Kinesis Keyboard

The Kinesis keyboard alters the common keyboard design to reduce typing stress. The concave layout is adjusted for the different finger lengths, and the keys are placed in straight columns to minimize diagonal movement. Many common keys are moved from the weak little fingers to the stronger thumbs.(CTRL/ALT are on both sides. Backspace, Delete, Home, and End are on the left thumb. Space, Enter, Page-Up and Page-Down are on the right thumb.) Most other keys are left in the familiar QWERTY layout.

The "Classic" and "Professional" versions of the keyboard are programmable--keys can be swapped (a Dvorak layout is available), and macros can be easily entered. Compared to most alternative keyboards, the Kinesis is relatively cheap: about $200-$350 depending on model and features. The countoured keyboards come in both PS/2 and USB versions, separately. A 60-day moneyback guarantee is available from most vendors.

See http://www.kinesis-ergo.com/ for the official Kinesis website.

Quite similar to the MaltronKeyboard or the ErgomaticKeyboard.


Personal Experience:

See http://wiki.playagaingames.com/tiki-index.php?page=Dvorak+Keyboarding
I bought a Kinesis keyboard in June 1999. Before that I had tried most of the conventional keyboards including the Microsoft Natural (the big old style) and the Logitech Natural keyboards. I had stopped programming for over 6 months, but my hands kept getting worse from ordinary usage. I was usually in pain after 5 minutes of typing, and limited myself to about 30-50 minutes of slow typing per day. (Typing this page would be a multi-day project.)

I thought I would try the Kinesis and return it if it didn't work for me. After just a few days I knew I would keep the keyboard. Since I was seriously injured, it took a couple weeks to adjust to the keyboard in short sessions. After a month I bought a second keyboard for work so I wouldn't have to carry mine from home every day. Now I can type 2-4 hours/day (with *frequent* rest breaks) and participate in fun things like the WikiWikiWeb.--CliffordAdams

BTW, the Kinesis keyboard tends to attract attention--I've had complete strangers drop by to ask "what the !@#$ is that thing!"...
I also have used and like it (since 1997), and get the same reaction. I like the bowl for the keys, since I really don't have to stretch to reach the upper keys. Two things, though. The bad news is they did some really nonstandard things with the punctuation keys, so I have NO idea where = and - and + and [ are. That is really annoying. They also missed the opportunity to put the glide pad right on the keyboard.

The other is that once I started touch typing with my hands separated, it got annoying that the keyboard is built in ONE piece - There is no reason they couldn't put it in two pieces and let me just sit with my hands dangline off the ends of my chair. My desk would be clean in front of me again. I just did a web search and found a keyboard like this: http://www.ergointerfaces.com/Keyboard.cfm. However, that one doesn't have the bowl shape for the keys, and is a remarkably clunky looking design. Won't someone ever just put these things together? I'd love to have a nice, small keyboard per hand dangling off the ends of my chair. --AlistairCockburn

Alistair, is there anything inside the case of the Kinesis that would stop someone sawing one in half (and running a cable between the halfs as needed)? -- KeithBraithwaite

Well I just got one of these beasts, so I can find out for myself now. Everyone in the office has come over to have a play with the thing. It certainly is much more comfortable. I've also got a trackball rather than a mouse and the worrying cramps in my arms are just about gone now. It is annoying that they moved the non-alpha keys around, but my machine is used mainly for report writing and such, rather than programming. And no, I don't intend to make anyone pair with me on this machine, I'll go to them.--KB

Kinesis now has a two-piece keyboard with an integrated touchpad (left piece, right piece, or (for more money) both) called the Evolution -- DanHankins


Anyone know if they have an Australian distributor? I'm always a little reluctant to purchase hardware from overseas. -- RobertWatkins

I never found one, so I ordered one direct. Look out for the customs charge - added about another $80 AUD on top (ouch). Still wouldn't trade it for anything in the world though. Except perhaps one that I could separate into two halfs, or a DataHand. I would recommend getting a programable model, especially if you use a Mac since you'll need to pluck a Command key from somewhere. -- MarkAufflick

Robert, I don't know. But if your concern is reliability, or some such, rather than shipping costs, I highly recommend calling them up (perhaps using dialpad or an equivalent... free calls to the US!). You'll find they're incredibly nice people, incredibly easy to deal with, and I'm sure you'll find a way to be comfortable. Also, my advice for anyone buying a Kinesis keyboard... get a refurbished ones. These things are of such high quality that it'll be as good as new, they clean them out and rework them beautifully, and saving 100$US never hurt anyone. -- AdamBerger


