keys, a special edition with all white keycaps and a light silver brushed aluminum plate, and the original, the Corsair Recommends version.

If you don’t want the RGB version, Corsair offers a red backlight-only keyboard that is $89.99 right now.

Here is their product page on Corsair’s website.

corsair k70 rapidfire keybpard
Photo by: /u/Synt0xx/ on Reddit

It comes with a detachable soft wrist pad and media keys and volume wheels on the top right corner, letting you adjust your audio without having to change screens or interrupt your game.

The keyboard also features an aluminum-finished backplate, a braided USB cable, flip-out feet for angle customization. One issue with this is that dust gets easily caught onto the keyboard.

It also comes with programmable macros and lighting effects via their firmware, the Corsair Utility Engine, also known as iCUE. There are different modes of brightness and pre-programmed effects. The lights shine through the keycaps rather than through the plate itself as well like other keyboards.

It conveniently has a USB pass-through port in the back of the keyboard if you need to connect things quickly to your PC such as a mouse or headset.

The Cherry MX Speed switches is what makes this special for gaming. Unlike most other Cherry MX switches, the speed switches actuate at 1.2mm instead of 2mm, which is 40% faster and less distance. Their actuation force is 45g, like the other ones such as Red and Brown switches.

The keyboard has full N-key rollover and 100% anti-ghosting. No matter how fast you move and press keys, this keyboard can keep up. It will be able to register each keypress correctly and consistently.

The keycaps have a special enlarged font-size for a gaming aesthetic. It lets the light shine-through for a dynamic lighting experience. The most used keys, WASD, QE, and space bar, are specifically textured and contoured to provide a better grip and feel on the gaming keys.

The keyboard has black keys with the WASD keys being a silver color. The K70 is compatible with computers with two USB 2.0 ports and Windows computers.

A special touch is the Corsair-branded escape key for more fashion. It shows that Corsair cares about their products.

This keyboard is very popular within the gaming community, and most people have no problems with their Corsair K70 Rapidfire.

Logitech G Pro Gaming Keyboard – Myth

Next up is the Logitech G Pro Gaming Keyboard. Logitech has created a whole lineup of gaming peripherals from headsets, mice, and keyboards to keyboard switches.

This keyboard is used by TSM Myth, one of the earlier adopters of Fornite. He has a YouTube channel and a Twitch stream. He began streaming on Twitch in 2016 and joined Team SoloMid in 2018 as the captain.

Anyways, the Logitech G Pro Gaming Keyboard is currently priced on sale at $79.99 on Amazon. It has a 4.5-star rating with 580 reviews. The original price for the Pro Keyboard is $129.99, and they also have a Pro X keyboard at $149.99. We’ll talk about both in detail and the differences.

A special product of theirs is their switches. They sell their Pro X switches separately at $49.99 for a pack. That’s a story for later as well.

The Logitech G Pro

Out of the box, this keyboard comes with GX Blue switches, which are as clicky as it gets. The keyboard features a tenkeyless (TKL) design, which is compact and convenient for reaching for your mouse.

Alongside that, it also looks much cleaner on a desk and allows for more ergonomic usage while gaming.

It has RGB lighting that is programmable to your setup’s specifications, but it also has preset lighting effects for quick use.

logitech g pro gaming keyboard
Photo by: /u/9393andersson/ on Reddit

It has a detachable braided Micro USB cable for quick and easy connection or disconnection for travel. As special feature is that it has prongs on each side to secure the connection, so it doesn’t accidentally fall off.

Unlike other keyboards, the rubber feet offer three different angles (flat, four degrees, and eight degrees) of customization to enhance your comfort while gaming. It also features a fully programmable row of F keys to put in your custom macros via their firmware, the Logitech G HUB.

It is a sturdy keyboard with no flex. The top right hand has an LED light button to easily turn on and off your lights.

The actuation distance for these switches is 2.0mm with 50g of force to activate. Slightly more length than the previous keyboard, the Corsair K70 Rapidfire.

The LED lights are directly in the middle of the switches, enhancing the light through the keycaps.

The only downside is that the bottom row is a non-standard bottom row. It will not fit some custom keycap sets, so make sure you check for compatibility prior to buying.

Differences Between Pro and Pro X Keyboard

The Logitech G Pro X Keyboard is slightly more expensive and for good reason. Pretty much everything is the same.

One of the differences is that you can pick the type of switches you can get out of three different sets: GX Blue (clicky), GX Brown (tactile), or GX Reds (linear).

The GX Browns have an actuation distance of 2.0mm with an actuation force of 50g. It is not as loud as the GX Blues.

The GX Reds have an actuation distance of 1.9mm (slightly less) with an actuation force of 50g.

Another big benefit is that the PCB is hot-swappable! That means you can mix and match these GX switches however you want. Inside the box is a keycap puller and a switch puller as well.

The switches are mechanical switches with a clear top housing. The stabilizers have a decent amount of rattle, which isn’t a good thing.

A super cool thing is that you can use any switches you want to with this keyboard, considering they’re MX-style.

A downside is the price. It sells at $150. The keyboard still has a Micro-USB, which is a little outdated for 2019. For this price, there are many other keyboards out there that have a USB-C cable, hot-swappable switches, and with a more aesthetic look as well.

Logitech Pro X Switches

These switches are only available on the Logitech website. They come in boxes of 92 switches, so you get a few extra in case you need some replacements.

They are currently selling for $50 for a box of 92 switches.

For an in-depth guide on every single one of Logitech’s switches, they have a great page talking about it with sound bites, a force chart, actuation numbers, distance, and more.

