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Input Devices

Ask Slashdot: Keyboard Layout To Reduce Right Pinky/Ring Finger Usage? 165

Posted by Soulskill
from the try-upgrading-the-firmware-on-your-hands dept.
Tooke writes "I've developed focal hand dystonia from playing clarinet. It affects my right pinky (and my ring finger, but to a lesser extent). My pinky isn't totally unusable when typing; however, it isn't nearly as agile as it used to be. When I must press a key with it, I tend to keep the whole finger rigid and move my entire hand instead. I also use my ring finger to press the P and semicolon keys (on QWERTY) which is a bit awkward but better than using the pinky. Thus my question: are there any keyboard layouts that are optimized to reduce right pinky/ring finger usage? I switched to Programmer Dvorak a few years ago, but Dvorak seems to make me use my right hand significantly more than my left. I'm considering mirroring the letter keys so my left hand would be used more. I also came across the Workman layout which looks interesting. I might try using that after switching the numbers and symbols around to be more like Programmer Dvorak. Has anyone been in a similar situation? What else could I do to make typing more comfortable? I've got a long career ahead of me as a programmer (I'm currently a high school senior) and I'd like to take care of my hands as much as possible."
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Ask Slashdot: Keyboard Layout To Reduce Right Pinky/Ring Finger Usage?

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  • by tlambert (566799) on Friday February 15, 2013 @06:37PM (#42916945)

    Working around a treatable condition is pretty silly. How about just treating the dystonia? Standard treatment is sensorimotor retraining.

  • by X0563511 (793323) on Friday February 15, 2013 @06:42PM (#42916999) Homepage Journal

    I almost never use my ring or pinky while typing, on either side.

    Just type so that it feels natural to you. Nothing forces you to use any specific fingers.

    Because I learned to type in such a "natural" form, instead of learning home rows and specific zones for each finger, I find I can easily adapt to different typing positions and injuries. Eg, if my index finger on either hand had a cut on it, it only takes a few minutes for me to adjust and type at a near full speed without that finger.

    While I'm not the -fastest- typer around, I still type pretty damn fast and with little fatigue.

  • by jaffray (6665) on Friday February 15, 2013 @08:29PM (#42918095)

    Speaking as someone who's still struggling with the extensor tendinitis he developed as a young programmer over 15 years ago, with hundreds of nights of pain and hundreds of thousands in lost earnings as a result...

    First: It's a natural hacker impulse to focus on keyboard layouts and hardware and other fun toys like that. Resist that urge. The importance of that stuff is tiny compared to good overall ergonomic habits, good posture, taking breaks, and managing tension. Get all the help that you can on those issues. Watch your own habits. Have someone else watch you. Make adjustments.

    Second: Having said that... when I was first having hand trouble, I switched to Dvorak. This was, for me, a very poor decision. As you've noticed, Dvorak overloads the right pinky finger, which is a bad idea on a typewriter, but a horrible idea on a computer keyboard where other often-used keys are on the right edge of the layout.

    Moving the entire arm to hit Enter and other right-edge keys with a non-pinky finger helped some, but not enough. After a couple weeks of increasing right-pinky pain, I simply swapped the L and P keys, so the commonly-used L was on the left index instead of the right pinky.

    The L/P swap helped with the overloading, but exacerbated my second problem with a new layout, which was greater tension while typing. Even though I felt comfortable with Dvorak on a conscious level, I was still sometimes tensing up before keystrokes as my fingers weren't sure which way to go for an extra few milliseconds. And I was still having to use QWERTY keyboards often enough that I couldn't completely banish that muscle memory. Eventually I just switched back to QWERTY. More finger-mileage, yes, but is finger-mileage really the issue? It wasn't for me.

    Third: No, really. Spend your time on the annoying difficult-to-scientifically-analyze meatspace issues like posture, not on keyboard layouts.

A sheet of paper is an ink-lined plane. -- Willard Espy, "An Almanac of Words at Play"

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