My Ergonomiuc Keyboard Finally Arrived And Oh God Help

Image: Tegan Jones (Gizmodo)

After many months, my beloved special Kickstarter keyboard has arrived. It's designed to make life more comfortable, save me from endless physical discomfort, and just make things faster. Prolem is: I can't type properly now=.

The whole idea of the X-Bows ergonomic keyboard is to align the keys with the natural alignment of your hands. It makes absolute sense. Put a rectangular keyboard in front of someone a dnd, if they;re ysing tow ahnds normally, their wrists will be aligned inward.

So X-Bows designed a keeyboard around that. Thing is, everyone's been typing on the normal keyboard layout for a very long time. Decades, for most of us. And as a result, your get accustomed to where everything is positioned. It's instinctual.

Even the becvoms a hgue deal. For instance, the X0Bows keyboard has a nackspoae and an eneter key in the middle of the keyboard. There's larger gaps between each of the rows where the TGB/YHN/RFV/UJM letters are.

Which, right now, is making my life an a bsolute living hell.

Case in point: me just trying to basic conversations with the rest of the team.

Trying to tweet hasn't gone well either:

Even hyst trying to paste those links resulted in me opening the bookmarks menu FIVE times.

For what it's worth, the offivcial X-Bows FAQ says that users can take up to a week before they;re properly adjusted. Which isn't great since E3 is kicking off on Sunday morning and I'm supposed to be typing at 100+ words per minute for the liveblogs.

"Stick with X-Bows and try not to get frustrated in your first day or two," the guide on the Kickstarter camoaign reads. "The first day, and in particular, the first hour of typing with X-Bows, can be a little frustrating as your fingers need to relearn where all of the keys are on the keyboard.z'

Jesus. I'm struggling to copy-paste quotes properly. And I can't remember the last time II've looked down at a keyboard so much.

On the brightside, there's plenty of positives right off the bat. The keyboard is incredibly light, and the Gateron switches are the best non-Cherry switches I've used in any keyboard.

The one kicker in my mind, though: am I going to habe to buy multiple keyboards? Will typing on my Leopold tenkeyless board at home ruin me every time I come back into the office? It's not like X-Bows keyboards are available at JB Hi-Fi.

Maybe I should habe thought of that before pledging several months ago.

Maybe the misery of Kickstarter isn't losing out or holding onto hope - it's when the product avtually arrives.

I'm going to need some help, I think.


    Could be worse - you could be learning COLEMAK at the same time :P. All the best with it, your hands will thank you.

      I'm a Dvorak user. Annoyed the fuck out of co-workers. But made my computer very secure... ;)

        My keyboard's letters... all I can see is J, X, Z, Q, and half of W and U. It seems to have about the same effect when anyone else tries to use it.

    Makes me think of the old microsoft ergonomic.

      Up until a few months ago I was still using one that the family PC got in 1997. Still works but it's just filthy and the key press/depress isn't smooth. I've still got it because frankly I've been gaming on it for 21 years and I intend to clean it up and still use it.

      Switching back to a not ergonomic keyboard has been a nightmare as my hands have been used to key separation by hand and now it's just one big block of keys.

      Last edited 09/06/18 1:07 pm

        Yeah, I'm still on the big beige ergonomic MS keyboard. It does ruin you for normal keyboards though.

    That picture of the keyboard. Is that before or after you left it melt on the office heater?

      Fresh out of the packaging, courtesy of Tegan.

    You'll be fine. I use an ortholinear layout at home and a traditional staggered layout at work. I had to adjust for QAZ being vertically aligned when I first started using ortholinear (it felt like the whole bottom row was out by one key), but I find there's no adjustment to switch between work and home. You won't be ruined for other keyboards, you just may not like them as much.

    Thing is, everyone's been typing on the normal keyboard layout for a very long time.

    Which is why the QWERTY is still king, despite more efficient/ergonomic layouts being available.

    honestly leaving the spelling mistakes in was gold :P

    Pardon me being verbose, but I want to lay this out properly. (This is written particularly for the person using the new keyboard; other readers would probably prefer to just read the tl;dr.)

    tl;dr Use your normal QWERTY keyboard for any immediate requirement to type at your normal speed. *Do not* use a QWERTY layout on your new keyboard — for the very reason you give. /tl;dr

    (BTW: I think that actual *name* of the QWERTY layout is “Sholes”.)

    Stipulation: TMA = Trained Mechanical Action[s].

    Hint: get onto the Maltron web site (in the UK) and read about pronation, flexion and deviation (or whatever it is), to get an idea of what the issue here is really about.