Very cool, Logitech.

Ducky One 2 Mini – Tfue Ultraviolet keycaps

Next is Tfue. Tfue uses the Ducky One 2 Mini with a set of Ultraviolet keycaps.  

Tfue is a professional Fortnite player and a streamer. He started with Call of Duty and Destiny and switched to playing battle royale games such as H1Z1 and PUBG before starting Fortnite. He currently has over 11 million subscribers on YouTube.

This keyboard currently has a 5-star rating on Amazon with 53 total reviews. It is selling for $139.99. The keycap set Tfue uses comes around $50. It currently comes in Cherry MX blue switches or Cherry MX red switches.

This keyboard is a 60% keyboard, which means it’s missing the arrow keys and a number pad. It’s a thin keyboard with a two-tone exterior. The bottom is white with a black top.

With the keyboard, you also get a random-colored custom keycap set with a custom spacebar as well.

ducky one 2 mini
Photo by: /u/Arayous/ on Reddit

It has a USB-C connection on the top left side. This is a standard keyboard, so you can customize all the keycaps to your liking. On the backside of the keyboard is the Ducky branding.

The keycaps that come with this keyboard are double-shot PBT keycaps, which are high quality. The RGB shines through nicely. The FN keys are printed on the front of each keycap, so you know what you’re doing when you press the FN button with other buttons.

This is my favorite part of this keyboard since it’s hard to remember which keys do what on its 2nd layer. The laser-engraving in white is super easy to see. From the top view you cannot see these legends at all. Only when you’re standing in front of it.

The bottom of the board has four rubber feet, and it has two different sets of feet. You get two different elevation settings.

Another thing you might’ve never seen before is a DIP switch, which lets you change the FN keys, Windows keys, things like that. There’s a lot more information about what the DIP switch does in the manual that comes with it.  

The space bar has little to no rattle, which is awesome! They’re made by Ducky themselves.

The keyboard has on-board RGB lighting effect controls and macro controls as well. No software needed, but it can be troublesome since you must keep referring to the manual.

Many people have complained about the USB-C cord fitting into the hole. Hopefully, Ducky has fixed this problem by now.

Anne PRO 2 60% Mechanical Gaming Keyboard – Cloakzy

Moving on. Cloakzy uses the Anne Pro 2 Mechanical Gaming Keyboard. Like the Ducky One 2 Mini, the Anne Pro 2 is also a 60% keyboard and has 61 keys.

Cloakzy is a 25-year old professional gamer and Twitch streamer. His real name is Dennis Lepore. He currently plays Fortnite, but used to play PUBG, H1Z1, and others. He is captain of the Faze clan and regularly participates in gaming tournaments.

The Anne Pro 2 has many of the same features of the Ducky One 2 Mini, except it comes at a cheaper price of $89.00 currently and has wireless capabilities. Alongside that, you can also pick Gateron switches or Kailh box switches, which some may consider better than Cherry MX. But if you’re a die-hard Cherry MX fan, they offer those too.

Depending on the switches, the prices of the keyboard will change.

This keyboard comes in two colors: black or white. You have the same switches options for both. It currently has a 4.5-star rating on Amazon with 75 ratings.

custom keycap anne pro 2
Photo by: /u/beansguys/ on Reddit

It has double shot PBT key caps as well and RGB lighting. Super durable keycaps, and it won’t accumulate nasty grime like ABS plastic. Unlike the Ducky One 2 Mini, the RGB lighting effects must be modified through software.

It has fully programmable keys through the firmware, so you can do whatever you want to your layout. Unfortunately, there have been many complains regarding the firmware and its ease of use and accessibility. Despite this, many still love this keyboard.

With the keyboard comes some special colored keycaps (red, yellow, green, and purple) for the modifier buttons. It also comes with a key cap puller and a braided red USB-C cable.

It has no kickstands but does have 4 rubber feet. You’re stuck in one angle, but it’s a relatively comfortable one.

The RGB is slightly dim on the board even at maximum brightness, but it does come with pre-programmed effects.

Many others have complained about Bluetooth connection and lighting customization. The team has been constantly working on customer service and fixing this.

Another important mention is that the keyboard is USB-polarized. Make sure the USB cord is oriented correctly to work. If it doesn’t work the first time, flip the USB connector around and try again.

Despite being a 60% keyboard, you can use the keyboard as if it had arrow keys. If you only tap the shift key, ctrl, fn1, fn2, they’ll act as arrow keys. The company programmed the keyboard to include that feature for an enhanced user experience.

The stabilizers are sturdy without rattle or wiggle.

Vortex Pok3r – Symfuhny

Symfuhny is a Twitch streamer who also makes YouTube videos for Fortnite. He first started streaming in June 2018 and now has over 1.8 million followers. His real name is Mason Lanier. He consistently participates in solo and duo tournaments. Unlike others on this list, he does not play Fortnite professionally for a team.

Symfuhny uses this keyboard, the Vortex Pok3r (pronounced Poker) mechanical keyboard. It is NOT available on Amazon, but you can buy it at mechanicalkeyboards.com instead. The Vortex Pok3r is also a 60% keyboard, so no arrows, no number pad.

modified orange and white vortex pok2r keyboard
Modded Vortex Pok3r by /u/cosmin_c/

This keyboard costs $139.99, and it comes with different colors, backlight options, and switch options. Prices can range depending on what you pick. The link above will show you all the options and you can scroll through for yourself. The switch options can be Cherry MX black, brown, blue, red, green, clear, silver, silent black, silent red, or nature white.

