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Shipman's Kinesis keyboard page
I believe that converting to the Dvorak Simplified Keyboard
can significantly improve anyone's typing speed, accuracy and
comfort. These benefits come from placing the most frequently
used keys directly under the home positions of the fingers, and
arranging the rest so that it is easier to reach the
more commonly used keys.
However, I now believe that there is an additional quantum leap
available to typists for a quite reasonable price: the Kinesis
keyboard family. I've been using the Kinesis ``Essential''
keyboard since September 1998, and I'll never go back to regular
Here are the problems with the regular keyboard that the
Kinesis layout solves:
- The usual monolithic keyboard requires that the hands are
bent at an uncomfortable angle to the wrists. Split keyboards
address this problem, but again I feel they're only a partial
- Typing on a regular or even split keyboard still requires a
lot of side-to-side hand motion because the keys covered by each
finger (I'm assuming touch typing here) are arranged along a
diagonal. The digit 6, which is assigned to the right index
finger, is actually as close or closer to the left index finger.
- Typing on a standard keyboard also requires a lot of hand
motion up and down on the keyboard. Since the little finger
is shorter, it has to go further to reach its keys.
- The left thumb has nothing to do, and the right thumb has
only one key (the spacebar). The little fingers have way
too much to do. The left little finger covers shift, control, caps lock,
and tab, as well as the normal letters on the left side.
The right little finger has to cover Enter and Backspace.
Here is how the Kinesis design addresses the complaints above:
- There is a gap of several inches between the left-hand and
right-hand key groups. This allows the hands to lie at a normal
angle (pretty much a straight line) with respect to the wrists.
- The arrangement of keys in diagonals is an artifact of
typewriter design that is completely unnecessary with computer
keyboards. The Kinesis layout arranges the keys for
each finger in a vertical row, so no lateral hand motion is
necessary when moving a finger from row to row.
- The keys for each hand are recessed in a way that corresponds
to the shape of the hand. The keys for the middle finger are
recessed more deeply, and the little finger keys are raised
higher. This puts the keys right where the fingers want them
to be. The column of keys for each finger is arranged along
a circular arc so that all you have to do is flex and extend
the fingers to move from row to row.
- The right thumb covers six keys: space, Enter, Alt, Ctrl,
Page Up, and Page Down. Space is the home position and Enter
is reached by a slight extension of the thumb. The left thumb
rests naturally on Backspace: this alone is one of the biggest
design wins, since you can now correct errors without moving
your hand out of the home position. The left thumb has its
own Alt and Ctrl keys and also covers Delete, Home, and End.
I've been doing a certain data entry task for many years now
and I have pretty good baseline statistics on how fast I can do
each record. When I converted to the Kinesis, the first two days
were very frustrating. By one week I had all my speed back. After
two weeks I was working 20% faster than ever. I haven't measured
recently but I suspect the speed has plateaued now at about 25%
I use the same DSK remapping software with the Kinesis that I'd
been using with conventional keyboards. I believe anyone who is
used to either QWERTY or DSK can convert to the Kinesis and get
back all their speed, and then some, in maybe 40 hours of use.
Note: Although I don't suffer from RSI (Repetitive Strain Injury),
there are a lot of RSI sufferers who find that the Kinesis reduces or
eliminates the pain that they get from using regular keyboards.
Kinesis Corporation page
for pictures, descriptions, testimonials, RSI information, and
pointers to dealers. I've bought two from one of their vendors,
Softek Business Systems, and their service was very good.
Cost is in the $200-230 range for the basic model, which is
all I've needed. Yes, there are lots of keyboards out there for
much cheaper than that. But how much is your time worth? What
would be the impact on your productivity if you developed RSI?
See also: Shipman's ergonomics page
Previous: The Dvorak Simplified Keyboard: Forty Years of Frustration
John W. Shipman,
Last updated: 1998/10/25 23:21:59