Why is it so hard to find a good ergonomic keyboard for a Mac? When I switched from a Windows machine to a Macbook Pro, I did not expect this to be the most difficult part of switching systems, but somehow, it was.
I’ve used the wireless Microsoft Sculpt keyboard for years on my Windows computers. The Sculpt sort of worked on my Mac, but it often loses connection and won’t work in the middle of typing, which led me to search for a new ergonomic keyboard.
I have been using some version of an ergonomic keyboard with a split or curve for the last 10+ years.
Here’s what I was looking for in an ergonomic keyboard this time:
- Mac compatible
- No 10-key number pad*
- Ergonomic split preferred (also considered curved keyboards)
- Bonus: media buttons
*I don’t use the number pad that much so I won’t buy a keyboard that has one. The num pad adds a lot of extra keyboard to the right of the letters, which then requires more space on my desk and forces me to move my arm that much more to reach my mouse. That doesn’t sound like a big deal, but if you’re switching between your keyboard and mouse a lot, it could add up to pain at the end of the day. (If you do need a num pad, finding a Mac-friendly ergonomic keyboard will be a lot easier for you than it was for me.)
If you have a flexible spending account (FSA), you may be able to purchase an ergonomic keyboard with those funds. Check with your specific FSA to see what they’ll cover.
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- Winner: Kinesis Freestyle2 Keyboard for Mac with Tenting Kit
- Upgrade pick: Moonlander Mark I Mechanical Keyboard
- Keyboards that didn’t work for me (but might for you)
- Kinesis Freestyle2 vs Goldtouch Go! and Adjustable Ergonomic Keyboards
- In closing
Winner: Kinesis Freestyle2 Keyboard for Mac with Tenting Kit
The Kinesis Freestyle 2 Keyboard for Mac with the tenting kit is awesome. I bought the 20″ version to keep my arms perpendicular to my body, but if you don’t mind an inward angle of your forearms, the standard might work for you.
I prefer wired peripherals so I don’t have to worry about batteries, and this one is great, although the cable between the two sides of the keyboard looks messy. I’ve seen other split keyboards with coiled cables between the two, or if you buy the more expensive version from Kinesis, it has a compartment to tuck excess cable away. If I had known about the cable compartment, I might have splurged on the Kinesis Freestyle Pro instead.
One other note if you’re considering this split keyboard is that if you have them pretty far apart, you’ll have to reach farther to use your mouse. This may or may not be more ergonomic for you depending on how often you use your mouse versus your keyboard.
A couple potential drawbacks for this keyboard:
- I would not use this keyboard without the tenting kit. The keyboard is thick enough to force your wrists and hands into an awkward angle if you’re resting your palms on the desk while typing. With the tenting kit, you get the palm rest and the legs to lift the keyboard.
- Speaking of which, the tenting legs do not always stay in position. As far as I know, they only snap to themselves, not to the keyboard, so you can’t set your desired position. If I shift the keyboard a little, the tent leg might drop and change the height.
- As I mentioned in my 10 Essentials For a Great Work-From-Home Day post, the keys took a little while to get used to since I was used to the chiclet-style, but once I was used to it, the keys didn’t slow me down.
- This keyboard is a bit bigger and chunkier than some of the other keyboards on this list.
At first I didn’t like the extra column of keys on the left side. They add a lot of bulk and they make the keyboard look chunky. But the actions (forward and back in a web browser, cut, paste, etc.) are the actions I use most often, and they’re really handy. They feel like a reach when I’m typing and want to use them, and it’s taking some time to get into the habit of using them instead of my usual multi-key commands. Also, the keys don’t work every time, for example, when I’m trying to cut and paste something. It’s pretty annoying when you’re trying to make your workflow more efficient and end up having the opposite effect.
After using chiclet-style keys for years, this keyboard’s tall keys took a while to get used to. And it wasn’t just typing differently, but my muscles were also fatigued. I noticed I had muscle soreness at first — as if I’d been working out — when I first started using this keyboard, which is a very different feeling from actual pain I felt while using keyboards that didn’t work for me. Also, if speed is important to you, my words per minute (WPM) dropped considerably after switching to this keyboard. I’m sure I would’ve gotten back to my normal speeds on this keyboard if I hadn’t upgraded to the keyboard below.
Upgrade pick: Moonlander Mark I Mechanical Keyboard
I was nervous about buying the Moonlander because of the purchase price and potentially expensive return policy, but I’m glad I did! The Moonlander’s ortholinear layout and programmable keys have made it an essential part of my workflow after just two weeks of dedicated use.
I didn’t want to buy a new keyboard so soon after buying the Kinesis Freestyle2, but the subpar keyboard shortcuts on the Kinesis Freestyle2 made me really excited for the programmable aspect of the Moonlander. I was also excited about the ortholinear layout and smaller size.