    I have a Maltron layout. How fast you learn the new layout is a personal[ity] thing; I took me 5 months to get really proficient, and a quick time is 2 weeks to 100% (they say). I am fairly confident that I am very much an exception, so I would expect you to take about (say) 4 weeks. (Conversely, the given figures are for an entirely new *type* of keyboard.)

    (Speaking of which: it makes me sad that there is a keyboard/layout that has 10 years of (actual) research behind it, and we have all these enthusiasts making alternatives… with 0 to 6 months of research… when “divided we fall”.)

    The key point here is that — like it or not — you will be learning an *entire duplicate set* of TMAs, for your entire typing repertoire. Again, I do not need to explain this to you, nor persuade you of its truth; your existing TMAs are just not that flexible. It seems to be a *feature* of this product, that it does *not* require you to learn a new key layout… but *actually it does*. That is… the keys are in the same relative positions (think hunt-and-peck)(…maybe…), but the TMAs of your arms, wrists and fingers (for *touch-typing*) — I venture — are not so flexible.

    I venture that… you need to keep your existing TMA set for QWERTY keyboards, and you need to develop a new, distinct set of TMAs for the ergonomic keyboard… WITH A NEW KEY LAYOUT… the reason being that the two are just too similar as it is. I suppose it might be possible to train yourself to think “QWERTY” and (i.e. or) “Ergonomic” [or “X-Bow”], and develop a whole new set of TMAs (for your entire typing repertoire), that are *almost identical*, but I strongly suspect that the two are similar enough that the similarity is an issue. (Again, I might be wrong, but I am speaking from experience; when I had learned to hold my hands in a relaxed, ergonomically good way, and type thus, without straining… when I then first tried a QWERTY again… I hunted for a word strong enough to capture the strain of typing crookedly, and the closest term I could think of was… “evil”.)

    Actually, there is another reason for changing the layout. (Since you have to learn new TMAs anyway…) On a Maltron, a typical person can get to — from memory — 60wpm *without any special effort*. That is because it is a (vastly) superior key layout. (10 years’ research, again!). [Further, it has, more than once, *cured* career-ending typing pain!!]

    Again, I might be wrong, and you might be comfortable with your set of typing TMAs, just tweaked somewhat to be able to accommodate a QWERTY and an X-Bow. (I hope it is not rude to add that I suspect that the nice people at X-Bow do not actually know whether or not this is possible. [That is to say that their customers might have had to learn a new set of TMAs (or not), without anyone realising this.])

    The bottom line…
    is that (I humbly suggest) you need to make a decision at the outset. The real-world possibilities are as follows.
    (1) Your existing TMA set can be trained to be more flexible — the ideal minimal effort scenario.
    (2) You can learn the new keyboard, but this requires developing an entire duplicate set of TMAs because of the (slight but real) difference.
    (3) You can learn the new keyboard with a new key layout (again creating an entire pertinent set of TMAs). [This is what I have done; the difference is like being able to drive an automatic and a manual; you can get caught out (only) initially when changing, after using one for a while.]
    The point is that you have to decide whether the reality is (2) or (1), for just using the new keyboard as it is. (…And that virtually any other key layout would be almost certain to be greatly superior to the QWERTY.)

    I am happy to allow that the human brain is probably flexible enough to tweak the existing TMAs to accommodate a wider physical range (with a period of frustration). What concerns me is my fear/expectation that, in the long term, this more flexible TMA set might not be appropriate or ideal for then being used to type, at top speed, on *either* the one *or* the other. …Without ultimately having two sets, one way or another.

    There is also the possibility that, if you go with the “easy” alternative… you might end up twisting your hands as per your habit of years, even when typing on the ergonomic keyboard. (I don’t know; it’s just a theoretical possibility.)

    (When I say “different layout”… there are several candidates I can think of offhand; Colemak has been mentioned by Camm; there is Dvorjak, and there is the Maltron; I am sure that there are others, and you might have already researched this. I expect you can get key- re-mapping software somewhere; of course, failing that, the whole thing is academic. For the record: my chosen alternative is a Kinesis; it is hardware re-programmable, and it has an actual physical ergonomic Maltron layout.)

    p.s. Thanks to kotaku for letting me make one post without adding, to my list, yet another entry I may never use again.

    I grew up using an ergonomic keyboard similar to this. Each half of the board curved outwards but the keys were still placed normally. After using this for years, I found it SO hard to type on any normal keyboard - it felt so awkward and wrong.

    Alex, this is a fantastic bit of comedy I extremely enjoyed, so thank you for your suffering xD

    Why would you back a kickstarter when heaps of viable alternatives already existed?

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