Author Topic: keyboard for programmers, any recommendations?  (Read 8638 times)

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Offline DiTBho

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keyboard for programmers, any recommendations?
« on: June 02, 2021, 04:02:55 pm »
It's time to change my old keyboard because ... well because it just died.

R.I.P.

(1 sec of silence, to remember how many things I typed on it. Great stuff.
It was a rather good IBM PS/2 keyboard. Paid 150 euro, it lasted 10 years)

....

OK, I am mostly a C programmer, I usually also program in assembly, sometimes in Python, but I think i will write a lot of documents in Latex in the next months because the development list of  tasks in my depart is rather idle at the moment.

Yesterday I watched a video on Youtube, a dude was mentioning a "keyboard for programmers", but he didn't explain what "for programmers" really mean. He simply showed a very expensive (250 euro) mechanical keyboard, and I am really confused.

Is really there a keyboard optimized for programmers?!?
Like those keyboards optimized for gamers?


That guy also showed his new iMac which comes with a super small keyboard, wireless. Aesthetically it looks nice, but the touch-pad is an external unit you have to buy separately. I don't know how good it for typing, it also comes a fingerprint recognizer, that's exactly one of the features I don't strictly need to have.


What I really like to have is a track-point in a decent position (e.g. between the keys G and H?), embedded with the keyboard rather than on an external unit.

I really used a lot the track-point on my old keyboard, and I think it's one feature I would like to have on my next keyboard.

Any recommendations for a new keyboard? 

Thanks :D

 

Online Ian.M

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Re: keyboard for programmers, any recommendations?
« Reply #1 on: June 02, 2021, 04:46:34 pm »
There aren't many options for a full sized keyboard with a pointing stick.  AFAIK Unicomp EnduraPro is the only one currently available.  Allegedly, its very much like an IBM model M + a classic Trackpoint, but with a USB plug on it.  If you can live with a compact keyboard (no numberpad), Lenovo do the standalone USB 'ThinkPad TrackPoint Keyboard II'.

I cant actually recommend either as I haven't used them as I'm a cheap-skate and my satisfaction criteria for keyboards are fairly low due to early experiences with rubber keyed 8-bitters best described as typing on a corpse, and I'm not *that* fond of pointing sticks (although if someone would make a min. 5 button mouse with a pointing stick for scroll wheel functionality, I'd be all over it)!

N.B. a buckling spring keyboard is likely to make you unpopular in a cube farm due to the resulting noise level!
« Last Edit: June 02, 2021, 04:50:27 pm by Ian.M »
 
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Offline sulami

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Re: keyboard for programmers, any recommendations?
« Reply #2 on: June 02, 2021, 06:28:56 pm »
Yesterday I watched a video on Youtube, a dude was mentioning a "keyboard for programmers", but he didn't explain what "for programmers" really mean. He simply showed a very expensive (250 euro) mechanical keyboard, and I am really confused.

Is really there a keyboard optimized for programmers?!?
Like those keyboards optimized for gamers?

Not really. Some are programmable, either via firmware flashing or on the fly, and might allow for macros and such, but in general they all work the same.

More interesting imho is actually the form factor and ergonomics. As someone suffering from typing-induced RSI, a well shaped keyboard is just as important to me as a decent chair.

In general I’d say go for something mechanical, have a look at different switch kinds and what you might like (stiffness and sound mainly), spend a decent amount but not too much, 80-200 is a good starting point. Stay away from anything too obnoxiously gaming branded, and just pick something that you like. Reviews can be useful too.

As for an actual recommendation, I’ve heard good things from colleagues about the CODE keyboard, which is definitely on the pricier end, but a standard form form factor and robustly built.
 
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Offline Rick Law

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Re: keyboard for programmers, any recommendations?
« Reply #3 on: June 02, 2021, 08:27:14 pm »
There aren't many options for a full sized keyboard with a pointing stick.  AFAIK Unicomp EnduraPro is the only one currently available.  Allegedly, its very much like an IBM model M + a classic Trackpoint, but with a USB plug on it.  If you can live with a compact keyboard (no numberpad), Lenovo do the standalone USB 'ThinkPad TrackPoint Keyboard II'.

