new ergo toys

I've got this wacky Kinesis Evolution keyboard that bolts onto my chair that I've been using for many years now. It lets me type with my arms down by my sides, and I love it.

It also has two trackpads (one in each side of the keyboard). But I hate trackpads, so I don't use them. So instead, I just had a plain old mouse on the desk in front of me.

The other day I got a little bolt-on platform for the mouse that lets it sit lower than the surface of the desk, which is nice; now I can use the mouse without moving my arm as far. This platform is a little sketchy, though, in that it's flat along one axis, but along the other axis it kind of bows up in the middle, meaning the mouse rocks/tilts. Also, I suspect that the fabric covering it will last about a month before it's all frayed around the edges.

I also just got an Evoluent VerticalMouse 2 (left-handed version). It seems like a good idea, but I'm not sure I'm liking this yet. The button layout takes a little getting used to: there are three buttons and a scroll wheel under your fingers, and one button on the other side, under your thumb. On the left side, from top (index finger) to bottom, the buttons are "left/right/middle", with scroll-wheel-press being "middle"; and the button under your thumb is "right". Which wasn't obvious at first, but kind of makes sense.

The problem I have with it is that I find it almost impossible to move the mouse without pressing a button. I don't know where to put my fingers to hold on to the thing to drag it around! Most of the time when I reach for it, I end up clicking by mistake, and when I'm dragging, I click the "middle" (bottom left) button all the time. I guess you need to drag with it cupped in the heel of your palm, but I'm not used to that yet.

I really just wish there was a version of the Kinesis Evolution keyboard that had a trackpoint and a scroll wheel instead of trackpads.

Update: Mostly I got used to it, so I can move it without clicking; but I have the bottom left button disabled anyway, since that's the one I click by accident, and I don't particularly need it.

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50 Responses:

  1. rrm3 says:

    That is totally cool. I wonder when the hollywood hackers are going to be seen using these in movies.

  2. secretslip says:

    I've always thought a track ball for the feet would be a good seller for kinesis.

  3. brad says:


  4. evan says:

    Maybe your mouse pad is too sticky? I'm pretty sure I have the same mouse as you and the buttons require a bit of force to get pressed.

    In fact, I have the reverse problem: it's difficult for me to click without moving the mouse, as clicks require pressure along the horizontal axis and so I no longer have the desk to push against.

  5. The first thing I noticed is that you're left handed.

    • ralesk says:

      My dad's right-handed and he introduced me (a lefty, though strictly right-handed with joysticks) to using the mouse in the left.  It's a great idea... 2/3 of the keyboard is under your right hand anyway!

  6. bifrosty2k says:

    I have the regular weirdo kinesis ergo keyboard, I love it, its the best thing evar.

    The trackpad thing is a big dissapointment though, a trackpad is almost exactly the wrong thing. I'd take the eraser mouse over that any day for a chair-mounted keyboard.

    I use a trackball normally, but the erasermouse is ok...

  7. baconmonkey says:

    left-handed, split keyboard on sides, keyboard and mouse 90 degrees off axis....

    No wonder computers hate you so much. you're doing everything off-axis and backwards.

  8. ralesk says:

    That's some sweet stuff there, man. As for always ending up clicking something, I know the pain - here I have a horizontal five-button mouse, with the extra two being under my thumb and the little finger and everywhere except X usable as forward and back commands. I had to refrain from binding them in FPS games even though it would have been great to use them, simply because I always end up clicking one or the other when I grab the rodent.

  9. ioerror says:

    Is that a foot rest that vibrates?

    You're slacking in style.

    • jwz says:

      That there is a fantastic idea. But sadly, no.

      • ioerror says:

        I am seriously surprised. I mean, it would be dorky if it was a back or seat vibrating device but a foot rest is a needed item!

        I also expect you to tie this into xscreensaver somehow.

  10. mark242 says:

    That thing would drive me absolutely batshit.

