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This question asks about the ergonomics of a particular keyboard for long programming hours, what I would like to know is about the ergonomics of using a keyboard in general. What are the most significant risks associated with it and how can they best be mitigated? Do the "ergonomic" keyboard designs make a difference and if so which design is most effective? If not do other factors such as wrist-rests, regular exercise or having a suitable height of chair or desk make a difference?

Do you have any direct experience of problems deriving from keyboard use and if so how did you resolve them?

Is there any good science on this and if so what does it indicate?

Edited to add: Wikipedia suggests that there are no proven advantages to "ergonomic" keyboards, but their citation seems pretty old- is that still the current state of play?

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closed as off topic by ChrisF Jul 10 '12 at 16:10

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A young friend of mine has recently gotten carpal tunnel. I have not yet, and hopefully will not because my typing skills are weak. Take good care of yourself. –  Job Nov 24 '10 at 17:14
Lots of jobs use keyboards at least as much as programming, so I don't see that this is programming-specific. –  David Thornley Nov 24 '10 at 17:28
Oh in that case I'll take it over to the general purpose "everyone who uses keyboards" Q&A site shall I? I'm making the following assumptions: Programmers tend to use keyboards - on the whole more than mouse-and-keyboard which is how most people operate. Programmers tend to be smart people interested in solving problems and programmers are interested in the tools they use, which in some cases ( including me ) extends to their own physical wellbeing. So it may not be programmer exclusive, but I would say it is highly programmer relevant. –  glenatron Nov 24 '10 at 23:06

6 Answers 6

Read this story about how most of your RSI pains might be psychosomatic symptoms:




I know it might sound far-fetched at first, but I was cured in under a week after reading about this ailment.

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I know the mouse bothers me far more than the keyboard and the wrist rests actually put me in a worse position. The most useful ergonomic thign I ever used was a keyboard drawer that tilts downward. You cannot easily get your wrists out of alignment when the back keys are lower than the front keys (try it by propping up the front and you will see).

The key is to hold your wrists in a neutral position. Your hands should never be higher than your wrists (Which is why I say that the wrist rests encourage the wrong positioning).

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So at the least drop the little legs at the back of the keyboard that tilt it towards you? –  glenatron Nov 24 '10 at 23:36
FYI, some pictures of neutral keyboard position (and bad keyboard positions) at rsiprevention.com/rsi_prevention.php –  MZB Nov 25 '10 at 0:52
@glenatron - Yes. The MS Natural Keyboard has legs at the front so it can be titled slightly down at the back. Watch out for chair height too - if this is wrong it will put the wrists in a bent position, or make you lean them on the front edge of a desk. Adjusting the typing position (and taking regular breaks) worked for me. –  MZB Nov 25 '10 at 1:01

One word: Maltron. (They are available also under the brand Kinesis — not ultimate quality components, but also not an ultimate price. Also no separate numeric keypad.)

Almost every “ergonomic” QWERTY keyboard out there still has the keys deviating to the left as they get further away from you. (Many of them are still fairly flat, as well.)

As for the Maltron… it has two advantages — over and above being actually and genuinely shaped ergonomically, and having the keys in straight columns. One is that (based on years of research) they have redesigned the key layout — blank-slate-style. The other is that (as part of that) it uses the thumbs, notably for E, which is worth about the same as (at least) two extra fingers. (There is a variety of comparison statistics; the largest is: over 1000 times fewer (of something bad).)

It takes a while to get up to speed on it, but the speed is 10% or 20% higher. At least get them for your kids.

p.s. A tip based on my experience: do not touch a QWERTY while learning. (You will be still able to use one afterwards.)

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I had tenosynovitis (inflammation of the tendon sheaths). I had to rest my wrists for a number of weeks (which meant one-handed hunt-and-pecking).

After I (a) switched to a Microsoft Natural and (b) stopped playing Quake I never had a problem again.

I suspect that mice are a bigger factor in causing RSI than keyboards, but I do feel twinges in my wrists/forearms when I use a normal keyboard longer than a few hours.

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I don't know much about ergonomic keyboards but I always try and type like I'm playing the piano (wrists suspended in the air). If I let my wrists sit on the keyboard or desk, typing starts to hurt after a while. I also switched to Dvorak and subsequently Programmer's Dvorak, which is much more comfortable for me than QWERTY.

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How easy do you find it to switch between Dvorak and QWERTY? –  MZB Nov 25 '10 at 1:06
After tying exclusively in Dvorak for a few months, typing in QWERTY felt next to impossible when I had to do simple things like type in username and pass. Qwerty still invaded my dvorak-brain once in a while, just due to common keystroke patterns, but now they are pretty separate. If I think about it for a moment I can type pretty fine in qwerty, I've gotten better at visualizing the keys thanks to text messaging (and looking at the keyboard whenever I type on the phone screen). I probably couldn't draw a Dvorak keyboard without moving my fingers though. –  sova Nov 25 '10 at 2:34
@MZB: And honestly it took a while to be able to type in qwerty without looking at the keyboard, which was ironic because I learned qwerty first and could touch-type no problem. –  sova Nov 25 '10 at 2:36


Check out Is working out a healthy alternative to combat RSI (Repetitive Stress Injuries).

For me personally, if my wrists start to hurt... I stretch them, do a little wrist workout (see the link) and the pain goes away either immediately or by the next day.

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