Is a mechanical keyboard essential to your workflow? Probably not. You can get your typing tasks done with any old keyboard. But if you’re looking for a comfortable, precise, and satisfying typing experience, nothing beats a mechanical keyboard.
Why Use a Mechanical Keyboard?
If you have a job that demands a ton of time typing — web development, web design, IT, and journalism are some professions that fit the bill — investing in a high-quality keyboard can lead to a more productive and enjoyable work experience.
I’ve used many keyboards in the past: Generic $9.99 replacement keyboards, stock keyboards that come free with a new desktop PC, high-end gaming keyboards, laptop keyboards, ultra-portable wireless keyboards, you name it. A mechanical keyboard has been my preference for the past three years. Here are some reasons why:
- Delight: Mechanical keyboards provide you with a fantastic typing experience. Each keystroke feels gratifying and authoritative, unlike on a common dome-switch keyboard, which feels mushy. I sit in front of the computer 10 to 12 hours a day, so putting money into my hardware goes a long way towards improved comfort and productivity.
- Speed and precision: Accentuating a key in a mechanical keyboard results in some form of tactile feedback, telling you that you’ve pressed the key successfully. Also, unlike dome-switch keyboards, you don’t need to press a key all the way down (called “bottoming out”) in order for your keystroke to register. This results in increased typing speed and fewer typos, especially when you’re touch-typing.
- Build quality: Good mechanical keyboards are sturdy and durable, being able to bear the brunt of your keystrokes for years without any degradation to your typing experience. With dome-switch keyboards, which rely on a soft rubber or silicone membrane, the typing experience may gradually change the older the keyboard gets.
Once you start using a mechanical keyboard, it will be hard to switch back to an ordinary keyboard. I use a laptop as my main work machine, but I have a mechanical keyboard hooked up to it 99% of the time. Also, after three years of hard use, my go-to mechanical keyboard still looks and feels exactly the same as the day I got it.
Lifehacker has a good intro to mechanical keyboards that you should read if you’re new to the keyboard technology.
Drawbacks of Using a Mechanical Keyboard
Mechanical keyboards aren’t perfect. Here are some reasons that might make you think twice about using one:
- Cost: A good mechanical keyboard will set you back $80 to $300, making them a great deal more expensive than your run-of-the-mill keyboards. A lot of my recommendations in this article are in the $100 to $160 range, and three of them are over $200.
- Noise: You have to be careful about which type of mechanical keyboard switch you go with if you’re concerned about noise. Mechanical keyboards are notorious for making a racket. The noise level will be a key factor for you if you work in an open office space. Watch this video on the Techquickie YouTube channel titled Mechanical Keyboard Switches as Fast As Possible to help you make an informed choice. For a more detailed guide, see the Keyboard Switch guides on Reddit.
- Bulk: Mechanical keyboards are hefty. They’re generally bigger and heavier compared to normal keyboards.
- Wires: Most of the good mechanical keyboards in the market are wired. Only one mechanical keyboard on this list is wireless.
- Not designed for portability: Because of the size, weight, and wires of a typical mechanical keyboard, they’re not easy to lug around. You won’t be able to chuck them into your laptop bag as easily as portable wireless keyboards. If you’re always on the go, often working in coffee shops with tiny tables, a mechanical keyboard may not be the best option for you.
The Best Mechanical Keyboards for Web Professionals
The technology in mechanical keyboards is old. It resurged in popularity because of computer gaming. Mechanical keyboards offer gamers better keystroke precision and speed, and the durability required to withstand the wear-and-tear that comes with marathon gaming sessions.
But modern mechanical keyboards aren’t just for gamers. They’re also great tools for coders, IT professionals, designers, writers, journalists, and others who do copious amounts of computer work.
After a ton of research — hitting up review sites and tech publications, mechanical keyboard forums, articles, and so forth — I managed to find ten mechanical keyboards that are highly regarded by the Internet community. Originally, I did this research for myself because I’ve been desiring to add another mechanical keyboard to my collection. I figured I might as well share my findings, in the hopes that doing so might help someone out.
