19 Dec 2009 fxn   » (Master)

Kinesis Advantage Pro

My family of somewhat special keyboards includes a IBM Model M, a couple of Happy Hackings, a Unicomp Customizer and now Santa came with a Kinesis Advantage Pro.

This is the less conventional of them as you can see in this set of photos I took while unpacking it. Besides the design itself, it supports macros, you can remap keys, have Mac and PC layouts (hot-switchable), builtin support for QWERTY and DVORAK (you can choose any with a key combo), and support for foot switches. In addition to emit a beautiful minimal beep-beep sound I love done by software to add feedback. Everything operated from the very keyboard, no additional software distributed. The computer only sees an ordinary USB keyboard.

I've known personally two seasoned programmers that have only used them for years, having owned several units, and do not want to use anything else. I think I understand them. Typing with this keyboard feels really good. Your arms are relaxed and your hands, fingers, and wrists work with little stress compared with standard desigs. This is not only an investment for your health, I think the typing experience is hands down better, something very important if you like me spend hours and hours day after day typing.

That's mainly because of three characteristics: First, as you can observe in the pictures keys are aligned in columns, instead of being staggered. So, your fingers move mostly in straight lines. Second, hands are more quiet thanks to the convex shape, the curve matches naturally your fingers reach. Third, the space bar, backspace, return key, commad, option, and a few more keys are pressed with your thumbs.

I've been using the Kinesis non-stop since Tuesday. I think you need to do an immersion to get used to it and don't want to use any other keyboard at least until I finish the adaptation period. The box includes a booklet with exercises designed to ease the transition. It is not a touch typing course, they are designed to help you to adapt. I was not a touch typist so it is taking me a while to get a decent speed, though as of today it is already quite acceptable.

The Pro model comes with a foot switch. That is a switch you can map to any key. I have it mapped to Shift but I am unconvinced by now. Problem is that even if the pedal is built in a way that prevents quite well accidental presses, I can't for the life of me train myself to relax my foot on it for a long time period. So I have some tension which is not good. I'll try a little more before giving up though.

Keyboard shortcuts is something you need to retrain completely because your current muscle memory is useless here, since involved keys are in different spots.

That's pretty normal, it is known that you need a few weeks to get at full speed and have your brain rewired, but I believe from my experience so far it is going to be worth the effort.

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