Tools of the Trade: Keyboards

The pen is mightier than the sword they say, but for programmers, the keyboard is our tool of choice.

Using the keyboard is the main method we put our thoughts/ideas/code into being. One can even say that the keyboard is an extension of a programmer. With the vast array of keyboard choices, programmers can find the best fit keyboard for their workflow.

Keyboard Sizes

60% keyboard - iKBC New Poker ii
Keyboards come in various sizes that can accommodate your desk space, typing preference or aesthetic. Many are familiar with the standard or full-size ANSI OR ISO keyboards but there are other “compact” formats available. Some examples of compact keyboards:

  1. Tenkeyless – keyboard without numpad
  2. 60% keyboard – generally a keyboard without numpad and F row
  3. 40% keyboard – minimalist keyboard with letters and some modifiers

These compact keyboards may have programmable layers where the numeric row or F row functionality can be accessed. On some, you can create macros that can easily run scripts or simplify hotkey combos with less key presses. EFFICIENCY!

Mechanical keyboard and Switches
Perhaps aided by the gaming industry, the mechanical keyboard market has grown quickly in the last 10 years.  Mechanical keyboards have physical switches under each key that give it a different “feel” from rubber dome or buckling springs key switches. With a multitude of switches and their clones as well as being able to modify them to your preference, a programmer’s typing experience can be more and more enjoyable.

Now …finding the right keyboard may prove to be difficult. Clicky, Tactile, or Linear? Cherry MX, Gateron, Kailh, Topre? Actuation force? There are a numerous options, so get a switch tester to sample different switches or go to your local computer store and test out various keyboards. Join the keyboard craze and start collecting them!

For more info, there’s a great guide here.

I’ve stuck to QWERTY but there are people who prefer alternative layouts because of finger transitions and ergonomics. Finger travel distance and frequency of finger row changes can factor into typing efficiency and preventing repetitive stress. Even your programming language of choice may lead to a different layout preference.

DVORAK, COLEMAK, WORKMAN are some of the other popular layouts, but with programmable keyboards,  you can customize and use whatever layout you’d like. Nothing can hold you back! Not even your pinky and that seemingly far right brace.

“End Game” Keyboard
With so many choices available, each person can have an incredibly customized keyboard for their needs and comfort. Also, they can be very pretty to look at.

There’s a tremendous amount of keyboards out in the wild. We haven’t even gone over split keyboards and ortholinear vs staggered! So is there an “End Game” keyboard… the very last one with all your wants, needs, and personal flair? I’m still looking for mine.

Let us know what your day to day typing workhorse is!

Also published on Medium.