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October 4th 2018

Keen for keyboards?

The style of keyboard you use can really affect your productivity in the office. Here's why.

If you’re a touch typist, you’ll undoubtedly have noticed that when you sit down at a colleague’s computer, you fumble and mistype. Hitting the wrong keys, not bouncing as much as they should, too noisy – or of course there’s cookie crumbs under the spacebar.

Naturally, your brain and your muscles get used with typing on your keyboard, and when given something even slightly different, it can completely throw you off.

Now, there are thousands of different keyboards out there with different layouts, curves, “ergonomical features” and even those for lefties. But knowing what you want, and what to look for is half the battle when it comes to picking one you can truly rattle out the pages with.

Layout

Most of us will be used with the UK QWERTY keyboard – a lovely big Enter key, with “QWERTY” being the keys along the top left – as it’s the layout most of us are taught to use...

While I don’t see many of you rushing out to re-learn how to touch type, QWERTY isn’t necessarily the fastest method for writing out your emails. Have a quick search for Dvorak & Colemak, just to see how different they are, if nothing else.

Of course, not all of us are used with the UK layout for keyboards. If your enter key looks slim like your backspace, or if your “@” symbol is in the place of your quotation marks – I’m afraid you’re typing as an American. Not necessarily a bad thing, but something to keep an eye out for whenever your looking for an upgrade...

Numb for Num?

Another common difference between keyboard is the Number (Num) pad. While incredibly useful for those of us using spreadsheets, or the dreaded MS Calculator – it isn’t always needed.

Chopping off the Num pad can free up desk space, and makes for a far snugger typing experience – it can bring your mouse closer too, and forces you to sit more central at your desk.

The Keys are Key

The very first thing you will notice when you start typing on a different keyboard are how the keys feel under your fingers. Slim, silent & a little bit of travel are the norm for your Apple devices, but for those of you on older PCs, you might be more used to the large, clunky keyboards that would feel at home on a 1980s submarine.

This is perhaps the most diverse, and divided area of keyboard ergonomics. There are dozens of different studies claiming that “X” key type improves your speed by 20%, “Y” keyboard improves your accuracy, or “Z” Keyboard type stops you from developing arthritis – but at the end of the day, it’s surely what suits you that matters most!

Membrane & hybrid keyboards are probably what you’ve been using if it’s a cheap “with the PC” keyboard, or one for £4 from Amazon, and while there’s nothing wrong with them, it can be argued that they feel “spongey”, without a real feel for when you’re pressing in a key.

Mechanical keyboards are considered the top-end, with dozens of different combinations of “switches” and “o-rings” to give you a clicky, deliberate feel with your typing, or a quiet, gentle one. And it’s possibly thanks to the gaming market that they have become so widely sought after – one brand for example, Cherry MX, has a wide range of switches which, admittedly, when you use one that suits your tastes for any length of time, you find yourself wondering if your boss will allow an extra £60 in your computing budget for a really nice keyboard.

If you’re a real enthusiast, you’ll know there are many more methods, layouts and designs out there for creating the perfect typing tool.

And for those non-believers, who think a keyboard is “just a keyboard” – if you can go from your favourite keyboard, to a friend’s laptop and notice a negative difference in your speed and accuracy – couldn’t it be true that you haven’t quite found the perfect keyboard for you?

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