ErgoDox EZ

December 7, 2019 Blog 4 minutes, 27 seconds

Thinkings about my new keyboard: the ErgoDox EZ and my journey with this exciting piece of hardware.

My current workflow is very keyboard focused and optimized. My main tools are Arch Linux with KDE and customized shortcuts, Vim, zsh, and Firefox with Vim Extension. As I spent a lot more time with my fingers on my keyboard with every new optimization I began to notice pain in my fingers and wrists. So I decided to look around for ergonomic keyboards. As my passion is to increase productivity and efficiency I will take this also into account. Nevertheless, I was aware that a huge change of my main input device I am used to for decades will have an impact at least in a transition period.

Basically, there are two major options speaking of ergonomic keyboards:

  1. Something like the Microsoft 4000 which arranges the keys in a more ergonomic way
  2. A more radical approach that splits a keyboard in two halves, like the ErgoDox EZ or more traditional like the Kinesis Freestyle 2

There is also the question of staggering. Staggering in the context of keyboards is the off-set of columns/rows to each other. Here you can see a great visual explanation.

The third important aspect is mechanical vs rubber dome. I prefer mechanical switches by far, especially the Cherry brown ones. Youtube is full of comparisons of different kinds of mechanical switches and rubber dome. For me, Cherry brown switches are the perfect balance of tactileness, clickyness, and required force. If you want to test different switches/caps you can order special tester like this one.

I decided to go full or nothing so these are my requirements for a new keyboard:

  1. A full split setup
  2. Columnar or ortholinear staggering
  3. Mechanical switches, preferable Cherry MX brown
  4. Fully programmable without the need of a client software. I want to be able to customize everything for my needs for more efficiency and comfort.
  5. A thumbs cluster as thumbs with traditional keyboards only hit the space bar. What a waste!
  6. Backilt for even more geek factor

Regarding these requirements the ErgoDox EZ was the perfect match!

Other models which I have considered but lacked some requirements and/or are DIY projects:

I ordered the ErgoDox EZ Glow model via the official Shop. I configured my exemplar with backlit keys, black color, and Cherry MX brown switches with non-sculpted Tai-Hao keycaps.

Addtionally, I ordered the wrist wings for more typing comfort. It took thirteen days to build(!) and deliver from Taiwan via UPS and there was no issue with german customs.

The keyboard and the wings came in a two minimalstic but elegant black boxes.

The wing's box contains the two wrist wings which seem to be very sturdy and heavier then I thought.

The keyboard's box contains the two pieces of the keyboard a TRRS cable to connect with each other and a USB Type B cable to connect the right halve to a device. Additionally, a caps/switch removal tool, F/J caps without nubs, and six washers to disable the clicks for the tilt/tent legs allowing infinite adjustability

The two halves of the board in their natural beauty. Note the six legs which allow to adjust the angle in all directions.

A closer look at the Cherry MX brown (RGB) switches.

The Tai-Hao keycaps (doubleshoot, see-thorugh).

The keyboard connected and the wrist wings.

A closer look at a wrist wing.

The backlit in action.

The limited edition transport case I was offered:

An important requirement for a new keyboard was that I do not need to install additional client software which may not be available for my OS or even worse which may be connected to the cloud. Therefore, the ErgoDox EZ is fully programmable by flashing the appropriate configuration on the keyboard itself. This allows me to plug the keyboard to just any device and my settings keep the same!

Linux and Windows work out of the box only for OS X there is little configuration necessary.

I will face multiple challenges by getting used to this new keyboard as this completly differs from my keyboards I am used to.

  1. I have never used something other than a traditional qwertz layout. At work I use the excellent Lioncast LK 20 and at home the classical Thinkpad keyboard works well for me.
  2. I have never used a columnar stagger ordering.
  3. Of course I have never used a split keyboard.

My Plan is to run the pre configured layout to get in touch with the board at first.

The main choice I have to figure out is configuring the layout to be more qwertz compatible, including the german "Umlaute" ä,ö,ü, or rocking a qwerty layout. But having the choice is better than not having, isn't it? :-)

The advantage of qwertz would be that I am used to it since the beginning of my computer journey. The advantage of qwerty is that for programming many keys are easier to reach.

... or how many words per minute can I produce?

Device WPM Error rate
Lioncast LK 20 qwertz
Thinkpad X230 qwertz
ErgoDox EZ default Layout

to be continued