Keep ‘Em Separated
Interestingly, the keyboard my wife finally chose for herself when all was said and done was the Kinesis Freestyle. According to CEO Will Hargreaves, the company hadn’t come out with a major innovation since the contoured keyboard in 1992. So in 2007, Kinesis released the Freestyle, the result of two years of R&D, modeling, field testing, and fine-tuning. Imagine that you took a traditional QWERTY keyboard, sawed it in half, and then went into your woodshop to build a frame that would hold these two keyboard halves at exactly the spot on your desk where you’d want them for the most neutral, comfortable typing position. The Freestyle is that sawed-in-half keyboard, and the various accessory kits are the boards you can use to tailor how you want the halves positioned.
It’s insane to have a keyboard with two halves standing perpendicular to the desk, right? Well, not really. You saw the diagram in the first article. That’s zero pronation—totally neutral. And there are some people with physical limitations who need that orientation. To get it you just need the Freestyle and the Ascent package, which lets you tilt the keyboard pieces from 90 down to 20 degrees. We tried out the VIP package ($149 with Freestyle Solo), which features wrist rests, wrist pads, and bottom attachments (“V-lifters”) able to lift the halves to either a 10 or 15 degree tenting angle. You can join the two halves with a hinge at the top or separate them, leaving the pieces joined by a suitably long data cable. Keys have the same action feel as on the Advantage, but the row alignment is typical QWERTY and without the bowl contour.
Essentially, the Freestyle is nearly the ultimate in keyboard ergonomics, giving you total control over forearm pronation, ulnar deviation, and (to a lesser extent) wrist extension. Without question, it’s the most flexible keyboard design I’ve ever encountered. It also solves some of the Advantage’s learning curve issues because you can start out in practically a traditional keyboard orientation, then add angling and split width over time as you adapt.