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Re-review of Kinesis

I’m over a month in with my new keyboard and, as promised, here is the follow-up.

Typing speed has returned to more sporting level, as I had expected. The exercises included with the keyboard, while not Pulitzer Prize material, do help. I’d work on them on my host machine while waiting for my VM to boot up in the morning. Doing that, I was able to get through the ones I cared about in about a week.

I’m still not *quite* at the same typing speed but I’m close enough. It’s the old 80/20 rule. I’ll get up to 80% of my old speed after 20% of effort. The last 20% will probably take orders of magnitude longer. That said, the keyboard does exactly what it advertises, which is reduce strain. All (keyboard-related) pain in my right arm has ceased. Whether it’s psychosomatic or the new keyboard layout or the fact that the keyboard releases a rush of endorphines every time I press Ctrl-Alt-E, I don’t much care. The fact is, the pain is gone. That alone makes the keyboard worth it’s weight in whatever metal is selling these days. As a bonus, I also discovered that Robin Williams used one in the blockbuster hit, Flubber. If that’s not endorsement enough, well, you can’t save everybody.image

To be fair, there have been a whack of other little adjustments I’ve made that have contributed to my new pain-free typing experience. I described a few in the original post:

  • Using Executor
  • Remapping CapsLock and F1 to Esc (the former because it’s more convenient, the latter because the F1 key is the MOST ANNOYING KEY ON THE FACE OF THE PLANET!)
  • Using AutoHotKey to remap Left-Control + Right-Control to Alt-Tab and Left-Control + Right-Win to Shift-Alt-Tab

In addition to this, I’ve also done the following:

  • Changed the default keystroke to Executor to Right-Control + Backspace
  • Turn off the annoying double-click when you press CapsLock (aka Esc). This is a keyboard function and it was heavenly when I found out it could be disabled.
  • Remapped the left backslash key on the keyboard to Insert.
  • Mapped Win + F10, F11, F12 to Volume Mute, Volume Up and Volume Down respectively (with AutoHotKey)
  • Made heavier use of ViEmu and Vimperator

With regard to the third point, for whatever reason, the keyboard comes with two backslash keys. This is strange given how sparse they are about duplicating other common keys (alt, win, etc.) and simply not including others (Insert, for example). Whatever the case, I’ve used the built-in keyboard remapping capability to remap the left-hand backslash to Insert which has helped immensely for logging into VMs.

The last point is important. When I first tried both of these tools some months ago, I used them for a month and gave up, thinking I’d given them the good ol’ college try. Coming back to them, I was surprised how much I actually remembered. Which is good because it meant I could then learn some more keystrokes without having to also try to keep the original ones in my brain. The experiment was so successful that I added ViEmu for Word and ViEmu for SQL Server to my toolkit. All of them have helped me to avoid the arrow keys, PageUp, PageDown, Home and End, all of which are still not as intuitive as they ought to be. Oddly, I tried Vim itself for a few days and it was way too wacky for me. So I’m sticking with Notepad2 as my default text editor. I end up typing jjj and kkk a lot when I want to navigate but I can only take so much freakishly-obscure tools and hardware at once.

Both ViEmu and Vimperator are as configurable as Vim, which may mean something to you if you know that Vim is very highly configurable. So I’ve added the following configurations to ViEmu for all versions:

  • noremap <Space> <C-d>
  • noremap <BS> <C-u>

I’m not 100% sure what noremap does compared to map or nnoremap. Just know that adding the above two lines to _viemurc and _viemuwrc makes things happen. In this case, pressing Space will move text down half a page and pressing Backspace will move it back up again. This may seem odd to you but considering where these two keys are on a Kinesis, it’s very aesthetically-pleasing actually.

For Vimperator, I essentially stole the configuration from someone else. The highlights of it are:

  • set complete=l
  • au LocationChange .* js modes.passAllKeys = /(www\.google\.com\/reader)|(rememberthemilk\.com)/.test(buffer.URL)
  • com gui :set guioptions+=mTb
  • com nogui :set guioptions-=mTb

This is what these commands do:

  • Enable auto-completion when you open a url (either with :open or :tabopen)
  • create a command called :gui which enables all the toolbars. The :nogui command hides them again.
  • disable Vimperator for Google Reader and RememberTheMilk (i.e. automatically switch to pass-through mode for these sites)

For the last one, I had, at one point, also disabled Vimperator for GMail because it collided with many of the GMail shortcuts. The latest version of Vimperator is much saner with GMail so I’ve enabled it again. Still get an error when deleting mail with # and I can’t press Y to archive but it’s much better than before.

