Review: Sore Fingers Praise the Model 01

(Dianna Dearborn) #1

The Keyboardio Model 01 as used in my standing desk configuration. The lower keyboard shelf holds a Logitech K480 for my PC, phone and other systems.

I’ve been using my Model 01 for a couple of months now and thot my first impressions should be noted for posterity, (as I promised Jesse). I come to the Keyboardio from a different place than most. I have arthritis with limited finger range and a trigger finger or two. I learned to type in high school and I am 72 now. Of course, everything was mechanical back then and I even used an ASR33 Teletype machine for my first programming input device in 1970. My hands are tired and they hurt. Typing and knitting are my most painful uses for them. ! came across Keyboardio thru Kickstarter. After a long winding trail trying out many different (and expensive) alternative keyboards [see photo below] I got my new keyboard… forever the optimist.

I am quite impressed with the Keyboardio. Kaia and Jesse did a great job creating this essential computing peripheral. Most of my comments should be viewed as nothing more than nits applicable to me alone… and maybe just a few others. However, if we view the Model 01 as the trunk of a tree, future branches might include specific design alterations to suit different typists needs and abilities… including accommodating my particular limitations. One-size-fits-all (OSFA) is no longer viable in this modern epoch. Otherwise, we would all still be using the original IBM PC keyboards.

The primary use is on a Mac. My PC laptop has, of course, a built-in keyboard… tho I do Bluetooth the K480 into it when docked. I will eventually set up the Keyboardio so I only need one keyboard for all my systems, including my phone. I just don’t code much anymore beyond a few Python scripts. Mostly, I use Scrivener and LibreOffice to write long form documents… you know, reviews, opinion pieces, a SciFi short story and work on a memoir.


  • The width and height of the key rows and columns are a bit too spacious for my hampered reach. The span could be shrunk to about 95% (a guess) to suit me better. Problem is that on our finger scale a mm or two could make a huge difference and too close is worse than too wide.
  • The concaved key tops make me lift my fingers to get over to another key, and if this is noticeable to me, they could be improved with shallower divots. However, flat keys like the Apple Chiclets keys are a nonstarter.
  • Key travel could be shortened by half to make me happier. But, NEVER go back to membrane keys.
  • Key return spring could be a bit lighter… but this is not a big issue for me.
  • The ‘a’ and ‘;’ keys are a bit too low compared with the rest of the ‘sdf’ row thus requiring more finger curl than is comfortable. When standing at my desk, this is less of a problem. I’ve used a couple of thin bamboo coasters as palm rests, and that helps but I would need to shape them to suit before suggesting them as a solution… they interfere with the function keys.

The separated keyboards has saved my aching shoulders back and wrists. When seated, the key pads sit right inline with my shoulders and work great with my elbows resting on the task chair arms. Since the new config takes up most of my keyboard space, I’ve put the trackball between them. This works well for me.

Praise Kaia & Jesse for saving my pinkies! Moving the return key to the index finger and the ‘fn’ and thumb keys are just what the lil’ ones needed. Kudos.

I am left handed (yeah, I know). The first modifications to the layout of the thumb keys were to swap the ‘space’ and ‘bksp’ keys. Turns out I didn’t take into account the ‘fn’-‘bksp’ delete key (^H) function and that confused me for a bit. I put little squares of the fuzzy side of hookandloop tape for thumb orientation with some tactile feedback, which helps immensely when touch typing… I think that a thumb ‘Home’ key marker be standardized much like the dimples on the ‘f’ and ‘a’, etc., keys. I suggest a resting notch for the thumbs.

Then I swapped the positions of the ‘shift’ keys with the ‘alt’ & ‘cmd’ keys to make them easier for me to reach. Finally, I moved the ‘cmd’ key to my right hand since document editor keys are mostly on the left key pad.

So far I have only swapped the ‘enter’ and ‘tab’ keys. I may move the ‘enter’ key to the ‘esc’ key position cuz it seems that I keep hitting the ‘esc’ key when I need a newline (or a ‘b’) and the forum editor keeps going nuts.

It would be nice to have 3D printer files so I could manufacture my own keys with the proper labels.

Now I am also considering moving the cursor keys to the left pad.

Note that I am miffed at myself for not making these modifications right out of the box. I started with the default layout so I wouldn’t mess things up before I knew what I was doing. Now, I am forever confusing ‘space’ and ‘bksp’ keys. Grrrr…

I suggest that something similar to this configuration be available as a purchase option for new left-handed users… hey, you go to all that trouble to configure the Keyboardio for righties right out of the box, don’t you? How about some lefty love for the other 15% of the population?!