I cant actually recommend either as I haven't used them as I'm a cheap-skate and my satisfaction criteria for keyboards are fairly low due to early experiences with rubber keyed 8-bitters best described as typing on a corpse, and I'm not *that* fond of pointing sticks (although if someone would make a min. 5 button mouse with a pointing stick for scroll wheel functionality, I'd be all over it)!

N.B. a buckling spring keyboard is likely to make you unpopular in a cube farm due to the resulting noise level!

Model M keyboards...  I've not seen/feel anything smoother than them.

I am not programming professionally anymore but I am still using my IBM-PS2 keyboards (Modem M keyboard) that was once on my IBM-PS2 (model 50, 70 and the p70)...  Yeah, they are the round PS2 mouse/keyboard connector plug, but these days they are used via a USB adapter.
 
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Offline SiliconWizard

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Re: keyboard for programmers, any recommendations?
« Reply #4 on: June 03, 2021, 12:54:09 am »
Ah yeah, Model M...
Unicomp now makes keyboards that have a similar tactile feel with USB connection: https://www.pckeyboard.com/

Other than that, I'd personally vote for a mechanical keyboard. Much more pleasant to type on. Another point: I'll only use keyboards without numeric keypads these days (aka "tenkeyless"). They are not as wide, and when you're using a mouse, it'll be closer to the center and thus more comfortable in the long run. Numeric keypads is something you can definitely do without. I have a separate numeric keypad just in case, but I hardly ever use it.
 
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Offline rstofer

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Re: keyboard for programmers, any recommendations?
« Reply #5 on: June 03, 2021, 05:10:05 am »
https://www.pckeyboard.com/page/product/UWZBP4A

These Unicomp keyboards have the look and feel of the old PC-AT keyboard.  They are made for people who know how to type fast.

I have two of these and they simply blow the doors off of every other keyboard I have ever had.
 
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Offline newbrain

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Re: keyboard for programmers, any recommendations?
« Reply #6 on: June 03, 2021, 07:15:01 am »
Having a mixed PC desk/workbench, my preference went to a gaming mechanical TKL (Ten Key Less) keyboard.
The lack of a numeric keypad does not bother me in the least, but I would sure feel crippled with any of the lesser layouts, especially when programming.

The RGB background lighting is nice to have: I made several static (no flashy effects) layouts e.g. for Visual Studio, LTspice, gaming etc.

Many of these keyboards can be bought with different switches, Cherry is still king and a safe choice, though other brands are now almost on par and some might be better.
It's up to you to select the right switch for your taste, there are many combinations of stiffness, tactile feedback and sound (my personal preference is for Cherry Blue = tactile "bump" and loud click - in work environment one might want to select for quietness).

Now every time I need to type on a membrane keyboard I pine for my Norwegian Blue Cherry keys.
 
The model I use is a Coolermaster Masterkeys Pro S, though I won't recommend this specific brand and model; they are more or less all similar, as long as:
  • It's from a good brand and solidly built.
  • It comes with the switches you like
  • It comes with your preferred features (e.g. lighting, USB hub, maybe macros)
I got this one as it had the right switches and at the time it was on offer at a very good price.
Nandemo wa shiranai wa yo, shitteru koto dake.
 
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Offline AndyC_772

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Re: keyboard for programmers, any recommendations?
« Reply #7 on: June 03, 2021, 07:23:21 am »
+1 for Cooler Master - I use an MK750 and rate it highly.

IMHO the first, last and only consideration is "can I type comfortably and accurately on this?", and the answer in my case is 'yes'.

By contrast, the ,echiancal keyboard on my laprp[ ois terrible and I haye using it fore anything other than the ofdd shortcut.

Offline brucehoult

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Re: keyboard for programmers, any recommendations?
« Reply #8 on: June 03, 2021, 07:38:29 am »
Sure, the old IBM Model M keyboards are good, as are the equivalent Apple ADB keyboards from the 80s. It's fun interfacing either to a modern system.

The modern Apple keyboards are actually pretty nice.

I don't hate the Microsoft Wireless Desktop 850 with a keyboard and mouse both paired to the same USB dongle that works on anything with USB. I actually have those on my M1 Mac Mini now, as well as the Threadripper, and another set on my RISC-V PC (HiFive Unmatched).

The keyboards are "good enough" but the mouse is I think one of the better mice out there.

I think they're around US$35 these days.