This keyboard is extremely popular in the mechanical keyboard community. This keyboard uses a Micro-USB cord rather than USB-C.

The keyboard has an aluminum base instead of plastic. The bottom of the case has 4 grippy pads instead of rubber feet. It does not have any adjustable kickstands to change the angle of the keyboard.

The keycaps are double shot ABS plastic with clear legends. Unfortunately, they are not PBT keycaps, so over time, you will accumulate some grime and slime.

The stabilizers have rattle and noise, especially the space bar. However, they are stable and usable.

If you pick a version with RGB lighting, there are on-board controls to switch through the pre-programmed lighting effects. It also has programmability on the keyboard itself.

Read the menu to customize the RGB layers using the keys right on the keyboard itself.

There are many resources comparing the keyboards above. Many people like to compare the Ducky One 2 Mini, the Anne Pro 2, and the Vortex Pok3r because they are all 60% keyboards that are popular within Fortnite gaming and the mechanical keyboard community. I’ll link to a few videos of some people that have compared the 3 below:

Brandon Taylor Ducky One 2 Mini vs Anne Pro 2 vs Vortex Pok3r RGB

Bad Seed Tech Vortex Poker 3 RGB Review: vs One 2 Mini and Anne Pro 2

Andy V Nguyen Best 60% Keyboard – Ducky One 2 Mini vs. Vortex Pok3r vs. Anne Pro 2 – 60% Keyboard Showdown!

Summary

Alright we did it! We took the most popular Fortnite players and did detailed reviews of which keyboards they were using. We looked at the mechanical keyboards that Fortnite pros play on, such as summit1g, ninja, Tfue, Cloakzy, Myth, and Symfuhny. The five keyboards that they use are the Corsair K70 RGB Rapidfire, Logitech G Pro, Ducky One 2 Mini, Anne Pro 2, and the Vortex Pok3r. They’re all different, but they are all mechanical keyboards with fast and responsive switches. Many of them offer different switch options for further player personalization. Make sure you get the keyboard that is most comfortable for you to game on instead of just copying your favorite player’s keeb.

Happy typing and gaming!

If you have a question, you’d like us to answer, leave it down below. Or a comment or concern, do that too. Thank you!

many gamers playing in the same place

Sources

Corsair Gaming K70 RGB Keyboard YouTube.com

Corsair Gaming K70 RGB Rapidfire Keyboard Review YouTube.com

Gamer’s Dream – Logitech G Pro TKL Keyboard Review YouTube.com

Logitech G Pro Keyboard Review! Why Are Pros Using This Keyboard? YouTube.com

Logitech G Pro X Keyboard Review! Bring on the Mech. YouTube.com

Ducky

Ducky One 2 Mini RGB Keyboard Review YouTube.com

Anne Pro 2 Review! Best Wireless Mechanical Keyboard? YouTube.com

Vortex Pok3r RGB Review! Layers.. Layers Everywhere.. YouTube.com

Ergonomic Mechanical Keyboards: Not Only Better Typing, but also Better for You

ergonomic mechanical keyboards on the switch and click

Question and Answer

Ever since I started working a full-time job and starting a blog, I’ve been noticing wrist and forearm aches and pains when I get home from work. No matter how much massaging or stretching I do, the pain continues to stay. I don’t want to have repetitive stress injuries or carpal tunnel. Are there ways that I can minimize the risk of this happening? Will a mechanical keyboard help me? I’ve heard that ergonomic keyboards are meant for this purpose.

Ah, yes, ergonomic keyboards. When thinking of ergonomic keyboards, most people start to think about the keyboards that are curved and have some space in the middle where the keys are split. However, we can combine the durability and customization of mechanical keyboards with ergonomic principles to enhance your experience. Most likely, if you’re doing primarily typing, an ergonomic keyboard will help you reduce strain and decrease the likelihood of injury. We’ll be looking at ergonomics, different ergonomic mechanical keyboards, and how you can combine them together to reduce injury.

A black computer mouse and keyboard

Description automatically generated
Photo by DraugTheWhopper

What is ergonomics?

A quick dictionary search of the word ergonomic says “relating to or designed for efficiency and comfort in the working environment.”

This is especially important for desk jobs or for people who sit down, type, and use your mouse all day long.

Ergonomic desk setup

Let’s talk about basic ergonomics first. There are many things that you can improve with your desk and chair setup prior to purchasing an ergonomic mechanical keyboard or mouse.

Most desks are in a fixed position, meaning that it is not possible to adjust them without having to add things or cut off parts of your table legs.

So, the desk doesn’t move, what things do? Your chair! Raise or lower your chair until your elbow makes a 90-degree angle when your forearms are resting on your desk.

ergonomic desk setup

Let’s look at your feet next. If they’re touching the floor, then no problem. Are your feet dangling off a cliff? If so, then it’s time to add a footrest. The ideal angle for your knees would be 90 degrees.

If you do not have a footrest or footstool, you can use textbooks (like I do) or reams of paper. Personally, I prefer to use my old textbooks from when I was in college. Hello, Instrumental Analysis and Abnormal Psychology, serving a greater purpose.

The best hip angle is also 90-degrees. Side note: just because these are the ideal angles does NOT mean that it is okay to stay in this position all the time. Take a break, stand up, go to the bathroom, get water, walk around. The key is to give your muscles movement, so they do not tighten up in this position.

From my training and work experience as an occupational therapist, this ideal position is meant to strike a balance between muscle lengthening and muscle shortening of the muscles surrounding that joint.

