A Quick Guide on Choosing a Keyboard for Programming

Keyboard Sizes

When it comes to keyboard size, there are three main options: full, tenkeyless (TKL), and compact.

  • A full-size keyboard has everything: all the keys, the functions keys, and the number pad on the right-hand side.

  • A TKL keyboard has no number pad.

  • A compact keyboard has no function keys, and the arrow keys have been moved underneath the ‘shift’ key.

So, which is right for you?

It mainly comes down to personal preference. If you want to have the number keys, then go for a full-sized keyboard. If you never use the number keys, then a TKL may be better for you. If you find that you do not have a lot of desk space, then a compact keyboard can help to solve that problem. The smaller keyboards are also lighter too.

Think about the buttons you use and the ones you don’t. In our experience, the smaller you can go while keeping the functionality, the better.

Ergonomic Keyboards

With the amount of typing you have to do, you need to protect your hands and wrists. Repetitive strain injuries are common among programmers, but does that mean that you should get an ergonomic keyboard?

I have some experience using an ergonomic keyboard, and I am split on the use. What I mainly boil it down to is that if you have wrist pain, you should invest in one, and if you do not, then you do not need to. If you type a lot, you should include a routine of wrist, hand, and finger stretches. This will prevent or help to manage RSI (Repetitive Strain Injury). Here’s how to do it:

Ergonomic keyboards are great for helping to reduce strain on your wrists and fingers, and you will often find it hard to switch back to a regular keyboard after using it for some time, but the tactile nature of the keys is not usually as high.

You will also find that ergonomic keyboards do not use mechanical switches.

Wait, what are mechanical switches?

Types Of Mechanical Switches

A switch refers to what is going on under the key which you are pressing. There are many differ-ent technologies which take your keypress and translate it to an electrical signal which then regis-ters that a key has been hit. Most keyboards will either use mechanical or membrane switches.

Mechanical vs. Membrane

With a membrane switch, you have a one-piece plastic plunger which is pressed down to create contact with the electrical switch below.

With a mechanical keyboard, there are separate switches under each key. Each switch has a base, spring, and stem. When you press down on the key, electrical contact is made.

The thing which we like about mechanical keyboards is that you have an actuation force when you press the key and often a beautiful clicking sound. If you are typing a lot, it is nice to be able to feel and hear each key press. It is also easier to replace an individual key on a mechanical system than it is on a membrane system.