Aesthetically, my picks are fitting in professional environments, so don’t expect any multi-colored/rainbow backlighting, LED displays, and special keys for your macros. My mechanical keyboard recommendations are elegantly simple, reflecting my personal preference for simple, functional aesthetics and my needs as a Web professional.
Note: Some of the links below use our Amazon Associate links. This means we’ll get a small commission if you buy a product through those links. Also, the prices stated below are based off the current prices around the time this article was published. Actual prices may be different from what’s stated in this article.
Without further ado, here are what I consider to be the best mechanical keyboards for professionals:
1. Das Keyboard
The Das Keyboard is probably the most recognizable mechanical keyboard on the market.
Years ago, they received a lot of press from tech publications such as Tom’s Hardware (with an article titled Possibly One of the Best Keyboards Ever), TechCrunch, and CNET partly because of the novelty of the Das Keyboard Ultimate models, which don’t have any labeling on their keycaps:
The mechanical keyboards are designed by Metadot Corporation, a Texas-based open source software company. The creators of the keyboard claim that the gold-plated mechanical switches in the Das Keyboard can handle up to 50 million keystrokes!
2. CODE Mechanical Keyboard
The CODE keyboard is a series of mechanical keyboards designed with programmers and developers in mind. It sports a clean, minimalist design. The pleasant (and adjustable) white LED backlighting is great for those of us who often find ourselves in dark, low-light work environments (such as server rooms). In addition, the keyboard can switch between three keyboard arrangements: QWERTY (the most common), Dvorak, or Colemak.
The CODE keyboard was designed by WASD Keyboards (producers of customizable mechanical keyboards) and Jeff Atwood. You might know Jeff Atwood as the founder of Stack Overflow, the Stack Exchange network, and as the author of the programming blog, Coding Horror. Read his blog post about the CODE keyboard to get an insider’s perspective on the keyboard’s inception.
(Side note: This is the next mechanical keyboard I’ll be buying!)
3. KUL ES-87 Tenkeyless Mechanical Keyboard
Keyed Up Labs (KUL) is a top-notch company that creates a range of well-regarded mechanical keyboards.
KUL specializes in tenkeyless keyboards, which don’t have the number pad that’s often located on the right side of full-size keyboards.
Many of us never use the number pad. Except for accountants, cashiers, statisticians, and those who frequently key-in numbers into their machine, most people can live without the number pad.
The advantage of removing the redundant keys found in the number pad is that it will create more room on your desk and it will reduce the distance your right hand needs to travel when reaching for your mouse.
4. Rapoo KX Wireless Mechanical Keyboard
Mechanical keyboards are typically wired devices. Not the Rapoo KX though.
Besides the obvious benefit of being able to eliminate wire clutter, the Rapoo KX is also one of the least expensive mechanical keyboards I’ve come across, at $85. It’s also smaller than most mechanical keyboards, which makes the Rapoo KX potentially portable.
For a more detailed look at the Rapoo KX, watch the video review named Wireless + Mechanical – Is This Real Life? on the YouTube channel Unbox Therapy (which has over 2.6 million subscribers). Also see the list of wireless mechanical keyboards on Reddit for more sans-wire alternatives.
5. Ducky Legend
Taiwan-based company DuckyChannel has a collection of mechanical keyboards for gaming and work.
The Ducky Legend is the model I feel best suits work environments. This keyboard has a stylish aluminum case and adjustable backlighting.
6. Happy Hacking Keyboard (HHKB)
The Happy Hacking Keyboard is geared towards professionals and heavy computer users. It was first introduced in 1996 by Japanese IT company, PFU Limited. Since then, the keyboard has managed to gain a loyal fan base.
In the quest to make a small-form-factor keyboard, the designers of the HHKB removed the arrow keys, function keys, and several other keys such as Caps Lock, Backspace, and Insert. Instead, these keys are coupled together with other frequently used keys. For example, the Backspace key shares the same key as the Delete key, and Caps Lock is combined with the Tab key. You can use the “missing” keys by pressing the Fn key along with the key that it shares.
