In this post, we reviewed the Evoluent Mouse Friendly Keyboard. If I could use one phrase to describe this keyboard it would be ‘Optimal For Right Handed Mousing Only’. More on this below. With a conventional keyboard (the one that comes with most computers), the number pad is attached to the right of the lettered keys. This design can lead to extended and/or extreme right arm mousing postures. This exposes the right arm and shoulder to considerable ergonomic risks that can lead to pain and discomfort overtime. Although the design of the Evoluent keyboard seems quite simple, I think it is arguably one of the most revolutionary designs in office ergonomics for targeting and preventing shoulder discomfort. Additionally, this design does not ‘re-invent the wheel’, rather it just places the number pad in a better location to improve its ergonomics for right handed users.
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Design. The BIGGEST positive of the Evoluent Keyboard design is the neutral right shoulder postures when using the mouse. What is considered to be a neutral posture? A neutral shoulder posture is where the joint is in a natural position and where the person does not feel any discomfort. When completing computer work, a neutral shoulder posture is where the forearm and upper arm are perfectly aligned (straight) to the shoulder joint. The pictures to the right perfectly show what a neutral (right picture) versus awkward (left picture) shoulder posture looks like. You can see that in the right picture there is a red dotted line that lines up the forearm and shoulder joint, which is considered to be a neutral shoulder posture. This is probably a lot more comfortable for the user than the left picture. The left picture represents the awkward shoulder posture that is required when using a conventional keyboard, this type of awkward posture is called external rotation.
Another good way of looking at this is with the keyboard/mouse outline picture to the left. The mouse outline to the right illustrates the placement of the mouse with a conventional keyboard. Note how far the mouse is from the lettered keys. The mouse outline to the left represents a neutral shoulder position. By relocating the number pad to the left hand side of the lettered keys, the right-handed mouse user is able to bring the mouse much closer to the keyboard and this ‘designs out’ the awkward shoulder posture.
Low Force. This keyboard requires very little force to operate as the keys only need to be lightly touched to activate. I realize that most keyboards on the market today do only require a low force to type with, but I have found that there can still be noticeable differences within the range of acceptable force. In my opinion the typing force with the Evoluent keyboard is near the lower end of the acceptability range. Therefore this keyboard is useful for either preventing discomfort or for those who already experiencing discomfort in their hands due to a chronic injury (such as arthritis) or longterm pain.
Intuitiveness. The Evoluent’s keys are in familiar locations. With other keyboards that I have tried, there can sometimes be a frustrating learning curve to get used to the button layout on the new keyboard. This keyboard seems to be quite intuitive as it is very easy to remain at the same level of productivity shortly after plugging it in (it is only available wired).
Unable to Switch Between Mousing Hands. With this design, the number pad is located to the left of the keyboard, meaning that the Evoluent keyboard has been designed specifically for right handed mousing. Left handed mousing would result in extended left handed reaching that may contribute to the development of discomfort or pain in the left shoulder. This keyboard therefore does not support alternating mousing hands.
Design. The design of the Evoluent Keyboard is flat. This results in pronated arm postures (palm down). This is considered to be an awkward posture. The key learning from this design aspect is to know the root cause of any discomfort that you (or a client) are experiencing, or if you are not experiencing any discomfort, make sure that determine the design elements that are most important to you in a keyboard prior to purchasing.
Number Pad Placement. In my experience, the people who are the most hesitant with trying this keyboard are those who work in some sort data entry position, specifically with numbers, and with associated daily time pressure. This is especially relevant for people who have been doing these jobs for a very long time. This is because with a conventional keyboard, the right hand enters data into the number pad, but with the Evoluent Keyboard, it would be the left hand. Obviously, there would be some training time required to get up to a normal efficiency with the left hand and this seems to be the limiting factor in why some do not like this keyboard.
The Evoluent Keyboard is a brilliant design for right handed mousing (only!). I want to share with you a cost-effective piece of advice: try switching to left handed mousing. This will save you from the need to purchase a new keyboard. However, if you do not have the time or patience to deal with learning how to mouse with your non-dominant hand (with a conventional keyboard), the Evoluent keyboard would be an extremely good purchase that can reduce shoulder discomfort by putting your right arm into a neutral mousing position. It’s also pretty simple to transition to and requires only a light touch to use. As always, make sure to do a thorough root cause analysis before purchasing.