Keyboards! Specifically mechanical ergonomic

I’ve decided I want to try some kind of ergonomic keyboard. I haven’t had problems in ever with a standard keyboard. Been using a mechanical 10-keyless keyboard for years now. A few days ago I strained my wrist or something, and while it’s getting better, I can definitely feel it on my wrist, and probably getting better slower than otherwise.

I do have a wrist rest, and I do have a Aeron chair, and adjustable height sit-stand desk so I do utilize both to get into more comfortable positions. But I do have the spare cash to try a new (and expensive) keyboard, so seeing what ya’ll have used and recommend.


  1. Mechanical, preferably available in a couple different key ‘colors’ for me to choose from. Generally I prefer browns or reds.
  2. Doesn’t take up a HUGE space on my desk. Might be a bit bigger, sure, and especially if it’s some form of split or something, but I don’t want it to make me re-organize my whole desk or push my mouse waaay off to the side or something.
  3. Not $1K or something. I recognize it’ll cost a good bit more, but keep it something vaguely reasonable.
  4. Wired, or at least option for wired. It’s at a desktop, I’m not planning on going anywhere with it, no need for wireless or worrying about keeping batteries charged up.
  5. Wrist rests, I imagine the one I have now won’t work, so needs to come with wrist rests.
  6. Preferably without too funky of a layout, although I am willing to put in work to re-train myself to some degree.

So I’ve been doing a bit of research, here’s some of the ones I’ve come across:

A subject near and dear to my heart (having built a handmade Atreus). made a nice, hot-swap replaceable-keyswitch version that I might eventually pick up as well, which has a gorgeous wrist rest.

In terms of layout, it’s a compact keyboard, so there’s always the layers idea, but since it’s fully programmable it can have whatever layout(s) you like on it. It’s extremely comfortable to type on coming from staggered, and the ONLY funky key location is the C, which you have to hit with your middle finger and not your first finger - if that’s how you learned to type on a staggered layout as I did. It’s a fast adjustment (I tried learning Colemak as well, with various mods - that was NOT a fast adjustment and I eventually rolled it back).

But overall, because it’s so easy to go back and forth from this to a standard staggered / qwerty, I find it perhaps the ideal ergonomic daily driver out there as it doesn’t ruin you for “normal” keebs and feels different enough when you’re at it that your brain just automatically goes into “Atreus-mode” if you will.

That is one TINY minimalistic keyboard. Would definitely take a real adjustment to get the layers programmed into my brain, as I do tend to use the number row/symbols quite a bit for various things, especially coding.

It’s definitely well within the price I’d expect to pay, and something I’ll have to consider. Just not sure though, but it is pretty nice looking.

Honestly, I thought it would be a lot harder to adjust to that than it is. In fact, the “hardest” thing is to find out which of a whole variety of different possibilities you like best!

For example, I’m going back and forth between one-hand numpad style numbers (hit the fn key with the thumb of the same hand that types numbers, all numbers under the fingers like a 10-key numpad) or more shift-style number-row type muscle memory (where the fn key is either left-Fn or right-Fn always, and the top row of keys is numbers in the traditional sense - the other Fn key turning them into symbols, much like the shift key does).

I’m leaning towards the numpad variant being faster and easier to “reach for”, even when coding, but I need to try a few more variants for where I want the Fn keys before I’m sure.

You’re talking about the layers of keymaps?

Right, so you can call them “layers” but in a lot of cases they’re just like having more shift keys. In the case of the Atreus you can map as many keys as you want to this sort of layer switching functionality. Press the key to temporarily activate a layer (just like pressing shift activates the caps&symbols layer on a normal keyboard). For the Atreus, I find that two additional keys (Fn1 and Fn2, which I have on the left and right hand respectively) each activating a different layer, is sufficient to have a TON of additional functionality.

If you do go for a split keyboard, I’ve heard good things about putting a mouse (possibly touch pad) between the two pieces.

Good point, The Ultimate Hacking Keyboard goes so far as to offer a few pointing options (trackball, touchpad, and nipple-mouse I think) for one or the other thumb. And the Ergodox does offer some pointing device (but I haven’t checked their offerings in a while) in a similar way. Whatever keeps your hands on the keyboard is good. The back and forth to the mouse arm movement does a lot of long-term strain on your shoulder.

