As much as I loved the rainbow LED lights and the super obnoxious click-clacks of blue switches on my previous keyboard, I decided the pick up and try out the ErgoDox EZ. My primary motive here was that I seem to often have pain and discomfort in my pinkies. I dislocated my right pinky back in high school and have a lot of scar tissue there so that pinky is already a lost cause, but I started having trouble with my left hand because I pretty much exclusively use the left shift key (since the right is no good) and it was wearing out pretty badly at work. Here is one of the most basic statements in C++:
I’ve marked out all the times you need to hit the shift key. To make matters worse, on a normal keyboard, the left shift is awkwardly placed under the “home row” (as they call it in touch typing) so you sort of have to bend down to hit it. I tend to play games with a controller, but when I do play something on a keyboard and I happen to hit or hold down shift or ctrl a lot, it also starts to feel uncomfortable I think for the same reason. I pretty much always chose the toggle option if there is one.
I also even tend to hit the A key with my ring finger, partially because of this problem and also probably partially because that’s the finger I use to hit A when gaming with WASD 😛
Maybe this issue is only as noticeable as it is to me because I have really small hands, but evidently it was enough for me to spend a lot of money on this new keyboard.
I decided to get my ErgoDox EZ with brown switches because it seemed like those were the most ergonomic for typing. I can definitely notice that you don’t need to put much force into hitting the keys, though if you do put some more force into it, you get more of that satisfying mechanical keyboard sound.
It’s really fun being able to mess with and remap all the keys of the keyboard. I think I’ve gone through almost 10 different configurations – though most of them just being small tweaks.
I tried to put all the useful and common utility keys like space, shift, and ctrl to thumb keys. Ergonomically this also makes sense to me because the thumb is much stronger than most other fingers.
I’ve learned even more about my typing habits in this process. Like I mentioned earlier, I noticed that I exclusively hit the left shift, but I’ve also realized that I never ever use the caps lock key and also I only ever hit the space bar with my right hand when typing. I started off my ErgoDox with only having the space bar at my right thumb, but I eventually realized that having that would make jumping in games very difficult.
Of course this is where the struggle comes in. The learning curve of this keyboard is really high as you can imagine. And its even worse when you decide to remap something because it’s more convenient or more ergonomic but then you have to relearn that as well. I find muscle memory to be a major factor in typing. I’m still using a QWERTY keyboard as opposed to Dvorak or something crazy like that, so admittedly I guess it could be much worse – the keys are at least in the order I’m used to them being in.
You still need to do a bit of relearning even with QWERTY however, since the keys are organized in a ortholinear fashion, which means that each key is in a line, rather than staggered with one another on most keyboards.
I do think this concept is really cool though.
When I first started using this keyboard, I kept accidentally sending messages before I finished writing them because I hit the enter key too early (right now it’s mapped to a spot where it’s similar to a normal keyboard – it used to be mapped to elsewhere). My typing skills were near non-existent for quite a few days and I still haven’t been able to match my normal typing speed yet, but it’s getting there.
But then of course, after a weekend of learning how to use this keyboard, going back to a normal keyboard was surprisingly difficult. I know I said I was having ergonomic problems with work, but for now I’m mostly using the keyboard exclusively for my personal computer.
This is a gaming blog, not a keyboard or programming blog, so that’s where Part 2 of the struggle lies…
As an aside, I learned that washi tape is a great way to bling out your keyboard and also hide keys that no longer match the symbol printed on them (e.g. my left control key at the very bottom left corner has a ~ on it).
I got these from Creepyllama (shop/@creeeell on Twitter).