2011-02-23

bad advice programers give for keyboarding

Perm url with updates: http://xahlee.org/kbd/programer_keyboarding_advice.html

Bad Programer Keyboarding Advices (Typing, Ergonomics, RSI)

Xah Lee, 2011-02-23

Here are some points i think most programers are not aware of when discussing keybinding choices or keyboarding practices.

Important Variables in Keyboarding

• What keyboard you use matters a lot. e.g. full sized keyboard vs laptop keyboard. Even between full sized keyboard, there are major differences that effect good keybinding design or good keyboarding habit. e.g. standard PC keyboard vs split ergonomic ones vs radical ones such as Kinesis.

• There's major difference between those who touch type and those who don't. Good typing tips or keybinding design for one is usually not good for the other.

• Expected amount of typing per day matters a lot. Good advices for programers are not good for heavy duty data entry clerks (or writers and editors). Among programers, the actual amount of typing varies a lot too. Good advices or key choices for 3 hours per day typer is different for designs for those 6 hours per day.

Examples of Bad Advice

Some programer claim to have used certain habit for n decades and never have a problem. Sure. Maybe the actual time their fingers are pushing keys is just 4 hours per day. If they do data entry work, perhaps they'll have RSI within a week.

Some programer claim hunt'n'peck is best practice to avoid RSI. This is like saying the best way to avoid sport injury is not to go pro. Sure, you can hunt'n'peck as a programer and still be considered a fast coder, but don't think that is a good advice about typing ergonomics.

Some programer will claim that they do fine on normal straight pc keyboard and conclude that those curved split ergonomic keyboard are not useful or “depends”. Be careful here. This does not mean the ergonomic quality of keyboards amount to just personal preferences.

You can test many aspects of keyboarding yourself and for yourself, since scientific report usually seems remote and impersonal. You can conduct experiment to see which key choices are better among 2. Or, which of the 2 keyboard is more ergonomic. Or, whether swapping Ctrl and Caps Lock is better or Ctrl Alt. You just have to be careful in the experiment in eliminating bias, such as your habit, familiarity. This is especially important when you give out your advices to others.