As you've probably noticed from the name, splitkb.com is all about split keyboards. A question I often get is, "What is a split keyboard?" The name split already gives away the biggest hint, but if you're not familiar with the term, some context will help you understand what they are and why you would want one.
A split keyboard has two halves
As the name implies, a split keyboard is a keyboard that is split, often into two halves. Sometimes, just the layout is split and there's still one physical keyboard, but often you'll have two separate pieces, connected by a cable or wirelessly.
Most split keyboards use a TRRS cable to connect the two halves. The half that you connect to the computer is often called the master, and the half that is connected to the master is in turn called the slave. This terminology stems from computer science.
A split keyboard has a distinct layout
The layout of a keyboard is the way in which its keys are arranged. Most split keyboards have unique layouts, meaning that the keys are arranged in different ways for each, though most will have a common factor with only a few unique aspects.
There are many different layouts because people prefer different things in their layout. These are some aspects of layouts that can distinguish a layout:
- Stagger is the way the keys are aligned relative to each other;
- A thumb cluster is a group of keys meant to be used by your thumbs;
- A number row can make numbers and symbols easier to access;
- The outer column can make some keys easy to access with your pinky finger;
- Macro keys can be used for various utilities in an easy to access place;
- The function row is rarely seen on split keyboards and is the place for the F-keys often found at the top row;
- Unique features like a rotary encoder, OLED display, trackball or other inputs can sometimes be found on a keyboard.
Each layout is different, and some layouts may omit certain aspects where others might have more aspects. In general, more advanced users like smaller keyboards, while new users prefer to start out with more keys.
A split keyboard should enable comfortable typing
Now that you know a bit about split keyboards, let's get to the end goal of split keyboards: ergonomics. A split keyboard has the advantage that you can position it in a way that makes you feel comfortable. Often, you'll separate the halves to be at shoulder width, with your arms extending straight forward. This relieves strain from your wrists, since you now won't need to bend your wrists anymore when you type.
Depending on your needs, different layouts can be used. The Kyria for example places a focus on the thumb clusters, moving strain from your weaker pinky fingers to your stronger thumbs. Other keyboards have different strengths and weaknesses, and what's comfortable for you will depend on your usage. This is why you can try the Kyria before you buy by printing a layout tester.