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Ask Slashdot: Single-Handed Keyboard Options For Coding? 147

First time accepted submitter dubbreak writes "I was recently injured in a car accident which will limit the use of hand for six weeks or so. I'll be taking a little time off, but deadlines march on, and I'll need to be (semi) productive after my initial recuperation. What is you experience with single handed keyboards or other input option that require one hand at most? The current project is mainly C#, so I've need to be able to type brackets, semicolons and parentheses quick and painlessly."
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Ask Slashdot: Single-Handed Keyboard Options For Coding?

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 23, 2012 @09:55AM (#41094521)

    ... you would think you're well adapted to typing with one hand!

    • ... because the other hand holds the gear shift?
      • I wonder if this is Mayim Bialik posting.

        You still haven't replied to my date request, Mayim, and sorry to hear about the accident.

    • by jellomizer ( 103300 ) on Thursday August 23, 2012 @11:32AM (#41096295)

      While a joke. I am using a normal keyboard, with one hand. The other is on the mouse. (With a different window). While not as fast as normal, I can still type at a good speed. I can seem to type everything I need. !@#$%^&*()_+ My hands are average sized.

      I really don't see the need for a new keyboard for a temporary usage.

      • by Zibodiz ( 2160038 ) on Thursday August 23, 2012 @11:53AM (#41096653)
        Same here, I've been typing one-handed for years, usually because I work on the move a lot, and use the other hand to hold my laptop. I can type about 60wpm with both hands, about 40wpm right-handed, and probably 30wpm with my left. You'd be amazed how quickly you can learn to type on a regular keyboard one-handed. I originally learned how because of a nasty bee sting that swelled up my left hand for about a week & a half. The transition only takes a day or two and you're typing without looking as if you've always been 1-handed. Brackets & such are easy, because the Shift key is not far from them.
        • You might also look at purchasing a Visual Studio add-in like Code Rush []. It can really speed up dev time and reduce keystrokes. No affiliation, just a happy customer.
      • by Gr8Apes ( 679165 )
        Had injury/wrist surgery on right hand that essentially made me 1 handed (left at that) for about 2 months. I found a normal keyboard and using the mouse left-handed not all that hard to adapt to, although you do want a mouse that's not specifically "ergonomically" designed for right hand only. On the other hand, I'm somewhat ambidextrous, and I discovered during this time I can use chopsticks quite adequately left-handed, so your mileage might differ.
  • Cover Story (Score:5, Funny)

    by Missing.Matter ( 1845576 ) on Thursday August 23, 2012 @09:56AM (#41094551)
    Nice cover story... what are you really looking to do with that other hand while coding?

    On a serious note, maybe this would do the trick: []

    I've used one. There's a learning curve, but after a week I was pretty fast with it. I've never actually coded with it though just typed notes, but all the keys are there for just one hand.
    • The frogpad comments made me curious, but it seems like the FrogPad company is a zombie at this point. There is only one on ebay and their company web site goes to a blank screen.

    • by Frohboy ( 78614 )

      Nice cover story... what are you really looking to do with that other hand while coding?

      Maybe he's using functors in Haskell [].

    • ... what are you really looking to do with that other hand while coding?

      Eat Cheetos

    • by Anonymous Coward

      He's a programmer.
      How about the Supercoder 2000 []?

      Also, think about the Twiddler 2 [].
      It has macro support and allows for custom chords.

    • Re:Cover Story (Score:4, Informative)

      by Frightened_Turtle ( 592418 ) on Thursday August 23, 2012 @01:32PM (#41098061) Homepage

      The Frogpad is no longer made.

      A British company, Maltron, does make single-handed keyboards. They can be purchased in the U.S. here at Enablemart []. But these keyboards are pretty pricey, so it might not be worth the investment to get one, unless you expect your injured hand is going to be out of commission much longer than a few weeks.

      About thirteen years ago, I had sustained a horrific injury to my left arm that resulted in my arm being put into an immobilization cast for the better part of fourteen weeks and a brace for months after. My fingers, however, were still functional. The immobilization cast kept me from positioning my hand over a keyboard. I rigged a dowel using some duct tape so I could at least press the shift, option and command keys with on my left while I typed with my right hand. I definitely couldn't type as fast, but I was able to get the job done.

      If you have an Apple Macintosh computer, it already has the Dvorak one-handed keyboards built into it. Just go to the Language and Text pane in the System Preferences application to switch to one or the other. Look up the keyboard layout and download the image [] so you have something to look at while you learn to type the layout. This will be a LOT cheaper than buying a specialized keyboard for a condition that you say will only last a few weeks.