The Happy Hacking Keyboard’s design results in an ultra compact 60-key keyboard, often referred to as a 60% keyboard (because a full-sized keyboard has 104 keys).
This mechanical keyboard has a cult following, as well as its fair share of critics. The biggest disadvantage is that if you use arrow keys, print screen, insert, etc. frequently, then this would not be an efficient keyboard for you.
In my case, as a web developer and writer, I have become accustomed to keyboard shortcuts that rely on several keys that the HHKB decided to drop, such as the Up/Down Arrow keys for jumping to lines of code, Ctrl+Left Arrow/ Right Arrow to move to the previous/next word in a sentence, Ctrl+Page Up/Page Down to scroll web pages, and so forth.
But if desk space and minimalism are things that matter most to you, then this mechanical keyboard is definitely something to check out. As for me, a tenkeyless keyboard is the perfect balance between minimalism, size, and functionality.
7. Filco Majestouch 2
The mechanical keyboard community holds the Filco Majestouch 2, often referred to as the MJ2, in high regard. It has a rep for having a solidly sturdy build quality.
Filco products are by a Japanese company called Diatec Corp. The company has been around since 1982, and they specialize in PC peripherals and mobile devices.
Reddit’s mechanical keyboard buying guide wiki says that the MJ2 is “The big boss of Cherry MX keyboards.”
8. Vortex POK3R
The Vortex POK3R mechanical keyboard, sometimes called the Poker3, is a range of compact and customizable mechanical keyboards. Besides its interesting appearance and small size, another notable feature is that the keyboard is programmable. (You can find more info about POK3R’s programmability via its user manual.)
The POK3R keyboard has an atypical design. When viewed on the side, you’ll notice that the keycaps and switches are mounted on top of the keyboard tray, a blackplate, rather than being embedded into it. This design contributes to the keyboard’s compact dimensions and distinct aesthetics.
Check out the in-depth POK3R keyboard video review at the Rhinofeed YouTube channel.
9. Topre REALFORCE 104U
Cherry MX is the series of switches that you’ll often find in popular mechanical keyboards such as the Das Keyboard. But they’re not the only players on the block. Topre switches are another type of mechanical keyboard switch.
The Topre REALFORCE is the pricy, flagship mechanical keyboard by Japan-based Topre Corp, makers of electronic equipment. For an alternative that’s notably less expensive, the Topre Type Heaven, at $155, is also a well-regarded option.
10. Kinesis Advantage
The Kinesis Advantage is a long-standing, ergonomically-designed keyboard that vastly veers off from the keyboard designs we’re all used to. This keyboard is popular amongst software engineers, IT professionals, and web developers — people who spend a ton of time typing on their keyboards, and using keyboard shortcuts and command-line interfaces.
The ergonomics of the Kinesis Advantage can help lower the impact of the repetitive strain your hands endure when you’re typing for long hours. Its keys are separated and angled to complement your hands’ natural positions. The keyboard has concave key wells that minimize the distance your fingers need to travel to reach a key.
Jarred Walton, over at the hardware review site AnandTech, wrote that out of three ergonomic mechanical keyboards he reviewed, the Kinesis Advantage is his favorite.
The Kinesis Advantage may not be everybody’s cup of tea. The keyboard’s layout will take time to get used to. And once you get accustomed to it, it will be hard to use traditional keyboard layouts. On the other hand, a top Amazon reviewer that goes by the handle of Ed said that it only took two weeks to get used to the keyboard and that if you’re patient “it will not only pay off with better ergonomics, but speed.”
The $270 price is quite steep. But if you’re suffering from wrist- and hand-related injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome, or if you want to prevent them from happening, the Kinesis Advantage keyboard might be deserving of your hard-earned dineros.
Mechanical keyboards are expensive. They’re meant to be used for years. Choosing which one to buy is a decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Here are some resources that will help you learn more about the technology:
- The MechanicalKeyboards subreddit is a large community of keyboard enthusiasts with over 86,000 subscribers. Check out their wiki, which will inform you of everything you need to know about mechanical keyboards. This subreddit was instrumental in helping me discover the mechanical keyboards on this list.