    I'm left-handed also, but I also tend to type at or near the same time that I'm moving the mouse-- gaming, power-browsing, Photoshop, Final Cut Pro, etc. Often, this extends to the point where I am hitting keys on the right side of the keyboard with my left hand.

    The image is reversed, but the question remains the same: how do you not go crazy when you need to mouse and type, say, WASD at the same time?

    • duskwuff says:

      Somehow, JWZ just doesn't strike me as the gamer type.

    • jwz says:

      I never need to do that. Mouse is for reading and moving things and drawing. Keyboard is for typing. Never the twain shall meet.

    • ralesk says:

      Heh, guess what, I'm left-handed (see above), but I can't do WASD (or, well, cursor-key-like) with my left hand, at all, only with the right.

  11. zkzkz says:

    It strikes me as unlikely that Kinesis would ever make something with a trackpoint in it. Aren't they all about anti-RSI ergonomic things? The trackpoint is the single worst offender in that regard. It's positively a wrist-torture device.

    • jwz says:

      I assumed it was just some dumb patent thing.

      At least with a trackpoint I can hit what I aim at.

    • davidmccabe says:

      No it's not.

      Mice hurt my hands like nothing else in the world, and I have yet to get the hang of trackpads, but trackpoints are wonderful. They're right there in the middle of the keyboard; no moving to get to them. Plus, they require less motion than any other pointing device, and -- here's the important part -- you don't have to continuously move anything to move the pointer. The pointer continues to move until you release the trackpoint.

      • zkzkz says:

        you don't have to continuously move anything to move the pointer

        No you don't, but you do have to keep applying a continuous pressure. I've never had any problems with my wrist except for the year I was using a trackpoint device.

  12. icis_machine says:

    personally i use the comfortkeyboard .

    it's ugly (yours is at least pretty and slick), but i can reorder the sections
    and each section revolves a full half sphere.I bought back in 1999, but i
    recently went with the USB version which is much less bulky.

  13. strangehours says:

    If you got one of these people would be hard pressed to tell from a distance that you were actually awake...

  14. tfofurn says:

    My workplace was kind enough to buy me a chair-mount keyboard like that before Cramer sold out to Kinesis Ergo. Back before they did the dual pads, I opted for the left. Oh, how I loved that thing, mostly for the aches it took out of my shoulders, back, and upper arms. Sadly, my lower arms still hurt.

    The additional bonus was the hilarity of watching tech support folks try to drive my computer. The split keyboard was bad, but the left-handed mousing really drove them over the edge. They'd use their right hand, which made it much harder to know which way was up.

    And then one day I smelled burning. I sniffed all over my office like a deranged bloodhound, systematically unplugging bricks and sniffing them and the outlets from which I'd pulled them. Eventually, I sniffed my keyboard. Uh oh. The underside was unacceptably warm, too. Still no idea what happened to cause that. I've gone back to "normal" keyboards, supplemented with a half-decent ambidextrous mouse, the Logitech MX310. That combo hasn't been so bad. I found a super-clicky keyboard from before Dell decided everything would be black, and I've worked on having good posture.

  15. johnley says:

    How do you like the case? (Nexus Breeze Quiet Computer Case?) Does it really help? I recently replaced the super-sucker CPU fan in my current machine and the reduced noise level was a nice improvement. I'm thinking that quiet all-through might be a good emphasis for my next system, starting with a Nexus case.

  16. lifftchi says:

    Yeah, that platform looks really cheap. In a bad way. Why not just get a little table or stool and place it next to the left half of the keyboard? Cut down to fit if necessary.

  17. phs says:

    I think it's kind of sad that the trackpad has mostly subsumed the trackpoint as an input device. I say this even as somebody who can't fucking stand trackpoints; the set of people who like one verses the other seem pretty mutually exclusive. I would hate it if I could get nothing but trackpoints.

  18. violentbloom says:

    I don't suppose you'd want to swap your unused two track pads for my one track pad version?
    I could try to make it worth your while.
    I swap hands and it's annoying that I only have one. :(

  19. fantasygoat says:

    Another lefty who cuts his fingernails at his desk. Cool.

