TLDR: Corporate computing takes some adjustment, new layers might be needed even months later, and odd habits can take a long time to switch, but I’ll never go back from split programmable keyboards.
It’s been over eight months since I contracted split keyboard madness and purchased the Ergodox EZ as my primary driver at work during my day job. Fully programmable, tilt and tent capable, weirdly shaped, and definitely a conversation starter, I’ve have loved getting used to, then thriving with the Ergodox EZ. I’ve talked quite a bit in my previous installments about the features I like and how I’m using the keyboard day to day, so this one is going to focus more on long term impressions and how it’s changed my daily computer use both as an engineer and as a writer.
The first thing I would note about using a programmable keyboard in a corporate environment (regardless of it being split) is that you will have to get used to people trying to use your set and being completely dumbfounded when it doesn’t work the way that they are used to. Offices are places of legacy software and tradition-over-logic, so you can often be forced into using programs and processes that were designed in the ancient days of computing.
In my particular case, it is an access client interfacing with a database from the early 1970s and having to redo my layouts to add keys that have I have never had need to use elsewhere. Pause/break and scroll lock are not items I’ve been required to use for anything else, but they got added to Layer 2 because now I’ll need them. So for me, that’s a change.
But for those poor souls who have to come by and answer my questions as I get trained and familiar with this software, I try to take extra special care. So often, they want to just fix my problem (say I ended up on the wrong screen) and their hands are trained to just hit the right keys and navigate back and they’re always a little stumped when they first come in and realize they can’t drive my set. They actually have to remember what they do and explain it do me. Good for me because I get more understanding; frustrating for them.
If you live and die by Excel spreadsheets, you may want to really think through something like the Ergodox EZ. While you can get all the stuff you need, sometimes it really is just nicer not to have to mess with all the layers. Of course, if that’s all you’re doing then you can just program everything you need one layer away. In my job, I use it every now and again – not enough I feel to setup specific layers for it – and so I kludge my way around.
But then again, that’s kind of the point of OLKB type thinking – move the key to your fingers rather than your fingers to the keys. So maybe instead what this says about me is that I should be looking for more opportunities to make things easier for myself by adding more layers and getting them setup the way I need them.
I try to take 30 minutes first thing in the morning when I get to my desk, before I start my work day, and draft or edit on my current story. And I love using my Ergodox for drafting because of how good it feels just to type. Similarly, when I get going during the day – emails or reports or whatever – my coworkers can definitely tell because the Ergodox is a bit noisy. One thing that has been hard to break is my habit of bottoming out my keys when I type.
For years and years, I slammed away at my keyboards just because I didn’t know anything better. One of the nicest things about mechanical switches is how much less effort is needed to actuate the key and how much less travel is needed in order to do it, yet I treat that poor EZ the way I did the old membrane keyboards that now hurt my fingers to type on. If I can catch myself doing it, I’ll force myself to slow down or at least let up a bit on the keys. But often, I get going, get into the zone, and clicky-clack away.
Thankfully, in my day job a lot of my computer use is keyboard+mouse so the extended typing sessions are few and far between and I don’t disturb people that much. But then again, if I were using it to do long form drafting all day everyday, maybe I could get my fingers to stop playing One-Inch-Death-Strike with each key press.
I love my Ergodox EZ. The tenting, programmability, palm rests, switches, thumb clusters, and general tech-ish-ness of it are great. It feels like the kind of board I’ll be using for years to come. My pain in my hands is gone. I love the feeling of typing on it. And I can’t ever see myself going back.
Worse, it started an obsession. I loved the feeling of a split keyboard at work and I knew I was going to have to have one at home at some point. In previous installments, I’d mentioned that I was looking at getting a kit to custom build my own, but that it likely wouldn’t happen this year.
So coming up in the next few installments, I’ll be leaving my thoughts on what it’s like to build a custom keyboard from scratch and what sort of sickos do this to themselves on purpose.