Keyboard: Why Undo Cut Keys Wreck Your Hand

By Xah Lee. Date: . Last updated: .

Many programers think that the keys {z, x, c, v} used for {undo, cut, copy, paste} is perfect as is, and many new keyboard layout designs specifically want to have these keys remain the same positions as QWERTY. On this page, i tell you my experiences, and i think the key choices {Z, X} are actually hazardous to your hand health.

In 2012, using a ergonomic keyboard but with rubber dome key-switch (the Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000), i actually developed RSI syndrome. My hand tingles. RSI cause is often very hard to trace. After weeks, eventually i traced it to be caused by pressing the x key for Cut too much by the ring finger, while my hand remains in touch-type positions. Why do i suddenly press the x too much? It's a bit complex story, but in short, it's because we introduced a new feature in ErgoEmacs Keybinding so that the cut command will cut current line when there's no text selection, and i find this so convenient and start to use it even for deleting several lines. The complete story is here: The Roadmap to Completely Replace Emacs's Key System, Part 1.

The {undo, cut, copy, paste} keys are better remapped to {F1, F2, F3, F4}. These keys require you to reach out, and may be slower to hit than pressing 【Ctrl+z】, but they are better for your hand health.


Many keyboard layouts, such as Colemak, Norman, Capewell, Minimak, Asset, want {undo, cut, copy, paste} keys to remain in the same position as QWERTY's {Z X C V}. The reason they cite is that people are reluctant to change, so having these keys same as QWERTY increases adoption. That's a bad design decision.

Also, on Mac OS X, Apple created a Dvorak layout but with QWERTY modifiers, again because many people want that, DUE TO HABIT. This is bad.

On Dvorak Keyboard Layout, the positions for {Z X C V} are not better.

Dvorak keyboard layout
Dvorak keyboard layout

Here's comparison of the {Z X C V} keys positions.

So, basically, on QWERTY the {Z X} is a problem, and on Dvorak the {Z V} is a problem.