      If your hand is immobilized for just a few weeks, it probably is not worth the effort to learn a new layout like that. It takes a couple of weeks at least to become proficient using a new layout to make it productive, and a couple of months to really develop the reflexes needed to touch type using the new layout without having to glance at the keyboard to find the key you want. If your hand is out of commission for a couple of months or longer, then it is certainly worth the effort to learn a new keyboard layout to maintain productivity. If your hand is out of commission for longer than a year or perhaps permanently, then a one-handed keyboard would be worth the expense.

      Above all, don't panic and think through what you really need. And DON'T skimp on your physical therapy! P.T. is what will bring the usability of your hand back to you. Shirk your P.T., and your hand could heal permanently out of order.

    • I can confirm (similar situation: 2 months cast after some stupid indoor injury), combination of:
      - left handed typing on a regular keyboard
      - typing with both thumbs on a small keyboard
      is a good way to type and not get exhausted too much.

      Logitech is producing a few wireless thumb keyboards for media Pcs. (Logitech diNovo mini, for example).

      just be sure to get a 4 row thumb pad with separate numbers (like a regular keyboard). not something with only letters (quite a few such are popular for phones and tablets

  • Don't Bother (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CrankyFool ( 680025 ) on Thursday August 23, 2012 @09:57AM (#41094561)

    One of my coworkers can use only one hand. He has no special equipment, uses a regular keyboard and mouse, etc. The guy's wicked-effective, and his work output appears to be -- at minimum -- at reasonable volume. Frankly, he's one of the most productive engineers I know. And that's with both Java and Perl, which is a pain in the ass given its special characters.

    Consider using this as an opportunity to focus on design and thinking before you bang your keyboard. You may be surprised by the results.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Agreed. I know a guy who literally has only one hand (his other arm ends in a nub due to a birth defect), and he does great with a regular mouse + keyboard. Special equipment may be nice, but it certainly isn't necessary.

      • Not absolutely necessary, but it can improve your typing speed. For no extra money, I'd recommend a Dvorak keyboard layout. While most Slashdotters have probably heard of the normal Dvorak layout (which is optimized for two-handed typing), there's two other Dvorak variants, which are specifically designed for both left-handed and right-handed typing. Using the appropriate layout (for whichever hand you still have) may allow you to type faster and more comfortably.

    • Re:Don't Bother (Score:5, Interesting)

      by i kan reed ( 749298 ) on Thursday August 23, 2012 @10:07AM (#41094765) Homepage Journal

      Don't forget sticky-keys. This guy is plainly working in windows which has a number of baked in(usually annoying) features for accessibility.

      Just press shift 5 times. Then you can press shift, then the key you need to use, separately. I just wrote a method for work one handed to see if it works. It seems to. Give it a try.

      • by dintech ( 998802 )

        Maybe with an old keyboard at floor level and some bits and pieces from the DIY store, he could rig himself up a shift-key foot pedal?

        • Maybe with an old keyboard at floor level and some bits and pieces from the DIY store, he could rig himself up a shift-key foot pedal?

          I don't see a person like the story poster doing it, since it would require wiring dexterity and soldering for a project that will be dropped in six months, so DIY is probably not his intention.

          That said, one can easily purchase a real foot pedal [] aimed at the music industry at Radioshack or music stores. At around $20 dollars, it's cheap and more sightly than whole keyboards (or half ones) rigged to sit on the floor because it has a single big clicker rather than 100+.

          Someone with the engineering knowhow co

      • He could be coding in Mono C# you insensitve clod :)

    • Re:Don't Bother (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 23, 2012 @10:36AM (#41095313)

      I used to know a guy who was wheelchair bound, he typed with a stick in his mouth. He wasn't a fast typer but his code NEVER had bugs.. he had the time to think about what he was typing and it was basically done right the first time. He was one of the most productive members of the team due to the quality of his work.

    • Given the mention of parenthses etc, it seems likely the submitter has an impaired right hand. The trick for me when I had an impaired right hand due to a traffic accident was to put the mouse on the left, then scooch the keyboard a little to the left. Now the left thumb or index can hit shift and the other fingers can reach any of the special keys you need. Keeping the mouse on the left helps me with the longer term effects of my injury; others find it odd to see me typing normally with one hand and hunt-

