Kinesis Keyboard Review

By Xah Lee. Date: . Last updated: .

Kinesis Advantage2

The Kinesis Advantage2 keyboard came out in .

Kinesis top view 194406-s
The keyboard. Model Advantage2 QD, where the keys are labeled with both QWERTY and Dvorak. Kinesis Advantage2 Keyboard
Kinesis Advantage2 keyboard introduction.

What's the difference between Kinesis Advantage and Advantage2?

Advantage2 is newer model, released in .

The shape & size of keyboard is exactly the same.

On-The-Fly Key Remap and Macro

Kinesis right f keys 194620-s
Kinesis Advantage2, right side. Those functional key buttons are mechanical keys, Cherry ML switch, with plastic key cap. Also, see the “progm” key on the right? That key lets you switch key layouts, or set your own key remapping, or program key macros.

How to Remap Keys

Suppose you want to make Caps Lock do Ctrl.

Do this to remap any key.

When you remap a key, key are based on their default meanings. So, you won't get into a confusing situation of recursive remaps. To make a key back to default, you can simply start remap and press the key twice.

How to Record Key Macro

Suppose you want to make F2 do Ctrl+c (copy).

That's it. Now, pressing F2 will do Copy.

The triggering key can be a key chord. For example, you can make Ctrl+n do , so that when holding control, right hand keys can become arrow keys.

Typing on Kinesis

Typing on Kinesis contoured keyboard. Trackball is DT225 Trackball. Kinesis Advantage2 Keyboard
Typing on Kinesis contoured keyboard, angled view. Kinesis Advantage2 Keyboard

Total Key Count

Kinesis Advantage total key count: 68 (not counting the function buttons on top.)

(Each side has: 6 columns * 5 rows + 4 = 34. Plus 9 function keys on each side.)

There are 18 special keys at top.

Size Comparison

kinesis microsoft keyboard sizes
Kinesis contoured vs Microsoft Natural keyboard size comparison.

More, see: Ergonomic Keyboards Size Comparison

Design Advantages

There are several quality designs that went into this keyboard. I explain each item below.

Thumb for Modifier Keys

Control key is now pressed by the most powerful finger the thumb.

Kinesis keyboard doll
Kinesis thumb keys. image source ©cc

The ⌫ Backspace key is one of the most frequently used key, now it's under your thumb too.

Kinesis 202039-s
Sculpted thumb keys, with different height and shape, designed for comfort.

Key Columns Not Staggered

Kinesis 194544-s
Left side. Look at the keys 1 Q A Z, forming a straight line.
mechanical typewriter key detail
Staggered column from mechanical typewriter, so that the levers at the bottom of the keys can be aligned.

Palm Higher Than Finger Tips

Kinesis 195645-s
Side view, atop kitchen sink. Note the bowl shaped surface. When your hands rest on the keyboard, your wrists don't bend up. Your fingers naturally dip in on the keys.

Mechanical Key Switch

Mechanical switch is easier on the fingers and lasts some hundreds times longer than common rubber dome switches used in normal keyboards. 〔➤see Guide to Computer Keyboard Key Switch Mechanisms

Mac, Linux Support?

I use it on Linux. It's plug-and-play. No need to install any driver software.

Works fine in Microsoft Windows, Mac, Linux.

Kinesis cmd key  key puller 194827-s
The 4 extra keys, for the Mac. And the key puller.

How long does it take to get used to?

I thought it might take me sometime to adjust to the bowl-shaped surface, but to my surprise, i typed on it like a pro the first day. I've been typing on a vertically aligned keyboard for past 3 years, but never on bowl-shaped surface before.

If you never used a grid-layout keyboard, I think it'll take about 2 weeks to become fluent.

Any Cons?

2 things:

Tiny Function Keys

On the original Advantage model, the function keys F1 to F12 are tiny rubber buttons.

This is fixed in the Advantage2 model. The Advantage2 model uses Cherry ML mechanical switches, with plastic keycaps.

However, I'd still prefer full-sized keys, because full-sized keys is easier to use.

Some people don't use the function keys, but i use them heavily. 〔➤see What's the Use of Function Keys F1 F2…?

On the Truly Ergonomic Keyboard, i have function keys set up to do copy, cut, paste, undo, and switch to browser, switch to terminal, max window, etc. But now on Kinesis, i find that i don't use them anymore. Because now it's harder to hit the small function keys. You either have to look at the keyboard, or gingerly grope for the correct key.

Kinesis 201133-s
Kinesis Advantage2 with Truly Ergonomic Keyboard. The trakballs are: The mouses are:

Not Designed for Small Hands

I'm Chinese. My hands are smaller compared to average white people or black people's hands.

Most thumb keys require stretching my thumb to reach. The two closest thumb keys, the ⌫ Backspace and Space do not need stretching to reach.

So, this means, instead of thinking of the thumb keys as you rest thumb on and touch type with thumb easily or hold as modifier constantly, you should think of the thumb keys as peck keys as in hunt'n'peck.

For example, I move my whole hand to press Alt key, and move hand slightly to press Ctrl key. Moving hand is healthier than stretch.

Photo Gallery

Kinesis Keyboard Unboxing Gallery

Kinesis Keyboard Gallery

Layout

Kinesis advantage 2 keyboard layout 53127
Kinesis Advantage2 US default layout.

see also Kinesis Keyboard Optimal Thumb Cluster Layout

Using vim, Emacs?

Kinesis is perfect for vim or emacs.

For vi, i recommend you to set one of the thumb key to do Esc.

For emacs, i recommend you to move the Ctrl and Alt on the left side to the larger keys.

For emacs, i highly recommend one of the following:

  1. ergoemacs-mode, efficient, key choice based on statistics. Hold Alt and right hand keys become navigation. Also support standard Ctrl key shortcuts for open close copy paste etc. http://ergoemacs.github.io/
  2. evil mode (like vim keys) https://bitbucket.org/lyro/evil/wiki/Home or use http://spacemacs.org/
  3. Most efficient, modal. Emacs: Xah Fly Keys

Truly Ergonomic vs Kinesis

Before this, my main keyboard is the Truly Ergonomic Keyboard for 3 years.

I must say both are truly excellent keyboards. I recommend both to anyone, anytime.

If you have any hand discomfort, then Kinesis is probably better choice for you.

keyboarding RSI forearm Pronation-33159
forearm pronation

Truly Ergonomic Keyboard doesn't have “tenting”. Tenting means, middle of the keyboard higher than the sides. If you put your hands on the desk, palm down, for 5 hours a day, you'll get pronation problem. That's what happened to me. See: Is Keyboard Tenting Important?

full detail: Kinesis Advantage vs Truly Ergonomic Keyboard ⌨

Where to Buy

Kinesis Advantage2 Keyboard

Here's specific models:

Shop at Xah Keyboard Store