- Tested, a site by the stars of the TV show MythBusters, Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage, has an explainer on why you should use a mechanical keyboard.
- Das Keyboard has a slightly technical mechanical keyboard guide that gives you a great overview of the technology.
- Overclock.net has a detailed guide covering mechanical keyboard terminologies, popular types of switches, keyboard maintenance, keycap shapes/materials/printing methods, and more.
- Read Ty’s comment below for more insights and tips.
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1. Your Network is Essential
The truth is, successful creatives are successful not only because they do good work, but also because they have people in their lives who know they do good work.
Imagine two creatives. Artist number 1 is a superstar graphic designer who has worked for clients like Nike, Vogue, [insert dream client here]. The other is a struggling freelancer worried about where their next project is coming from. What’s the difference between them?
Luck? Geography? Talent? Socio-economic standing? Maybe all of these things?
In reality, luck or geography or varying levels of talent can all be compensated by the people you know and surround yourself with. The truth is, it doesn’t matter if you’re the best at what you do if no one else wants to support you or cares if you succeed or not.
This isn’t some kind of ringing endorsement to be a schmooze-y brown-noser to everyone you meet (those people are the worst). It has, however, more to do with valuing the connections you make with others and nourishing those relationships so that you have good people in your corner. Do good work for a client and they’ll be more than happy to recommend you to their friends. Share your passion and enthusiasm with others and they’ll want to help you succeed because who doesn’t want to be part of a success story? You must welcome others to care about your work because that’s the only way your work will be relevant to others.
No one gets “there” alone. Not ever.
2. Perfection is a Lie
Perfect work does not exist. There will always be something you’ll see in your work that will make you want to throw it out and start over.
We are our own harshest critics. If you’re a self-respecting creative (I’m assuming you are), you’ll always be overly critical of your work because you’ll always want to be a better version of yourself. The truth is, that’s enough because wanting to do better work is the same as actually doing better work. Be happy with that. Stop chasing perfection because that will get you nothing besides another missed deadline.
3. Trends Aren’t as Important as They Seem
Following trends is a dangerous proposition. Chances are, by the time you get the hang of an emerging trend, it is probably on its way out. Or at the very least, slightly irrelevant to the next incoming trend.
The truth is, trends are merely indicators of our shifting sensibilities. Trends are just reminders that things are always moving and changing. They aren’t destinations, they are merely directions or headings. Trends let us know which way the industry is moving so that we can adapt accordingly and keep moving forward with our work. Being good at the newest hot trend right now doesn’t mean you’ll have an advantage tomorrow. It just means you’ve been paying attention. Paying attention is all you really need to get by. Pay attention well enough, do good work, and you’ll get ahead of the curve.
4. Getting Paid is Important
As much as we would all like to make excuses for those times when we accepted work that paid us in”experience” or the opportunity to beef up our portfolios, the truth is we all need to get paid for the real work we do. Creative work is one of those professions in which “free work” is readily discussed and accepted for one reason or another. For instance, a friend will ask you to design a logo for free in exchange for a “mention” in some obscure section of their website. A client will promise to pay you in “future work” because they don’t have the budget right now. No other profession works like this.
No matter what anyone says, the truth is that the real work we do as creatives has value. That needs to be acknowledged and honored accordingly. Always.
5. Distractions are Real
The nature of creative work is such that you have to actually create things. This requires clarity of thought and a certain concreteness in your ideas. Distractions, by their very nature, keep you from those things.
Be honest about what distracts you and clear your surroundings of these distractions. You might think you work better with loud music playing in the background but what if the noise is just distracting you from your best ideas? You might think working in a busy cafe is productive, but what if it’s just mimicking productivity? Maybe you even pride yourself in being able to focus in the harshest situations but imagine how focused you can actually be if you weren’t so distracted all the time.
The truth is, distractions can take many forms and they’re not always obvious. The sooner you acknowledge what helps you and what doesn’t, the sooner you’ll be able to get your work done — and done well.
Tell us more about the true things in your life in the comments below.
