Scott Watermasysk Husband, Father, Bootstrapper, Developer, Keyboarder, Pained Sixers Fan.

Revisiting Mac (Ergo) Keyboards

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Closeup of MBP Keyboard Photo Credit: Plush Design Studio on Unsplash

By far, the most popular post on this site is My Mac Mechanical Keyboard Search.

I got quite a few things wrong there and have learned quite a bit about keyboards in the last year. I figured it was time to clean somethings up.

On Mac Keyboards

I originally was on the lookout for a Mac keyboard. This was short-sighted. Functionally, the only significant difference between a Mac and PC keyboard is the bottom row. Macs and PC's alternate the command (winkey) and alt. OS X has a straightforward option for swapping them. There is also excellent software like BetterTouchTool you can to remap them. Finally, many keyboards have dip switches, firmware, and macros you can use to customize further the key mappings (and potentially wire up the media controls)

So, in short, find the mechanical keyboard you enjoy, and you will very likely be able to customize the keymap (and keycaps) later.

On Comfort and Ergo

The first keyboard I enjoyed was the Microsoft Natural. I didn't need the ergonomics at the time, but I just enjoyed the board.

My tastes and preferences have changed over the years. I know it doesn't matter a functionally, but a big piece of cheap black plastic is not going to bring me joy.

Outside of the Natural, there are a couple of options that I know of:

  1. Kinesis Advantages - All I can say typing does not hurt enough for me to put that on my desk. 😃
  2. Ortholinears - Ergodox, Planck, Preonic, etc. I tried both the ErgoDox EZ and Preonic. Ortholinears worked OK for me, but I found the transition between them and staggered layouts to be too much mental strain. Someday, my body might force me down this path for good. But for now, I still want to be able to be productive on many keyboards (and sometimes my MBP keyboard), and that means orthos are out for me.
  3. Alice layouts - Alice is not a particular board but is instead a layout that adds some ergonomics to your typical staggered keyboard. I have a board with an Alice layout ordered, but I have not used it myself yet.
  4. Layers/short cuts/mappings - Most mechanical keyboards come with some options to customize the layout. This is especially true with custom keyboards, most of which are powered by QMK. I have tried to pay more attention to keystrokes that are uncomfortable and/or awkward and map them to something a bit more sain (or even push them to something like a macropad.)

Summary

Find the keyboard you will enjoy. If you are OK with something off the shelf, great. If you want to dive into the wonderful world of custom keyboards, you will need to be extremely patient and be willing to open up your (virtual) checkbook. I am here to help. Feel free to reach out.