    • Having been in a similar situation, I can confirm that this is sage advice. Unless you're paid per line of code, being forced to slow down a little and think is a great thing. On the flipside, you'll find that you can get very proficient with typing one-handed very quickly. You won't be at 100%, but you just might impress a few folks.
    • Having no other option from birth and learning to use just one hand from RIGHT NOW is a bit more of a learning curve. Plus its only for 6 weeks so not a worthwhile thing to get really good at. I think its more a case of being able to keep job until healed.
      A bit of kit to keep depression at bay maybe the real reason. Nothing like retail therapy.
      Speech to text is good these day. It is on my phone. that may help.
    • I had a similar experience after I injured my wrist and only had one hand for several weeks. I don't actually code much, and never in C#, so I can't comment on how easy or hard it would be, but I didn't use anything special. However, I later got a Razr Naga gaming mouse with 12 buttons on the side which can be remapped to do anything. I always have thought it would have been helpful back when that happened.
  • Twiddler (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I have the original serial-based Twiddler keyboard (there is now a USB one), and it isn't all that amazing. However, if I really had to use one hand to type, I could get used to it.

    The biggest problem is with hand cramping. It is not ergonomic in any way.

  • surely they'd know after all that morph target/flexing coding hackery.
  • Take a look at turning on sticky keys for the duration of your recovery. I'm assuming that you're on Windows, but Linux for sure and Mac probably has the same feature (just maybe called something different). Also, take the opportunity to think more and type less. Maybe you'll achieve code enlightenment, which is nice. Good luck on the recovery and do whatever your orthopedist says.
  • Nostromo or Frogpad (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 23, 2012 @10:00AM (#41094629)

    I'de go with Nostromo because I know it.

    Fully programmable single hand key pad for gaming.

    You can easily create your own layout and do chords like a court reporter would.
    EG key combinations to type a letter.

    I believe it even comes with a template for single handed full ascII map typing.
    There is also a website for templates others have created.

    After a day or two of practice most people can type via chord input at 80 to 90 % of two handed typing rate QWERTY style.


    • +1 - I've used the Nostromo for just this purpose, and it was easy. The one I have has three different toggled layouts, so you can shift functions easily. The D-pad also maps to eight different functions, if you need it. And it has a built-in mousewheel, which is all sorts of useful.
    • This all sounds great but I would temper your last statement there with the control:

      most people

      have an average typing rate significantly below that of a developer, so I would presume it would take significantly longer to get to choord typing at the >100wpm of a developer in qwerty. Sounds like a great idea though.

  • Dvorak Single Handed (Score:4, Informative)

    by 0100010001010011 ( 652467 ) on Thursday August 23, 2012 @10:01AM (#41094647)

    Comes in both the left and right varieties. []

    • by Zocalo ( 252965 )
      Because it's vitally important to load balance... []
    • by OAB_X ( 818333 )

      +1 to this. I know a person who injured their aim in a car accident and this worked for them.

      • +1 to this. I know a person who injured their aim in a car accident and this worked for them.

        Professional gamer I take it? Makes me wonder how a new one handed keyboard would help his aim in Quake/Unreal/Rage, etc?

        • by OAB_X ( 818333 )

          1) Why do you assume it was for games?
          2) Why do you assume that everyone who uses a computer (or gets in car accidents) is a him?

  • It'll take you longer than six weeks to get used to a chording keyboard or one of the alternative keyboards out there; typing one-handed may be annoying, but still more efficient. As to brackets and other special characters, I'd recommend getting a gaming keyboard with extra macro keys, and program those chars into them.

  • Vim Remapping (Score:5, Informative)

    by TheMatt ( 541854 ) on Thursday August 23, 2012 @10:02AM (#41094687) Homepage Journal
    I broke my hand a year ago and I too had the fun of doing one-handed coding (in Fortran, baby!) for a couple months. In truth, it wasn't that bad, though my productivity was slowed a bit. I managed by remapping keystrokes in vim to be more friendly, like remapping '' to 'jj' and ':wq' to just 'wq'. If you are clever, you could easily remap shift-combos (like braces) to un-used areas. Say, remap '{' to '[['...unless C# has those. (I am not a C# programmer). It's a bit harder for '(' as you can't just remap that to '99'.
    • by TheMatt ( 541854 )
      Oh yes, and set up Sticky Keys everywhere. Typing then m is a lot easier than -m. Usually you can toggle the sticky keys with a keyboard shortcut.
    • "I broke my hand a year ago ... coding (in Fortran, baby!)"

      Breaking your had must have been like a breath of fresh air. I can't imagine the pain and torture of having to code in Fortran. I still have blank spots in memory from my college years when I was forced to learn/use it. Or maybe that was the rum.

      • by jonadab ( 583620 )
        Fortran's not too bad, as long as what you're doing is even vaguely an appropriate thing to be using Fortran for (like, say, statistical modeling). It's MUCH better than some of the other languages from its era (notably, Cobol). Heck, I'd say it'd be better than PHP for a lot of things.

