Truly Ergonomic Keyboard Review

By Xah Lee. Date: . Last updated: .

This page is a review of the “Truly Ergonomic keyboard” (TEK).

truly ergo keyboard 40563
Truly Ergonomic keyboard

Total Key Count

Truly Ergonomic Keyboard model 227 total key count: 86.

Truly Ergonomic Keyboard model 229 total key count: 88.

Detachable Palm-Rest

Truly Ergonomic Keyboard Palmrest side shadow 2014
Detachable palm-rest Truly Ergonomic keyboard

Video Review of the Truly Ergonomic Keyboard

video review of the Truly Ergonomic keyboard Truly Ergonomic keyboard

Key Layout Design

Truly Ergonomic Keyboard-3246
Truly Ergonomic keyboard, year 2011 model. Truly Ergonomic keyboard 〔image source, used with permission〕

This is a superb keyboard. It has the best layout design, fixing all the traditional PC keyboard's problems. Here's a summary of advantages:

• Frequently used special keys {Enter ↵, ⌦ Delete, Tab ↹}, are placed in the middle, to be pressed by strong index finger or thumb, instead of on the side by weak pinky.

keyboarding RSI ulnar deviation
ulnar deviation

• keys split into left & right groups, angled for each hand, so you don't have to bend your wrists. (called ulnar deviation)

• Key columns are not staggered. For example, look at 1 Q A Z, it's straight. Your finger moves straight up/down.

For detail about traditional PC keyboard problems, see: Keyboard Hardware Design Flaws.

One extra point for this keyboard is that it kept the {F1, F2, …} keys, and in 3 separate groups. Standard sized function keys make them easy to hit, and the grouping makes them easy to hit without sight.

Key Switch Mechanism and Hardware Quality

This keyboard is also quality build. It uses a mechanical key-switch for the best tactile feel. (it was using Cherry MX Brown switch, but in 2014 changed to Kailh Mechanical Keys witches) 〔➤see Key Switch Mechanisms Guide〕 〔➤see Mechanical Keyboard: Kailh Switch

The keyboard has 6-key rollover. 〔➤see What's NKRO, N-key Rollover?

The keyboard is built with metal frame inside. Very sturdy. Heavy.

Size Comparison

Truly Ergonomic Keyboard size comparison

The key size is the same as standard PC keyboard.

The design of TEK is one of the best. It fixes all the conventional PC keyboard flaws, yet remains in one simple elegant piece.

Reprogramable Keys

TEK's firmware can be reprogramed. Meaning, you can design your own layout of the keys, and you can plug this keyboard into any computer and your own personal layout works without needing to reconfigure. (For example, swap CtrlAlt, create your own Fn key layer to move cursor, or change position of Return ↩.)

truly ergonomic keyboard layout 2013-09-04
Truly Ergonomic Keyboard key layout tool.

The custom layout software is web based, came out around 2013 July.

  1. go to the site
  2. Drag keys to create your own layout.
  3. Click save to create and download the firmware file.
  4. Also download a firmware updater for your operating system.
  5. On your PC, open the firmware updater and update to the firmeware you just created.

As of , the keyboard does not have onboard programing. That means, you cannot just press keys to change key. You need to go thru the firmware update process above.

Xah's TEK Layouts

for some of my layouts, see:

My Experiences

I've been using this keyboard since . Am very happy with it. I'm a heavy emacs user.

Overcome Habit

It takes 1 month to adopt the matrix-style keys. The first 2 weeks is particularly painful, especially for the left-hand. Pressing 3 results 2, because the habit to move more to the left. Similarly, pressing b results in pressing Delete in the center, because my finger want to move more to the right. Though, my right hand adopted the right-hand side right away. (am using QWERTY notation here to indicate key position, but i'm actually using Dvorak Keyboard Layout.)

It takes 2 months to become fluent.

Shift & Control Positions

Note that on TEK, the ⇧ Shift is at normal PC's Caps Lock position. Let's look at this diagram:

  q w e r
♥ a s d f
♦ z x c v

The key position ♥ is significantly easier-to-type than the ♦. That's why they put the ⇧ Shift there. However, for programers, we need to use Ctrl often as well, even more frequent than ⇧ Shift for emacs users. So, you might put Ctrl at the ♥ location, and ⇧ Shift is on ♦.

But if you are a heavy emacs user, you should put Ctrl at one of the thumb key position.

What to Do with 2 Space Keys

TEK has 2 Space keys. Some people use right-hand for space, some use left-hand. Some people actually use both (that was me).

but, being a efficiency nerd, i decided having 2 Space keys is a waste. I want just one Space, so that the other key can be used for some other purpose.

You should set one of the space to something, such as Alt or Ctrl, or, set it to Fn and use the key customizer to make combination with other keys near home row to be cursor movement keys such as arrows keys.

Setup for Emacs Users

If you are a heavy emacs user, here's my suggestions on how to use this keyboard.

Double Key Press Problem (aka key chattering, contact bouncing)

I've heard from 2 online acquaintances that they have key repeating issue. That is, some key will repeat 2 or 3 times, or not register.

The one i have, from 2012, did not have this problem.

It seems, key repeating or not registering was a common problem in earlier mode. According to the company, newer models since 2014, model 227 and 229, using the Kailh switch, do not have this problem.

here's some reports on key repeating problem, from 2012.

Truly Ergonomic Keyboard: 2014 Models

in 2014, there are new models of the Truly Ergonomic Keyboard.

The newer models, model 227 and model 229, use Kailh switch. 〔➤see Mechanical Keyboard: Kailh Switch

Truly Ergonomic keyboard

Truly Ergonomic Keyboard Photo Gallery

Truly Ergonomic Keyboard Photo Gallery


For alternative well-designed keyboards, see How to Chose Ergonomic Keyboards.

I highly recommend you get a mouse with 9 or more buttons. These: Best Mouse for Programers. I recommend the Logitech ones.

or, get a trackball. See Best Trackballs 2016

Shop at Xah Keyboard Store