I've been using a Kinesis Essential for about a year now, and absolutely love it. I could never go back... I even carry it with me when I'm going to be doing a lot of typing on my laptop. I originally purchased it because my wrist pain (not true RSI, yet) was getting worse, often after less than an hour of typing. For about two months, I was pain free, and exuberant. Then, pain started returning to my right wrist. I eventually traced this down to mousing; the result of constantly moving my hand back and forth. Also, since the KinesisKeyboard is relatively tall, there's a big vertical difference between keyboard and mouse hand positions, which might have exacerbated the problem. My final solution was to build a mouse (something like those eraser pointers they have in laptops... forget the distributor, but can find out if anyone's interested) right into the middle of the keyboard, between the two sets of thumb keys. My wrist pain has since been non-existent, and I can type 20 hours at a stretch without any pain (correction: any wrist pain. Oh, my aching head.). -- AdamBerger


One issue with having this keyboard (which I love): does anyone use this or any other ErgonomicKeyboard in conjunction with PairProgramming? Having to interrupt the flow to swap plugs is a major annoyance. My coworkers shouldn't have to adapt to it, and I (like others here) get some nasty wrist pain after typing on a normal keyboard for even an hour or so. A small PS/2 Y-splitter to control which of two keyboards is being used would seem ideal, but I haven't been able to find any such item. -- ChrisWinters

I have such a splitter. Try www.dell.com, go to "software and peripherals", go to "home and home office", search for keyword "splitter" or keywords "keyboard mouse". The one I have is made by Belkin, Manufacturer Part# F3G117-01 Dell Part# 506191. If you use this one, don't try to type on both keyboards at once; it's really meant for plugging both a mouse and keyboard into the same PS/2 port. But they have other products specifically for two mice or two keyboards, for more money. Also try searching for "splitter" on www.compusa.com -- DanHankins

Dan: Many thanks for the pointer. My search skills obviously need help - I poked around on the belkin site for quite some time without finding this. -- ChrisWinters

The ps2 to usb "kit" that Kinesis sells is apparently a product that is called Ymouse (costs about $50) and it takes two ps2 devices and converts them to a single usb port. this might be a good fit, too.

Of course, a PS/2 keyboard can be used at the same time as one or more USB keyboards (at least in Windows). I have two USB keyboards and two USB mice plugged into my home computer and it works great.


Dan, Chris: YMouse also makes a keyboard splitter where you can use both keyboards at once. There is also one for mice. I have one of the keyboard Y adapters on my machine at home, it's great.

My story: I was going to MIT part time working full time, and my hands were shooting pain, I went and saw MIT Medical which luckily told me to stop splinting my hands and contact the ATIC lab on campus. I went there and they had all sorts of ergo gear including kinesis keyboards. I tried it and instantly fell in love with it. I went and had my work buy 2 of the Professional QD models for my work machines and I have one on my home machine. I learned dvorak and used my kinesis, and over time, my RSI problems went away as long as I'm using my kinesis. (My laptop will bother my hands if I use it too long...)

I now type faster, and probably more than I have at any point in my life, and I don't hurt. Life is good indeed. It's nice not to worry about losing your career :). Which when you're in constant pain and not getting much done at work, is a really scary thought. -- IraCooper
I've had my Kinesis for two years or so now, and recently decided to apply the XP mindset to it (turn all the dials up to 10). I decided that the benefit for heavy emacs users like me is that most of the modifier keys are under the thumbs, making chording with them much simpler. To further test this theory, I used "xkeycaps -kbd kinesis" to remap my Xwindow layout, moving Shift_L to Delete (move the last modifier under a thumb also) and unmapping Shift_R. I've also remapped Home and PgUp? to Super and End and PgDn? to Hyper. This seems to have permanently cured any signs of EmacsPinky (hitting Control so much your pinky hurts). Anyone else tried something like this? --ShaeErisson


...the Kinesis is relatively cheap: about $200-$350 depending on model and features.

It's true that several hundred dollars is expensive for a keyboard, but considering that it's an incredibly well-designed and durable product (I've been using mine at my programming job for 5 years, with no problems), which does a great job of reducing medical problems, and comes with good tech support (real humans on the phone who can explain the programming features), it's well worth it. It's really cheap compared to medical care, and a lot more pleasant.

So, if you're having wrist/hand problems, the Kinesis might be just what you want. If you're doing fine with a $10 keyboard, then keep it.