        I mean, granted, you wouldn't want to maintain web-scraping code in it. [Shudder]
    • by tool462 ( 677306 )

      It's a bit harder for '(' as you can't just remap that to '99'.

      Actually, that's a great idea. What better way to discourage the use of 'magic' numbers in your code than by turning them into syntax errors? :)

  • Someone used to have a one-handed keyboard that was one half of a standard QWERTY keyboard. (You could choose which half.) They also had a software version that worked with standard keyboards. You could access the other side by holding the spacebar and typing the corresponding position for the desired key. For example, if you had the right-hand keyboard, while holding the spacebar, you would type 'L' to get 'S'. I was amazed how easy it was to use. I guess if you are a touch typist, you know which fin
  • Foot pedals. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by porter235 ( 413926 ) on Thursday August 23, 2012 @10:03AM (#41094703)

    Another thing to consider is a foot pedal or two. Set them up to do SHIFT and CTRL and away you go!

  • A long time ago, Matias was selling a "half keyboard" for use with PDAs and other mobile devices at a more or less reasonable price of $99 []. The following is patented: "Hold the space bar to flip the keyboard horizontally." When that market failed, Matias jacked up the price by hundreds of dollars [] to take advantage of companies that were buying the "half keyboard" as a legally required accommodation for employees with disabilities.
    • by dumky2 ( 2610695 )
      A while back I wrote a software solution to emulate the Matias half keyboard: []

      Because of IP issues, I had to edit out some portions of the code. But it would take about a minute for a coder to make it functional again and compile it.
      Additional chords could be added to make specific characters even more accessible (quotes, braces, etc.) and adapted for coding.
  • I have been in your place, damaged left hand/wrist/forearm. I do a lot of typing, but a lot of it is repetitive, programming is like that. I used/use a programmable keyboard. in my case i use a MS Ergo keyboard, but i have supplemented it with a Genovation ControlPad 682 USB This is a 32 row column keyboard that has 31 programmable buttons each with 2 levels for a total of 62 key functions. you can program it to do many things. Of course there are many other Brands and types of Programmable keyboards and w
  • When I broke by hand I used right-handed Dvorak, but semicolons where a pain. If it proves too much of a problem you can look into customizing the keymap yourself.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    ...and did this

  • by darjen ( 879890 ) on Thursday August 23, 2012 @10:17AM (#41094981)

    That in order to be a super productive coder you need to be able to type at 150 words per minute.

    I almost never code with both hands anymore. My carpel tunnel has gotten worse over the past few years, so I am constantly switching arms. So far I have still been able to hold down my senior developer job.

    • Apparently the longer you delay surgery for carpel tunnel, the worse it gets. You might want to get that looked at.
  • XKCD has the answer (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 23, 2012 @10:19AM (#41095015)

    Great mods of slashdot , forgive my AC ways and mod this to +1
    You can mirror the keyboard with say , the caps lock key. I tried it and you get used to it really quick because the motion is already familiar to you since you use the keyboard in a "mirrored" fashion anyway. One hand for each side.

    • Unfortunately, that's patented, as I pointed out in another comment [].
  • by Anonymous Coward

    I am assuming that you are concerned about shift-keying with one hand:

  • by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Thursday August 23, 2012 @10:27AM (#41095159) Homepage []

    Works great and you can actually type REALLY fast with it once you get used to it.

    • by Z8 ( 1602647 )
      That looks interesting but they really need to make a bluetooth version. That cord looks annoying even in the picture.
  • Get in touch with these guys: []
    They are working on a VERY EARLY prototype of a keyboard glove that looks very promising if you can look past the ugliness of the prototype.
    Trying to get funding... []
    Why they don't just stick it on Kickstarter, I have no idea, but it is something I can across which could be of some use, I'm sure they would need a good test use case to show off

  • I have a Logitech M13 game keyboard - you could program in macros to do common things in your language of choice...

  • i lost the use of my right (dominant) hand for 6 weeks and tried the twiddler []. I didnt find the chorded text entry easy and struggled to get to much over 30-40 characters per min (!), but the mouse pad button works well for navigating a gui desktop (think ibm thinkpad 'trackpoint' center button). Oh and it works perfectly with linux.
  • If you have problem with using the modifier keys, you can turn the "Sticky Keys" on in your Windows Control Panel.

  • Textastic is a nice source editor for iOS devices that adds an additional row of buttons above the onscreen keyboard. You can type all the common symbols with a single touch gesture. I normally use a Bluetooth keyboard when I have to edit source files on the iPad, so I don't know how fast typing in general would be on the touchscreen device.

