What to consider when choosing a new keyboard?
The choice of keyboard will depend on a number of factors. Don’t be fooled by the label ‘ergonomic’. It may not have any more benefits than a standard keyboard when used correctly.
Choosing an ergonomic keyboard is not a quick or easy option. Many ergonomic keyboards take a number of weeks to get used to especially if the key layout is different. In the mean time you may make more mistakes and work slower. Its one of the reasons why contoured ergonomic keyboards have not been more popular
It can be much more effective to learn good keying techniques and improve the general layout of your workplace than to buy another expensive piece of kit. If you want more information on keying techniques see our Keyboard placement or Reduce arm pain with better Keying Techniques.
Four Factors to consider when Choosing a New Keyboards
1. How much space you have on the desk.
Some ergonomic keyboard will take up more space than a standard keyboard. This can be a problem if you have a large number of documents or restricted space.
2. Do you need to write as well as use the keyboard
If you need to write and use the keyboard at work than a read and write document holder can be useful. They may not fit over a large or unusually shaped keyboard.
3. Do you need a number pad.
NO -If not, you can think about a short keyboard. This will reduce the size of the keyboard. It also allows the mouse to sit closer to the keyboard which can be useful if you have shoulder problems. However, short keyboards are usually laptop keyboards and the key resistance and movement is different from a standard keyboard. You should try them first.
YES – If you use a number pad for a lot of the time than you could move your keyboard to the left to position the number pad closer to your middle or use a separate number pad. This will allow you to use it in your left or right hand.
Alternatively move the keyboard away and position the number pad directly in front.
4. Are you a touch typist.
If not then you may key with an awkward technique and it may be much more effective to learn to touch type than to buy a new keyboard.
What Keyboard Options do you have?
1. Standard Keyboard
Standard keyboards are frequently used with poor techniques. If you want to find out more about improving your keying techniques see our Better Keying Techniques
2. Contoured keyboard.
These reduce the angle of the wrist while keying so can be useful for people with wrist problems. Whether it will help your wrist pain depends on your keying technique so try the keyboard first or ask for specialist ergonomic assessment
3. Split/Angled keyboard
These alter the position of the forearms and wrist. If you want more advice about the angle and settings of split keyboard see our ‘How to Position a Split/Angled Keyboard’
4. Left hand Keyboard
These have the number pad positioned on the left. This can be useful if you want to bring your mouse closer to your side. They also allow the left hand to do number pad work so spread the load away from the right hand.
5. Mini Keyboards
These are very similar to laptop keyboards in that there is no numerical pad. This makes the keyboard smaller so you can position the mouse much closer to you. it also means there is slightly more room on the desk for documents etc.
Alternative input devices
These include touch pad, voice activated software
If you need to change your keyboard because of a musculoskeletal problem or need advice because of a disability that makes use of a normal keyboard difficult, then it is worth getting the help of a qualified person such as an occupational physiotherapist or ergonomist. They are likely to have good knowledge of what’s available as well as being able to advise on what’s best for you as an individual.