A thought on the tools of a technically-minded writer

I am in no way affiliated with or suggesting purchases are made from a single company. I recommend the company I used for their service and ability to test in the UK, but keyboards should be bought from any company you can find in your region, trust, and – preferably – allow you to test the keyboards you wish. Any opinions here are solely from my personal experience; YMMV.

 

Having recently done my usual amount of intense research into bang-for-buck and quality-of-use products, I realised that I should probably post about it.

It is of constant interest to me, working as I do in the IT field and as an author, that people tend towards the flashy and cool and ignore the basic tools they use. Mouse, Screen, Keyboard, Applications, all are vitally important in their own way.

Of course, you can circumvent this by using the time-honoured pen and paper, but these days unless you are high profile – or very lucky – the chances are you are going to need to use the technical side extensively at least for edits.

Of all the tools a writer should respect, the keyboard is obviously the foremost. Keyboards are cheap these days because of their composition and manufacturing process. Everyone uses them on a PC, so they are churned out, and are, by and large, pretty basic.

This, of course, can lead to large problems. RSI, wear, unreliability, and inefficiency can all play a part. Many people find they are perfectly adequate for moderate use, but gamers and writers know better.

So I approached the problem with the plan, first and foremost, of writing; second to usage for many other things including gaming and online use. Rather than list all the differences and go into boring detail here (there are multiple YouTube videos on the subject if you are interested), I decided to pop in the section from my FAQs on keyboard which I recently updated, outlining what I bought, where from, and why.

So, please enjoy. I hope this is useful…

 

Keyboard

This is a must. If you spend any amount of time writing (or gaming), something that reduces RSI and gives tactile comfortable feedback is essential. I used to use the Roccat Ryos MK Pro with Cherry Brown switches, but like the other Roccat kit I’ve had it had poor build quality. LEDs were not protected for ESD correctly, and it was becoming harder to accurately type for some reason. It was decent when I first bought it, but I can’t recommend Roccat to people now.

So, I went looking and did a LOT more research. In the UK there is virtually nowhere to TEST mechanical keyboards, but this is CRITICAL if you are buying one! Although you can get 100/80/60% factors and many different switches with lights, effects, macros, etc, if this is mainly for typing focus on that. A lot of keyboards now have RBG lighting per key, macro keys, and so forth. Great for gaming, but for typing… less so.  I found The Keyboard Company, and they excelled at helping with this.

The most important things to consider are use (typing, typing/gaming etc) and the build quality, switches and feel. After that comes size, lighting, portability, etc.

There are 3 switches I recommend for serious typing (all rated to 50m keypresses):

Cherry MX brown

If you like quieter keys. My least favourite – feel too light and not tactile enough.

Cherry MX Blue

Lovely to type on, very tactile, clickety clack! Approaching typewriter. Heavier than the browns.

Topre

These are the cream of the crop, but very expensive hybrid membrane/mech capacitive switches. Most amazing things I have ever typed on. I am immediately MUCH faster and more accurate on these. There is no click, however.

Also, keyboards are built in different ways. If you want a long lasting keyboard, look at ones with a backplate of metal and keys made from PBT. ABS keys shine quickly and are light and clacky. PBT keys are superb – heavier, quieter, smoother, grippier, and don’t shine so much. Also more expensive!

After several hours testing of approximately seven keyboards, I finally selected the Japanese-built Realforce 105UB UK. It is NOT cheap – but I have never typed on such an amazing keyboard, and despite the 100% factor, lack of lights and lack of anything other than a standard keyset, it is utterly sublime to use. The gold-on-black is a dye sublimation limit on PBT (white doesn’t work well), but it actually looks fine in the flesh, and the keys won’t wear out.

The Varmilo VA69M Ice Blue was a close second on Cherry MX blues, as it had everything else I wanted. If it had been Topre, I’d never buy another keyboard, but the switches were the priority over portability for long term use. It’s also fully metal, so heavier than the Realforce! And the Blues are louder.

In the end, I actually bought both. The Varmilo is for casting the laptop to a tv and typing, or travel. It’s compact, solid and very nice to use. The Realforce is my dreamy desk typer, for longer sessions, and is just the best feeling keyboard I have used. Both are amazing, and highly recommended.

Other recommended typist’s boards are the Topre Heaven, Realforce RGB (ABS build however and costlier), Filco, and Das Keyboards. I did a LOT of research before settling for the Realforce (and Varmilo as a second), but you need to test one yourself, as everyone is different.

The Keyboard Company are based in Stroud and the only place I could find to test the things out before buying. They are knowledgeable, friendly and extremely helpful, dedicating testing time of several hours to me. I can’t recommend them enough.

The message here is… Don’t scrimp on the keyboard.

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By Chris

Author of books in the world of Kuln. IT Technical Training Consultant. Exercisaholic, Gameaholic, Getshitdoneaholic, Readaholic, Musicaholic, Researchaholic. Generally all-round nice chap.

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