How to get used to using new ergonomic keyboard?
April 6, 2004 4:52 PM   Subscribe

The powers that be at work changed all the regular keyboards to ergonomic keyboards on April 1. Unfortunately, it was not a joke and I'm having a horrible time. Any thoughts or suggestions on how to get used to it?
posted by lola to Computers & Internet (20 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Do you mean split keyboards? I use one in my office and swear by the Microsoft Natural Keyboards (I even bought a backup on ebay in case the one I'm using dies and I can't find a replacement). I've never had wrist pain since using them and got used to them so long ago I've forgotten what it was.

I say give it a full week and maybe you'll adjust. I love mine to death and it's kept my wrists, arms, and fingers healthy for years.
posted by mathowie at 4:57 PM on April 6, 2004

What do you mean by "having a horrible time?" I had a lot of difficulty when I first encountered the split style ergonomic keyboards because I've been touch typing for so long that I've sort of hybridized my technique and there's a lot of improvisation as to which hand is responsible for which letter (ie, around the ty gh bn area). The new form factor required me to be more strict as to what my pointer fingers were doing, but the adjustment only took a couple of weeks. Now I'm happy to say that my typing is very fluid with both styles, and I don't see any reason that you shouldn't be able to achieve the same thing.
posted by mmcg at 5:11 PM on April 6, 2004 [1 favorite]

Ditto on the above. Just give it some time. Let it teach you to type!
posted by rafter at 5:17 PM on April 6, 2004

The biggest problem I encountered when switching to a split keyboard was the letters in the middle: T, G, B, Y, H, and N. On a regular keyboard, I will often use both fingers for all those letters depending on what my other fingers are currently doing.

But I totally love it now... it took a week or two to get used to it.
posted by rhapsodie at 5:37 PM on April 6, 2004 [1 favorite]

A tangential question: does anyone know of a split keyboard with a nice old-fashioned clickety feel? I'd like something in which the keys feel like an IBM Model M but the configuration is like that of a Microsoft Natural.
posted by mr_roboto at 5:43 PM on April 6, 2004

tangential question to mr_roboto's: Does anybody know any merchants (preferably in europe, but ones on other continents are good to know of too) that still sell Trust Natural Keyboards? Trust used to make the best natural keyboards ever: They were slightly higher at the front than the average keyboard and most importantly, instead of indicator leds in the split between the halves, they had a tab and backspace. Sadly, I'm not the only one who likes them and they've all disappeared from shop stocks in no timeā€¦
posted by fvw at 6:12 PM on April 6, 2004

Microsoft Natural Keyboards are the only way to go. Make sure you get the full sized one, you can tell by looking at the arrow keys to the right of the keyboard. If the arrow keys are normal looking (ie the up arrow is up, left is actually left and right is actually on the right side, down is in the middle, 3 on the bottom one on the top) then you are using the full sized bitch. These keyboards never want to die. They are quiet, reliable, and Microsoft Human Interface Devices are always good. I own a Sidewinder Precision Pro, Microsoft Laser mouse, Natural Keyboard, Force Feedback steering wheel, and sidwinder controller. All devices are reliable, fun and worth the price. The joystick for example was bought used, and anybody who knows joysticks expects used ones to have wear and tear on them, because of the mechanical nature of the internals. Not so with this: It uses laser guidance instead of rollers. No damage.
posted by Keyser Soze at 6:18 PM on April 6, 2004

Buy one for the house. You'll get used to it faster.
posted by trondant at 6:28 PM on April 6, 2004

Shame on all of you! "Shut up and get used to it" is an awful, awful answer. Keyboard choice is deeply personal, and there are plenty of people like me who would rather lose both hands than type on one of those obnoxious split keyboards.

lola: First, try negotiation. If you actually liked the old keyboard, it might be possible to persuade whatever misguided decisionmaker to permit your preference. You can explain that those awful "ergonomic" keyboards are slow and irritating, and will surely affect your productivity. Perhaps you can also add that good ergonomic practice takes into account the user, and ergonomics by fiat are as bad as none.

If that fails, you might want to consider springing for a real keyboard and hooking it up. They can be had for a few bucks on eBay, and Unicomp makes new ones. Keyboards are mind-bogglingly easy to connect yourself, you won't need support from IT people.
posted by majick at 7:01 PM on April 6, 2004

Is anyone else confused as to why there isn't an ***load of google ads for ergonomic keyboards over on the right?

Sorry to be one of the ergonomic kool aid drinkers, but "get used to it" is my response as well. I don't currently use one, but look back fondly on the one I used to have. I think it has to do with how you learned to type. If you made up your own way, you're going to have trouble.
posted by fletchmuy at 7:17 PM on April 6, 2004

Is anyone else confused as to why there isn't an ***load of google ads for ergonomic keyboards over on the right?