  20. korgmeister says:

    I must confess I consider mice to be evil, evil things. So much so that the wireless optical mouse that came with the Belkin wireless keyboard I bought has remained in its box.

    So that I can continue to use my Logitech Marblemouse. Heavens I love that thing!

  21. boldra says:

    I saw this evoluent on Slashdot about a week ago, but thought that the problem would be fine mouse control. When I use my mouse I keep my fingertips/thumbtips on the table to help slow/feel the movement. To increase control of the movement, I press on the table. This is really useful for doing graphics.

    Apart from that, I'm right-handed but mostly use my left hand for the mouse. Mostly. I switch sometimes when one hand become tired, or when I need even better control (eg. I can write quite clear text using my right hand, but not with my left).

    I couldn't see a wireless version either, which is a pain.

  22. transgress says:

    you are a freak of nature.

    • jwz says:

      I use caps as control, so no on that. But the tiny Alt is a bit of a pain, yeah.

      • So you're saying you use L-Ctrl (PC Caps Lock) for all Ctrl-mods? What about ^A, ^D, ^F, ^G, ^E, ^V and ^B — do you type those with one hand? That'll cause some trouble for your left hand...


        • jwz says:

          Yeah, I think I always use left-ctrl when typing (C-a is pinky+ringfinger). Old habit...

          Oddly, I seem to always use the right shift key. Huh.

          It's hard to observe yourself doing these instinctual things.

          • I have a similar habit with ^W (pinky and middlefinger — so much faster than reaching for backspace), while ^L, for instance, just feels wrong if it's not done with the right hand only (pinky and pointer).

            I started paying attention to all this a few months ago when I started getting hand-pains from typing. I've used an MS Natural keyboard for years, so my wrists were fine; the problem was in my actual hands.

            Apparently, when you touch-type, you're supposed to hit Shift/Ctrl/whatever with the opposite hand (I never learnt to touch-type beyond the "use this finger for these keys, and this one for these..."). Now I'm trying to un-learn all those old habits.

            My original point was that it's a shame that the Evolution seems to encourage you to use bad style. The Search Continues for the perfect keyboard (although the Kinesis Ergo "Contoured" looks pretty nice).


  23. aris1234 says:

    Don't you love how you always get charged a premium for a left-handed version of anything.

  24. cwilllu says:

    There is such a thing as a "Quill Mouse"... it's basically the same thing as what you have, except with bit of a groove that your wrist fits in loosely. The upshot is that it avoids some of the 'clicking while moving'/'moving while clicking'; of course, this is because movement is now an entire arm thing rather than a fingertip/wrist thing. I played around with both your model and the quill variety at a health and safety show a while back, and found the quill quite a bit easier to work with, less gripping stress, etc., for the lack of a better link.

    Of course, I've been using a Touchstream (basically two giant touchpads that double as the keyboard) for a while now, and would never go back to a mouse willingly. This has absolutely nothing to do with you, seeing as the two halves are separated by a 2 inch ribbon, and therefore would not work on your chair without some (supposedly possible) modding. Just due diligence and all that.

  25. sapp3r says:

    just noticed that kinesis says the evolution is not compatible with the aeron. which is odd, since that seems to be your setup. your own hack-to-fit installation, or their site is just wrong/out-of-date?

    • jwz says:

      I think it's a "not officially supported" situation, and if you ask, they'll send you the right brackets anyway.

      I bought mine back when it was still an "Interfaces by Cramer" keyboard, and Aeron was officially supported then. I replaced it with the Kinesis version after it had a run-in with a full glass of water, and the same brackets still fit.

  26. wtfwtf_ok says:

    I have had impressive problems with my hands/arms/shoulder/neck.

    The best mouse I've tried so far has been

    I think the sizes run small, get a Large unless you have microhands. I'm not sure if they make a sinister version or if they're "all right". Also, they seem to be out of stock, but try .