Progress with the Kinesis

 30 Jun 2011

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So the new keyboard is not working out so great but probably due to bad decisions I’ve made along the way.

I don’t want to say what I’m about to cause it’s going to give a very wrong impression of the keyboards: I’m experiencing some new pain since using it. I do NOT think it’s the keyboard itself. Not only do I think this is due to some of the other things I’ve been doing (I’ll talk about them in a second) but I have co-workers who swear by the keyboard so I’m fully aware that it’s most likely either not for me, or I’m doing something wrong.

My first mistake was trying to learn dvorak at the same time. There are many great reason to learn dvorak but I think my decision to try was wrong on a couple of levels.

1) Coding is not typing

Yes we use the keyboard all day but a lot of it is random bits of typing mixed up with other activities:

  • Doing very short (aliased) commands all of the time (git st, ls, rails server, etc) and these become muscle memory VERY quickly for me. Typing in a new layout makes work painfully slow NOT due to typing speed but due to having to think about these commands
  • Coding uses a lot of symbols (I’m typing =+<>,.;:’”|/?(){}[]~ and ` constantly. This means that I’m moving around the keyboard a lot for either layout.
  • Alot of my frustation was dealing with keyboard shortcuts. Especially when using emacs (my editor of choice). I feel like I’m very very good at emacs shortcuts and now with the new keyboard I have to learn a new way to hit shortcuts AND new letters to hit.

2) Besides all of that I think I was also stressing my fingers out to much. I feel myself keeping my fingers stiff when I make mistakes and I don’t like that. I was giving myself more wrist pain by using new muscles too fast and getting very tense when learning was slow. Not good at all.

So due to these reasons I’m definitely not going to learn dvorak yet. I do have to say that I like the layout a lot. My fingers don’t move as much and it’s a lot more comfortable. If I was typing an essay I feel like my speed with dvorak was getting pretty good! If I have a 3 week vacation later on I will give it another go, but for right now I’m just going to stick to QWERTY.

So now the question becomes whether of not to keep the kinesis or sell it. I havn’t decided yet. Tonight I remapped a bunch of stuff to make shortcuts more like they are on my normal Filco keyboards. First I switched the keyboard to QWERTY and Mac mode. Next I do the following remaps:

  • Capslock becomes ctrl
  • The delete key becomes esc (I hate the tiny esc key)

Thats it. At first I was resistant to putting ctrl on the caps lock but changing that is just too different from what I’m used to without the kinesis. I want to be able to trigger launchbar with my normal shortcut: ctrl+cmd+enter. Using my pinky to hit A and E for beginning and end of line is just too ingrained in my emacs and bash muscle memory that I’m going to try this out for a while. The goal is comfort so now I just need to see if using more familiar layouts keeps me comfy.

I also bought a license for Divy which I’m enjoying. I keybound 5 shortcuts. Ctrl+cmd+{j/k/h/l} moves a window to the top/bottom/left/right half of the screen. Ctrl+cmd+m maximizes it. There are other programs that do this as well but this one had a nice interface and also makes the window hop between monitors when hitting a keybinding more than once so I can fully position most windows using keybindings now.

Already I feel better typing this post on the kinesis than I did before. This won’t leave me so frazzled when switching. The goal is to use the kinesis as close to the way I used my other keyboards and decide at that point which one I’ll stick with.

I’m also heading out in a bit to buy a good wrist splint as well to use that while typing and sleeping. I want to make sure my wrist doesn’t get itself into weird positions during sleep or work. Once the wrist feels better I’ll make a decision about the keyboard after finding out if it actually helps my wrist or not.

One final note about the keyboard, the keys seem to “stick” a lot. Has anyone else noticed this on the kinesis keyboards? This is not a physical stick but a software stick of some kind in the keyboards memory. Sometimes (maybe twice a day) I’ll hit shift and the shift won’t undo itself until I hit is again. The same goes for the other modifiers as well. It has me slightly worried. Some aspects of the keyboard feel very solid (love the key feel but that’s due to the Cherry MX switches which are the same in my other keyboards) but other aspects (function keys + these sticking bugs) make it feel cheaper than it should… anyway I don’t want to harp on it, it’s a great product otherwise I’m just still undecided on if it’s the thing for me :smile: