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I am programming with an apple keyboard (the one all aluminium with flat keys). it's quite some time I observed I occasionally mistype, and I feel pain in my hands. Is it the keyboard's fault, or am I just getting old ? Does any of you have experience with hours of programming with the apple keyboard ?

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closed as not constructive by Caleb, gnat, GlenH7, Robert Harvey, Yusubov May 30 '13 at 18:02

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Only pain when you press the 'wrong' keys? –  JeffO Nov 24 '10 at 16:56
Keyboard? How quaint! –  Tim Post Nov 24 '10 at 18:18
@Tim Post - Hello, computer! –  Dan Ray Dec 22 '10 at 13:07
Might I recommend a proper keyboard? memoryexpress.com/Products/MX42616 –  Sheldon Warkentin May 29 '13 at 16:49

11 Answers 11

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Ok, there will be a whole raft of factors that might contribute to this - not just the keyboard.

Things to consider include

  • Your height relative to the desk
  • Your position relative to the desk
  • Your position relative to the keyboard (how close/far away you are)
  • Where your hands/wrists/forearms rest when using the keyboard
  • Where your monitor is - as this will affect your posture
  • Where your mouse is and how free it is to move

If you compare the desktop keyboard and the laptop keyboard there are some obvious differences in where things are relative to one another - on a laptop your hands will be higher (well possibly not if the laptop is an "air") and flatter, but also there are some more subtle differences in terms of where things are position relative to where you sit to type

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Yay, driveby downvotes without justification... –  Murph Jul 29 '14 at 16:22

I use a macbook, its keyboard is similar to apple keyboards for desktops, and it is the best keyboard I have ever used (HP omnibook, sony vaio, lots of genius keyboards for desktops). But I think it is too subjective.

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I like the Apple keyboards as there is a very short travel on the key press (that is the difference between being up and being pressed is very small) but I agree, it's largely a matter of preference. I suspect we'll see many people on here who aren't happy with any keyboard that doesn't have a good solid physical "click" to each key when pressed. –  Jon Hopkins Nov 24 '10 at 14:24
you are probably right in saying that is subjective, but I don't understand why I get strain while using this keyboard, and I don't get it on my mac laptop... –  Stefano Borini Nov 24 '10 at 14:27
@Stefano - could be that the laptop keyboard is flat where the desktop one is at a slight angle isn't it? –  Jon Hopkins Nov 24 '10 at 14:41
@Jon yes, but all non-laptop keyboards have a slight angle... –  Stefano Borini Nov 24 '10 at 15:04

I guess this is subjective, but I also don't find Apple's keyboard most comfortable. I believe that

  1. keys surfaces should not be completely flat (I think that the recesses helps our fingers orient)
  2. keys should have couple of millimeters of travel - because of the size of our fingers
  3. keys shouldn't be too soft - because of the weight and strength of our fingers (sounds like a paradox, but I believe keys too soft make our fingers tire faster).

(I am also constantly frustrated with MacBook keyboard because its lack of PgUp/PgDown keys, but that's another problem now.)

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Obviously this must be a subjective topic because I actually like flat keyboards, with less travel, that have a softer touch :) –  NickC Nov 24 '10 at 18:45
Well the topic might be subjective, but the physics and biomechanics aren't. But I guess it's pretty hard to get some credible research results on the subject. –  Mladen Jablanović Nov 24 '10 at 18:59
Fair enough that physics are not subjective, but points 1-3 are not based on physics... my fingers orient fine with the edges of the keys and in fact I think the flat keys help the raised bar on the F and J stand out. A mac keyboard has about 2mm of travel instead of 5mm or more on others, which I think is plenty. And I think the softness is going to depend on the person's finger weight, strength, size, etc. –  NickC Nov 24 '10 at 20:57
I bet you hate the lack of 'del' key on your macbook too. I know I do. The mice also suck for ergonomics. –  Keyo Dec 22 '10 at 5:55

Does any of you have experience with hours of programming with the apple keyboard ?

no but I do have a Microsoft Natural keyboard plugged into a Mac and use it without issue.

All I had to do was swap the keys so the keyboard's Alt key becomes Command and the keyboard's Win key becomes Option:

System Preferences -> Keyboard -> Keyboard -> Modifier Keys... -> I set Option to Command and Command to Option.