[possibly it is ironic that this is the *only* Microsoft product I buy]
« Last Edit: June 03, 2021, 08:30:59 am by brucehoult »
 
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Online bson

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Re: keyboard for programmers, any recommendations?
« Reply #9 on: June 05, 2021, 10:14:00 pm »
WASD Cherry MX brown

I have two.
 
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Offline daveho

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Re: keyboard for programmers, any recommendations?
« Reply #10 on: June 06, 2021, 11:01:25 pm »
I'm currently using the absolute cheapest 104 key mechanical keyboard from Amazon, and it's fantastic:

https://www.amazon.com/Holiday-Sale-deep-56-Off-Merdia-Mechanical-Keyboard/dp/B076F4T4T4

I like it at least as much as any mechanical keyboard I've used, and I've used a few.
 

Online SilverSolder

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Re: keyboard for programmers, any recommendations?
« Reply #11 on: June 07, 2021, 12:26:26 am »
https://www.pckeyboard.com/page/product/UWZBP4A

These Unicomp keyboards have the look and feel of the old PC-AT keyboard.  They are made for people who know how to type fast.

I have two of these and they simply blow the doors off of every other keyboard I have ever had.

+1 for the Unicomp keyboards, they are awesome (I have the "ultra classic").  The one downside is - they are huuuuge.  But they can't be beat for fast typing...

 


Offline Raj

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Re: keyboard for programmers, any recommendations?
« Reply #13 on: June 30, 2021, 04:56:14 pm »
It's time to change my old keyboard because ... well because it just died.

R.I.P.


OK, I am mostly a C programmer, I usually also program in assembly, sometimes in Python, but I think i will write a lot of documents in Latex in the next months because the development list of  tasks in my depart is rather idle at the moment.

Yesterday I watched a video on Youtube, a dude was mentioning a "keyboard for programmers", but he didn't explain what "for programmers" really mean. He simply showed a very expensive (250 euro) mechanical keyboard, and I am really confused.


Thanks :D
Keyboards usually don't just die. and most of the times they are repairable. (which is better to do since it takes a month to rebuild muscle memory.
Yes, you can optimize a keyboard for whatever use case... Had I had money, I would have made my own keyboard with num pad on left and A-F buttons next to it for programming and braille stickers on every button. I'd also have a row of programmable keys right above function keys. QMK I think is the software that people use to program such boards, But I'd rather write my own firmware.
I'd also not stick to having single color of cherry MX equalvant, but like reds for alphabets blues for enter and numbers etc.
« Last Edit: June 30, 2021, 04:58:42 pm by Raj »
 

Offline Bassman59

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Re: keyboard for programmers, any recommendations?
« Reply #14 on: July 09, 2021, 09:36:39 pm »
At the office I have a Unicomp. At home I have a Das Keyboard. Both are excellent if you actually type for a living.

 

Offline Howardlong

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Re: keyboard for programmers, any recommendations?
« Reply #15 on: July 09, 2021, 10:20:50 pm »
I've been programming professionally for 40 years. Nowadays it's mostly C embedded/system programming, plus enterprise distributed systems C#, Java, SQL, Powershell etc as required.

Despite my earlier career being very much married to the clunky long travel IBM Model F and Model M, for at least fifteen years it's been the reduced key travel style keyboards that come bundled with PCs.

I went through a phase a two or three years ago trying to find the "ultimate" keyboard and  spent a fortune on a couple of dozen, particularly with long travel Cherry keys. To put it bluntly, I just couldn't get on with them. It's not just the travel and noise, it's also the implementation, with stupid layouts, key markings, and, particularly on reduced size keyboards, the keys they miss out. Keyboards with backlights seem to be the worst offenders for key markings, some are even upside down on the top row number/symbol keys which confuses the bejeezus out of me.

As for bluetooth, forget it for mice and keyboards, it's just far too much trouble fannying about with pairing.

My favourite keyboards now aren't poncy $100 units. They're basic run of the mill keyboards with standard layout plus media keys, calculator key, and an on/off key.

About 18 months ago, I've finally settled on either of the following two, liking them enough that I have a spare of each in case of failure.

Wireless, it's the Logitech MK270 + M185 combo with dongle. It also has a caps lock annunciator (but no number or scroll lock annunciator). Importantly, the batteries last forever on both keyboard and mouse. ~$30.