Actually, the left-handed population of both artists and programmers is closer to 40%, suggesting that lefties are more creative than the general population.

Okay, now I get it… hold the ‘prog’ key down until the flashing process is finished. Guess I missed that in the instructions. Altering the keymap was easy-peasy. I noticed my relief when I realized that… guess I had experienced a modicum of dread at having to learn yet another new system. Kudos. Designed rather well.

I do plan to take on Kaleidoscope later this summer after I get the remodeling and painting of my new house done. Fortunately, C is my favorite language. I’d like to scour the forum for the best ideas to try out.

Glad that I made the purchase! Now that I’ve started tuning the Model 01 to suit me, I am even happier with the Keyboardio.

The open framework of the Keyboardio makes it an ideal platform for prescriptive keyboards where, perhaps, third party ergonomic specialists buy and individually modify keyboards for each of us with non-standard QWERTY fingers and hands.

To that end I suggest a variety of different key switches and caps that can drop right in to suit different user needs. I see three or more options to cover most users, tho that number is just a guess. Sticky keys, for example, can be accomplished in a computer’s OS but putting those functions into the Keyboardio would allow one keyboard to function exactly the same for all of a user’s devices.

Please never lose your high ideals for configuration flexibility.

NOTE: I am not kidding about the awareness of left-handed users. Righties are seldom aware of the left-handed experience, but lefties know all about righties. We sat in your desks in school, used your dumb-assed scissors and, generally, adapted to your world without a fine howdy-do. We have been laughed at cuz we sometimes have trouble using equipment designed for right-handed users, exclusively.

When I designed HDD test equipment I was sorely tempted to put the ‘Go’ button on the left side of the box to get even… but I quickly realized that that would be vengeance and not an example of good engineering. So, the ‘Go’ buttons were placed in the middle of the testers, equally accessible to righties and lefties.

In my new house, I have have biased everything toward the left-handed. When I had my desk built, I had the printer door put on the left. You cannot find a right-handed pair of scissors anywhere. And the kitchen sink! The disposal is in the left side of the double sink so the workflow goes from right to left and the faucet works for the left hand. I chuckle thinking about the new owners of my place when I am dead and gone… they will most certainly curse me. haha

But the Keyboardio is flexible enough to easily fit into any lefties workflow. Just don’t forget us when improving the system… we are not automatically included in right-handed designs.

My home office in 2005 with just a few of the different keyboards that I’ve tried over the years. Keyboardio Model 01 is the best so far.

(JP) #2

72 and still learning, still exploring.

I am impressed, even if you’re slightly frustrated with us right handers. Remember, we helped build the world too. Teasing. I sense nothing but sincere critiques and enthusiasm in your writing.

Glad I’m not going to be the one buying your house…

(Dianna Dearborn) #3

Thanks for the feedback, JP… guess I came on a bit too strong about being left-handed… It was meant to be a light quip but I think the frustrations over the years broke thru the seams. haha. The tone could have been better.

The Model 01 is the best alternative keyboard I have ever used and I didn’t state that explicitly enuf. The two design features that make the Keyboardio ideal for lefties, imho, is the right-left mirror symmetry of the hardware upon which the flexibility of layout configuration can rule supreme. Even with layout configuration, if the keyboard hardware is not mirror image, then configuration is not completely flexible.

Also, I reported my maiden launch impressions as a one-off user data point of how the keyboard fit my particular hands, not how my hands fit the keyboard. I know that I will never see the perfect keyboard cause my needs are nonstandard. But like I said, bigger keyboards are better than too small. I’ve had both.

BTW righties DID build the world we lefties have to fit into. Every other house that I’ve owned or rented was set up for righties… so I’m hoping to get back just this once! haha Wish I could see the new owners’ expressions when they’re trying to figure things out… the thot still makes me chuckle.

But, hey, some of my best friends are righties.

Life just keeps getting better and better what with my new left-handed forever cottage by the sea and the left-handed Keyboardio on my desk, who could want anything more?

(JP) #4


I find no offense to your post, it made me chuckle at points. I don’t think you’re heavy handed or angrified, just passionate. I give people the benefit of the doubt because this is a text only medium, but rest assured, I can imagine your hand gestures and facial cues…

As a pretty average individual, I’m “lucky” that most things fit me or that I can fit in most things? That being said, its sometimes a first world problem when places run out of things “my size”.