I've used one for nearly 3 years now. I bought it because I had some wrist pain (not full OOS) but more importantly I'd never learned to touch type on a standard keyboard - and my various attempts to do so had ended in frustration. Looking down at the keys all the time was doing bad things to my posture.

So I purchased a Kinesis keyboard and remapped the keys to a better layout i.e. non-QWERTY. I did some reading on the net at the time. The QWERTY and Dvorak layouts both date from the era of mechanical typewriters, so the papers at http://www.maltron.co.uk were very interesting. (Especially this one: http://www.maltron.com/recognitia/script.html) The Maltron work was the only key layout work I could find that was based on electronic keyboards, and it takes advantage of the different characteristics of electronic keyboards to come up with some quite different design principles.

Unfortunately, it didn't work to program the Maltron layout straight into my Kinesis keyboard, due to the different thumb keys. Instead, I came up with my own layout, trying to follow some of the same principles discovered in the Maltron research. The end result was quite similar to the Maltron layout, with these main differences: "E" is no longer a thumb key (didn't feel comfortable on the Kinesis), some keys have been shuffled around a bit to make room for "E" in its new position, shift keys are on the home row (why doesn't anyone else do this, it make's shift-ing so much easier) and "L" is no longer awkwardly positioned at the top right.

I'm very happy with the result. I really do touch type now (I have to, since all they keys are remapped!). My posture is better (I still tend to slouch, but that's not the keyboard's fault! Importantly, I no-longer look downwards and get neck pain). I had to put a thick manual under my mouse mat, to make the mouse height match that of the thicker keyboard. I type faster than I used to. Probably slower than a well trained typist but faster than most programmers. More importantly than pure speed, typing is no longer an unpleasant chore. (I think its tempting, when typing is difficult, to be lazy about typing comments, user documentation etc).

My experience echoed that of several others who have switched layouts: as long as you steer clear of QWERTY during the "training" period (i.e. while you get used to the new layout), you can safely and successfully use QWERTY keyboards later. The brain just seems to handle both without getting confused. I use "my" layout at work and QWERTY at home, with the only noticable downside being that my error rate on QWERTY is a bit higher than it used to be.

--JohnRusk


For people who have tweaked (remapped) their keyboard a lot, or just want kind of an original look: Kinesis, when asked, will sell sets of blank keys. Totally blank, without any lettering on them.

It's a bit complicated, as there are about 7 or 8 different key shapes for the entire keyboard. I only got blank letter & number keys, that's still 4 or 5 groups, and kept Ctrl-Alt-Del-Space-Tab-Shift etc. as of origin. That's about 80% of the keyboard.

Contact Rick Lynde (rlynde at kinesis.com). You may have to cajole him a bit -- it's a rare request, and kind of a pain for them I understand.

--RenaudWaldura?


I decided to take the plunge about a year ago and bought a Kinesis classic for a machine at home. I have adapted pretty well to the curvature. That part isn't as hard as it may seem, as long as you use the right fingers for the right keys. The hard part for me has been that everything except the basic alpha and number keys have been moved around quite a lot. I can do basic emailing and wiki-ing, but complicated text editing is pretty slow, as is coding, both due to the placement of the arrow keys and other navigation keys. You don't realize just how ingrained the typical 101/104 keyboard layout is in your brain, until you can't use it any more. I remember the pain and misery of teaching myself to use a 101/104 key layout instead of the 84 key layout. Same thing here. You have to throw away years and years of muscle memory and build it up again. And it's not so much the individual keys that matter... I know where the individual keys are on this thing. The hard part is sequences of keys. In a text editor, I find myself keying sequences like end-enter-tab* or home-enter-enter-enter-up-up-tab* or other things like that. Trying to do the same key sequences on the Kinesis doesn't come at all naturally. Maybe that's why they have so many macro features on these keyboards. If you use vi or some similarly contrived program as your main text editor, your learning curve will probably be shorter. Aside from the learning curve, I like the keyboard very much and I am going to stick with it. -- MichaelSparks


I bought one too. Found it totally unusable for programming, which I do a lot of. The placement of the F keys just didn't work, as they get used often. I tried hard to like this Kinesis keyboard but now it is just collecting dust. --JoshuaKerievsky

Did you ever try remapping the function keys somewhere else? I've had a Kinesis keyboard for years, never needed the function keys (too much Emacs), but I imagine the F keys would work nicely in the embedded keypad. -- CharlesSutton?
CategoryKeyboard

See Also: ErgonomicKeyboard

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