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Has anyone used this keyboard?

http://www.datahand.com/products/proii.htm

If so, how long did it take to learn it? Is it quiet? Do you really don't need a mouse anymore? How long does this product last?

Thanks for sharing the experience, and sorry if it's not the right place to ask!

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closed as primarily opinion-based by Michael Kjörling, Randolph West, Dave M, Tog, Shekhar Oct 4 '13 at 15:09

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

    
The link is dead. –  Gunnish Oct 3 '13 at 18:16

4 Answers 4

up vote 7 down vote accepted

I've been a heavy Datahand user for the past 13 years. I have two -- one for home, and one for the office. I type for a living.

I had a typing repetitive strain injury that forced me to give up standard keyboards and mice. I did some research, and the Datahand was the only keyboard that made sense to me -- minimal finger movement, hands in a natural resting position. (I mounted my Datahand to my chair.)

Learning did take a while. After a week, I could struggle through my email. After two weeks, I could work again, but slowly. Punctuation and function keys were the hardest to learn. After a month of steady practice, I was pretty good. The only way to learn is to throw away your old keyboard so you're not tempted to use it!

It's hard to believe this keyboard should really cost $1000 (or $500) to make, but I was desperate and paid the money. I bought my second Datahand used on Ebay for much less.

For a heavily used keyboard, the Datahand has been decently reliable, but I end up doing some kind of repair about once a year. Problems include: solder connections cracking and needing re-soldering, optical key switches getting gummed up with crud, thumb-keys cracking and breaking.

Regarding the mouse -- The Datahand has an arrow-key "mouse mode", but it's almost useless. Believe it or not, my solution is to mouse with my foot.

Was it worth it? Despite all the issues, I'm sold. I've been using mine exclusively for over a decade.

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Thank you for your comment, but how does the mouse work with Datahand (except using your foot)? How fast do you type? Do you type quicker than with a normal keyboard? How about French layout? Do you think it is possible to add the often used keys like "éêèàâûù" (6 more keys)? –  Olivier Pons Nov 18 '10 at 10:28
    
Mouse -- On the Datahand, it's similar to using the arrow keys. You press the appropriate mode-changing keys, and then certain keys (index fingers) then control mouse pointer movement (up/down/left/right) and clicks. It's tedious because of the way the mouse pointer movement creeps along the screen. The keys control position, not velocity. There's no easy way to quickly jump across the screen like with a real mouse. It's not like the little nub on certain notebook computers (IBM/Lenovo) where pressing harder moves the mouse faster. –  geoffff Nov 18 '10 at 18:25
    
Typing speed -- For me, it's about the same as before (with a standard keyboard). I'm not the fastest typer. I'm a software developer, so I spend more time navigating and editing documents than typing long paragraphs. –  geoffff Nov 18 '10 at 18:27
    
Mouse -- FYI, there are three movement speeds, but it's still awkward. –  geoffff Nov 18 '10 at 18:32
    
Accented éêèàâûù characters -- Probably. The "Pro II" Datahand model does allow you to create up to 20 keyboard sequences/chords of up to 5 characters each, and assign them to Datahand key combinations. So, in theory, you might be able to assign ALT-NNN Windows key sequences to certain keys. The programming process is a bit tricky. See datahand.com/pdfs/ProIIUserGuide.pdf for details. I don't know if Datahand sells keyboards pre-configured for these characters. Another option is to use keyboard macro software instead of customizing your Datahand. –  geoffff Nov 18 '10 at 18:50

In my opinion, the DataHand keyboard is the only keyboard on the the market that is worth its price. All the others are a net negative in my view even if you gave them to me for free and paid me a living wage to use them. Even with that, four hours of continuous work is about as long as I can last if I have to use the antique flat keyboard (carried over from the era of mechanical typewriters). In contrast, I can work as long as I need to on the DataHand keyboard. I have often worked on it for 18 hours and I commonly work for at least 12.

I was one of the first three users of the keyboard starting in 1992 with the original black model (one of them is for sale at present on e-bay, but I would only buy it for collector purposes). The current (third) model (which I have have been using since 1996) is the first truly solid professional product with a crisp feel to the keys and a good (though still not perfect) ROM (at least it is not perfect for a Mac user; it is better for PC users).

The mouse functionality of the keyboard is its least functional aspect in my opinion, and I have always supplemented it with an external mousing device---usually in the past a trackball but now with an Ergo Trackpad mounted on the display area of the left hand (because I am left handed). I slide my hand forward on the palm pad less than an inch to use it, and it provides the mousing functionality the DH has long needed. The Ergo Trackpad has its own quirkiness, but once figured out, it can be made to work well (if my experience is a good guide for others to follow).