I love reading about user experiences and thoughts because it gives me insight to how others view the world differently than my own. If you haven’t already done so consider a post on the community intro thread so we know a bit more about you.

Cats, dogs, favorite ice cream, the important things in life; and of course best alternative keyboards.

(tiltowaitt) #5

I’m also left-handed. When I first got my 01, I went nuts changing the default layout to something I thought was superior. Afterward, though, I decided to give the default layout an honest try, and I wound up preferring it! Different strokes, I guess.

(Dianna Dearborn) #6

tiltowaitt, thanks for the comment. Do you think that your preference to the default layout might be related to many years with QWERTY and only a short time with your LH layout? Our sub-dominant right hands are still used to all the control actions of standard boards and I found it easy to adapt to the default layout, myself. Only the position of the controlling keys change.

The reason I ask is that I wanted to call for help from left-handed M01 users one of these days to develop a proper basic left-handed layout that we could upload for Keyboardio newbies as a starter. That was the very first thing I looked for after getting my board(s).

Last century when I worked as a software engineer I tried to learn Dvorak and Colemac on standard boards. I couldn’t make the mental leap from QWERTY mostly because my computer time was mostly work related and my learning curve interfered with my paycheck. One time when my right pinkie failed me, I even taped it to the ring finger for about a week to push thru to get a project done in time for our production schedule. RSI anyone?

Like most of us southpaws, I am rather ambergris… ambiguous… I am ambidextrous and that helped me adapt to the QWERTY board but I could advance only so far (40-wpm max text, much slower for code). It is like learning to play a (RH) guitar, there are limits.

Nowadays, I have time to play with things and, since the Model 01, had decided to finally complete the pain-inspired effort to learn a better way to type. My M01-LH layout is but an incremental step beyond the obvious advantages offered by the default Keyboardio. I’ve thought about taking on Dvorak after working out the LH layout. Maybe combined they will keep me typing until ESP input truly matures.

(tiltowaitt) #7

I guess I’m a little confused. Both halves of the Keyboardio have Ctrl, Alt, and Shift; the only keys that feel at all out of place to me are Space (an ambidextrous key I always strike with my left hand) and Backspace (a normally right-hand key that’s now on the left; I don’t blame you for swapping them!). The default layout is actually left-hand biased for a Mac user for standard controls, since Cmd is on the left, not the right.

It’s interesting you bring up QWERTY. That keymap is actually left-hand biased, and some of the most common control chords (copy, cut, paste, undo) are on the left hand.

You’re right, though, that the Model 01’s more “esoteric” (for lack of a better word) shortcuts are on the right (notably media keys and arrow keys). I’ve used vim for years, so the arrow keys are kind of perfect for me (though IMO the best arrow cluster would be on ESDF). I guess it feels like a bit of a wash to me; I don’t use those shortcuts all that often. While my Model 01 gets the most sustained use of any of my keyboards, that’s because I use it for novel writing—and when I do that, I’m not fiddling about with anything other than the keyboard’s main layer.

One suggestion I have that might make things a bit nicer for you: Use the OneShot DualUse plugin and make it so that tapping the Alt key (default layout) will send an Enter (and holding the key will send Alt, as usual). I find this to be an excellent modification.

Also, if you do decide to try your hands at a different keyboard layout, I recommend Colemak over Dvorak. I find it a bit more comfortable to use, more balanced (Dvorak has a right-hand bias), and the ZXCV keys are unmoved, meaning you don’t have to re-train your shortcut muscle memory for those common commands. (Actually, Colemak in general requires less re-training; it moves fewer keys than Dvorak). Don’t expect any speed-ups, though; I find the improvement to be purely in comfort.

(Michael Richters) #8

I believe you meant Qukeys or SpaceCadet, rather than OneShot (just trying to avoid any confusion).

(tiltowaitt) #9

None of the above, actually; I meant DualUse!

(Michael Richters) #10

If you’re using an up-to-date DualUse, you’re actually using Qukeys, which has replaced it.

(JP) #11

for CoderJoy and Tiltowaitt,

I second that colemak is better than dvorak, as stated, it leaves intact many of the defaults inherited from QWERTY. That being said, I realized that the ergonomics of the M01 has alleviated most of my typing issues, no more RSI.

