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Programmers spend most of their days on a computer designing, writing, and testing code. This makes the keyboard one of the most important tools in their kit. A coder cannot just pick any keyboard and hope it does the job. They need one that will make their job simpler. A keyboard that they can type on the whole day without straining and also reprogram it to access the most frequented applications on their computers easily. A great keyboard should minimize how often you use the mouse and consequently boost your productivity.
I give you 6 of the best keyboards you will get in the market right now.
|Product||Type||Form Factor||Switch Type||Wireless||Reason Chosen||Details|
|Kinesis Advantage2 Keyboard||Mechanical||Tenkeyless||Cherry MX Brown||Yes||Best Ergonomic Keyboard Overall||Check Price|
|Microsoft Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard||Membrane||Tenkeyless||N/A||Yes||Best Budget Ergonomic keyboard||Check Price|
|Das Smart Mechanical Keyboard||Mechanical||Full size||Gamma Zulu||No||Best Smart Keyboard||Check Price|
|Happy Hacking Professional2 Keyboard||Mechanical||Compact||Topre||No||Best Portable Keyboard||Check Price|
|CM Storm QuickFire Rapid||Mechanical||Tenkeyless||Cherry MX Brown||No||Best Mechanical Keyboard||Check Price|
If you find yourself complaining of wrist pains frequently, then I highly recommend the Kinesis Advantage2. It comes with a unique design that incorporates various techniques to help you comfortably use the keyboard for long hours.
The keys have been split into two and positioned in a contour on both sides of the keyboards. I was not sure how this would help until I began typing. First of all, it increases my thumb functionality by introducing two thumb clusters. The CTRL, Enter, and Space are on the right cluster and the Backspace, Delete and Alt buttons are on the left cluster. Also, my hands felt so naturally placed I could keep typing the whole day. And not just the wrists but my shoulders too. The split design means that my hands stretch straight from the shoulder instead of the usual V.
I won't lie that typing on this keyboard is hard and will take time before you are back typing at your usual speed. But once you do, you are not going back. If you are having too much trouble adapting to their layout, the keyboard features a smart programming engine with onboard remapping that you can use to switch the buttons. It allows you to change the key sequence in 100 different ways. You can also save each new layout you create and assign any alphanumeric key as its hotkey for easy access.
The key responsiveness is also impressive, but I would not have expected less considering it uses Cheryl MX Brown switches. It is compatible with all Windows PC and Mac computers and does not require any special drivers to program it.
Microsoft Sculpt is another keyboard I highly recommend for work ergonomics. It is less complicated than the Kinesis and considerably cheaper. However, they use different methodologies so it would be unfair to compare them. Unlike the Kinesis, this keyboard splits the keys into two by completely removing a chunk of material between them. However, the motivation behind this is still the same. To position your fingers and arms in a more natural position while reducing the amount of strain involved in typing. And it does this excellently. I had a much easier time typing on this keyboard compared to the Kinesis, but it still requires some practice before you can adapt.
Something else I liked is the negative tilt. It is different from the forward lift on most keyboards, but it is surprisingly comfortable. It is further reinforced by a padded wrist rest that ensures you do not bend your wrist too much. The palm rest attaches to the keyboard by a magnet, and you can remove it if you prefer typing on your lap. And what's better is that the tilt is adjustable. You can experiment on different heights to find one that is most comfortable for you.
The keys are also slightly larger than most keyboards. I could tell because there were less typing errors. Most errors I made came from not being accustomed to the keyboard. But my highlight feature for the Microsoft Sculpt has to be the separate num pad. The main reason I don't use the num pad is due to its awkward positioning. I have to stretch to reach it. Now I can place it in a more convenient position. The keypad responsiveness is quick and felt like the perfect integration between a laptop and a desktop. It is wireless, so you don't have to worry about tangles.
This keyboard is one of the sturdiest keyboards I have reviewed, and I attribute it to the aluminum top panel. I say this because I applied a fair amount of force on it in an attempt to bend it and it took it like a champ. It may not be the wisest thing to do, but at least it is safe to conclude this keyboard can handle a few falls.
Das keyboard has moved from the usual Cherry MX switches we are used to and is instead using gamma Zulu switches. They claim that these switches can last for about 100 million keypresses. That is about 2x the MX. I cannot confirm this, but I can attest that they do feel different. They are softer and feel like a fusion between black and brown Cherry MX switches.
One of my favorite feature on this keyboard is the wrist rest. It is super comfortable and made me type a little faster. The volume knob and three dedicated media buttons on the top right are also quite useful in controlling media on your PC. And what's better, you can now assign all the 12 function keys to other tasks. Nevertheless, I found the volume knob to be a bit bulky and much harder to handle.
