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Ergonomic Gear For A Better Life

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.

  • Luscious
    I'm quite surprised your focus is on ergonomics yet you haven't mentioned anything at all about trackballs. I've been using a Logitech Track Man Wheel for close to 4 years paired with my notebook. They have many advantages over mice, not the least being ergonomically superior.
    Reply
  • ryanegeiger
    I agree... what about trackballs?
    Reply
  • Supertrek32
    I've been using the Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000 for a few years now and must say that I love it. Very comfortable. I also reprogrammed the back/forward buttons to control media player (via Microsoft's intellitype software), which is incredibly hand for someone like me who has a large music collection and might not be in the mood for a certain genre one day.
    Reply
  • IzzyCraft
    ryanegeigerI agree... what about trackballs?trackballs are perfect for work only situations esp with limited desk space.
    Reply
  • ddrcoder
    I've used a Kinesis for years (I'm typing this with one right now), and I must say they're the best keyboards ever made. I've found that they relieved stress in my hands/wrists. I recommended them to a friend who couldn't touch type and as he got used to the keyboard, he quickly learned. He can now type at 60WPM, I can type at 100WPM.

    -Tom
    Reply
  • Trackballs, why have they been blackballed? Everyone I loan my spare, I have three new ones just in case they stop selling them, Logitech mouse man marble to they immediately buy one for themselves.
    My friend has CTS and cannot use a regular mouse with one hand because of the strain, trackball fixed him right up. Not only are they friendlier on the wrist the require vastly less desk space, they are easier to control and for precision work nothing beats a trackball.

    My Gaming (counterstrike: source, UT2004, UT3, half life, team fortress, day of defeat,etc) buddies all have crazy expensive uber dpi programmable gaming mice that have lasers, and my 20$ trackball whips 'em every time. Why? no wasted movement, my arm is completely stationary when mousing, my fingers can keep the ball fluid and moving in one direction without having to lift it up, move it ove,r set it down, and continue mousing, one quick flick of the finger and the ball goes spinning in the desired direction, all while my arm is relaxed and stationary.

    They are in fact perfect in play situations too.
    How about some trackball love?
    Reply
  • coconutboy
    I like these kinds of articles. Currently I own a logitech MX Revolution, it's my ~5th logi mouse (I also own a cordless logitech trackball), but really all these have just been because I couldn't find anything better including the gazillion specialized ergo mice on the market. I just wish someone would make an upright/joystick-like mouse that also includes-

    a trackball
    scroll wheel or similar device
    4 buttons minimum (5+ preferred) that users can define as forward/back/whatever.

    I've tried many mice including the 3M joystick, Zero Tension Mouse and Evoluent upright. Those were somewhat better in terms of comfort but sacrificed buttons/functionality. As a result my last 4 or so mice have all been Logitech with my current being the MX Revolution but that's because of the extra buttons and its awesome scroll wheel, NOT the comfort which is just average.

    William Van WinkleI was able to try out Logitech’s MK605 notebook kit ($100)... The keyboard and mouse are okay, and they are decently compact for travel, but I wish the stand were available separately.
    The stand can be purchased individually for $30. Linkage-

    http://www.logitech.com/index.cfm/notebook_products/stands/devices/5494&cl=us,en
    Reply
  • williamvw
    The stand can be purchased individually for $30. Linkage-http://www.logitech.com/index.cfm/ 4&cl=us,en
    Oh, bonus! Thanks for pointing that out, coconutboy. Again -- highly recommended.
    Reply
  • tapeglue
    Less known help for wrist pain can be a computer armrest. I have been using one called Restman 1 for a few months now and it indeed makes me forget about my wrist problem. I got it from http://restmans.myshopify.com/products/restman-1.
    Reply
  • trifler
    I find that mice with higher dpi allow me to turn up the speed without losing any of the control. This greatly reduces the amount of necessary wrist movement to use a mouse. Therefore, I actually choose the Logitech G500 (5700dpi) for ergonomic reasons rather than for gaming reasons.
    Reply