The reason for switching to a “better” layout was to reduce RSI, if the M01 solves that, I can continue to use qwerty. One of my biggest reasons for staying on the qwerty wagon is when I inevitably have to work on someone else’s machine for whatever reason. Are the other layouts superior? For efficiency, no doubt about it, but for convenience and other factors? Probably not.

If you never have to touch someone else’s kb, then by all means, switch it up. But if you have to, then maybe there needs to be really good reason for vacating qwerty.

One thing I did do was to replicate keys on both boards. I have tab, enter, delete, backspace on both boards. Space is fn + b, enter is fn + v on left. Backspace is fn + butterfly, tab is fn + enter. I have volume controls on both also. I did not replicate arrow keys on the left board because I don’t need arrow keys when I’m editing text, my right hand doesn’t leave to mouse so one set of arrow keys are sufficient, but space and enter on the left board makes sense when I mouse and need them. Volume control makes sense because I might be editing text (fn + n - vol down, fn + m - mute, fn + , - vol up), but if I’m mousing then fn + led is vol up, fn + tab is mute, fn + esc is vol down.

Remap keys you don’t, move keys you seldom use and remap those keys to one you use often. @coderjoy, you may want to collaborate with A Stevens, she wants to do an intl version, one layout to rule them all.

happy keying.

(tiltowaitt) #12

Out of curiosity, what is the benefit of Qukeys over DualUse?

(Michael Richters) #13
  • DualUse was always somewhat buggy; Qukeys is much more reliable
  • Qukeys allows any Key value to be used for both “tap” and “hold” keycodes; you can have a qukey with mod flags applied and/or a “hold” keycode that’s not a modifier (or layer shift)
  • With Qukeys, you can use an alternate keycode (e.g. a modifier) without waiting for a timeout, because the state is primarily determined by release order
  • Qukeys makes it practical for typical typists to use the home row keys as modifiers (in addition to being letter keys)
  • Qukeys has a cuter name :crazy_face:

(Dianna Dearborn) #14

Thanks @tiltowaitt, et al, for the Colemak recommendations. I was going to ask when I got there, but it is nice to settle on a goal now so I am prepared.

Here are my thoughts on keyboard layouts for me, personally. My left side is stronger and quicker than my right. I’ve had to slow down my typing speed cuz the left hand just keeps outrunning the right. That well choreographed dance between hands is waning. While it might seem, at first thot, an advantage that QWERTY has a lefthanded bias, considering the large number words that can be typed entirely left handed. I see this as a disadvantage. I use many more other words, as well. When I can type a sequence quickly with my left hand but then have to throw in a righthanded key, my tempo gets slammed, I make more mistakes and my overall speed takes a hit.

The ideal situation for my situation (I am guessing) would be to prioritize alternating from typing one letter with one hand and the next letter with the other hand as often as possible. This is a bit different emphasis than simple letter frequency on the home row. Each finger should have more time alternating hands to find its next position. This might make it easier for me to keep typing speed and tempo up and keep typing longer… I wanna try it, anyway. I am wondering if anyone has done the statistical research of taking, say, the usual letter frequency of the top 90% of most typed words and finding the most efficient key placement to maximize alternating hands. Does anyone know if Colemak, or any keyboard, addresses this specifically? Or do you think I am making too much out of the idea?

Here are a couple of interesting insights worth noting about QWERTY origins on Wikipedia.

Contrary to popular belief, the QWERTY layout was not designed to slow the typist down, but rather to speed up typing by preventing jams. Indeed, there is evidence that, aside from the issue of jamming, placing often-used keys farther apart increases typing speed, [and to my question] because it encourages alternation between the hands.

A feature much less commented-on than the order of the keys is that the keys do not form a rectangular grid, but rather each column slants diagonally. This is because of the mechanical linkages – each key is attached to a lever, and hence the offset prevents the levers from running into each other – and has been retained in most electronic keyboards. [I was initially impressed that the M01 consciously transcended this anachronism.]

(Michael Richters) #15

I believe this was one of the design goals of the Dvorak keyboard. Of the common layouts, I think Dvorak emphasizes hand alternation the most.

(Tim Holt) #16

I’ve been a fan (and user) of Dvorak for ages. I never agreed with the philosophy of Colemak. If you’re learning a new layout, may as well go all the way. I don’t want to have to worry that the layout I’ve picked has compromised on the hypothetical ideal even a little bit.

I actually use it in Vim, even though it separates hjkl. There’s still a little bit of a spacial relationship to them (j & k are adjacent, h & l are left/right of each other respectively, on the same hand).

