What is an Alternative Keyboard?

Allison Boelcke

An alternative keyboard is any type of computer keyboard that has been redesigned to prevent muscle strain. A standard computer keyboard’s flat layout may cause certain users to position their hands and wrists in unnatural or awkward positions that can potentially lead to musculoskeletal injuries. Alternative keyboards come in a variety of designs to alter the positioning of a user’s wrists and hands to ensure they remain straight while typing.

Over time, carpal tunnel syndrome can cause debilitating pain and rigidity.
Over time, carpal tunnel syndrome can cause debilitating pain and rigidity.

One common alternative keyboard design is the split keyboard. A split keyboard is specifically designed to straighten a user’s wrists by separating the keys through the center. Some split keyboards keep the same layout as a standard keyboard, but divides the keys into two sections with a empty area in the center. Other split keyboard designs also rotate the two bottom of each of the sections to mimic the alignment of the forearms.

Some people believe changing the layout of the keyboard can reduce the risk of repetitive stress injuries from typing.
Some people believe changing the layout of the keyboard can reduce the risk of repetitive stress injuries from typing.

Tented keyboards are an alternative keyboard design that functions similarly to split keyboards. The keyboard is vertically divided down the center. The outer sides of each keyboard section remain attached to the base, while the centers are pulled up to meet in the center to give a tent shape. The elevation of the keys is intended to straighten out the wrists of people who may sharply bend their wrists on a flat keyboard.

Alternative keyboards come in a variety of designs to alter the positioning of a user’s wrists and hands to ensure they remain straight while typing.
Alternative keyboards come in a variety of designs to alter the positioning of a user’s wrists and hands to ensure they remain straight while typing.

An adjustable negative slope keyboard keeps the layout of the keys the same as a standard keyboard, but allows the user to vertically raise the front of the keyboard. Users can also bend the back of the keyboard to point slightly downward. Standard keyboards tend to be completely level, but the adjustable negative slope keyboard is designed to move in any way to match the way a user’s wrists bend or turn.

Some alternative keyboards are equipped with built-in wrist and palm pads to keep users from bending their wrists. Promoters of built-in wrist and palm pads believe the pads can alleviate upper back and shoulder pressure. The pads may cause difficulty in typing for some people and can potentially increase wrist pain if not positioned correctly.

While typing on a straight keyboard, a person may rigidly curve his or her fingers. To relax the fingers, an alternative keyboard may come with differently positioned keys to straighten the fingers while typing. An alternative keyboard with concave well keyboard positions keys toward the center of the board in a slight indentation in order to straighten the fingers. A curved keyboard spaces the individual keys in an arch shape that mimics the shape of the hands instead of the standard straight, rectangular positioning of conventional keyboards.

Using an alternative keyboard may help avoid strains to the hands and wrists.
Using an alternative keyboard may help avoid strains to the hands and wrists.

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