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Alternative PC keyboards? Pointing devices?


Joe Frickin' Friday

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Joe Frickin' Friday

I have intermittent problems with my wrists and hands arising from computer use. I've used a split keyboard for the last ten years; it helps a bit, but not enough. Since I spilled water on my keyboard yesterday, some of the keys aren't working, making this a fine time for an upgrade - and I'm looking for something dramatically different.

 

About 8 years ago I tried a Datahand keyboard. It was a little too different: I can type pretty fast on a QWERTY keyboard, but I just couldn't get used to the key layout on the Datahand, and finally had to return it.

 

Likewise, I once tried hard to get used to the Dvorak keyboard layout, but no dice.

 

I'm prepared to try whacked-out stuff like the Safetype, but before I invest my employer's money (or my own), I'm curious to hear reviews from other folks, on the Safetype or any other alternative keyboard that seems to alleviate wrist/hand/arm trouble.

 

Similar issue with mice. In both cases (keyboard or mouse), my problems seem to be caused by forearm pronation. Several years ago I tried a graphics tablet as a substitute for a mouse. Pronation issues resolved, but I started to have difficulties from the constant gripping of the stylus with my thumb/forefinger (and clicking the button with my thumb), and ended up going back to a traditional mouse. What else does anyone work with?

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ShovelStrokeEd

Mitch,

I've always just stuck a phone book under the back of my keyboard and kept it (the keyboard) near the edge of the desk so that I could maintain my wrists at a natural angle and use my elbow joints and keyboard drawer height to maintain a good and comfortable angle for me.

 

I much prefer a touch pad to a mouse for most of the stuff I do. I plug a graphics tablet when working with drawings or photographs. Never could get used to anything other than a QWERTY, even a split keyboard drives me nuts.

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I have no suggestions on replacements, but if you just disconnect and set aside your keyboard for a couple of days to allow it to completely dry out, it will probably work just fine...

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When I was looking for something to address my RSI symptoms 5 years ago, with years of laptop use taking their toll, I went through the same process. I considered the Datahand, though it was already rumored to be circling the drain. I tried the FingerWorks Touchstream LP (the company whose IP Apple bought for multi-touch.) I tried a couple of split keyboards.

 

I ended up with a Kinesis Advantage, having seen others have great success with it for years. (To say it's been a popular keyboard among programmers I've worked with would be an understatement.)

 

kb_adv-blk720x471.jpg

 

(One devotee I worked with over 10 years ago used the Kinesis switched to Dvorak, which is also quite popular. That made it a bit difficult to work on his system.)

 

I switched to the Kinesis in the summer before school started in 2004. I bought a copy of "Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing," and at 5 or 6 every night, I'd close my door and learn to "keyboard." My old style of typing was relatively speedy -- though maxed out -- at around 110-115 WPM, according to "Mavis Beacon" -- but had my fingers and hands flying all over the place. Only in the last year have I felt like I've gotten back to where I used to be. On the other hand, my wrists don't ache every night when I go home. (Last time I pulled up "Mavis Beacon" a couple of years ago, I was only up to 85 WPM on the Kinesis, but I'm pretty sure I've gotten much better since then. After 4 years, I finally feel like typing this way is natural. On the other hand, I chose to take the bar exam without the Kinesis, because I at last feel faster on my MacBook Pro keyboard.)

 

Another of my coworkers has since taken the Kinesis plunge, and like me, he's had to equip all of his workstations with the keyboard. (I've got one in my home office and one at an offsite work location I'm at one day a week.)

 

I did consider the Safetype, but reviews seemed mixed. One coworker tried one, and she didn't feel it gave her any benefits. Hardly definitive, of course.

 

As for pointing devices, I had to drop mice years ago, and then eventually laptop trackpads took their toll. For over 10 years, I've been a devotee of trackballs. I've also had to switch to my left hand, because mousing or other repeated clicking with my right hand results in pain quickly. (I use my left hand now for all pointing, whether on my trackpad, with my trackball, or if there will be extensive time with a mouse.) I go pretty basic, with a Kensington Orbit:

K64327-4267.jpg

 

Unfortunately, our experience at work has shown that all of this is pretty personal, so what works for me may be of no value to you. Our ergo staff maintains a set of trial ergo equipment, from desks to chairs to keyboards, mice, and foot switches (which can be used with the Kinesis, though I haven't gone that far yet.)

 

Best of luck fighting the problems. I'm pleased to be over the major hump I was facing 5 years ago.

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[knocking on wood]I've avoided RSI problems so far[/knocking on wood] with Microsoft's Natural keyboard (I currently have the 4000 at the office, which I like much more than than the prior version on my home computer) and a Logitech Cordless Trackman on a mouse pad with a large gel-filled wrist rest. What I like most about the Trackman is that there's no wrist motion required, just some subtle movement of your thumb. You can also just put it in your lap and scroll and click easily while leaning back in your chair, which can be a welcome change of posture.

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Can't speak to keyboards, but ISFA pointing devices, I use one of these. Kind of fugly, but is great for anti-carpel tunnel syndrome / RSI, and is much faster to get around the screen with than a mouse. I've had three of them for years:

 

ITAC Mouse-trak

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Can't speak to keyboards, but ISFA pointing devices, I use one of these. Kind of fugly, but is great for anti-carpel tunnel syndrome / RSI, and is much faster to get around the screen with than a mouse. I've had three of them for years:

 

ITAC Mouse-trak

 

... and Donna massages your hands... I wonder what I'd have to do to get Sharon to do that? I'm so jealous.

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