Wired, it's the Microsoft Wired Desktop 600 Keyboard and Mouse set, ~$20.

Both the Logitech MK270 and the Microsoft 600 have almost identical & standard layouts so switching between them is simple. They are also reasonably efficient on desk real estate, and both fit easily into an under deka keyboard tray, which is very handy for the bench. I found that the full travel keyboards weren't always compatible with standard pull out keyboard shelves.

I think both may be close to EOL now, but are still readily available new old stock on ebay.


 
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Offline Raj

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Re: keyboard for programmers, any recommendations?
« Reply #16 on: July 10, 2021, 04:29:52 am »

Both the Logitech MK270 and the Microsoft 600 have almost identical & standard layouts so switching between them is simple.
Aah. Microsoft 600. My dad used to have it. until the lettering on it wore off.
Now I own rapoo nk1800.
Both microsoft and rapoo have a problem of developing a sticky muddy layer on keys after usage of upwards of 2 hours even if you wash your hands thrice before using them and have an AC turned on.
I don't know if they make them anymore, but only the LG keyboard didn't have that problem, which I used to own in the 2000s and died to a milk spill.
 

Offline Howardlong

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Re: keyboard for programmers, any recommendations?
« Reply #17 on: July 11, 2021, 12:53:42 pm »

Both the Logitech MK270 and the Microsoft 600 have almost identical & standard layouts so switching between them is simple.
Aah. Microsoft 600. My dad used to have it. until the lettering on it wore off.
Now I own rapoo nk1800.
Both microsoft and rapoo have a problem of developing a sticky muddy layer on keys after usage of upwards of 2 hours even if you wash your hands thrice before using them and have an AC turned on.
I don't know if they make them anymore, but only the LG keyboard didn't have that problem, which I used to own in the 2000s and died to a milk spill.

Never encountered that with the Microsoft 600 keyboard or mouse despite years of daily use.

I have most definitely encountered it with Rapoo mice though. It renders them useless.
 

Offline NivagSwerdna

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Re: keyboard for programmers, any recommendations?
« Reply #18 on: July 11, 2021, 01:34:01 pm »
K70 RGB with Cherry MX Brown

Sadly it won't make you a better programmer but you get a nice tactile feel and clattering sound.

Go for Cherry MX Brown.... whatever you do don't go for a non-tactile switch like Cherry MX Red... they are horrible for programming.

(I also have a Corsair M65 ELITE RGB Optical FPS Gaming Mouse but that is only because it looks cool)
« Last Edit: July 11, 2021, 01:35:56 pm by NivagSwerdna »
 

Offline Howardlong

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Re: keyboard for programmers, any recommendations?
« Reply #19 on: July 11, 2021, 09:17:42 pm »
K70 RGB with Cherry MX Brown

Sadly it won't make you a better programmer but you get a nice tactile feel and clattering sound.

Go for Cherry MX Brown.... whatever you do don't go for a non-tactile switch like Cherry MX Red... they are horrible for programming.

(I also have a Corsair M65 ELITE RGB Optical FPS Gaming Mouse but that is only because it looks cool)

Numbers and symbols are upside down on the top row. That drives me nuts. No calculator or power button. Lots of desk real estate. It’s a “No” from me!

 

Offline SiliconWizard

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Re: keyboard for programmers, any recommendations?
« Reply #20 on: July 11, 2021, 09:32:26 pm »
Numbers and symbols are upside down on the top row. That drives me nuts. No calculator or power button. Lots of desk real estate. It’s a “No” from me!

I don't fancy those RGB gaming keyboards that much either. But the K70 has a TKL version so that doesn't take too much real estate. Maybe you're one of those who can't do without a numeric keypad? I for one also thought I couldn't, until I tried, and never looked back. Full-size keyboards are just too large.

I would second a WASD keyboard. No bizarre lettering, no bizarre keys, well built.
 
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Offline Howardlong

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Re: keyboard for programmers, any recommendations?
« Reply #21 on: July 12, 2021, 01:01:53 pm »
Numbers and symbols are upside down on the top row. That drives me nuts. No calculator or power button. Lots of desk real estate. It’s a “No” from me!

I don't fancy those RGB gaming keyboards that much either. But the K70 has a TKL version so that doesn't take too much real estate. Maybe you're one of those who can't do without a numeric keypad? I for one also thought I couldn't, until I tried, and never looked back. Full-size keyboards are just too large.

