The New Generation of Ergonomic Keyboards

Expanding options for better keyboards


Recent years have seen increasing innovation in ergonomic keyboards, and today’s leading producers offer solid options.

Like the typewriter, the computer keyboard remained unchanged for years. However, in the past decade, the combination of an aging population and people of all ages spending increasingly long hours online has started to create a demand for innovative ergonomic keyboards. Increasingly, what was once the interest of hobbyists and hackers is becoming mainstream. The latest generation of ergonomic boards not only relieves and prevents repetitive stress injuries, but offers people of all ages an unprecedented freedom of choice – if only they can afford it. Leading producers of these new style keyboards include Dygma, Keyboardio, MoErgo, and ZSA.

The products of all four of these manufacturers have many things in common. To start with, their products have most of these design elements:

  • a split design that allows the user's arm to be held comfortably at shoulder length
  • mechanical key switches that can be easily swapped according to preference and typing style, including light, responsive switches suitable for long hours of work
  • hot-swappable switches that can be replaced without soldering, so users can experiment to find the choice that best suits them
  • one or more mechanisms for sloping the split keyboard halves into the most comfortable position. The halves can be tented (placed with the outer edges lower than the inner).
  • a mechanism for tilting the keyboards away from the typist (negative tilting).
  • keys arranged to minimize finger movement, usually with keys arranged in straight columns rather than the traditional staggered columns, and sometimes sculpted to guide fingers
  • a cluster of keys that takes advantage of the thumb's greater strength and flexibility compared to the fingers
  • wrist rests, padded or unpadded
  • open source firmware to customize any key or even assign different actions depending on how the key is touched, and to add multiple layers for different purposes, applications, or personal preferences

The difference between such keyboards and the usual $20 keyboard, or even the low-end so-called ergonomic boards from major hardware manufacturers is obvious. Some mid-ranged ergonomic boards, such as those from Kinesis have some of these features, often in a limited version, such as the ability to customize only the function keys. However, the new generation of ergonomic keyboards also attempts to interact with the community in a way that older generations did not – as much like an open source project as a traditional company.


Dygma is aimed at the gaming market, which is obvious from its TikTok-style videos. These videos are often reminiscent of parents trying to talk to teens in their own language, but if you ignore the stylistic irrelevancies, they always contain solid advice. Moreover, exploring the Dygma websites, it soon becomes clear that the company thinks carefully about ergonomics; for example, how to design wrist pads so that they stay in place but can also be removed for cleaning? Dygma's answer is magnetized pads. Many of their videos explain such engineering challenges, including those related to the shape of their boards.

Dygma's Raise product line is intended to introduce users to ergonomic keyboards. It uses the traditional staggered columns of keys, and, while it splits into halves, the halves can be joined to form a single board. By contrast, its Defy line uses straight columns and includes eight keys in the thumb cluster (Figure 1). Both product lines are among the first of the new generation to include wireless capability. Dygma is just starting to become known, but even if you are not a gamer, both the Raise and Defy lines are worth consideration.

Figure 1: The Dygma Defy is aimed at gamers, but is also suitable for typists and the office.


Keyboardio's products immediately stand out in a crowded market. Its flagship product, the Model 100 (Figure 2), has keys mounted on wooden cases made of maple or walnut and looks more like furniture than a traditional keyboard, while its Atreus is about the length of a banana, and a perfect size for accompanying a laptop.

Figure 2: Keyboardio's Model 100 is a thoughtfully engineered keyboard.


The company originated as a passion project for one the founders, and this origin shows in numerous small touches. For instance, the banks of keys are curved, making the keys easier to reach. Similarly, the feet for each half of the keyboard can be adjusted to allow just about any degree of tenting. Moreover, the firmware code is arranged so that the layers are easier to read than in QMK firmware (and extensively commented), and includes a setting for turning off LED backlights when they are inactive. And despite Keyboardio being a two-person company, their support has always been patient and thorough throughout my seven years of dealing with the company.

However, dealing with a small company also has disadvantages. Documentation exists for getting started, but information on more advanced subjects is scattered and incomplete. Chrysalis, its graphic configuration tool, is both incomplete and limited. For macros in particular, editing in the Arduino IDE is still a necessity, although that environment is much easier to use than desktop user might imagine, in large part because of detailed comments in the firmware. Yet despite any drawbacks, there is still something to be said for making such a beautiful tool as the Model 100 a part of your work station.


According to MoErgo, its Glove80 (Figure 3) was the result of eight years of development, 500 prototypes, and extensive study of the human hand. The result is as intriguing as it unusual, with keys arranged in a concave formation, as if arranged on the bottom of a bowl, a design choice rarely seen. The idea is that the curvature places upper rows of keys closer to the home rows (the asdfg and hjkl rows), which reduces finger movement and is suitable for a variety of hands sizes. Unfortunately, the concave layout makes swapping keys impractical, and keys are soldered, but in compensation, the Glove80 does support wireless use.

Figure 3: MoErgo's Glove 80 features a different design from most ergonomic keyboards.


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