Take your elbow, for example. If we simplify this, we have your biceps on one side and your triceps on the other. When you arm is straight, your biceps are fully lengthened, and your triceps are in their shortest position.

If you were to be stuck here for a long time, a muscle contracture (or permanent shortening of the muscle can occur). In this case, it would be the triceps. This is not a functional position to be in, imagine trying to live life with your arms straight out only.

Now the other position isn’t much better, fully flex your biceps, bringing your hands to your shoulders. The biceps are shortened here, and your triceps are lengthened. What can you do in this position? Not much.

So, we try to strike a balance, recommending the 90-degree position between the length of the biceps and triceps are “equal” in the sense that they’re not overly lengthened or shortened on either side.

The most important part here is to show you that muscles respond to long periods of time of stillness. Every few minutes, give your body a break. Stand up, move around, then sit down. It doesn’t need to be long.

Moving on, let’s adjust the monitor. You want the monitor about arm’s length away so it’s at a distance where you can read everything on the screen.

Your eye level should be at the top of the screen. Most monitors and desks will come where the height of the monitor is too low. You can do the same thing with the feet and put reams of paper or old textbooks under your monitor until it’s at eye level.  

Like your bodies, your eyes also have muscles that contract and relax depending on the distance of where your eyes are focused.

Give these a break as well. One good thing to do is the 20-20-20 rule. You may hear this before.

Every 20 minutes look at an object 20ft feet away for at least 20 seconds. This will give your eye muscles a break. Looking closely at objects involves contracting muscles around the eyes to focus.

eye anatomy
By Rhcastilhos. And Jmarchn. –

The ciliary muscles to the right and left of the lens are the muscles that are working hard to focus.

Next is the keyboard and mouse. Don’t even think about using your laptop keyboard or touchpad. This is a recipe for RSI (repetitive strain injuries). But if you’re here, you’re not doing that… are you?

Naturally where your hands land on your desk is where your keyboard should be. Place your mouse directly to the right of that.

You want your wrists to be in neutral position rather than in extension, pictured below.

wrist extension
Wrist extension

When you type or use your mouse, your forearms are in pronation, with the palms turned down. This position is not ideal for long periods of time. Give your forearms a break and stretch them every break you take by stretching your wrists into extension (fingers up) and flexion (fingers down) against your desk or a wall.

Okay, now you know what’s up and how to set up your desk to maintain the ideal positions. And you know that you need to take frequent breaks. I should listen to my own advice. I’ll be back soon.

What makes an ergonomic mechanical keyboard different?

Okay, we’re back. Let’s talk about keyboards now since this article is getting quite lengthy.

Let’s first talk about the characteristics of ergonomic keyboards:

  • Split design – Allows your arms to be in a V-position instead of A or H positions. This promotes external rotation of your shoulders where your chest and shoulders are open instead of closed (opening up for a hug). The longer we are stuck in internal rotation (hugging ourselves), the more rounded our shoulders become due to the lengthening to the muscles of our back and tightening of the muscles of the front shoulder and chest.
  • Tenting – Tenting means being raised in the middle. This allows your wrists and forearms to relax. It also puts your forearms in a less pronated position, moving towards a neutral forearm position.
  • Negative tilt – This means that it is lower at the back of the keyboard (the side facing away from you. This decreases the angle of wrist extension and promotes a neutral wrist position.
  • Small and compact – Although this might not mean a big deal, it affects the way you use your mouse. The larger the keyboard, the further your mouse is from your immediate reach. This will cause you to reach forward, causing your shoulder blades to glide forward and out of their neutral position.

In addition to this, they can also have different key layouts. We’ll start to some of these key layouts as we look at some examples.

Examples of ergonomic mechanical keyboards

Kinesis Advantage 2 Keyboard

The Kinesis Advantage 2 is an ergonomic mechanical keyboard that advertises itself to be professional grade.  It costs $349.99 on their website. Currently, it is $319 on Amazon. It is compatible with Mac and Windows and also comes with keycaps specific to each operating system.

kinesis advantage 2
Photo source: https://www.reddit.com/r/MechanicalKeyboards/comments/
dnvt8f/kinesis_advantage_1_customozed_w_cherry_mx_whites/

The keyboard has 2 colors: black or silver.

This keyboard has a fixed split in the middle with 20-degree tenting, a compact design with no number pad. It features scooped wells for the keys, allowing you to rest your palms and have your fingers naturally fall onto the keys without having to lift your fingers up to type each key.

It also features an orthogonal key arrangement, keys the same distance to the side, top and bottom to increase speed and comfort. When you type on your keyboard right now and move directly up or down, you’ll notice that you are between keys instead of on a key. This makes sure that you must move your hand or arm, although small, to press the key you want.

The arrow keys are there but they are in a non-standard layout. The left well has the left and right keys at the bottom right. The right well has the up and down keys at the bottom left. The keyboard is non-standard which may take time to get used to if you’re used to using your type layout.

In addition, this keyboard also has thumb keys for frequently used keys such as space, enter, and backspace. Using your strong thumbs rather than weak pinkies decreases the strain of your little fingers.

The keyboard has Cherry MX switches, for those of you that absolutely need the feels. And I know I do. The switch choices are limited to MX Browns or MX Quiet Reds.

For those of you who type with alternative layouts such as DVORAK, this keyboard lets you switch between QWERTY and DVORAK with a one-touch button. It is also fully programmable.

But there’s no number pad! With a one-touch key, you can turn on the 10-key number pad on the right hand well without any trouble. It’s basically got everything you need to be efficient and comfortable at your job.