When I learned to use the keyboard I changed over cold turkey, using it full time from day one even though I was slow. The better method is to train for about four half hour daily sessions for the first week or two. Using my cold turkey method, which is needed by people who are too stressed to work on the flat keyboard for even part of the day, about a month is needed by adult users to get up to moderate speed. I needed more time to maximize my speed and lower my error rate. I am a writer, not a production copy typist, so I am not the fastest typist in the world, but I have talked to medical transcriptions who are paid by the word. They tell me they have greatly reduced their stress and improved their income by about 25%. I am now much faster on the DH keyboard than I ever was on the flat keyboard, but endurance, stress, and fatigue are the bigger issues.

I was only about 40-50 wpm on the flat keyboard after 30 years of trying, and I converted to the Dvorak layout on the flat keyboard about six or seven years before I got my first DataHand keyboard. I use the Dvorak layout on the DataHand keyboard, and I think it is significantly better though not as much better as it is on the flat keyboard. The QWERTY layout puts too much work on the top row of keys, and those movements on the DataHand keyboard are the most awkward (at least for beginners).

I like the DataHand so much I am an investor in the company, but I used the DataHand keyboard for almost a decade, before I felt sure enough about its value to share my views about it. I ask no one to take my word as anything more than an hypothesis to be personally tested doing the work they do. Some kinds of work and some hand sizes and shapes are not optimal for the DataHand keyboard. For straight alphanumeric entry, it is superior in my view. I suggest getting the keyboard and using it every day (at least two hours per day) for a month at least. That is the minimum amount of time needed to understand the DataHand advantage and understand if it can work for you.

In my opinion, the first (prior) respondent did give enough time to gain anything more than preliminary impression and a prejudice. Six months of experience would be better still to get the feel of the DataHand keyboard at a production level. Also, go out on the Internet and read everything you can find about the keyboard before you buy. It should not be bought on an impulse. Inform yourself fully about the experience of others before you get it.

Lately, prices on e-bay have been high enough to make a reasonable resale if necessary. Most people need about six months months to learn any keyboard, but the DataHand keyboard is easier to learn than the flat keyboard because learning is tactily reinforced with each key having a distinct movement direction and feel. The Dvorak layout is also easier to learn than QWERTY layout. Because of the DataHand tactility, a skilled user can work in the dark with no trouble. I have done it often. I no longer need to look at the display more than occasionally to find an infrequently used key (a couple of times per year).

The biggest problem lately has been getting new product, because the company that makes the keyboards for DataHand Systems has been moving and retooling its plant. That process has taken much longer than expected. I do not know how the company can take so long and stay in business. They have been six months or more in the process of getting the new plant ready.

P.S. I added a comment but I did not see it show up, so I am editing it into the body of the message: The DataHand keyboard is more quiet than most other keyboards, but it is not totally quiet. On durability, the keyboard I am using right now has been in use almost every day for about 15 years, and it has needed one repair almost a decade ago (a small component failure). The other two models the company made previously were in use for a total of about four years before I got this model, and even though the designs were still not ready for prime time in my opinion, they did not suffer any failures.

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I've marked Geoff's answer as the right one even though yours deserves it too. 50/50 ;) Thank you very much, both of you –  Olivier Pons Nov 19 '10 at 14:11
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As an investor, do you have any insight on the state of the company at this point, Don? I'm trying to find information, but only get bounces and "number disconnected" when trying to email or call DataHand. Would really like to try one of these keyboards! Thanks, Dan –  dacc Apr 16 '12 at 21:31
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unfortunately dacc, datahand seems to have a great product and an absolutely worse-than-useless company. If you do managed to get in contact and find out if they've sorted out their supplier issues I would be greatly appreciated. I'm sure Chinese companies could produce it for a fraction of the price, much more complicated things with more complicated and numerous components get produced for less. I really wish such a useless bunch of people didn't hold such a potentially useful patent. If they could get sorted or sell the patent, they could do a lot of good for us poor RSI sufferers. –  sillyMunky Jun 28 '12 at 16:23

i had the displeasure of using one of these "keyboards" for about a month on and off. i assumed that i'd get used to it after using it for a while.. i was wrong. it's huge, weird, awkward and not a something that i ended up being willing learn. the motions of the fingers aren't something that was natural to me.

after that i tried the bat keyboard, the frogpad, various bendy weirdness and finally settled on two apple keyboard with keycaps arranged in dvorak layout (much easier to learn than the datahand board) and haven't looked back.

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It's interesting that you tried out all sorts of ergonomic keyboards, only to end up using an Apple slimline, which was designed with ergonomics pretty far down the list of priorities. –  paradroid Nov 9 '10 at 15:24
    
i use 2 of them. probably should have mentioned that. it's a little weird to get used to but it works well once you do. –  morgan Nov 17 '10 at 19:12

The Datahand company appears to be out of business (early 2008 they stopped selling keyboards, and as of now in 2013, their website hosting has lapsed), and no used Datahand keyboards are currently available for sale anywhere online. The next best keyboard I have been able to find is the Comfort Keyboard Original, in which "each section is mounted on a ball bearing, providing three-dimensional roll, pitch, and yaw". Fortunately it's half the cost of a Datahand.

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