Microsoft Natural Keyboard

Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) is one of those things that unless you have experienced for yourself is very easy to put down as being a pretty much fictitious condition; after all how much can you possibly strain yourself whilst being sat in front of a computer?Unfortunately I personally have suffered from this affliction a few times and I can confirm that it isn’t a nice experience; the burning sensation that was present in the entirety of both arms was very hard to ignore!

Fortunately RSI is something that is very easily avoidable if you take the right measures.In previous articles I’ve talked about the importance of posture and taking regular breaks but this week I’m going to talk about a design of keyboard that I’ve been using for years to minimise the likelihood of these conditions resurfacing.

The Microsoft Natural range of keyboards have been around since 1994 and are specifically designed to prevent carpel tunnel syndrome along with other RSI injuries.Since I unfortunately don’t have the luxury of including pictures in my articles I can probably best describe the keyboard as being split down the middle with both halves being placed at a slight angle from one another.The centre of the keyboard is elevated slightly and then gently slopes downwards towards the extremities.

A couple of years ago Microsoft introduced the Microsoft Natural Keyboard 4000 which is the keyboard that I have just upgraded to and will be reviewing today.In addition to the split that I spoke about above, this keyboard is actually elevated at the front and then slopes backwards resulting in the space bar being the highest key rather than the lowest, as it would be on a conventional keyboard.A non removable wrist rest is literally built in to the keyboard; made out of leatherette cushioning, this is one of the most comfortable wrist rests I’ve ever used.

The idea is that in this position your hands aren’t unnaturally angled when typing and although it does take a little while to get used to, touch typing is certainly not hindered by the design.On first impressions those that have seen my keyboard have assumed that my wavy, irregularly designed keyboard would actually increase my chance of RSI but they couldn’t be further from the truth.

We assume that a device such as a keyboard which has been with us for decades would have, by now, been designed to be as kind to our hands, wrists and arms as possible but next time you sit at your computer, place your fingers on the home keys (a, s, d, f and j, k, l, 😉 and take a look at the unnatural position your hands are in.Using a conventional keyboard your arms plunge downwards and inwards from your shoulders towards the keyboard and then unnaturally twist upwards and outwards so that you can achieve the correct position to reach the keys.

Of course, there are other natural keyboards on the market but this is certainly my favourite at the moment; asides from the split design the overall build quality and feel of the keyboard is absolutely fantastic. The keys are next to silent when typing but still depress thoroughly and retain tactile; one of my pet computing peeves is keyboards with silent keys that don’t convey a sense of responsiveness when you press them.One finger typists won’t really be worried about this but if you’re touch typing then you do need a sense of feedback from the keyboard you’re using.We of course have the additional special function keys so that frequently accessed applications and commands can be used by using just the one key along with a rather interesting zoom key which so far I haven’t had the need to use.

At around £30 the keyboard isn’t particularly cheap but it’s very difficult to put a price on your health especially when you consider that some of the symptoms of RSI can remain permanently.If you even do just a moderate amount of typing then this keyboard would certainly represent a worthwhile investment.


About the Author – Chris Holgate works for Refresh Cartridges who supply a wide range of printer cartridges at the UK’s lowest prices.