As the owner of an ecommerce store, you have many major decisions to make that directly impact your company. What products will you carry? How will you determine your pricing? What shipping services will you use? All these and more are questions you need to answer before launching your site.
But before you begin the process of designing your store – or selecting a web design agency to take on the project – you have to determine which content management system, or CMS, you want to use. And in when it comes to ecommerce, there are two major names to choose between: Drupal and Magento.
In this post, I’ll discuss everything you need to know about Drupal and Magento so you can pick the right CMS for your site.
About a year ago, I launched my first Kickstarter called Habitat, a smart home automation platform that takes everyday items in your home and connects them to the Internet and your mobile devices.
We only raised 24.6% of Habitat’s funding goal (which was $80,000 CAD), so it was not successfully funded.
Here are some lessons I learned from the experience.
Ideally, You Should Already Have a Minimum Viable Product
I love this infographic on how to build a minimum viable product (MVP):
What it boils down to is that your MVP needs to be something that provides value, no matter how different it is from your final product vision.
When Habitat launched on Kickstarter, it was not yet a viable product at any level.
We might be stretching the truth to say that it was even a prototype.
Did we have the product development and design planned out? Yes. Could we have taken it to market by our deadline? Absolutely.
Did it look like we didn’t have a product yet? Definitely.
We had a lot of comments along the lines of Do you have any footage of the actual product working? No. We didn’t. We had bits and pieces of it working, but we hadn’t yet invested the time to bring them together as a product, minimum-viable or not.
Building an end-to-end product reveals so much you hadn’t thought of. It reveals user interaction problems you haven’t solved and features you hadn’t considered.
How minimal your product is when you launch can vary, but it has to be a product before you launch.
Somebody Has to Own It
It doesn’t matter who it is, but somebody has to own the project. I launched Habitat with a team of incredibly talented people. But they all had full-time jobs and were working on Habitat in their spare time.
Although it was a great team, the lack of ownership meant a lot of things slipped through the cracks. Although all of us liked the idea and wanted Habitat to be successful, none of us felt the ownership required to make it successful.
This lack of genuine ownership revealed itself to people looking at the Kickstarter campaign as a lack of product vision, a lack of refinement, and a lack of discipline when it came to attention to detail.
For example, when we launched, we had a number of different pledge levels, but we failed to notice that some of the levels didn’t make sense. Also, some desired combinations of features couldn’t actually be purchased because we had failed to notice that a user could only pledge once.
I don’t think there is any problem with launching a Kickstarter with a part-time team, but it is hugely beneficial to have at least one team member who’s on it full-time. This person can lead the project and the team. Just one person who truly lives and breathes the product being developed can make a world of difference.
Have a Proper Strategic Plan
When we launched on Kickstarter, funding from the platform was our plan A, plan B, and plan C. There was no fallback. There was no long-term plan that Kickstarter was a part of. Kickstarter was the whole plan.
We assumed that we would be able to adjust based on whatever happened on Kickstarter, and just go from there. The problem is that the lack of a long-term vision and plan was evident to the potential backers looking at our Kickstarter campaign.
The content on Habitat’s Kickstarter page was lacking, the product video was missing something, and so on. The people looking at our Kickstarter page wouldn’t have been able to put a finger on it, but I think they would have felt there was an overall lack of planning, which made them hesitant to get behind us.
Even if Kickstarter is your plan A, the effort spent thinking through alternatives help you refine your vision and strategy in subtle but significant ways that will seep into your marketing copy, your video content, and your visuals.
Don’t underestimate the value of strategic planning.
Be Honest with Yourself and with the Kickstarter Audience
If you’re thinking about launching on Kickstarter, ask yourself this question:
How much will it matter to me if my Kickstarter fails?
If the answer is “not much”, you’re unlikely to be successful. Without a deep desire to see your product succeed, you won’t have the motivation to hone every last detail.
A Kickstarter failure should be devastating. But I wasn’t devastated when Habitat failed to reach its funding goal.
It’s also important that you’re honest with the Kickstarter audience. For the most part, we were. But there were sins of omission in some cases. We were “dishonest” simply by not telling the whole story.