Overall, this is an awesome ergonomic keyboard. It has a 3-year warranty. They also let you try their keyboard risk-free for 60 days without any hassle for returns.

Kinesis Freestyle Pro Keyboard

Okay, so that first one was a bit pricey. But so are health bills later. Most of the keyboards in this article will be relatively expensive.

Another keyboard in the Kinesis lineup, the Freestyle Pro keyboard, is another ergonomic mechanical keyboard. This one runs at $179 on their website. They have a cheaper model, the Freestyle 2, but this is not mechanical.

Like the other one, but with less features, this is a great entry-level ergonomic mechanical keyboard if you want to try it and see if it’s worth the money.

The Freestyle Pro has an adjustable split because each half of the keyboard is separated but attached with a 20” cable. It has tenting as well, but you must purchase additional accessories to customize it to your liking.

Without any accessories, the keyboard has a zero-degree slope. Additional palm cushions are available for purchase, but it does not come with the keyboard. This keyboard has a TKL design.

The two switch options are the Cherry MX Browns and the Cherry MX Reds. Unlike the Advantage2, this keyboard has a standard layout. The arrow keys are in the bottom right. There are no changes with the positions of the [ ], < >, and other keys like that.  

This keyboard is also fully customizable with their SmartSet Programming Engine. It has 8 pre-programmed office hotkeys on the left side for commonly used shortcuts like cut and copy.

Kinesis also offers a 60-day risk free trial for this keyboard. It comes with Mac and Windows-specific keycaps.

ErgoDox EZ

ergodox with gmk red samurai
Photo source: https://www.reddit.com/r/MechanicalKeyboards/
comments/cev6kw/gmk_red_samurai_ergodox_ez/

The ErgoDox EZ comes from the same company as the Planck EZ that we discussed in the article about Planck keyboards, which also could be an ergonomic option. However, in this post, we are discussing keyboards that are specifically advertised as ergonomic with the features listed above.

The ErgoDox comes in 2 colors: black or white. Its price ranges depending on the version that you purchase. The lowest price is $270 all the way to $354.

Let’s look at the options before we go into the features.

First, we get to pick the color: black or white. The color doesn’t make a difference to cost.

Next is lights, we have three options here. The lighting options both cost an additional $30. You can also pick to have no lights. We can either have backlit keys or mood lighting (underglow). I’ll go with backlit keys.

Next is a custom wrist rest. Because of the special design of the keyboard, using a normal wrist rest won’t work. The wrist rest is made of supportive silicon and is shaped to fit with the ErgoDox. I’ll say no to this. Again, this is an additional $30 and comes in two options: black or white.

After that is the tent kit to angle your board. Each kit costs an additional $30. There are two options: black or white. I’ll go with black here.

Now for the exciting stuff: switches! There are many options here. We have the following switches:

  • Cherry MX Brown
  • Cherry MX Blue
  • Kailh Box Brown
  • Kailh Box Red
  • Kailh Box White
  • Kailh Box Black
  • Kailh Thick Gold
  • Kailh Gold
  • Kailh Silver
  • Kailh Copper

I’ll go with Kailh Coppers here. No matter what switches you pick, the price is the same.

Total price ends up being $324 for all the above.

Shipping comes from Taiwan and returns will have to be mailed back as well, but they do offer a 30-day return policy. Although expensive, they keyboard gives you all the options!

Custom keycaps are a go ahead. Change your switches? It’s hot-swappable. It’s all fully programmable with its firmware. The people who designed this keyboard meant it to be at the top of ergonomic function but did not mean to design it with mass production in mind. It will take about 10 days of lead time before they ship them out.

Other Honorable Mentions

Truly Ergonomic has an ergonomic keyboard that they are currently pre-ordering for called the Cleave. It features a split design with orthogonal design. It also has palm rests and thumb buttons. There is a standard arrow cluster and productivity hotkeys in the middle columns.

It has an aluminum body with LED backlight. They do not tell you what switches they use, but the options are Silent, Clicky, or Linear. The price is $299, but they are doing a pre-order sale for $199.

Another honorable mention is the Atreus. This is a keyboard kit that you need to put together. They have different options: the full kit, the presoldered kit, partial kit, and the assembled keyboard. The cases are available in wood or acrylic. You can also purchase the Atreus62 and build that yourself too, this is a bigger layout with a number row.

As far as layout goes, this is like a 40% keyboard. It has no number row of function row. There are no arrow keys. It has orthogonal layouts for keys. It is fully programmable so layers can be programmed for all your needs.

The kit comes with all of the following parts and comes with a detailed assembly guide:

  • Case which includes the top plate, switch plate, spacer pieces, and bottom plate
  • Sandpaper for the wooden case
  • Key switches, 42 tactile or clicky
  • A-Star Micro controller
  • 42 Diodes
  • USB micro cable
  • 42 keycaps
  • 8 screws
  • Rubber feet
aterus
Photo source: https://www.reddit.com/r/MechanicalKeyboards/
comments/7fmeop/final_version_of_my_atreus_keyboards/

Another keyboard is the Ultimate Hacking Keyboard. This keyboard has a TON of features, and their website has an awesome video showing you all the details. This keyboard runs for $275.

Should you get one?

Personally, after typing for so long on a regular mechanical keyboard, I am seriously considering purchasing myself an ergonomic mechanical keyboard. Out of all of these, the ErgoDox EZ is calling my name with the tenting accessories. The Advantage2 seems great with all of its features, but the non-standard layout might be too much for me.