But now to answer the biggest question. Why this keyboard is called smart. It is compatible with the IFTT protocol or otherwise put the 'IF THIS THEN THAT' protocol. You can set various keys to alert you when there is some activity online or around you. For instance, you can set it to notify you when there is a new comment on a thread you are following on stack overflow. Or a more practical example, I programmed it to alert me when my phone was ringing. You might not hear it ring while coding, but you won't miss the blinking keys. They have used laser etching to label their keyboards thus no chances of them wearing off.
This keyboard takes a very minimalistic approach regarding its design. On top of dropping the num pad, it also cuts the navigation keys and the function keys above it making it smaller than the Tenkeyless keyboard. And the first thing I noticed is how less I strain my hands while typing. It also significantly frees up my workspace and makes using my mouse effortless. The good thing is they did not attempt to make the keys smaller.
The key response is also instant probably due to the use of high quality Topre switches. It's not as noisy as the standard mechanical keyboard since the topre switches are more of a fusion between the membrane and mechanical keyboards. But you can still hear the clack when the switch bottoms out which is just how I prefer it.
I must say that this keyboard will also take some time getting used to. There have been some shifts in key placements. For instance, Caps shares positions with the Tab button, and Ctrl takes its place. Instead of a backspace, it has Delete. However, you can use the DIP switches at the bottom to change this back and also modify the action of other specific keys. There is a guide at the bottom that explains what each switch does. The matte key labels on a dark grey finish may not be the easiest to see, but I am confident it will appeal to those that hate too much color on their keys.
You have probably heard everyone talking about mechanical keyboards, and you are wondering why all the fuss. Well, I recommend you try the CM Storm QuickFire Rapid then you will be the one talking. What's so great about it? Let's start with its size. By entirely doing away with the Num pad they have considerably reduced the length of this keyboard. This move is great because I can now access the mouse more easily and it frees more space on my workstation. And to be honest, I don't use the Num pad much.
This keyboard comes with brown Cherry MX mechanical switches that make typing an absolute pleasure. Since this type of switch registers a key press before reaching the bottom, I was able to type faster and used less force. The keys on this keyboard are laser etched which means they will take all the pounding without wearing out. I also like that they made the connecting cables detachable. It would have been great if they had made the keyboard completely wireless but at least now you don't have to fold the wire around the keyboard when carrying it around. It also allows you to use the PS/2 connector if you are using an older computer model. It's also good because if the cable develops a problem, you can replace it instead of the keyboard.
PS/2 users will benefit from the N-Key rollover feature that allows you to press multiple keys at the same time. This is more or less the same as the anti-ghosting feature present for USB connections. I type really fast and sometimes end up pressing the next button before I have released the first. These features mean every key I press will be registered.
The QuickFire also includes some extra keys and a key cap puller in the package. These keys may not be as useful for programmers as they are for gamers, but I think they are great since they introduce you to the concept of key customization. Some programmers don't like too much detail on the keys, and this keyboard allows you to replace the stock keys with favorable ones. I tried using the keycap remover, and it's a relatively easy process. This keyboard also comes in red and blue switchies.
As you might have noticed, getting the right keyboard is a combination of several factors. And there is also a technical aspect to it that an average user will find hard to understand. But in this detailed guide, we will explore each factor independently and hopefully you can make your buying decision based on an informed point of view.
💻 What is Form Factor?
This term merely refers to the keyboard size you choose and the three standard sizes are Fullsize, Tenkeyless, and Compact.
The Fullsize keyboard has 104 buttons including a full number pad. It has all the keys you need, so you don't have to worry about the function keys. The only downside to this is that it is too large. And this means you will have to stretch more to access the mouse and also poses portability problems.
Which takes us to the next option, the Tenkeyless Keyboard. Some of us never really use the number pad. So this keyboard type eliminates it and instead overlays the numbers with other characters. This design effectively reduces the keyboard size.
The compact keyboard is a relatively new type but has become very popular over time. In addition to the num pad, it cuts down the F-row and the arrow keys. However, these features are still accessible by using the function key and a combination of other keys.
While those are the most common types, there have been new developments that you might want to consider. Like the 65% keyboard. It is very similar to the compact keyboard but includes the arrow keys and some other buttons like the delete and page up/down. This addition is great as it reduces your reliance on the function keys.
And if still, you need something much smaller, you may want to consider the 40% keyboard. It only consists of the alpha keys and some few modifiers. Their tiny size means they have to include another layer of function keys to cover all the basic keyboard commands.
🔐 What are Mechanical vs. Membrane Keyboards?
