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Why So Many Designs?
Over the decades, numerous keyboard designs have been invented, and all have offered, more or less, benefit to users. Keyboard manufacturers have always looked into designing keyboards that are gentle to use and are comfortable.
Despite careful designing of keyboards, there were some flaws left in them that resulted in various types of muscular, strain, fatigue and other injuries.
Studies have shown that the uneasy postures and insistent movement of the typists have resulted in increased cumulative trauma disorders (CTD) - severe disorders considered to be dangerous.
This led to manufacturing of wide range of alternative keyboard designs that would reduce physical pressure, improve postures of typists while providing overall comfort.
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A) Fixed Angle – Split Keyboard
These keyboards come with isolated alphanumeric keys at a fixed angle and the keyboard is slightly raised up at the back. This design is often recommended for pregnant women because they can put their arms in a comfortable position. This keyboard is also suitable for those having muscular injury.
These keyboards are larger than conventional keyboards; therefore you need to have more space on your desk. Those who are learning typing will find these keyboards slightly difficult to use.
B) Adjustable - Split Keyboard
Different designs of the split keyboards allow the typist to change the split-angle of keyboard either horizontally or vertically or both – as it suit their needs. Adjustable split keyboards are more expensive than fixed-angle split keyboards.
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One-Handed Heyboards / Half “QWERTY”
The original idea behind this design was to launch a keyboard for Palmtop or Laptop Computers.
These keyboards are also intended to help the shift over of "two-handed" typing skill to the condition of "one-handed".
It is available in many alternative designs but all of them have the same set of keys found on a regular keyboard. However, each key functions in at least two different modes – allowing use of all the regular keyboard characters in a smaller area.
Despite it being relatively a small keyboard, experiments conducted by the researches have proved that QWERTY typists can achieve high speed typing rates of 40 Words/Minute.
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These keyboards are intended to be used by blind users and those with badly arthritic hands. It comes in many different designs - “one handed” and “two handed”.
Chorded keyboard requires pressing of different keys simultaneously to type a character - very similar to playing a musical chord on a piano.
Some of the modern designs of chorded keyboards include the FrogPad, EkaPad and the GKOS keyboard; these are made to use with tiny tablet PCs or wireless mobile terminals These keyboards are more expensive than conventional keyboards.
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In these keyboards, multi-touch screen technology is used in place of the traditional keyboard keys. Its touch-sensitive surface is integrated with the mouse that allows the typist to use keys and mouse on a single physical area. Moreover, this design also allows users to perform many Computer commands with simple finger gestures.
Since you do not feel the keys go down in this keyboard, some typists consider it a disadvantage. Probably, the future designs will come with some sort of audio to signal you when a key has been pressed.
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Finally, Which Keyboard Design Is The Best?
Not every keyboard design is best for everyone. Individual and business users choose a design that they find most comfortable and which provides maximum productivity. There are good’s and bad’s in each design - one may prefer a split keyboard while another may find it hard to use.
There are good practices that, if implemented, can help you stay safe from injuries or any kind of discomfort from using keyboard. These practices include proper placement of keyboard, keeping a safe distance from it, sitting with correct posture, etc.
Even with production of so many different keyboard designs, the conventional keyboard remains the most popular design among majority of the users.