At around the same price as the Advantage2, the ErgoDox features hot-swappable sockets letting you change switches whenever you want. It also has standard keycaps that I can switch out if necessary. It is a hard decision to buy an expensive keyboard.

Is it worth it? Absolutely, of course. Is it the beautiful, slim, seek custom keyboard you might have wanted? No, it’s not.

But for the sake of your body, take care of it. It deserves a break, especially if you are working your desk job on a regular basis or typing your own personal blog/website/program.

I think my first custom build will be an ErgoDox… we’ll see. The PCB is $119 pre-soldered. And the case is $99. Just need to get switches, keycaps, and stabilizers.

Take care of yourself. I need to listen to this advice more because I’m typing on a non-ergonomic keyboard for extended periods of time. Break time! Happy typing!

For more options for ergonomic mechanical keyboards, check out the MechanicalKeyboards subreddit Wiki on this topic.

Sources

Ergonomic mechanical keyboards: A primer and roundup Keychatter.com

Office ergonomics: Your how-to guide Mayo Clinic

Mechanical Keyboards for Mac

keyboards compatible with mac on the switch and click

Question and Answer

I know now that there are all these awesome keyboards out there that are more ergonomic and offer a better typing experience. But I have a big problem. I have a Mac, and most mechanical keyboards I see out there have that Windows button. Are there keyboards made specifically for Mac? Is it possible to buy ones with the Windows key and make it work for Mac somehow? Please help.

Great question! In 2018, over 18 million people bought Macs each year from 2014-2018. That’s a whole lot of Macs. Overall, you should not need a special keyboard to use with your Mac. Many keyboards offer programming layers or DIP switches to be Mac-compatible. There are Mac-specific keyboards out there which we’ll discuss below. Make sure you do your research and see if any reviews have any problems on Mac, but the general rule of thumb is it will work, with some small modifications.

What the heck is a DIP switch?

It stands for dual in-line package switch or DIP for short. In keyboards, it lets you change from one configuration into another without doing anything on the computer’s side.

apple keyboard
Your typical Apple keyboard without mechanical switches

Using Any Mechanical Keyboard with a Mac

When you plug in a mechanical keyboard into your Mac that isn’t specifically made for it, such as the many keyboards (that are not mechanical), there are some steps that you might need to take first.

Setting up your keyboard on a Mac

Macbook air with Razer Blackwidow keyboard
Using Razer Blackwidow keyboard with Macbook Air

I used my Razer Blackwidow TE with my Macbook Air.

  1. Plug in your keyboard.
  2. It might prompt you to press the keys next to your Shift buttons to see what layout the keyboard is in. It did for me.
  3. Now go to settings -> Keyboard
  4. Press on Modifier keys on the bottom right.
  5. At the drop-down menu to select keyboard: select the keyboard you just plugged in.
  6. Change the modifier keys to suit your needs.

Currently, my Windows key acts as Command. Ctrl is Control. And my Alt key is the Option key. I tried a few things such as copying and pasting, opening new tabs, closing tabs and closing windows. It worked like a charm.

Keep in mind that I have a TKL keyboard, so I didn’t get to try any number pad keys. I also never use my function row for anything either. Now let’s jump into Mac-specific keyboards.

Apple keyboard

Keyboards Made for Mac

The keyboards are listed in no specific order, but I have done extensive research into the reviews, specifications, and any other information I can find on some of these keyboards. There are MANY others out there too. This is NOT a comprehensive list, but it can give you and idea of where to start.

Varmilo VA87M Mac White TKL Mechanical Keyboard

This  Varmila VA87M is fully compatible with Mac, and has the Mac-specific keys: command, control, and option. You do not have to install any third-party software. It’s a plug and play directly into your Mac.

This is a tenkeyless keyboard with no number pad, as you now know.

It is fully white with black legends. It’s available in different Cherry MX switch types: black, brown, blue, red, silent red, and silver. At night, you can still type and play games with the white LEDs.

This keyboard is going for $129 online.

Some complaints regarding this keyboard include that the control and command keys on this keyboard are slightly smaller than on the Apple keyboard. It may take some practice and getting used to when switching from your Apple keyboard to this one. Another is that it is not fully programmable like some other keyboards we’ve seen such as the Drop CTRL.

But the feels! The feels are there. Also, the keyboard is beautiful in all white. It has a very Appl-esque aesthetic.

It may be made for Mac, but it is also configurable to work with Windows as well. Just press FN + W for 3s until the CapsLock flashes. To go back to Mac mode, press FN + A for 3s until Capslock flashes. Very simple and quick.

Azio MK Mac Full-Sized Keyboard (Wired or Wireless)

Yet another beautiful all-white mechanical keyboard made specifically for Mac. The Azio MK Mac is a full-sized keyboard that was designed with Mac users in mind.

Right now it is $95.99 on Amazon and $99.99 on Azio’s website. It has 4 start with 311 ratings.

With mechanical keys, there’s no need to worry about ghosting or rollover problems. These switches feature a tactile feel without the clicky sounds. They use Kailh Brown switches, which are the equivalent of Cherry MX browns with minor differences. They are tactile switches that are decently quiet.

It has a detachable palm rest that is silver with a perforated look.

Azio also offers this keyboard with wireless features using Bluetooth technology. It advertises up to 1 month of moderate use and is rechargeable using a USB-C port.

Keychron (their entire lineup)

Keychron is an amazing company that was founded in 2017 by a group of keyboard enthusiasts. They dedicate themselves to creating mechanical keyboards with minimalist designs and top-notch performance.