Edit: For some levels of mousing around, QMK and other programmable keyboard firmwares also offer keyboard-based mousing as a layer. A set of arrow keys let you slide the cursor around onscreen. It’s not elegant, but in a pinch it’s quite useable.

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I don’t see any pointers with Ergodox.

Ah! I think I remember seeing the Ultimate Hacking Keyboard. It seems quite interesting. Pricey of course, but the trackpoint/trackball modules look very interesting. I’m a righty, but feel some “too bad” that they don’t have left attached modules. Although I imagine eventually they will for lefties.

That one is quite tempting me. Looks like it’s in production, for shipping March 2021 sometime (for v2), so it’ll be ready soon enough, so I figure it’d be to me by end of April, most likely.

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Ah, I likely got my wires crossed somewhere about that then. I looked at far too many options, including a lot of the custom keyboard pr0n.

Pointing device wise, my right hand/arm has been toast for using a mouse for 20 years. I’ve been using a Contour Rollermouse bar in front of the keyboard as my primary pointer for the past 15. I’ve got a huge Kensington trackball on my left at this desk.

Keyboards? I’m still using Goldtouch adjustable split tentable ones with success; most hours on the V2, though their “Mobile” variant (that rarely leaves this desk, but is indeed easy to travel with) is not bad. The UHK including some of its pointer attachments is really tempting to try out though…

Two cents from someone with two bad wrists (one is SLAC, the other SNAC): I’ve done the ergo keyboard with limited success. So limited that I now use a regular keyboard. But my big discovery was a mouse that forces my wrist into a more vertical position to use.

This is my guy: It ain’t fancy nor expensive but, man, does my wrist enjoy it!

@gpshead That rollermouse bar looks very interesting. Might look into that another time. Definitely something to remember. One thing at a time!

@thedude So in this case the specific wrist is my left, and I mouse with my right, but I do take your point. The UHK v2, with a thumb trackball/trackpoint could avoid that, or the rollermouse as mentioned above.

Some great info in this thread, I’ll have to make a decision sooner rather than later I think.

OK, I went with the UHK v2, although without any thumb modules. Just in case they end up taking longer, as well as I want to try it out before committing to the extra modules. Unfortunately looks like shipping is late/end of March, right now.

Awesome. If that keyboard had offered hot-swappable keyswitches last year I would have one on my desk right now too. I am considering modding the Atreus to add a nipple mouse in the “nosepiece” between the halves, though. But that’s a project for when I find one of those non-rectangular tuits.

Why’s it such a big deal for hot-swappable? So what if you need to unplug the keyboard or not?

Or are you referring to simply removing (with or without being plugged in) without opening up and doing a lot of work to disconnect?

Hot swappable in this case refers to the keyswitches, not the keyboard. You can change the switches underneath each key without resoldering them, in a hot-swappable board (they click in and out). Otherwise it’s a serious job that voids the warranty to change the switches.

Edit: The reason is so you can customize your own key feel, which is, for many people (myself included) the entire point of using a mechanical keyboard in the first place.

Ah, I see, wasn’t aware “hot-swapping” referred to simply changing out the switches without having to de-solder. However, why’s it such a huge deal, if they offer the switches you already want? Like I wanted the Browns anyway, so that’s what I got. Or do you like to have certain keys be one switch, and other ones a different switch?

Lots of reasons. Your tastes change. You find out that you don’t actually like the browns after some time. You know you prefer speed copper, but that’s not an option from UHK directly. Perhaps you start off with loud switches because you type alone, but then your partner wants to work in the same office as you due to a reorg of your space and you don’t want to bin the keyboard just because you can’t cohabit the office due to noise. Or yes, as you mention, you want a mix and match. The point being, if you’re spending that much on a keyboard to begin with, it’s kind of silly that you’re locked into the one aspect of personalization that makes it so worthwhile in the first place.

It was a dominant reason I didn’t bother buying one, for instance - I won’t invest in a board that I might not absolutely love (and I don’t particularly like ANY of the switches on offer, I prefer a pretty high engagement point and all of those switches have a fairly low one).

Now that they’re offering it, I might consider one again, but because I found a workable board in the meantime, there’s much less real desire to do so.

Clack clack clack!

Inspired by this thread, I ordered a PS2 to USB adapter so I could use my vintage Model M on modern machines. Is… loud. Feels almost Soviet. But, man, that clack and sweet keypress… my Microsoft Natural 4000 could probably use some cleaning and lubrication after many years.