There is still one major pain point: The location of some rather common characters in C#. Namely: []{}<>. These are all located in the same corner and I’m still tripping over myself as I type them. I’m working on a macro that will allow me to type out “left curly brace” and have it substitute { in its place.

Kyle the Laconic

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  • http://kyle.baley.org Kyle Baley


    It’s still my main keyboard and I love it especially combined with AutoHotKey, Executor, and Vimium (or Vimperator). Only issue I’ve had is with the occasional game that doesn’t let you remap keys and they assume the space bar is accessible to your left hand. Yeah, Arkham Asylum, I’m calling *you* out.

  • Jesse House

    Kyle, I’ve been thinking about getting a kinesis keyboard; wondering if you are still happy with yours?

    – Jesse

  • ChrisB

    Being a huge fan of AutoHotKey, I can’t resist sharing when I get the chance. :-)

    Every developer should use it.

    And thanks for all the work on Sharp Architecture, it is coming along nicely.

  • http://codebetter.com/members/kylebaley/default.aspx Kyle Baley

    ChrisB: That’s pretty cool. You probably realized this but I was kidding about the macro. Good to have that as a reference though for when I constantly misspell proedcure.

  • ChrisB


    :R0 SP:leftcurlybrace::

  • http://codebetter.com/members/kylebaley/default.aspx Kyle Baley

    Not sure what this will do to my credibility but I already have both the Mac keyboard and the MS natural one. Both are decent enough with the MS one being better overall than the Mac one. The Mac has the advantage of a smaller depth to the keys which makes them easier to press. The MS one is more ergonomic than the standard one and much, much cheaper than a Kinesis.

    If I had access to my MS one, I would have used. Alas, it’s in some relative’s basement in Canada somewhere (I think). The Mac was the keyboard I switched to when the standard Dell one drove me bonkers with its non-standard Home key cluster. But it suffers from the same issue that most keyboards have: the number pad. It’s just too far away and I *believe* that was one of the causes of my pain.

    One alternative I was considering was learning to use the mouse left-handed, which I’ve seen some people do with varying success. But just as I was weighing options, a good friend of mine recommended the Kinesis. And nothing sells me better than a recommendation from someone I trust.

  • Mark Z.

    Glad to hear you’re getting used to your Kinesis! I’ve been using a Kinesis Advantage since 2003. I lug the Kinesis around from job-to-job because I have trouble using regular keyboards now! I’ve even seen colleagues adopt the Kinesis after seeing it on my visits and now they’ve become hooked on it too. I haven’t had any wrist or hand problems since I started using the Kinesis.

    For the first couple weeks I absolutely hated the Kinesis and nearly sent it back (it had a 30-day trial period). Now I can type a lot faster and more accurately than I ever could with a regular keyboard. Also, I can easily reach the number keys, something I could never do with a regular keyboard. I love the short reaches that the cupped design allows.

    I supplement my keyboard with a very light corded gaming mouse. Corded mice require a lot less force to move around. Remote mice with batteries are too heavy. I also have a touchpad on the left side of my keyboard so that I can alternate between using the regular mouse. Splitting tasks between the touchpad and mouse is a good way to avoid mousing repetition.

  • http://www.paulgraydon.co.uk Twirrim

    Is there a reason you went with Kinesis instead of one of those natural keyboards?
    I now loathe with a passion the straight keyboards. For the kinds of typing my sysadmin stuff gets me doing I get RSI pains in my right forearm and wrist very quickly if I’m using a “normal” keyboard.
    Several years back the company I worked for had no spare keyboards other than a natural keyboard, and so I had to use it. Took a little while to get up to speed, my original typing style was an attrociously evolved manner that had built up from my very early two finger typing days as a little’un.
    After I left that job I was back to a normal keyboard, and had one at home, and was perfectly happy until the first signs of RSI occurred, and within the space of a few months became drastically worse. Dug out a natural keyboard from somewhere, switched to that and was in pain-free typing heaven again. Haven’t looked back since.

  • Peter

    The Mac keyboard (the current one) gives me RSI almost immediately, too bad because I do like the feel. I considered the Kinesis, but opted to try the cheapest Microsoft Natural keyboard (the beige one, that’s about $40) first, to save money. It worked for me, no more RSI. It is a bit ugly though, and somewhat loud.

  • http://pair.com/asim Asim Jalis

    I have a Kinesis and love it. However, the best thing I did to help my hands was to get a Mac and start working on that instead. Try the Mac keyboard and see what you think about that.