    This may not be an option for you at all if you're using an IDE on a Windows machine. Textastic is basically a fancy text editor like Notepad++.

  • My thought it take the most used/painful to type symbols and remap them onto keys you don't use.

  • The current project is mainly C#, so I've need to be able to type brackets, semicolons and parentheses quick and painlessly."

    You are looking at adverbs here, so repeat after me:

    "Typing how?"

    Quickly. Painlessly.

    • Dear OP: Feel free to ignore grammar nazis for the length of your recovery.

      And for the grammar police: perhaps consider that the person dropping punctuation or letters may have barriers to communication that you do not. Like maybe a broken hand.

  • this scripting program I picked up and have been using since 2003 is great. one guy wrote a One Handed Keyboard script that is rather sweet to use.. even have cool scripts for using the NumPad to move the mouse pointer and click... lots of great tools that would so help someone one handed.
  • One of these []...

    I'm sure someone suitably skilled could implement a USB keyboard version with a cheap off-the-shelf microcontroller board, a bit of 3D printing for the button bracket, and a certain amount of programming.

  • I'm 80-90 words per minute with 2 hands. I had really bad carpel tunnel problems in the 90s and got to where I could type about 60 words per minute with either hand on a one-handed dvorak keyboard. It took about 2 months of coding every day to get to my max.

    I went about 5 years changing hands every 3-4 months. There are left and right handed dvorak layouts.

  • Just clost the damn porn and get back to work.
  • I broke my non-dominant hand and had it casted while on a job than involved writing on deadline. I worked with paper for a while, but mostly just got good at one handed fly-over-the-left-side typing. If you know where the keys are "hunt and peck" turns into "peck" and that's actually reasonably fast.

    I think, on balance, in 6 weeks you're still going to be faster on your normal keyboard than a new layout or speech to text.

  • Back when I was developing in C#, I used (and loved) CodeRush. ( This assumes you're using VisualStudio.

    I wasn't doing one-hand development but found it extremely helpful and I think it could apply in you situation. It supports macros/templates and things like smart brackets where you don't even need to type brackets. You could just b+TAB or whatever you want. It would give you a bracket body with your cursor placed in the middle. It has

  • There are one handed devorak layouts. Probably not worth the trouble to learn to use it, memorize layout, or buy a overlay. There are also chording keyboards, but again not worth the time to learn. It sounds like a cool idea, but I'd rather use the qwerty layout even though it is inefficient. I'd rather my typing be good 100% of the time, rather than split my typing across two different techniques depending on whether the computer I'm on has all the things needed to use my lternate keyboard choice. I d

  • [] I wrote the software, you modify the hardware. Have a friend of yours with basic electronics skill cut up a $5 usb gamepad for you. configure a mapping you like, and it run it as a userspace program under linux. If you have to work on a windows box use synergy to share the mouse and keyboard between the linux and windows box.
  • A while back I wrote a software solution to emulate the Matias one-handed keyboard: []

    Because of IP issues, I had to edit out some portions of the code. But it would take about a minute for a coder to make it functional again and compile it.
    Additional chords could be added to make specific characters even more accessible (quotes, braces, etc.) and adapted for coding.
  • [] I don't know how well you know Morse Code, but you can use it as a total keyboard replacement. One handed typing all day long. Quadriplegics use it with a bite sensor for typing.
  • I've been a FrogPad user for years and years after a stroke that affected my right hand.

    I can comfortably touch type with it, I'm gutted that it is no longer made, I killed two of them by spilling wine on them, so there was issues of build quality.

    Basically the thing just works and without it I'm lost, I can use a normal keyboard but love my FrogPad. So please Linda Marroquin, start producing your wonderful keyboard again, but this time, make it water proof.


  • I had this problem when I broke my wrist. It turns out that it is pretty easy for your brain to learn to type one-handed if you simply use a special shift key to make each half of your keyboard be a mirror image of the other half. This can be accomplished in software, using the space key as the special shift, but there is a patent on the technique, and software drivers that used to be available are gone. You'll learn this way faster than any of the chorded keyboards. I have found the Matias Keyboard, which
  • I had something similar happen to me a while back, where a workplace accident made my right arm useless for about a year. I ended up just learning how to type on a regular keyboard. Having control, alt, and shift on both sides greatly help, because with use of pinky or thumb, you can hit pretty much everything. Even normal two handed actions like Control Alt Delete aren't impossible.
    • I should note that it helps if you sit just far enough away to where your good arm can reach across to get to the entire keyboard. I didn't need any special scripts or anything.

I've finally learned what "upward compatible" means. It means we get to keep all our old mistakes. -- Dennie van Tassel