Many people consider mechanical keyboards to be the best type. They’re more durable, reliable, and satisfying than membrane types. So, does it mean mechanical ones are better for programmers, too?
Mechanical keyboards are better for programmers because they help improve your typing speed. They are highly customizable, making it easier for the user to have the best switches and keycaps that work for them. Finally, they have a better build quality that can last for years.
However, it doesn’t mean programmers should only use mechanical keyboards to be more productive.
This article will discuss all the details you should know about keyboards. Keep reading if you want to learn how to find the best one for programming.
What’s the Best Keyboard for Programming?
Programmers rely on their keyboards more than any other computer peripheral. One piece of research suggests that a new developer writes about 100 lines of code per day or 25,000 lines of code per year.
I’ve even met developers who write more than that every day, making it crucial for them to have the best keyboard possible.
If you’re writing code, you want to focus on typing and not be distracted by the keyboard you’re using.
That means you want to use something that helps you type faster and has an anti-ghosting feature.
If you’re using a keyboard that ghosts, there will be instances where the data your computer receives is different from the one you typed, or your computer won’t recognize what you’re typing.
This can be a massive issue for programmers because it’ll take a lot of work to check what you’re typing while thinking about the codes to write.
The number of codes developers need to write daily makes it more challenging to recheck their work, resulting in poorly written programs.
Different programmers have different preferences when it comes to the keyboards that they use.
Some use it for the tactile feedback that makes it more satisfying to type, while others prefer a specific one for its design or comfort.
There’s no perfect keyboard for every programmer, but you should always consider getting something that will help you type faster and has an anti-ghosting feature.
Aside from these two factors, there are a few other things that you may want to consider when looking for the best one for programming.
Heavy and Sturdy Build Quality
Programmers don’t need a lightweight keyboard that they can bring anywhere. They need something that won’t move around the table while using it.
That’s why having a heavy one with effective anti-slip rubber pads is essential.
If your keyboard has these features, you can keep typing for hours and be sure it will stay in the same spot.
It makes it easier for you to write and helps you be more productive, which is very important, especially for newer developers.
You also need to avoid the tacky ones you usually find from retailers. Although these feature-rich keyboards can still get the job done, they may not last as long as sturdy and durable ones.
One test you can do to check the build quality of a keyboard is to try and bend it. If it bends, no matter how small it may be, it’s a sign that you’re holding a lower-quality item.
If the one you’re considering wouldn’t bend regardless of the force you apply, it’s a good sign that you have a durable keyboard that can keep up with your workload and will last for years.
A keyboard will stay in the same spot for years. You don’t have to move it around, so programmers have no reason to consider its weight and portability.
Comfort and Reliability
Developers will write code for hours, so having a keyboard that won’t strain your wrist is essential.
A comfortable keyboard may even help you prevent RSI (repetitive strain injury), which is very common for developers.
Aside from comfort, you want it to be reliable and can keep up with your work. Nothing’s worse than being in the flow only to have your keyboard start failing on you.
Many developers wasted precious time in the middle of a huge project just because their keyboards started to have input errors or unregistered keystrokes.
Investing in a good one will make your work more enjoyable and help you be more productive when programming.
Being a developer is a life-long career. You want a keyboard that can still be reliable and comfortable even after years of use.
Adaptability To Various Tasks
Developers work on many different projects, some of which require features that won’t be necessary for another project.
One example of this is the Numpad. There are projects where you’ll need to use the Numpad most of the time.
However, it takes up a lot of valuable space, which can be disadvantageous if you’re not using it.
Although adaptability doesn’t make or break a good keyboard, you may still want to consider it when looking for programming keyboards.
Remember, you’ll be using it for years, and it is almost an extension of your career as a developer.
There are modular keyboards that allow you to remove some of its parts when you don’t need them, giving you more desk space for other stuff.
Others include an open-source code that makes it easier for you to configure the software based on the features that you want it to have.
Customizable Switches and Key Caps
Customizing your keyboard’s switches and keycaps is nice to have. