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Programmers tend to type a lot of code, bashing a lot of shortcuts and a lot of other things.

What keyboards are good for programming?

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locked by Yannis Rizos Mar 30 '13 at 0:20

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closed as not constructive by Mark Trapp Dec 18 '11 at 11:57

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Needs a "null" button too. –  user1249 Oct 19 '10 at 10:45
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Where's the file_not_found button? –  user4051 Oct 23 '10 at 12:56
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Any answer that doesn't involve a Model-M is wrong, and should be violently downvoted. –  Charles Salvia Jul 31 '11 at 18:51
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Any keyboard that needs a driver is no good. –  thorsten müller Aug 1 '11 at 10:38
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If this type of eminently-practical-question that affects 100% of working programmers is now "Closed" meaning that it no longer meets the requirements stated in the FAQ, then the entire reason (In my view) that Programmers was started, has now died. What the heck is the point of this site anyways? This site has lost its way. –  Warren P Feb 3 '12 at 16:50

31 Answers 31

up vote 52 down vote accepted

I use the Microsoft Natural 4000, an ergonomic split-style keyboard. With some judicious emacs key remappings, it's the best keyboard by far I've ever used. I use it at both home and work, and recommend it to everyone who asks.

My wrists and hands feel amazingly comfortable in it. There's this faux-leather thing that's really nice to rest my hands on, much better than straight-up plastic.

It's not terribly loud, but not terribly quiet.

I will say, however, that it does not stand up to sugared tea very well; replacing it after the Tea Incident got me a defective one, which I had replaced.

Several of the keys take a bit more force than they should, in my opinion, and it took me a while to adjust.

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It is good. But the space bar is too hard to press. No RH windows key. No USB ports. Not wireless. The 'zoom' toggle is useless by default. and why no copy paste keys? Better than a normal keyboard, but not by much. –  adolf garlic Sep 10 '10 at 5:18
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@adolf: I don't have an issue with the space bar. I am interested in being able to code without my hands leaving the keyboard. Comfort is my goal. –  Paul Nathan Sep 10 '10 at 15:39
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It is very good for people with big hands, too. –  JBRWilkinson Oct 19 '10 at 13:27

Wow. Can't believe no one has mentioned the venerable Model M yet.

The best keyboard ever built.

Advantages:

  • Built like a tank. Mine was manufactured in 1987, and is still going strong.
  • Removable / replaceable key caps. Great if you want to remap to something weird like Dvorak, or just remove entirely to show off your touch-typing skills.
  • Clean separation of alphanumeric keys, function keys, cursor keys, and numeric keypad. Getting your hands into the right position is never a problem.
  • Wonderful, tactile, "clicky" buckling-spring key switches! I can type for hours on this thing without the impact-pain commonly caused by softer, lesser keyboards.

Disadvantages:

  • Large. If reaching for your mouse puts your arm outside your comfort area when using a normal keyboard, you'll hate this one.
  • Noisy. But if someone complains, throw it at them. Don't worry, it won't break.
  • Hard to get working with USB-only devices.
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As earlier stated, this is the best keyboard in the whole world. –  Xepoch Sep 21 '10 at 0:47
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Every PS/2->USB adapter I've used kills rollover. I've tried at least three with my old Avant Stellar and I always wind up with dropped characters when I'm typing quickly. –  TMN Oct 20 '10 at 16:55
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The Model M just gives you the best feeling while typing. I have tried about twenty keyboards in a shop lately, but none can compete with the Model M. –  Falcon Jul 30 '11 at 21:59
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Ah, the Model M. The perfect keyboard for the coming zombie apocalypse! –  Donal Fellows Jul 31 '11 at 14:00
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Love the buckling springs and the build quality, but it only has 101 keys - It lacks both of the meta`super`cmd`windows` keys and the menu key. I never use the the latter, but the lack of the former makes many shortcuts in *nix and Mac OS X unusable (ex: No butterfly command in emacs). Of course, the UNICOMP Customizer 104 is a reasonable solution to this problem if you must have the buckling springs... –  Kevin Vermeer Nov 29 '11 at 0:01

I have the older version of one of these: the Das Keyboard and they're brilliant.

They really do make you type faster, and you can type whilst looking and talking to people, which tends to freak them out a bit.

They're very nicely weighted too, and have a proper clunky feel and sound to them.

alt text

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I can type while looking at and talking to people with a conventional keyboard, too. :) –  Anna Lear Sep 10 '10 at 15:12
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Is this a clever trick to stop other people using your computer? –  TRiG Oct 15 '10 at 14:05
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+1 as it's the best keyboard I've ever used. users like @Anna Lear will learn the rest of the keys that they thought they knew. –  zzzzBov Mar 22 '11 at 17:22
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The older "Das Keyboards" were just souped-up Keytronic keyboards. So if you like that typing feel, you might be able to find an old Keytronic model for ~20 bucks with the same touch -- features.slashdot.org/story/05/09/08/1725252/… –  Jesper Mortensen Mar 31 '11 at 16:56

Kinesis Advantage Pro

alt text

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+1, that thing looks incredible, especially once you realize where your thumbs would be sitting the whole time. –  Note to self - think of a name Sep 18 '10 at 1:53
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I couldn't work without it. It's programmable. I swap Backspace with Control and Delete with Alt, making all those keyboard shortcuts so easy to type. –  kevin cline Jul 31 '11 at 1:30
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It also has built in macros that you can create. Makes programming more efficient. –  Ominus Jul 31 '11 at 1:57
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"I couldn't work without it" - that probably isn't a good thing ;-) –  Logan Koester Aug 1 '11 at 0:16
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Those are ideal for Emacs programmers because you can move Ctrl to a stronger finger (like your thumb). Or you can also get foot switches. –  Wayne Werner Nov 29 '11 at 15:35

Things I love about my IBM Model M Compact:

  • Buckling spring keyswitches
  • No number pad means shorter distance to the mouse
  • Unlike other compact keyboards, it still has dedicated function, arrow, and page up/page down keys

IBM Model M Compact

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Does it seriously plug in via rj-11? –  Steve Evers Sep 18 '10 at 1:39
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I have a PS/2 model. –  Ben Williams Sep 18 '10 at 9:13
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There is NO BETTER KEYBOARD in the world than the IBM Ms. –  Xepoch Sep 21 '10 at 0:46
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Absolutely the best keyboard I have ever used. –  Jon Purdy Sep 24 '10 at 20:19
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Wow, a compact Model M? This is incredible. Where can I get one?!? –  Cody Gray Mar 28 '11 at 7:28

I tried the Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000 that everybody seem to rave about but I couldn't get used to it. It feels nice when you put your hands on it, but in actual use I felt like it put too much strain on my fingers, whether because of its size or because of the weight required to press the keys, which was slightly more than the amount of weight you need for laptop keyboards. In the end I discovered that the Microsoft Comfort Curve 2000, one of their cheapest and most entry level ergonomic keyboard, is the best fit for me. The curve does make a difference, it is very flat so I can strike they keys from every angle I feel is comfortable, and the keys are easier to press. alt text I will probably give the 4000 another chance in the future, but for now I'm satisfied.

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I used to have this keyboard (before my sister stole it lol), and it was fairly comfortable. –  Corey Oct 19 '10 at 14:35
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Yes! My story's the same as yours - I figured it was time to step up to a big-boy, "professional" keyboard and tried an ergo 4000, but I just couldn't get into it. I found this one by accident and I love it. The low-profile keys have just the right amount (read: small but not nonexistent) of throw and are quiet, everything is in the right place, and it's spill-resistant to boot. –  nlawalker Oct 20 '10 at 0:51

Minimalist option: Happy Hacking Keyboard to whom have few space on desk or wants minimum hands movement.

alt text

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As far as I can tell the only advantage is its small size that does not displace the mouse too far to the right. –  EpsilonVector Sep 10 '10 at 4:31
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@Laurynas, @EpsilonVector. No way. The advantage is the key switches are made by Topre, and they have an incredible typing feel with just the right amount of feedback and just the right amount of force. –  Matt Olenik Sep 15 '10 at 19:46
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Awesome key switches, well placed Control key, small size (so my trackball is 2" away from my typing hands instead of ~8). Emacs/Conkeror user here though, so YMMV if you don't need the keyboard as much. –  Inaimathi Sep 18 '10 at 15:47

I'm a big fan of the Logitech Wave: Logitech Wave

The keys are just the right size and spacing, and it's the best keyboard I've ever typed on. The Home/Delete/End key block took a bit of getting used to, but ultimately it wasn't a dealbreaker for me.

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I have one of these at home. I thought I liked it until I typed on a mechanical keyboard, and I realized the keys were way too difficult to type on. For a typist it's a pretty miserable keyboard. I love the design and the wrist rest though. –  Matt Olenik Sep 15 '10 at 19:49
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@Anna, the Filco line of keyboards (tiny.cc/h5yrf). I was researching mechanical keyboards and found a whole wealth of information. There's a ton of different kinds of key switches, some better than others depending on your application (gaming vs. typing, for example). I settled on the Tactile Touch NKRO because I don't want ridiculously loud clicky keys, but still want good key feel, and I do a fair bit of gaming as well. If you want more info, check out the Geekhack keyboard forum: tiny.cc/e239a –  Matt Olenik Sep 15 '10 at 20:29

I was using the Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000. I was extremely uncomfortable using it. I could not reach the keys on the top without accidentally pressing other keys when I did not lift my hands off the wrist-rest.

alt text

I was so happy when I found out that my company has the super basic keyboard. Immediately, I switched to it and have been using it. I can type and code way faster. alt text

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@Linx image link is broken –  user1249 Jul 30 '11 at 21:20

Microsoft Natural Keyboard Elite

Best Keyboard Ever

There can be only one!

Very vintage, hard to find, but it's the Best.

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The one in the picture has HORRIBLE cursor key arrangement (Diamond, YUCK!), but the ORIGINAL ergonomic keyboard is fabulous. –  Warren P Aug 4 '11 at 20:14

I don't know if it is a good to programming but seems interesting: DataHand

alt text

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I was looking at this a little while ago. Has anyone actually tried it? $900 is a bit too rich for my blood for an unknown quantity. –  Inaimathi Sep 18 '10 at 15:48
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the CS dept chair uses these due to bad wrist damage, and they actually relieve RSI. Pretty high learning curve, though, so expect to spend time getting used to it –  Jason Jul 31 '11 at 1:03
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And nobody will ask to use your computer. Bonus. –  Warren P Aug 4 '11 at 20:16
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I have been using this keyboard for last 5 years. I got one at home and one at work. Totally worth the money. Spending 8-10 hrs at the keyboard. Main reason I got it though is because it integrates a mouse, so I can sit all day and only move my fingers slightly. The mouse is not very good, but is sufficient. I did relieved my shoulder pain from constant jumping between a keyboard and a mouse. I do use it with Dvorak layout, but it works as well (or better) with QWERTY. –  user93422 Aug 8 '11 at 14:02

I use a typematrix. And yes, everybody thinks I'm insane for using it. But it's an absolute pleasure to type on.

typematrix

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I used to have one of these. It was great until I had to do something on another machine that didn't have it. –  Larry Coleman Nov 28 '11 at 18:22
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@Caleb: Not to worry, they also sell a version with qwerty key caps. –  Larry Coleman Nov 29 '11 at 18:53

I'm happy with any one that hasn't moved the home/end keys around. I'm looking at you, Logitech.

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I love Logitech! I never use the "Insert" key anyways, it is only there to irritate me. The logitech keyboards is very good, making the deletekey big and close to your hands. –  Jannis Jan 17 '11 at 17:11

I use and love the Apple Wireless Keyboard. Compact and beautiful.

Apple Wireless Keyboard

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this one drives me nuts... the fn key where the ctrl key should be... –  Newtopian Nov 29 '11 at 3:51
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It is horrible for writing code. There are no Home/End keys which are used a lot, even more frequently used forward-delete can only be done by Fn+Backspace, and I always press Fn instead of Ctrl. –  hamstergene Nov 29 '11 at 10:05
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I admire what Apple did here with making their desktop keyboard match exactly to their laptop keyboard... but why would anyone want a laptop sized keyboard for a desktop? It's probably the least ergonomic keyboard that could possibly come with a desktop. If you like RSI, this is the keyboard for you. –  blesh Aug 24 '12 at 20:17

I like the keyboard from Deck.

Specifically, the small form factor. It looks cool and it feels nice to type on.

alt text

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It's a damn shame all the mechanical keyboards are at the bottom of this list. –  Matt Olenik Sep 15 '10 at 19:46

Up until a few months ago, I would have said the Kensington SlimType Keyboard. But then, I fell in love with this:

The Apple Aluminum Keyboard

They key separation by the aluminum faceplate on the new Apple keyboard is absolutely incredible for preventing fat-finger errors. I highly recommend it, no matter what operating system is being used.

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Wow. Really? I do believe that's the worst keyboard I've ever touched in my life (and I've had to use some truly horrible keyboards in the past!). –  Brian Knoblauch Sep 24 '10 at 18:35

I've been thinking about buying something like this once I switch back to desktop. It's marketed towards gamers, but it has programmable buttons (12 most used functions of your favorite language just one button away!) and the buttons feel great. It's pretty expensive at ~150€ but keyboards do not "age" as fast as other computer components and the amount of typing programmers do in my opinion justified the price. Plus there's the miniature screen too!

Logitech G19 Keyboard for Gaming

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Even if I went for the slightly less spiffy G15 , I agree with this choice –  Johan Buret Sep 24 '10 at 19:30

Rather than suggest a keyboard, I'd suggest that you try several and go with the one that works for you. I was going to say that there was less variation in keyboard designs than mouse designs, but the images posted as answers have convinced me otherwise.

Things to look out for:

  • Keys need to be where you expect them to be and the right shape. Normally the return/enter key is two rows deep and slightly "L" shaped. I've used keyboards where it wasn't and found entering a newline a chore rather than something automatic.

  • You need to be able to reach all the keys while you've got "Shift", "Alt" or "Ctrl" pressed with the same hand.

  • A num pad isn't essential - I hardly ever use one, but miss it when it isn't there.

  • Is there good tactile feedback when you press the keys. A definite click is probably too much, but without any resistance you may find yourself pressing the keys harder than you need to which can cause RSI.

(I'm typing this on an old Dell QuietKey I liberated when the office was closed and I was made redundant.)

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Kinesis Advantage. My wrists stopped working for awhile, and this saved my career. I love it.

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The best typing alternative I have encountered during the last years and I am still using is the IBM / Lenovo Keyboard with TrackPoint.

The great Pros are:

  • Excelent typing experience and key feeling as known from the IBM ThinkPad series keyboards
  • No need for a mouse any more and thus no need to lift your hand away from the keyboard and to relocate to the correct key after mouse operation.

enter image description here

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I'd love to have a Space-Cadet keyboard.

Photo.

It appears to be working great with Emacs.

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I have been using the MS Natural Keyboard line since they were first made. I love the way the keys respond and the size of the keyboard and keys are ideal for me.

Currently I am using the MS Natural 7000 wireless keyboard. The battery life has been excellent so far. The next upgrade path for me will be when they release a bluetooth version.

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An old and faithful Logitech Cordless Desktop or whatever it was called at the time:

alt text

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A4Tech Natural A Slim Keyboard. It's cheap, comfortable and it works great for gaming as well. alt text

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I really agree with this StackOverflow thread. I have the top rated keyboard there, the Microsoft Ergonomic 4000 and it really is a beauty to program with. In fact, it's my second one after someone accidentally spilled liquid all over my previous one.

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I've been very happy with the Logitech LX 710, which has a nice key action and none of the annoying curved-keyboard stuff. It also hides the Insert key way up in the top right corner, so you can't hit it on accident. I don't use the customizable buttons at all, but overall, it's a great keyboard.

Logitech LX 710

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Well, when I was 19 I didn't have any problem with my wrists either, they came later, at say 25... –  Lizzan Oct 13 '10 at 9:13

I want this Saitek Cyborg mostly because I currently have a Saitek Eclipse its a nice simple keyboard with properly sized keys. I'm not a fan of the wierd split keyboards that are supposed to be better for you. Also I love that i just undo 4 screws with an allen key and I can throw the top part in the dishwasher (or in the sink) for a quick clean.

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Currently using my second best choice (as we don't have any MS Ergo keyboards around here for me to use)... Sun Microsystems "Unix" keyboard. Not as good a feel as an IBM, but better than most. Capslock and control reversed from what most other keyboards have (capslock being pretty much useless unless you're posting about LOL CATS). Small backspace key (I absolutely HATE those oversized backspace keys!). A little wider than I like what with having the Sun specific keys, but since I occasionally use a SunRay, it is handy to have them (instead of having to memorize wacky key combos).

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I'm using a Razer Tarantula gaming Keyboard.

Razer Tarantula

Contrary to the Picture, mine (German Version) has a big enter key and a smaller LShift. Pros:

  • Nice type feeling
  • Macro Keys where they belong and are useful (five on each side, heavily using the left ones for coding, the right ones usually for launching Programs/Source Control)
  • Excellent Windows Driver, all sorts of Macros Programmable
  • Five Profiles can be stored on the Keyboard, fast switching forth and back (different IDEs/Debugging Configuration)

Cons:

  • USB Hub is only 1.1
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protected by ChrisF Jul 30 '11 at 21:28

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