Actually, I get, "Meet Jewish Singles," "Jews," "," and "Why Jews Reject Jesus," curiously enough. I wonder what keywords they're picking up on.

To reiterate my early comment, I absolutely hated my first ergonomic keyboard (came with my last PC), but as soon as I got my index fingers to stop overstretching I came to love it (and for a while felt slightly cramped on a standard keyboard). I'm back to a standard (had some trouble finding an ergonomic wireless, and wireless is absolutely key), but miss the ergonomic one somewhat.

While, as majick said, keyboards are a personal choice, I stand by my recommendation. I think it will do you good.
posted by rafter at 7:37 PM on April 6, 2004

i too hate the microsoft natural keyboards. You should be able to use whatever keyboard you damn well please to do your work.

My advice would be get to know the IT people at your office. They'll know where all the old keyboards went. Get them to give you back one. I'm sure they haven't thrown them out already. Good luck.
posted by Miles Long at 7:57 PM on April 6, 2004

What do you mean by "having a horrible time?"

After further reflection, the reason why I'm having problems adapting may be that I took piano lessons for years as a child. Consequently, I type by keeping the tops of my hands parallel with the keyboard with a slight bend in the fingers pressing the keys with finger tips not flat fingers. Typing on a split style ergonomic keyboard in that position cramps my hands. Could a change in hand posture help?

Unfortunately, changing back to a standard keyboard is not an option, because they made the change in the hopes of reducing carpal tunnel claims.
posted by lola at 8:23 PM on April 6, 2004

Wow, I can't believe they didn't keep them around for at least accommodation purposes.

While it's highly likely that everyone's advice (just get used to it) is as good as it's going to get, I sympathize with your plight. Because of a disability, I am a one handed touch typist, and ergonomic keyboards are the bane of my existence.
posted by aclevername at 8:59 PM on April 6, 2004

Lola, sounds like you actually have good typing posture and a normal keyboard would be better for you. The split ergo keyboards are made so people with bad typing posture that put their palms close to the board don't wreck their wrists.
posted by zsazsa at 9:28 PM on April 6, 2004

The split ergo keyboards are made so people with bad typing posture that put their palms close to the board don't wreck their wrists.

So that's why I've never had a need for a wrist rest and the standard keyboard just feels "right" to me.
posted by lola at 10:18 PM on April 6, 2004

So if I type on a normal keyboard with my wrists parallel with my forearm (with my forearms not being parallel with eachother, but at and angle) so my palms aren't being pushed together, is that a good thing? I've tried the ergy-board, but could never use it. I definitely self-taught myself to type over the years, and hence have never been able learn to properly type. My major problem is i use my index fingers a LOT to type, I don't use my pinkies at all, and I scarcely use my ring finger on my right hand so using any of those digits just doesn't compute with my synapses.
posted by jmd82 at 10:57 PM on April 6, 2004

I took piano for years too. Hated the Natural Keyboard for two whole weeks. After that I LOVED it and refuse to use anything else.
posted by GaelFC at 12:07 AM on April 7, 2004

If you want to argue for informed employee choice in the matter, you should point out that in ergonomics one sice does NOT fit all. If you're looking for good backup information, read Deborah Quilter's books about RSI and equipment options. You can point out (correctly, I might add) that you were trained in proper hand positioning for a historical field of work that solved that particular problem quite well. And for the most part it's true in carpal tunnel. When you actually hold your arms up at your shoulders instead of drooping them down and resting them on the keyboard or a wrist wrest, you're taking stress where stress was meant to be: the big muscles of your arms, not the little ones in your forearms.

Now tendinitis--that's another matter. I too type most of the time with elevated hands, but after a few million lines of code, my forearms swell up just from having the tendons rocking and rolling through the sheaths. It's like a pianist playing 6+ hours a, say, Debussy. That's tiring no matter what.

Other helpful things: RSI is sometimes called a staircase injury. If you immorally push 100 people down the same staircase, you'll get 100 different injuries with a certain amount of commonality. If you give 100 people the same repetitive task, you'll get a similar wide spectrum of injury.
posted by plinth at 3:29 AM on April 7, 2004

Good thread. Ergonomic keyboards are a matter of choice; I started using them years ago and I'm much more comfortable on them now. I spent many months saying "I hate it hate it hate it" but when I revert to a standard keyboard at length, like on my laptop, I'm not nearly as comfortable.

Lola, since you have good typing position, all you need to do is come to terms with the split in the middle and from there the keyboard is not going to feel different to you. "Get used to it" is terrible advice, but in the case of an ergo keyboard, it's acceptable, not unlike convincing people to wear seatbelts. It can't hurt you and may help you someday.
posted by werty at 11:33 AM on April 7, 2004

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