Court stenographers press combinations of keys to produce certain letters, which allows them to type significantly faster than the average person on a QWERTY top row keyboard. Instead of pressing twenty-six individual keys to form letters alongside all the numbers and punctuation, they generally have 22, and press the keys at the same time to form words in the same way a pianist presses keys to form chords instead of individual notes. This allows those stenographers to type quickly enough to keep up with two or three people speaking at the same time.
The problem with these is that they’re non-intuitive and require special training, and they’re fairly expensive for what they are. Other notable ‘chording’ keyboards include things like this CyKey, which was designed for one-handed use and only features eight buttons.
However, if you still want to use both hands, maybe the CharaChorder does the job! The CEO of the company boasts an impressive 500 WPM with the device, which also works by chording letters but also doesn’t make you move your hands as much. Little joysticks underneath your fingers have letters tied to each cardinal direction.
QWERTY, DVORAK, and COLEMAK
The Qwerty design itself is actually designed to slow typers down – back in the days of the mechanical type writer, if you typed too fast, sometimes letters right next to each other would hit at the same time and get stuck upright, which is annoying to fix and could smudge the paper – and, done enough, damage the machine. The design simply stuck because it was what most people were taught on, and what they’d be comfortable typing on when word processors began to take over the spot mechanical keyboards had.
Faster keyboard layouts exist, like Dvorak- or Colemak layout keyboards, which group the most commonly used letter combinations together to make moving from key-to-key faster.
The real struggle is getting the OS set up to accept them, although any decent alternative keyboard should come with a driver install alongside it.
Orbitouch is a keyboard designed to allow people without full movement of their hands to type. Essentially, the user puts their hands on the orbs, and then pivots to select letters via the chording system from before, except that you don’t have to hit the key’s chord pieces all at once. CharaChorder does something similar, but having to hit the buttons all at once makes it less user-friendly than the Orbitouch, which is actively designed for typers who can’t do that.
It’s a little slower than the other options, but the Orbitouch isn’t actually designed for speed – it’s designed for people with injuries that prevent them from typing on normal keyboards. Instead of having to consistently raise and lower your hands to the keys, the Orbitouch allows users to keep their hands pressed firmly to the interface, which means tremors, muscle weakness, partial paralysis, and other such factors won’t be such an impediment to typing. It’s not for everyone, and it is 350 dollars as of the writing of this article, but if you’d rather not fumble with transcription or voice-to-text software, the Orbitouch may be worth the price.
If you find that your shoulders and upper back hurt after typing all day, a warped board may help – some keyboards like the X-Bow spread the keys and then tilt them inwards, which forces the user to widen their wrists and elbows, and therefore their shoulders. There are many hacks, tools, and tips for better typing posture, and this isn’t a holy grail – you can fudge this just like you can fudge any posture tool short of the ones you wear to force your shoulders back. But, if you just need a reminder to stop letting your shoulders creep up to your ears, this might be a decent investment for the cause. What’s nice about these keyboards is that they come in many different sizes, and the company even has a type cover option for tablets that’s comparable to Microsoft prices.