If you’re like many people in the world, you spend at least part of every day typing on a keyboard. Chances are, you use whatever cheap keyboard you got on sale, and it’s the classic single strip QWERTY layout affair. But I’m here to say: it’s time to switch to a fully split keyboard.
We’ve talked a lot about ergonomic keyboards in the past. While a split format keyboard is one facet of ergonomics, I’m not necessarily advocating for a fully ergonomic setup, nor does every ergonomic keyboard have a fully split form factor.
If you’re unfamiliar with “fully split” keyboards, picture the average keyboard: then cut it in half vertically and spread the two pieces apart. Usually, a wire connects the halves, but it’s that disconnect that makes a fully split keyboard. You can even buy a fully split keyboard that, other than the split, looks just like the keyboard you probably use now. This means you won’t have to adjust your typing techniques (save for bad habits like hitting T with your right index finger).
But if you haven’t ever used one yet, you should give it a try. You’ll quickly find that fully split keyboards are more comfortable, will fit more freely on your desk, and allow you to reclaim unused space.
A More Comfortable Keyboard
Most keyboards have followed the same basic shape for decades (if not longer)—a basic rectangle with all the keyboards mushed together. And if you’ve taken typing classes (or taught yourself), chances are you generally keep your hands together on the home keys, left index finger on the F, and right on the J. The problem with this shape is that you’re essentially hunching your shoulders inward by forcing your hands together.
But that’s not how your body is built to hold your arms. Think about when you bring groceries in the home, and you (if you’re like me) try to muscle in every bag in one trip. Do you hunch your shoulders inward and try to carry all the bags with your two hands together? No, it doesn’t feel natural. You probably keep your arms spread about shoulder-width apart. The beauty of a fully split keyboard is that you can also use that more natural position. Just spread the two halves shoulder-width apart.
And if your office chair has arms (it probably should!), the two will work together to aid that comfort. You can position your elbows on the arms of your chair and reach out from there to your keyboard. Then you won’t have to go full-strength arm lift the entire time you’re typing. But having your keyboards at should width apart isn’t where the comfort ends.
Let’s try an experiment. Hold your hands out in front of you as though you’re typing on a traditional keyboard or laptop. Of course, you’ll want your palms down, and your thumbs should practically be touching. Keep your hands in the same “typing” position, spread them until they are about shoulder-width apart—imagine there’s a book covering the keys between your hands. You can probably already feel that this position is more comfortable than holding your hands closer together.
But we’re not done yet: while keeping your palms down to “type,” turn your hands inwards towards each other so that your thumbs and index fingers could form a triangle (if they weren’t shoulder length apart). Now turn your hands the opposite away, so your index fingers and thumbs form a “W” shape. Which was most comfortable? Fingers straight out, curved towards each other, or turned away from each other?
Most people reading this will find the second position most comfortable, while some will claim the first position is ideal, and a few still will find the third option the best. The beauty of the fully split keyboard is that no matter which position is best for you, you can arrange your keyboard that way. Just tilt the halves to what’s most comfortable for you. A traditional keyboard gives you one option, and it’s probably not ideal. Choice is (almost) always better.
A Fully Split Keyboard Will Fit Your Desk Better
It may sound counterintuitive, but a fully split keyboard will fit your desk better. That’s because you have more choice on how to place your keyboard. And in some cases, they take up less room than other options.
You realistically have one option when it comes to your traditional rectangle keyboard. Smack dab in the middle of your desk, and everything else has to go around it. If you don’t have much desk space to work with, the keyboard may be the only thing that fits. It is what it is.
And partially split keyboards, like many ergonomic options today, are worse for that problem. Because they keep the two halves as one unit, they take up even more room than a traditional keyboard does, often both in length and width. Add in any curvature to tilt your hands, and suddenly that ergonomic keyboard is a hulking monster taking up half your desk.
But with a fully split keyboard, you can place the two halves wherever you find most convenient and comfortable. We’ve talked about shoulder-width placement, but you don’t have to go with anything exact. As long as you are spreading your hands apart, you’re better off than a traditional keyboard.
And fully split keyboards don’t have to be any larger than the traditional keyboard counterpart when you put them together. So unlike the partial split keyboard, they aren’t oversized, and unlike traditional keyboards, you aren’t limited to one option. What makes the most sense for your layout? You can probably make that happen. And best of all, you get to reclaim some space.
Reclaim Unused Space
Now that you’ve split your keyboard apart, you’re going to notice something. You have a big empty space between the two halves! That’s not a problem; it’s a benefit to split keyboards. With a traditional keyboard, all that space is taken by the keys, and there’s nothing else you can do with it.
The same goes for a partial split ergonomic keyboard, except that, as I mentioned above, it takes even more space. Think about how that forces you to organize your desk for a moment. You probably keep your mouse off to the side of your keyboard. Why? Because that’s the only place it can go.
Do you have a second screen, microphone, notebook, or anything else like that on your desk? Chances are, those are mostly out of reach or at least at the far corners of your desk because that’s where you have the room to store them. The same thing goes for coffee mugs, headphones, and anything else you need to keep on your desk.
But with a fully split keyboard, you don’t have to keep everything far away. Depending on how far apart you spread apart your two halves, you now have space right in front of you for essential items you otherwise have to keep farther away. You could move your mouse between your keyboard, which is more ergonomic (but admittedly less convenient). If you have a detached numpad, it will also fit between your keyboard.
But my preference is my bullet journal, where I keep a running to-do list going throughout my day. Other options could be your coffee mug, a gaming controller, phone, or even your tablet. You probably shouldn’t eat at your desk, but I won’t tell if you store your snacks between your keyboard. Better than on it!
What Fully Split Keyboard Should You Get
Ok, you’re ready to make the switch. The problem is fully split keyboards are somehow both diverse and few in options. Which one is best? And what if you aren’t entirely sure you’ll stick with the format. The good news is, there are a few great options depending on your needs. You can get a more affordable, “traditional looking” split keyboard or an expensive “super-customizable” option.
A Traditional Looking Fully Split Keyboard
If you don’t want to dive into the deep end of customization and ergonomics, Kineses makes a fully split keyboard that looks almost exactly like a traditional keyboard. Just split in half and connected by a wire. It uses membrane-style keys and won’t require too much force to push. And you can separate the two halves as much as nine inches apart.
You could put the two halves together and essentially get a traditional keyboard out of the box. Then spread them apart slowly to adapt to the new layout. It won’t take long, though, since all the keys will be right where you used to having them under your fingers. And Kineses even sells tenting kits to get a more ergonomic feel you can add after the fact. To be fair, it’s not the cheapest keyboard in existence, but it’s one of the most affordable fully split options.
The KINESIS Freestyle2 is an excellent keyboard when you want something that fully splits, but doesn't require relearning to type.
A Fully Customizable Fully Split Keyboard
On the other hand, if you want a keyboard that you can customize to your every need and whim, the Moonlander is the one for you. At first glance, it does look like an incredibly odd keyboard, and you might have big questions like, “where is the backspace and enter key?”
But if you stick with it, “relearn to type,” and customize its positions, you’ll find it one of the most comfortable and powerful keyboards available today. I know because I’ve been using one for nearly seven months, and it’s the only keyboard I want to use. It commands a high price, but as I said in my review, it earns that price.
Moonlander Mark 1
Though it may look strange, the Moonlander can be customized to become the ultimate ergonomic and split keyboard.