Ergonomics

There was a post on the LabVIEW forums recently about ergonomics. Someone on there was suffering from a repetitive strain injury in their wrist and was asking about vertical mice. They got a lot of varying advice and recommendations. It inspired me to add my $.02 here about my experience with various ergonomic devices.

I’m not a doctor. I haven’t done a ton of research on ergonomics. Most of my information I have picked up from the Kinesis website. They are obviously biased, but intellectually the information seems to make sense. So I don’t have much of a scientific basis for recommending any of these “ergonomic” devices. What my recommendation is based on is comfort. Since I have started paying attention to ergonomics, I have definitely noticed an increased level of comfort.

Mice

As LabVIEW programmers, we use a mouse a lot. At least for me, I need one that is comfortable and has a high level of precision.

Evoluent Vertical Mouse

Same position as holding a Guinness.

The question that kicked off the discussion was asking about the Evoluent Vertical mouse. I’ve owned one for several years. In fact, I like it so much that I recently bought a second one. It keeps your wrist in its most natural position – as if holding a bottle of Guinness. It’s super-comfortable and there is almost no learning curve. It feels pretty natural right from the start. It also has a dial on the mouse to easily adjust the tracking speed on the fly without going through the OS. It’s $100 well spent.

Padded Mousepad

For added comfort, I like to pair my Vertical mouse with a padded mousepad. I’ve been using these since before I started using the vertical mouse. They are essential to comfort as far as I am concerned. There are several brands of these. They all seem pretty similar to me and all seem to be similar in price to a regular mousepad. While most other ergonomic devices can be expensive, this a cheap way to add some comfort. Next time you buy a new mousepad, I suggest you pick one up.

Keyboards

As LabVIEW programmers, we probably spend more time using our mouse than our keyboard, but keyboards are still important. I type up a lot of emails, bug reports, slack messages, forum posts, Google searches, excel docs, requirements documents, design specs, etc. – not to mention a lot of blog posts. I think a good keyboard is a sound investment In fact I have invested in 2 of them.

Kinesis Advantage 2 with foot pedal

My friend Rollin McCarty put me onto the Kinesis Advantage 2. He made a post somewhere about how he had bought one and he had really liked it and so I bought one. It is by far the most comfortable keyboard ever. Using the thumb keys is super convenient, you hardly ever have to move your hand to reach for anything. Also, it is fully programmable (all onboard so it does not depend on the OS), which is nice. The one drawback is that because of its radical layout, there is a bit of a learning curve, but it doesn’t take long for it to feel natural. It’s expensive but if you value comfort, it is totally worth it. I like it much better than the FreeStyle Pro.

After using the Advantage 2 for a while I decided to pick up the optional foot pedal. There are a few keys that force me to move my hand, notably shift and tab. I thought using a foot pedal for those would help. It does, but I have to force myself to remember the pedal is there. Since the pedal resides at my home work station and I often do a lot of work on my laptop where I don’t have it, I have to recalibrate my brain every time I switch context. Also with three pedals, I haven’t figured out an indexing system yet so I sometimes hit the wrong pedal. It’s still a work in progress, so I am not sure if I can recommend it or not yet.

Kinesis Freestyle Pro with tenting and palm rest

The nicest thing about having a split keyboard with tenting is that I can sit a cup of coffee in the middle of my desk and not have to worry about spilling any on my keyboard.

I recently got a small desk at a local coworking space. I was looking to get out of my home office and find some peace and quiet. It would be a pain to cart my Advantage 2 back and forth. Its permanently anchored to my workstation at home The sit-stand desk requires some careful cable management, so I zip tied the cable in place and didn’t want to mess with it. But I did want an ergonomic keyboard for use at the coworking space, so I ended up with a Freestyle Pro. It was a little cheaper but still had mechanical keys and was still fully programmable, so I thought I would check it out.

The Freestyle Pro is not as comfortable as the Advantage 2, but it is much more comfortable than a regular keyboard and it is more reasonably priced. The mechanical keys and the ability to program it are quite nice. I go the tenting kit and palm rest and am quite happy with them. If you don’t need those features and are looking to save money, there is the much more affordable Freestyle 2.

6 Comments on “Ergonomics

  1. Great timing! I’ve literally been searching for ergonomic components this morning as I’ve started to notice some wrist pain in the evenings.

    I originally bought a trackball but I’ve been struggling with the precision in LabVIEW. I’m trying some different settings but if I can’t get used to it I will be going to a vertical mouse.

  2. Wow Sam, you really invested in ergonomic gear!
    I love your statements:
    “the Evoluent Vertical mouse…keeps your wrist in its most natural position – as if holding a bottle of Guinness. It’s super-comfortable” 😁

    “The nicest thing about having a split keyboard with tenting is that I can sit a cup of coffee in the middle of my desk and not have to worry about spilling any on my keyboard.” 👀wow I never thought of doing that 😀

    “Advantage 2 for a while I decided to pick up the optional foot pedal. “
    I thought I was extreme by just getting the advantage keyboard but you even got the pedal! 😮

    The Advantage Keyboard is the best keyboard I have ever owned 👍👍. To me it’s a *real* keyboard. I had wrist pains a couple years ago, but those pains went away within a couple weeks of using this keyboard.

    • Rollin,
      Thanks for pointing me in the right direction!

      The Advantage 2 is amazing! I almost wish I had bought one of those for my coworking space instead of the Freestyle Pro. But I wanted to check it out and it was a liitle cheaper. It is better than a regular keyboard, but nowhere near as good as an Advantage 2.

      As far as investing – I definitely view it as an investment, because I plan on doing this for a long time. Just being more comfortable helps me to get more done and enjoy it more, so I think it definitely pays off.

      Sam

  3. Nice Article,

    I would just like to further endorse the Evoluent Vertical mouse now for over 5 years, I have tow one lives in my laptop bag the other on my main work desk.
    I use the Left Handed version and I cannot recommend it highly enough. When after getting wrist pain I was looking around for different mice to use they were one of the only people to supply a left handed ergonomic mouse.

    • That is funny! I am also left handed but I have just given in and use a right handed mouse. The evoluent is a little large to throw in travel bag. I was thinking about checking out the DXT vertical mouse for a travel mouse. It looks a little smaller.

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