The Moonlander is not for the faint of heart, and not just because of the price. Although the columnar style of Moonlander may not seem all that different from the standard staggered QWERTY keyboard, it takes time to get used to, and it can be frustrating if you’re not ready to make the change or if you’re on deadlines.
You’ll also notice that not all the keys are labeled since their functions aren’t set in stone. You decide what goes where, and learning that can be difficult too. Plus, having the option of programming all these new things can also be overwhelming. But it’s all been worth it for me!
For more details about my experience with the Moonlander, check out related posts:
- ZSA Moonlander Keyboard: Before-You-Buy Tips
- Learn to Type on Moonlander With Epistory: Typing Chronicles
- A Fortnight With the Moonlander Ergonomic Keyboard
Keyboards that didn’t work for me (but might for you)
Goldtouch Ergonomic Keyboards
Both of the options below are split keyboards that allow tenting without an extra kit. For both of these keyboards, the two halves of the keyboards do not completely separate from each other like with the Kinesis, which could be a good or bad thing, depending on what you’re looking for.
The keyboard does feel pretty cramped after using the Microsoft Sculpt, and I often pressed the incorrect keys for certain functions (for example, pressing the control key instead of the left arrow key).
I like this version more than the other Goldtouch keyboard (below) because it folds in half for storage or travel. But I would worry that folding and unfolding would be too hard on the joint. Some of the reviews said the joint was weak, too.
The Goldtouch V2 Adjustable Ergonomic Keyboard is larger than the mobile version, but smaller than the Kinesis Freestyle2.
This one has the extra column of keys on the left side like the Kinesis, but I don’t find it as intrusive as the Kinesis keys.
If you use either of these Goldtouch keyboards to the highest tent setting, you may get a little fatigued holding up your hands/arms without the support of the desk under your forearms or palm pad like with the Kinesis. I actually put Kinesis at the top of this list because of the tent kit.
Since these keyboards are compatible with both Mac and Windows, they have the Mac and Windows functions printed on the modifier keys (see photo). Having both labels on the keys is not ideal aesthetically, but it’s better than only have one system’s modifier keys when you need the other set.
I was super excited about both the Goldtouch keyboards, but unfortunately, neither of them worked for me. I couldn’t get the positioning or angle right to type comfortably, and after only a few hours, my wrists were aching.
It got so bad that I had to put on my wrist braces and stop typing for the rest of the day. I’m not saying they’re bad keyboards — in fact, they have many glowing reviews from other users — they just didn’t work for me.
Microsoft Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard
The wireless Microsoft Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard for Business has been on my desk for over 4 years (mostly with Windows). I brought it with me to more than one office and brought it home when I started working remotely.
I used this keyboard with a Macbook for almost a year after remapping the buttons. Unfortunately, the connection via the dongle was unreliable, and it was aggravating and terribly interruptive when I was trying to write.
I used two different Microsoft Sculpt keyboards with fresh batteries, two different Macbooks, and two different USB hubs with the same results. This disconnection happened frequently enough that it was disruptive to my work and I had to replace it.
If you’re a writer like me and you’re on a roll, few things are worse than your keyboard malfunctioning and interrupting your writing flow. A couple reviews on Amazon reported this issue with Windows, so I’m not sure what the issue could be.
I highly recommend the Microsoft Sculpt for Windows, but for Mac, it’s a gamble.
Kinesis Freestyle2 vs Goldtouch Go! and Adjustable Ergonomic Keyboards
I took a picture for the Kinesis Freestyle2 with the Goldtouch Go! and the Goldtouch Adjustable Ergonomic keyboards to show the sizes for each of them relative to each other.
The Kinesis looks like the biggest one by far, but without the tenting kit, it’s a similar size to the Goldtouch Adjustable Ergonomic Keyboard.
The Kinesis keys feel much more solid, especially the space bar. The Goldtouch keyboard’s space bar feels and sounds flimsy, like it’s going to break. It was also loud and my husband said he didn’t want to be in the room while I was typing if I was going to use that keyboard.
Neither of the Goldtouch keyboards have the palm rest, and it’s really noticeable in terms of comfort.
Keyboards are a very personal choice. I would say the “best ergonomic keyboard” doesn’t really exist because it’s all about your body; not all hand shapes are compatible with all keyboards, so if you have an electronics store nearby where you can try these out before you buy, that’s definitely what I recommend doing. If that’s not an option, you might be able to purchase from an online store that has a good return policy.
Definitely consult with your doctor if you haven’t already. Many employers will pay for ergonomic equipment, and some will also pay for an ergonomic expert to evaluate your work station. I had one expert evaluate my work station years ago, and he helped me resolve the severe neck pain I experienced every day.
Ergonomics are very specific to you, your body, how you sit and stand, etc. Check out 10 Essentials For a Great Work-From-Home Day in 2022 for all the ergonomic equipment I use.
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