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This! The best keyboard ever made imo :) –  Friek May 30 '13 at 14:28

Enter IBM Model M with a USB adaptor or a Unicomp.

alt text

Of course you do know about the Apple Extended Keyboard, yes?

alt text

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I have one at home. Too noisy. –  Stefano Borini Nov 25 '10 at 9:37
@StefanoB: Which one? Too noisy for you or your colleagues? –  Xepoch Nov 25 '10 at 17:11
The Matias Tactile Pro keyboard uses the same key switches (Alps) that was used in the Apple Extended Keyboard (also known as The Best Keyboard Ever). –  helgeg Nov 30 '10 at 10:30

I use both the latest Apple desktop keyboard and I have a later-model MacBook Pro with the new keyboard at the office and a similar set up at home. I've surmised that having strain using one over the other has as much to do with the way I am sitting in front them as much as anything

In both cases I actually prefer using the laptop keyboards more because I find that when I sit at my desks using the laptops, my arms are higher and actually resting on the desk. My hands end up approaching the keyboard in a more comfortable position than the desktop keyboards which are on keyboard trays. (I've come to loathe keyboard trays, and my office was designed long before modern computer setups were really taken into consideration so moving things around really isn't an option. But, I digress...)

No matter what, I think I would have the same problems regardless of which keyboards I use, and this really has to do more with how my desks are set up than anything.

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I also have an Apple keyboard at home. Though I haven't experienced hand pain while using it, I don't type as much at home as I do at work, where I have a Microsoft Natural Keyboard. On the other hand, this is a very subjective thing as others have mentioned. If you're experiencing pain, you may want to consider a different keyboard, a wrist pad, or both.

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+1 because there's no way I'd like to spend day after day using my Mac Book Pro keyboard for programming. A M$ Natural keyboard is a great alternative. –  Gary Rowe Nov 24 '10 at 16:51
I am using macbook keyboard for programming for over a year now, at least 14 hours a day and have no problems at all. It's possible. –  radekg Nov 24 '10 at 20:49

I recommend reading Shawn Blanc's post about alternative Mac keyboards. He shows he gets quite different typing speeds and accuracies on different keyboards. Everyone will get different results here (that's not subjectivity, just the way your hands are made and wired to your brain that's different for everyone... take a typing test to get an objective reading). So given you're spending a significant part of your time typing on this keyboard, it is probably worth trying a few alternative keyboards and finding which one suits you best - hard or soft key, deep or shallow...

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The Apple keyboards are very pretty, and not too bad to type on. Still, I type 10 hours a day for a living, and I am old enough to prefer the feel of old style keyboards. For long typing spells I do not find the Apple aluminium keyboard very comfortable. I was very happy to read that Matias have come out with a recent model of their Tactile Pro keyboard. At US$150 it is far from cheap, but I will certainly get one.

There are also other producers of tactile keyboards, for instance Das Keyboard, but Matias specifically design their keyboards for the Mac, which is a plus.

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I personally can't stand typing on anything other than an Apple keyboard or other similar keyboard with short/quiet keys (such as the http://www.amazon.com/Microsoft-Wireless-Entertainment-Desktop-Silver/dp/B000H12IAC I have on my PC at home).

With traditional keyboards such as the default Dell keyboard, I find them so loud they are distracting and feel like my fingers get more tired from the longer throw of the key. I haven't had any pain from the ergonomics of the standard flat Mac keyboard.

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There are good and bad keyboards and choosing which good keyboard suits you is completely subjective. As far as I've seen, people's favorites fall into one of these categories:

  • Macbook keyboards (quite neutral, good build, slightly curved surfaces)
  • Lenovo-type keyboards (keys have a particular curved shape, generally solid typing experience)
  • Mechanical keyboards (large, extremely durable, satisfying "clicks" on key press)
  • Ergonomic keyboards (weird shapes, the muscle memory needs some adjustment to them, can improve average words-per-minute and typing comfort). Microsoft are well known for their ergonomic keyboards

My keyboard of choice is Macbook Air's (but you get adjusted to any flavour of Mac keyboard, really), here's why:

  • it's convenient - no extra keyboard to carry
  • it's small - the distance between keys is minimal but perfect for my average-to-large hands
  • I find shallow keys better for typing, even for insanely long (48 hours) coding bouts
  • Cmd + Alt + Ctrl = awesomeness (once you get used to all the editing shortcuts)
  • caveat: they're horrible for serious gaming due to the modifier keys' placement
  • edit: just realised, a very big plus is having the touchpad right next to your hands - I honestly couldn't live without this arrangement and this is the biggest reason I prefer Apple laptop keyboards instead of the desktop ones
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