Keychron currently offers three different keyboards, the K1, K2, and K4 with a pre-launch of their newest model, the K6. As of writing this, it is launching in a little bit over 3 days. Very soon!

All their keyboards come with different keycap sets for Mac and Windows. Just pull off the keycaps and switch over to what you need.

To switch between layouts, simply toggle the switch on the side. Let’s dive into each individual model! This gets me excited because these keyboards are beautiful, minimalist, and have a good reputation.

K1

The Keychron K1 is a low-profile keyboard, which means the keys don’t jut out as high as the keyboards you’re probably used to. They’re more like the height of the Apple keyboard, but better because they’re mechanical. It has a fully functional function row.

They come into two sizes: 87-keys (TKL) and 104-keys (full-size). The following switches are offered: Gateron Reds and Blues. You can choose between clicky and tactile or linear and quiet.

The TKL version can have RGB lighting or white backlight only. The RGB version comes with 18 different pre-set lighting effects.

It has an ultra-slim profile with an 188mm body. Wow, so thin.

It uses a USB-C plug to connect to the computer. However, it also can be used wireless with Bluetooth.

This keyboard ranges in pricing. The TKL version with White backlight comes in at $75, whereas the RGB TKL is $84. The most expensive version, the full-sized RGB keyboard is $94.

For the functionality of this keyboard, this keyboard is worthy of this price tag. It comes with keycaps for Mac and Windows, has wireless functionality, the choice of 2 different style switches, and compatibility with pretty much all devices.

K2

The Keychron K2 is a 60% mechanical keyboard with a color palette of light and dark greys. It has an orange Esc button. Like the K2, it also comes with keycaps for Windows and Mac.

The different versions are white backlight ($69), RGB backlight ($79), and RGB backlight with an aluminum frame ($89). Having an aluminum frame increases the looks but also the stability and durability of the keyboard.

The switch options are Gateron red switches, brown switches, and blue switches. This keyboard has a 5-star rating with 29 reviews.

Like the K1, the K2 has both wired and wireless modes. It uses Bluetooth to connect with up to 3 devices. Switching between the devices is done easily using the function keys. It has N-key rollover when in wired mode, so you can type as fast as you want without worrying.

It is very similar to the K1, with 18 different lighting effects and a battery that lasts up to 70 hours between charges. It also has 2 kickstands in the back for people who prefer typing with a more intense angle.

Although it is a 60% keyboard, it has dedicated arrow keys in their usual layout. Very convenient.

If I were to pick one keyboard out of the entire Keychron lineup, it would be the K2 with RGB lighting with the aluminum frame with Gateron Brown Switches. It’s simple, yet gorgeous.

K4

The Keychron K4 is a 96% keyboard with 100 keys. It has a number pad and arrow arrows. It also has the function row, but its compact due to its space-saving design.

This keyboard comes in three different versions: white backlight ($69), black backlight ($79), and an RGB version with an aluminum frame ($89). It has more switch types than the previous two with the option to pick out Blue optical or Red optical switches for $10 extra.

Alongside those, it also has the option of Gateron blues, browns, reds, and yellows. The keycaps are ABS plastic with grey, a rose pink, and orange colors.

For more information, check out Keychron’s page, comparing the different switch options.

Not my style due to its size, but for those who want the full-sized layout without all the extra space on the keyboard, this is a great option! It uses all of the space of the frame without wasting anything.

K6

Last, but not least, their newest keyboard, the Keychron K6. It looks so darn good. Light grey, dark grey, and an orange escape button. It is clean and simple.

This keyboard has a 65% layout with all the features as other Keychrone keyboards: Mac and Windows keycaps, full compatibility with both, Bluetooth wireless mode up to 3 devices and wired mode, and the choice to have RGB lighting with 18 lighting effects.

Like the K4, the K6 can be bought with optical or Gateron switches.

New: the K6 comes with hot swappable sockets, which will allow you to take out the switches and replace it with something you prefer such as Kailh switches or Cherry switches. It gives you freedom and easy with changing switches without soldering.

For a list of some more Mac keyboards, check out the associated post on the Mechanical Keyboards subreddit.

Summary

Pretty much all mechanical keyboards can be compatible with Macs. It just takes a little bit of tinkering in the settings and remembering the location of the keys like we discussed above.

There are many Mac-specific keyboards out there with the same aesthetic with Apple’s white and simple look. Many of those keyboards are under $100 and have wireless and Bluetooth capabilities.

We looked at all of Keychron’s lineup, which offer the best compatibility options between Mac and Windows, coming with different keycaps for the Command, Option, Alt, Control, and Windows keys.

They have keyboards in all different sizes: full-sized low-profile, 60%, 65%, and a compact full-sized keyboard. There are options for everything. They have a variety of Gateron or optical switches to pick from as well as lighting options such as white or RGB.

If I were to buy a keyboard for my Macbook Air, it would be the Keychron K2 or the newer Keychron K6. I prefer the smaller keyboards. The more portable, the better. Also, I have small hands. I have no need for a number pad because I never do number entry. Just kidding, I do, but the top number row key will make do.

I highly recommend Keychron keyboards because they are made by people who know what they’re doing. They don’t just make keyboards, they low keyboards and use them on a regular basis. Of course they know what the people want because they are the people.

Anyways, hope this helped you find a keyboard for you Mac and Apple usages. Happy typing!

Mechanical keyboard on desk setup
Mechanical keyboards such make things prettier.

Sources

Global Apple Mac sales in the fiscal years from 2002 to 2018 statista.com

DIP Switch Deskthority.net

Our Favorite Mechanical Keyboards Thewirecutter.com

Keychron.com

Are COLEMAK and DVORAK worth learning?