I would second a WASD keyboard. No bizarre lettering, no bizarre keys, well built.

I do prefer full size keyboards: I've become very jaded with reduced key layouts, with no apparent standard in the layouts of auxiliary keys such as cursor arrows and home keys. The same applies to laptops where some keyboards become very frustrating, Toshiba and HP being the worst offenders, where it's possible to inadvertently select and delete large amounts of text thanks to their cursor control key layouts. The very worst offender for layout IME has to be the Microsoft All-in-One Media Keyboard which lacks Insert, Home and End keys rendering it useless.

The K70 seems to have a large palm rest, perhaps it's removable. The problem with the palm rest is that it won't fit in your average under-desk keyboard drawer, a feature that I find very useful for lab bench work.

RGB keyboards generally lead to ergonomic compromises in my experiences, the swapping of numbers and symbols on the top row is just one of those compromises. They also seem to be quite bulky in height meaning they don't fit in common under-desk drawers.

Personally speaking, I find the full travel Cherry keys to be over-rated, almost being a status symbol rather than adding any real value. But it is a personal thing, YMMV, of course! Perhaps I've just become so used to limited travel keyboards so common on laptops that I'm more akin to that style. FWIW, my favourite laptop keyboard is on the LG Gram 17" which enjoys a separate keypad [and the best screen in terms of both brightness and perfect 1:1 native resolution (WQXGA 2560 x 1600 16:10 aspect ratio) I've yet to experience on a laptop].
 
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Offline NivagSwerdna

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Re: keyboard for programmers, any recommendations?
« Reply #22 on: July 12, 2021, 01:15:14 pm »
The K70 seems to have a large palm rest, perhaps it's removable. The problem with the palm rest is that it won't fit in your average under-desk keyboard drawer, a feature that I find very useful for lab bench work.
I don't use it; so I guess it was removeable.  :)
 

Offline David Hess

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Re: keyboard for programmers, any recommendations?
« Reply #23 on: July 12, 2021, 02:14:23 pm »
That guy also showed his new iMac which comes with a super small keyboard, wireless. Aesthetically it looks nice, but the touch-pad is an external unit you have to buy separately. I don't know how good it for typing, it also comes a fingerprint recognizer, that's exactly one of the features I don't strictly need to have.

In the past we called those "chicklet" keyboards and they were more suitable for toys than for typing.  The modern ones are no better.

Is really there a keyboard optimized for programmers?!?
Like those keyboards optimized for gamers?

There is a lot of overlap between keyboards suitable for gaming and keyboards suitable for typing.  Both tend to be mechanical with good tactile feedback and perhaps macro capability.  I actually prefer gaming mice for their extra buttons and macro capability.
 
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Offline SiliconWizard

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Re: keyboard for programmers, any recommendations?
« Reply #24 on: July 12, 2021, 06:17:43 pm »
Numbers and symbols are upside down on the top row. That drives me nuts. No calculator or power button. Lots of desk real estate. It’s a “No” from me!

I don't fancy those RGB gaming keyboards that much either. But the K70 has a TKL version so that doesn't take too much real estate. Maybe you're one of those who can't do without a numeric keypad? I for one also thought I couldn't, until I tried, and never looked back. Full-size keyboards are just too large.

I would second a WASD keyboard. No bizarre lettering, no bizarre keys, well built.

I do prefer full size keyboards: I've become very jaded with reduced key layouts, with no apparent standard in the layouts of auxiliary keys such as cursor arrows and home keys.

Well, all decent "TKL" keyboards just have the exact same layout (ISO layout), except no numeric keypad. All other keys are exactly at the same location. So there is absolutely no learning curve. (Except getting used to entering numbers with the upper row instead of numeric keypad. Which turns out to be more comfortable, except maybe when you're entering a large quantity of numbers in a spreadsheet, for instance, that's why I have a separate keypad (but even that I can do without now...)

The keyboards that have odd key location and odd key spacing are those that do not follow an ISO layout. You'll see them called "60%", or the like (the numbers vary.) They often have fewer keys than ISO TKL keyboards, and are also much smaller. I do not like those either. A few people do swear by them though, such as the Happy Hacking keyboard ( https://happyhackingkb.com/ ), but I certainly do not.
 
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