Best Keyboard for Programming

Sep 27, 2015

As a professional software developer, I often spend most of my day typing. Over the course of twenty years of professional software development, I’ve typed on just every type of keyboard imaginable. In the beginning, I didn’t have a preference.

Now, when I arrive onsite for a consulting engagement, one of the first things I do is replace their keyboard with my own; when I leave, I take my keyboard with me.

In the beginning, I didn’t see a dramatic increase in productivity or decrease when switching from one keyboard to another, primarily because all of the keyboards were basically the same. I just didn’t care. But today, I can see a dramatic difference in typing speed and error rate depending on the keyboard I’m using.

As computing transitioned from specialized equipment chosen by technical professionals to commodity office equipment chosen by implementing an everyone-gets-the-same-pc-regardless-of-what-you-do policy, keyboards included with the systems were often the cheapest keyboards – robber dome or membrane keyboards.

I’ve found that the Dell keyboards are especially bad, and I credit the Dell with forcing me to go in search of a better keyboard.

Standardizing on One Keyboard

Throughout an average day, I will type on no less than three different systems/keyboards. I’ve found that transitioning between the two keyboards does cause some typing errors until muscle memory kicks in, especially after a weekend.

  • At home, I did most of my work on my eight-core Mac Pro with an Apple Wireless keyboard, or my 13” MacBook Air.
  • At work, I was given a cheap hand-me-down Dell keyboard with tall keys, made to feel even taller after using the Apple chicklet style keyboard.
  • My HP system came with a terrible laptop-like keyboard with misplaced arrow keys. Editing code was painful because I would constantly hit the wrong key. Whenever I needed to hit the error keys, I trained myself to stop and look down at the keyboard.

I ended up purchasing two wireless Logitech DiNovo Edge keyboards – one for mac and one for Windows. This worked out exceptionally well for two years, until a key broke. While I was able to pry off the key and fix the scissor switch, it was never the same. It ultimately broke.

However, this two-year experiment led me to believe that standardizing on the same keyboard can yield some surprising efficiencies and reduce typing error.

Since one of the Logitech DiNovo keyboards broke, I was thrown back into a world of cheap keyboards. I yearned for a better solution.

I started shopping for keyboards, and took the time to research them. After all, I wouldn’t just be buying one expensive keyboard; I’d be buying three of them.

I almost ordered the CODE keyboard ($155 retail), but after carefully reviewing my choices and actually getting my hands on various keyboards to try, I finally found one I was comfortable using for prolonged periods of time.

This leads me to my current “standard” keyboard, the Corsair K65 with Cherry MX Red mechanical switches.

The Corsair K65 RGB/Vengeance

There actually two Corsair K65’s: The Corsair K65 Vengeance does not have backlit keys, but does have a detachable braided USB cable; the Corsair K65 RGB keyboard has backlit keys and a thick braided USB cable with two USB connectors (one for the keyboard, and one for RGB LED power).

Both keyboards are built on the same compact 436mm-long chassis that combines a plastic base with an anodized aluminum plate. Both keyboards are populated with Cherry MX Red mechanical switches. Both keyboards have the same feel and both have USB cables.

So what are the differences?

  • The K65 Vengeance ($89) does not have RGB or single-color backlighting. The keys are all black except for grey keys for the arrow keys and [W][A][S][D]. It also has a detachable, braided USB cable.

  • The K65 RGB has “programmable” backlighting, and a thicker braided non-detachable USB cable with two connectors (one for power, and one for the keyboard). Key colors can change in response to key presses, be static, or continuously change. This requires a service to be running on the PC it is attached to, as the keyboard can’t store these settings.

So far it is working out very well. I have the RGB for home where I often program in a darker environment, and the Vengeance for the office.



About The Author

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Joe Turner

Joe Turner is the founder and owner of Atria Dynamics.