Kinesis Advantage2 Keyboard
Posted: May 07, 2020
When you spend hours upon hours typing every day, especially programming with many uncommon characters and IDE key chords, you become familiar with a certain level of wrist and finger discomfort. But after self-rehabilitating1 my severely strained wrist for the third time in less than two years, I needed a more permanent solution before I wound up like many friends with permanent wrist and hand damage.
I already used a high quality mechanical keyboard (the WASD Code being a fine example of the class), but the Pronation and Ulnar Deviation required to keep your hands near each other but pointed straight ahead with any standard keyboard is fundamentally straining.
Enter the Kinesis Advantage2.
Reach your hand out in front of you at elbow level in a relaxed position. Is your palm facing downward and inward? Wrist mostly straight? Is it comfortable? That's the exact position the Advantage2's contoured key layout puts your hands in. After I switched, my wrist pain abated and hasn't returned for more than a year. Now, when I'm not typing on a Kinesis keyboard I genuinely miss how comfortable it is.
The Advantage2's firmware is programmable. You can switch layouts between qwerty and Dvorak, as well as Mac/Windows/Generic standard special key mapping.
Using it's "program" special key (top row beyond the Function keys) with the "status" key (secondary function of the Esc key) you can print out the current status of the board. My current configuration:
Model> Advantage2 Firmware> 1.0.431.us (4MB), 11/14/2017 Active layout file> qwerty.txt Thumb keys mode> win Macro play speed> off=0, slow=1, normal=3, fast=9> 3 Status report play speed> off=0, slow=1, normal=3, fast=4> 3 Keyclick status> on Toggle tone status> off Stored macros> 0 Keys remapped> 1
I've remapped a duplicate
|\ key under the
x key to be a secondary special
key. That way I get a left and right shift, left and right control, and left and
right special key. This works best for my window manager hotkey setup. Nearly
any key can be remapped, and you can even create multiple layers of mappings if
you so desire. You can also record macros to be replayed via special key.
(There's a special software you can use to manage this configuration, but I've only used the built-in configuration mechanisms via function keys.)
While the alphanumeric keys are in the familiar (though split) layout, along with shift, caps lock, and tab, the rest of the keys are in unique, mostly thumb-centric positions.
When a friend first showed me the keyboard a couple years before I adopted it, I literally recoiled at how strange it was to type on. But once I committed and switched to using the Advantage2 exclusively for all tasks, I was able to type productively after 4 days, and was back to a respectable speed after two weeks. Strangely, I was unable to use a standard keyboard effectively for a couple weeks after that, but now I can easily switch between them with no loss of comfort. I currently type English text at around 80 words per minute with 96% accuracy.
As a nice bonus, there is a numeric keypad in the right hand well, toggled with a special function key. It's great to have, but also feels odd given the shape of the key surface.
It's great! If you can afford one, you should consider making the investment in protecting your hand and wrist health. It's really a wonderful way to type.
Note: This blog post is part of #100DaysToOffload.
Don't do this. If you're experiencing pain, talk to your doctor or ask if your company has anyone certified in Professional Ergonomics. ↩