Recently I bought a Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000. Upon starting to use it, I immediately noticed that I have some pretty bizarre typing habits.
Let me start by saying that I’m a touch-typist (in the sense that I type without looking), and I use the Dvorak layout on every computer I use (if I’m going to be using said computer for any more than 5 minutes).
I was always a hunt-and-peck guy until I switched to Dvorak (that’s a story for another post), but in a way, I think I still have some bad habits from before I learned to touch-type. Or… almost learned to touch-type.
For one thing, I don’t follow the standard keyboard-hand fingering. I do a lot of my typing with my index fingers. I don’t think I actually use my right ring finger for much of anything.
Here’s what the map is supposed to look like. (Original SVG source here.) I used QWERTY just for the sake of not confusing most people that don’t use Dvorak:
And here’s how I actually type. I tried to make this as accurate as possible, but it’s hard to type naturally while paying attention to what fingers I put where, so it might be slightly off. Dashed rectangles denote secondary (and tertiary!) fingers for a given key.
(As you might have guessed/hoped, I’ve never taken a typing class.)
I had been happily ignorant of my poor typing form for a long time. I mean, I’ve been peripherally aware that I don’t use the standard fingering, but it never bothered me until I started using this new keyboard, which has the keys separated into two halves (one half for each hand). The Y key was suddenly way out of reach of my left index finger, and everything seems very foreign under my hands.
Another thing that really bothers me is the space bar. As a good number of the reviews warned, the space bar is very reluctant to be pressed except in very specific places. (I was aware of this when I was shopping for a keyboard, but I simply bit the bullet and hoped for the best.) If I try to press it with my right index finger, it generally refuses to depress, which is pretty frustrating. I can use my left thumb just fine, but using my right thumb feels too strange. Using my left thumb as a dedicated space bar finger also makes my left hand feel cramped and stiff.
All this has me thinking a lot about the reason I got this keyboard in the first place (wrist pain). With my terrible fingering, I’m moving my wrists way too much, which was probably the cause of the pain in the first place, not my hand posture on the keyboard. Looks like I might need to change my approach to this problem altogether.
Perhaps a more fitting title for this post would have been:
Keyboard, it’s not you. It’s me.
Unrelated to typing, but related to my stupid computing habits: I use a 5-button mouse, which has one button on either side of the mouse and three buttons on the top. I don’t use my ring finger to press any button on it. Instead, my middle finger does double-duty between the scroll wheel and the right (top rightmost, not side) button. I suppose that’s somewhat less of an issue (how often do you find yourself needing to scroll and right-click simultaneously?).