Are COLEMAK and DVORAK worth learning?

Now that I’m the proud owner of a brand new blog, I find myself typing more than ever and because of that I’ve started to notice how inefficient it is to type with the traditional keyboard layout. In order to satisfy my curiosity, I decided to read up on the differences between the traditional layout and the DVORAK and COLEMAK layouts. What I found was quite interesting.

There seems to be entire internet communities based around these different types of keyboard layouts and the people who made the switch are all eager to share the benefits that these obscure maps have to offer. Excited by my new discovery of all these communities, I decided to research further with the possibility of making the switch to a new more efficient style. However, the idea of switching to a whole new keyboard layout is quite intimidating and spending weeks to months trying to re-learn how to type might not be for everyone.

The COLEMAK and DVORAK keyboard maps are alternative ways to type by laying out the keys in a more efficient way that requires less movement of the fingers. There are claims that this style of typing can increase typing speed and reduce typing related fatigue and injury. Although there is nothing that proves this method of typing is faster, there are countless testimonials of people who have benefited from switching to one of these styles.

What is DVORAK?

DVORAK keyboard layout
DVORAK Keyboard Map

Well, let’s dive into some of the details that distinguish the DVORAK keymap from the standard layout to hopefully give you a better understanding of what the exact differences are and some of the pros and cons of using this keymap.

DVORAK is a keyboard layout created 1936 by August Dvorak and his brother. DVORAK is the 2nd most popular keyboard layout in English, after QWERTY.

Originally created with the hopes of replacing the QWERTY layout, Dvorak claims that it can make typing more efficient by lessening finger motion, reducing errors, and muscle fatigue. He claimed that by placing the vowels on the left-hand side of the keyboard and the consonants on the right hand row, people would be able to type in a more rhythmic way by alternating back and forth.

In addition, by placing the most common keys on the home row and the least common keys on the bottom row, this allowed the typist to press the more common keys from a stronger position and only have to reach for the less common ones.

In total, about 16% of the typing is done on the lower, 52% on the top row, and 32% on the home row. 

Some of the main downsides to this typing style include,

  • The majority of people already use QWERTY, and switching can take a long time to adjust for possibly small gain.
  • Computer shortcuts such as copy & paste are awkward to reach for on this layout.
  • Using public/work keyboards might not have a configuration option to switch to the DVORAK layout. In order to make learning faster, it might also make sense to re-layout the actual keys on your keyboard. This will most likely not be allowed on a shared keyboard.

What is COLEMAK?

COLEMAK keyboard layout
COLEMAK keyboard layout

COLEMAK is a relatively new keyboard layout that came out in 2006. It was created and named after Shai Coleman. The main differences between COLEMAK and the standard QWERTY layout is 17 keys are repositioned to optimize and minimize finger path distance by utilizing the home row as much as possible. 

For reference, the QWERTY layout only has 32% of the typing done on the home row but with COLEMAK 74% is on the home row. the entire purpose of the COLEMAK is to make typing as fast and efficient as possible. Compared to QWERTY, finger movement is reduced by a whopping 50%.

Since only 17 keys are changed, unlike DVORAK, COLEMAK is easier to learn. Some say it only takes 1-2 weeks to learn the new layout and then an additional month or two to really increase typing speeds.

Because it is a relatively newer layout, COLEMAK has not undergone any studies or nearly as much scrutiny as the DVORAK layout. So technically there have been no studies that prove definitively that COLEMAK will improve typing speed.

Should you make the switch to COLEMAK or DVORAK?

Although I lack personal experience using either of these layout, based on what I’ve read is If you’re willing to dedicate a few weeks to learning one of these layouts and really commit to it, it’s worth it. Over and entire lifetime the inefficiencies of the QWERTY layout really do add up and can cause issues such as carpal tunnel and arthritis. By switching to a more efficient keyboard layout, you are potentially increasing the longevity of your career as a typist and will remain healthier and more pain-free. 

Although sacrificing short term efficiency while you learn a new keyboard layout can be frustrating and difficult, if you’re willing to put in the effort I would recommend giving it a shot. If you’re not convinced, or maybe on the fence I would checkout a few of the online forums and read some of the testimonials of people who have made the switch themselves.

What’s the best way to learn?

The best way to learn would be to find a training course online. There are a lot of free resources available and they ease your way into learning the new style. For example with the COLEMAK training, you start by only swapping out two keys and then as you adjust you start to swap out more and more until you’ve swapped out all 17 keys.

It’s also best to be really focused for the first few weeks as this will be the main adjustment period, and try to get as much practice in you can over this time. As you get more comfortable, over the next few months your wpm will increase to what it once was and possibly surpass the old speed.

After that, typing on the new layout will be second nature to you and shouldn’t be too difficult swapping back and forth between the new layout and QWERTY

Which one is the best: COLEMAK, DVORAK, or QWERTY?

While it’s hard to say which layout is definitively the best, I would have to recommend COLEMAK. Primarily for the reason that this keyboard is the newest of the three layouts and has the most community support, along with lots of resources to learn with.

If your interested, check out this link to start a learning COLEMAK immediately.

How do you remap your keyboard to COLEMAK or DVORAK?

Here is a site that will walk you through the set-up process for each layout.

Resources

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colemak

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dvorak_keyboard_layout

https://colemak.com/

https://learn.dvorak.nl/

https://www.maketecheasier.com/remapping-keyboards-dvorak-colemak-windows/