I’m thinking of trying to get back into qwerty, but only so I can type when not using my Model01. People talk about the disadvantages of using multiple keyboard layouts, implying you should just never do it, but they never say the same about spoken/written languages. I don’t see why the human brain shouldn’t have the capacity to be fluent in multiple keyboard layouts without compromise.

(Gergely Nagy) #17

As far as I see, when it comes to typing, there are two camps: those who prefer same-hand rolling fingers, and those who prefer hand alternation. A lot of layouts and scoring systems are in the first camp, because rolling is faster than alternation. But doing that requires a kind of dexterity and typing flow that not everyone possesses. For us, the hand alternation of Dvorak gives huge amounts of comfort. Capewell-Dvorak is another interesting layout to consider.

(There’s also my ADORE layout, but that’s still something I’m tweaking, and is heavily influenced by my own habits and hubris :P)

Carpalx does pretty much that, and you can even feed it your own texts, so it will optimize a layout for you. There are a few knobs you can set in the tool too.

There’s a whole collection of layouts, optimizers and whatnot here, and a blog post about alternation vs rolls. All of these are incredibly interesting reads.

But beware, this is one deep rabbit hole! As dangerous as mechanical keyboards are.

(JP) #18

This is truly a smart person/people problem. I do not have this issue.

(Dianna Dearborn) #19

I’ve been silent since starting this thread cuz of a horrible accident that lead to an insight to split keyboards… tho I have been reading the articles linked by @algernon (thank you) and am going to give ADORE and Carpalx a try when I feel better.

On 22 May (53 days ago, but who’s counting) I tripped dashing for the phone and sprained both wrists and messed up my right rotator cuff. Any typing since then has been in short bursts. Here’s why…

I have severe arthritis in my wrists and the fall tore ligaments. But the previous arthritic damage to my joints makes repair of the ligaments a minor issue, since I have no wrist joints (now bone on bone) left for the ligaments to articulate. I have no radiocarpal joints and most of the other midcarpal and metacarpal joints are severely affected. My phalanges are damaged, too, but are in far better shape.

Why this applies here is that my RA doc pointed out in the x-rays that my wrists had accumulated far more damage than my fingers… he told me that that was highly unusual. Why should that be, I asked? He didn’t really know.

I’ve been thinking that it might be directly tied to my life-long standard keyboard typing. I learned typing early and have been at the keyboard nearly every day for long hours, especially since the early 1980s when I started building my own microcomputers and the intro of the IBM PC machines. Most of my professional work has been building test systems in manufacturing hard disk drives for the PCs and other personal systems.

This is my guess for my single use case and am wondering if others have had similar experiences.

With elbows to the side and the forearms angled in, for the correct typing position, the wrists have to splay outward to the only possible hand angle for rapid flowing typing. It often felt to me that I needed to tie my elbows together to get a better angle on the keys to relieve the stress I felt on my wrists. I think that this position contributed more to my wrist damage than to my finger damage.

The split keyboard Model 01 has greatly reduced that horrid pain in my wrists and I want all my keyboards to be split from now on. My wrists are starting to feel better and typing is still difficult but doable on the M01.

What do you knowledgeable dudes and dudettes think?

As an aside… I had to do some work on my PC laptop the other day and I was reduced to two-finger hunt-and-peck system to type. The pain in my wrists soared to new heights when I initially tried to touch type. Using the Keyboardio at my worst times, I could still use three fingers on each hand… hey, that was a big advance over the std QWERTY.

A thought to future improvements to the Keyboardio system is to add Bluetooth channels as an intrinsic feature… or as an add on option. It is difficult to keep switching USB cables running from each machine. I suggest a minimum of three channels cuz that is what I use with another wireless keyboard and that was a great advance. Ideally 5 channels would be better. And if we can bluesky here - if a high or an unlimited number of channels could be accommodated for unanticipated and impromptu configurations I would be elated.

Is this a possibility? Is it a good idea?

(JP) #20

I’m going to paraphrase quoting Jesse in saying that typing is bad for you in general. “Correct” typing position - elbows in, forearms parallel to the deck, hands floating over keyboard may work for some but may not work for others. There are always trade offs.

My own experience is that I end up trading wrists (ulnar deviation) for shoulders, at which point does one decide which part of the body to cut off? If I force my elbows in, I put a lot of extra strain and stress on the muscles and ligaments of my shoulders (some of us have broader shoulders from birth, gym time, etc.). Wrists or shoulders?

Both are necessary for life…