For example, when we launched Habitat we had probably written 5% of the software required for the product we envisioned. A lot of the major software challenges had been solved, and there was no question we could do it. But we still weren’t completely upfront about the amount of work still to be done.
I genuinely believe that potential backers aren’t expecting a polished product before they are willing to pledge, but they are looking for a team they can trust. Be honest with them. Transparency is key.
Because nobody felt ownership of the project, nobody took the time to go over (and over, and over, and over) the content on our Kickstarter page. Immediately after launching, we realized we had typos, grammar issues, inconsistencies, and holes in the product descriptions.
It may sound silly, but we really didn’t realize how important content is.
You’re definitely going to have some friends and family that back your product, no matter how bad it is, but the vast majority of your pledges are likely going to come from people browsing Kickstarter or coming in from Web publications covering your launch.
The coverage you get and the pledges you receive are going to be heavily dependent on the quality of your content. Typos and bad grammar reveal the fact that nobody on your team is paying enough attention to detail.
Take Your Time
There are lots of articles out there on how to time your Kickstarter campaign, how to get good coverage, and other advice on launching your Kickstarter project. The only thing I’ll add to the body of Kickstarter tips that already exist is to take your time.
We decided to launch in December and run through to January. This decision was made for no other reason than because we didn’t want to wait any longer. In hindsight, we should’ve waited until after the holidays. And we should’ve invested time up front setting up media coverage.
The desire to launch quickly ultimately led to a less polished, less visible, and less covered campaign launch. So, now, I sometimes wonder if just a bit more patience would have landed us our $80K goal…
If you’re thinking about launching a Kickstarter, tell us about it in the comments. If you disagree with things I’ve said in this article or if you have tips for launching a successful Kickstarter campaign, why not share?
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These Web games will give you a fun and engaging introduction to the world of programming.
CodeCombat is an HTML5 role-playing game (RPG) that teaches you fundamental programming concepts.
In CodeCombat, you play a hero adventuring through the game’s levels. The first level is Kithard Dungeon, which covers basic programming concepts. You’re faced with coding challenges throughout your journey, and if you overcome them, you’ll unlock the next level and earn experience points (XP) that you can use to improve your hero.
CodeCombat is appealing to young, aspiring programmers. According to an in-game survey, 62% of CodeCombat’s users are under 18 years old.
Code Hunt is a Sci-Fi-themed HTML5 game developed by Microsoft Research.
In this game, you play as a code hunter tasked with repairing code so that it returns the expected result. There are 14 levels, called Sectors in the Code Hunt nomenclature, for you to complete.
Code Hunt supports either Java or C#. Programming concepts you’ll learn include arithmetic, loops, and conditional expressions.
Teachers who would like to extend the game with additional Sectors can do so by first reading the Code Hunt Designer Manual.
CodinGame is a huge suite of challenging games for programmers. If you want to improve your coding skills, playing CodinGame is a fun way to do so.
The game can be played on single player mode or multiplayer mode. In multiplayer mode, you can solve CodinGame challenges with other users.
The game is an open-world strategy game where you control units, called creeps, that will help you mine resources, establish your territory, and so forth. Being a multiplayer online game means your creeps will be alongside the creeps of other players.
In FightCode, the objective is simple: Create a robot that will defeat the robots of other players.
.rotateCannon() method to rotate your robot’s cannon by a certain number of degrees when a certain event happens.
Before building your indestructible, world-dominating robot, the first step you’ll need to take is to read the docs to learn how to code a robot.
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This useful cheatsheet shows the keyboard shortcuts for important Adobe Photoshop CS6 commands.
View Larger Version
Note: For Photoshop commands that are displayed in blue, such as “Quit”, “Close”, and “Merge Layer”, you must also press
Ctrl on Windows or
Command on Mac OS. For example, to issue the “Quit” command, press
Ctrl + Q if you’re on Windows or
Command + Q if you’re on Mac OS.
This excellent resource is by ZeroLag. ZeroLag provided me with a special version of their existing Adobe Photoshop CS6 Shortcuts Cheatsheet. The version I posted here doesn’t display their logo.