Ergonomic Keyboards

In my never-ending quest for the perfect input devices, I have been using two new keyboards this summer.

For those programmers on the go, I'm enjoying the only compact ergonomic Bluetooth keyboard I could find.

Picture of Microsoft Bluetooth 6000 keyboard and keypad with measured dimensions

The Microsoft Bluetooth Mobile Keyboard 6000 is nearly as compact as the Apple Wireless Keyboard, similar in shape but curved a bit to be easier on the wrists. The 6000 works well, though not nearly as sleek and cool looking as Apple's. And the name is not only boring but stupid: Microsoft has another unrelated keyboard also named '6000' – Did MSFT stop providing free caffeinated drinks to their marketeers?

This 6000 is true Bluetooth, not proprietary wireless, so it works with your Mac with out requiring a dongle. The curve is only in two dimensions (in contrast to the Arc) so it is is very flat. Works fine with Snow Leopard without installing any drivers. Has a power Off switch, so important for portable use. The feel is similar to Apple's, though a bit firmer, more definite key stroke. Seems sturdy enough, though plastic rather than Apple's amazing use of aluminum. Comes with a separate Bluetooth keypad, requiring a single AAA battery. I gave mine to a friend, as the main keyboard carries the programmers' requisite PageUp/Down, Home/End, and arrow keys. If only Waterfield made a case for the 6000. Lists for $90. Bought mine at Office Depot.

Tip: To make a Microsoft keyboard's layout more like the familiar Apple layout, choose System Preferences > Keyboard, press the "Modifier Keys" button, and switch the "Option" and "Command" settings. Apple layouts usually place the Command keys close to the Space Bar, while the Option keys are further away toward the outside. Did you know that? Your thumbs do.

Screenshot of Mac OS X System Preferences Keyboard Modifier Keys dialog box

For desk jockeys, the ultimate ergo keyboard is from Kinesis, the Freestyle Adjustable Split Keyboard for Mac. Kinesis specializes in truly ergonomic keyboards, not ergo-looking fads.

Picture of the left and right parts of Kinesis Freestyle keyboard

Though pricey, this is the best keyboard I've used. I bought the model with an even longer tether than pictured here. The tethering allows you to keep your hands at your sides, like a pro pianist, rather than unnaturally squeezing your arms and hunching your shoulders toward your anterior meridian. They document the keys as requiring substantially less pressure than is common, yet the key have a definite key stroke, reminiscent of the old battleship-sturdy key-clicking IBM keyboards of yore. The macro keys on the left are superfluous to me, though as a programmer I do appreciate the Forward Delete key above the usual Backspace key. My one regret with the Freestyle is not buying the riser flaps; instead I'll try some low budget rubber door stops.

Picture of rubber door stops to lift keyboard

If you live in the Seattle area, you may contact Kinesis to arrange a visit to their Bothell WA office for a hands-on trial.

If only I could get the Freestyle in a SteamPunk version.

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