Finding the right keyboard layout for you requires a little more thought than you might initially think. You may be confused by this title “staggered keyboard vs ortholinear keyboard” as most of us simply stick with the standard QWERTY staggered layout and call it a day. It’s not your fault, though, chances are you never even realized there were options available to you.
We were all taught to type using the Qwerty layout at school, and never bothered to venture off. Even though there are other, arguably much better, layouts we never venture off the well-trodden path. A common alternative to the standard layout is what is known as an ortholinear keyboard. Don’t worry if you’ve never heard of one, we are going to cover that in detail further on.
This article is going to explain what each type of keyboard layout is, why each particular one is good, and which one might be best for you. Who knows, by the end, you might be ready to make the switch!
What is different about an Ortholinear Keyboard compared to a staggered one?
Chances are you haven’t come across the word ortholinear before. That’s okay, it’s a word that was invented purely for the ortholinear keyboard. The general idea is that it means straight – straight. This sounds kind of silly when you use plain English, but that’s precisely how the keyboard works.
Instead of having a staggered and carefully selected layout for the keyboard, each rank and file of the keyboard is perfectly straight. The keyboard is generally a rectangle shape anyway, now this way there is less dead space. You can fit more keys into the same area too, which can be seen as positive or negative depending on your outlook.
Ortholinear keyboards aren’t very common, since they are a different layout most people find that to be quite the turn-off. Having to relearn how to type is a big downside for a lot of people, even if the benefits are pretty great once you have got over that initial lump. Ortholinear keyboards may start to see an increase in popularity as the number of people suffering from carpal tunnel and other mobility issues due to excessive keyboard use rise too.
The Plank EZ: Top Recommended Ortholinear Keyboard
The Planck EZ is one of the best Ortholinear keyboards for a modest price point, in my opinion. If you are looking to get a general idea about what an ortholinear keyboard looks like, this is a good starting point for you.
Here’s a post on Reddit where people are discussing their thoughts on the board. Take a look for yourself if you’re curious.
Unfortunately, it’s not available on Amazon, but maybe it will be one day.
How do staggered keyboards compare to an ortholinear one?
A staggered keyboard is the standard QWERTY keyboard you are probably used to using. Its keys may be arranged in rows and columns, but they aren’t straight. The biggest example of this how the actual letters themselves are organized in staggered diagonals, but the number keys and function keys are not.
They are hardly coherent and the only reason we find it comfortable to use is that most of us have never known it any other way. Staggered keyboards are modeled after the original typewriters, their layout is a slight branch off from that. The reason being, again, that everyone was already used to typing in that order, with that layout.
Staggered key layouts are only so because the original typewriters would jam otherwise. It was also designed to help reduce errors, as typewriter errors were far more problematic. You couldn’t just press backspace and correct your error, you had basically ruined whatever you had just been typing.
There are a few problems with the standard staggered layout, primarily the keys are in a weird order and there are several more efficient layouts already such as Dvorak. But there isn’t time to get into that too deeply now. The most important thing for you to understand is that QWERTY is not the best, easiest, or even most efficient layout. It was just the most convenient at the time.
Which one is best for everyday work?
Here is where things might get a little tricky. If you are hoping to make the switch to an ortholinear keyboard overnight seamlessly you are probably deluding yourself. I mean, it’s possible but very unlikely.
If you are going to suffer negative consequences as a result of having to go through the slow learning process, it’s probably not going to be suitable for you to bring to work. You’ll have to start slowly learning at home in your free time. If you are happy to make the change at work then you are in for a real treat.
Ortholinear keyboards are intended to be easier to use. Both in terms of speed and comfort. They are far more naturally ergonomic than a staggered keyboard, if you make use of a wrist rest too they compete with even top of the line ergonomic keyboards.
Since the keys are smaller and closer together, it makes you much faster at typing too. Because you can get from key to key far quicker you’ll find your WPM (words per minute) output is much higher.
Is it worth making the change?
Personally, the benefits don’t outweigh the change. We are all so used to the current layout that making the change would only seem to cause problems, with the hope that you will eventually be as fast as you were. There isn’t even a guarantee that you will exceed your previous speed and efficiency, let alone even matching it.
But, if you are someone who truly does suffer from some mobility and inflammation issues in your hands and wrists, you might not be overly bothered about speed. Being able to type comfortably might be the biggest boost to your speed, in which case the ortholinear keyboard might be the way to go.
If you find that you are trying to branch out and just try something different, you can’t find anything much more different than ortholinear. But, again, many people have jobs that require them to work very fast and very accurately, programming is a good example of this.
Constant errors and working slowly is going to cause you to fall behind on your projects and may even put your job at risk. If you are only using your keyboard for emails, then there is probably no harm in giving ortholinear a try.
If you want a little more information on ortholinear keyboards, check out my previous article on what is an ortholinear keyboard. You got the gist of it here but this was more of comparison rather than a detailed explanation.
Anyway, at the end of the day whatever you decide I hope your keyboard serves you well! Good luck on your journey to find the best keyboard for you, and happy typing!