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Update - (Taking a short break from)Typing With The Datahand

Written July 06, 2007 at 08:34 MDT Tagged tools

As you can see from the title. I am currently not using the datahand to type right now. This is due in large part to the immediate needs of a client and my personal frustration with going from being able to type fairly fast on a natural keyboard to not very fast at all on a DataHand.

During the 2 weeks that I used the DataHand, I personally found the learning curve to be fairly low. In fact, the need to not have to reposition your fingers around the home row keys was a big plus. If you are a fairly proficient touch typer, you would probably have no problems making the transition to the datahand. I think it would be even more beneficial if you are not already a fast typer, as I think that in the long run, the speed improvements to be gleaned from the datahand far outweigh what you could gain from regular keyboards on the market.

I was hoping that the DataHand would be able to become a mouse replacement for me also. Alas, the mouse on the datahand is pretty weak, and I think I would still resort to reaching for my mouse at the times that I absolutely had to.

An interesting experience using the DataHand came into play when I had to switch to using studio combined with ReSharper. The keyboard shortcuts definitely took less effort to pull off. It did require me to remember to 'mode switch' in order to be able to pull off certain refactorings and navigation. I think it will take a bit of time to make this 'mode switching' automatic.

It was ultimately the slowdown inside of studio that caused me to switch temporarily back to a natural keyboard, as I am unfortunately in a heavy delivery mode right now.

The effort involved to operate the keyboard is definitely much less than any keyboard I have ever worked on. Your wrists and hands will feel the difference almost immediately.

One other big negative that I had not even counted on was the actual size of the unit. It is fairly beefy. I currently tote my natural keyboard with me wherever I have to type. Granted, it is not the smallest of keyboards, but it is slim and can fit nicely into a suitcase or backpack with no problem. On the other hand, the DataHand is a fairly bulky unit. Just a little wider than a natural keyboard, but considerably thicker. Unhooking this, and transporting it between work and home is a little annoying (which is why I have 3 natural keyboards, one at work, home, and one for presentations). Obviously, having more than one DataHand is a little ridiculous from a price perspective.

There is one last final negative that I have to mention, one that I did not even think about. There are lots of times in the morning, when I am working from home, when our youngest son runs into my office and wants me to hold him on my shoulder. This leaves me with one hand available to type. On any regular keyboard, you can get away with pecking away at the keyboard to get some stuff written down, this is not really the case with the datahand. To use it, you really need to have both hands available. I know this is of little concern to most people, but it is one of those little details that I did not even think about.

I am going to take some time off from work near the end of the year, to truly immerse myself in the datahand unit. Where I can devote a full 2 weeks to learn the device well without the pressures of deadlines looming. If you are thinking about buying this device, you need to be sure you have the time to allow yourself to get comfortable with it. Because I spent 2 weeks completely isolated to the DataHand, I got an opportunity to learn it without confusing myself. This allows me to go home, and do the practice exercises on the unit without getting confused between my natural keyboard and the unit.

I would strongly recommend the DataHand as an alternative to the regular keyboards that are on the market. You just have to keep in mind the caveats that I listed in conjunction with the rampup time required to get proficient with the device.