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

Total Key Count

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

There are 18 special buttons at top.

Size Comparison

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

〔➤see Ergonomic Keyboards Size Comparison

Kinesis Advantage2 Video Intro

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.

〔➤see Kinesis Keyboard Key Remap/Macro/Layout How-To

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.

〔➤see Kinesis Keyboard Key Remap/Macro/Layout How-To

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

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
Included 4 extra keys, for the Mac. And comes with a 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 stop mistakes, 3 weeks to become fluent. (based my experience when using grid-layout for the first time, and Kinesis user comments online.)

Any Cons?

  1. tiny functional keys. (even though they ARE mechanical keys)
  2. not designed for small hands.

Tiny Function Keys

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

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

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

Most 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.

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. Only the two closest thumb keys are easy reach, the ⌫ Backspace and Space.

This means, I should think of the thumb keys as hunt'n'peck keys in convenient place. Not as keys for thumbs to rest and touch type frequently needed things or hold as modifier constantly.

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


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

see also Kinesis & ErgoDox Optimal Thumb Cluster Layouts

Using vim, Emacs?

Kinesis is perfect for vim or emacs.

For vim, i recommend:

For emacs, i highly recommend one of the following:

  1. ergoemacs-mode at You should set the ⌫ Backspace as Alt. For small hands, set right arrow key as Alt.
  2. evil mode (like vim keys) or use
  3. Most efficient, modal. Emacs: Xah Fly Keys. Set Caps Lock as ↖ Home.

Truly Ergonomic vs Kinesis

Kinesis Advantage vs Truly Ergonomic Keyboard

Where to Buy

Kinesis Advantage2 Keyboard

Here's specific models:

Note: all models support builtin Dvorak layout. The one with Labeling Qwerty/Dvorak provides you dual labels. I recommend that one.

Kinesis Keyboard SmartSet How-To

The Kinesis Advantage2 SmartSet feature lets you create any layout in real-time just by pressing keys, and also lets you edit and share layouts, and they are plain text files.

Kinesis Keyboard Key Remap/Macro/Layout How-To

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