There are various classifications of keyboards based on how they register the key presses, but Mechanical and Membrane are the dominant two. Most probably you have been using the membrane keyboard since it is the most popular
It is made up of rubber layers and a conductive pad where the characters are printed. Once you press a particular key, the conductive pad detects the pressure and registers the key. Membrane keyboards press down effortlessly, but they lack tactile feedback. You don't feel the keys being pressed down and you may have a hard time acknowledging when a press is registered. But they are considerably cheap and may still work when you are operating at a budget. These keyboards do not make typing noises, but depending on the individual this might be a good or a bad thing. Personally, I like to hear my keyboard rumble as I type.
Which is why I recommend mechanical keyboards as the best-suited keyboard for programmers. These use switches to send the signals which result in quicker response time and more accuracy. You are always sure when a keypress registers. However, there are three main types of switches represented by different color codes, and each performs differently. People respond differently to the color codes but here is a rundown for each so that you have a better understanding. Most programmers I know prefer either Tactile or clicky. The categories can further be split into light and heavy switches depending on the force that's applied to them. Check the table below.
Clicky switches (Blue, Green) – These make an audible click when you press them, and that's how you know the stroke has been registered. Actuation occurs at the bottom.
Tactile Switches (Brown, Clear) – These do not click, but you will feel an actuation bump as you depress them and that's how you know the press has registered. Since the keypress registers somewhere at the middle, these switches demand less typing force and make you type faster.
Linear Switches (Red, Black) – These do not click nor feature a tactile bump. And this is why they are not the most preferred when it comes to typing. But they are great to use as a gaming keyboard where you might be required to tap one key severally.
There is another color type called topre which is not very common but is great for any situation. It combines the switch technology with a rubber membrane which essentially means you enjoy the speed of a mechanical keyboard and smoothness of a membrane keyboard.
Having to type more than 4 hours a day on average can take its toll. It's one of the main reasons why Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) and new wrist-pain related injuries are on the rise. If there are any signs of you developing RSI or you have had cases of it before then an ergonomic keyboard is your best bet. These keyboards come with specific architecture designs that facilitate comfortable typing.
I should tell you that it takes a while to get used to ergonomic keyboards. But you will never regret making that choice. They are also pricier, but you cannot put a price on your health, right?
Qwerty may be the standard keyboard layout, but there are other keyboard arrangements that you can adapt as a programmer that is much faster and efficient. You will achieve this by changing the keyboard layout setting in your operating system. This is where a mechanical keyboard comes in handy since you can consequently change the keycaps to suit the new arrangement. For a membrane keyboard, the printed letters remain as qwerty which can be a little confusing.
Dvorak and Colemak: The other efficient Key arrangement
As you may observe the Dvorak layout tries to make typing faster by positioning the most used keys in the home row where they are easily accessible, and the least used keys at the bottom row. It also tries to place the keys so that the right hand has more access to them.
If you are not looking for a very radical change, then Colemak is more preferred since it features some minor adjustments from the qwerty keyboard. 17 Key changes to be exact. All these changes might take long to relearn, but many admit that they have been able to type faster after shifting to the alternate layouts. If you look down on the keyboard while typing or neglect using all your fingers then this might be a good time to adapt right typing behaviors.
This term is used to indicate the maximum number of keys that can be pressed down at the same time while being registered by the keyboard. The N is a variable that can range anywhere from 2-6. Most people associate this feature with gamers, but it can be convenient keyboard for programmers. Especially if you are a quick typer and there are chances you might be pressing on the next key before releasing the previous.
And now you have it. The six keyboards that will make programming the actual fun that it ought to be. These keyboards are all so great that I had a problem choosing one for myself. Because at the end of it I can't use all of them right? Well, not unless If I had one for each day of the week. So I will tell you my favorite. It's the CSM Quickfire. I talked so much about it that you might have guessed it already.
To summarize what I said, this keyboard is small and offers the best typing experience. Most importantly, It does not require you to unlearn the typing process you already know. Because of its small size, I don't strain much while typing and I can always purchase a palm rest to avoid wrist injury.
Here is list top Keyboards for programming along with popular features and reason chosen.
|Product||Type||Form Factor||Switch Type||Wireless||Reason Chosen||Details|
Kinesis Advantage2 Keyboard
|Mechanical||Tenkeyless||Cherry MX Brown||Yes||Best Ergonomic Keyboard Overall|
Microsoft Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard
|Membrane||Tenkeyless||N/A||Yes||Best Budget Ergonomic keyboard|
Das Smart Mechanical Keyboard
|Mechanical||Full size||Gamma Zulu||No||Best Smart Keyboard|
Happy Hacking Professional2 Keyboard
|Mechanical||Compact||Topre||No||Best Portable Keyboard|
CM Storm QuickFire Rapid
|Mechanical||Tenkeyless||Cherry MX Brown||No||Best Mechanical Keyboard|
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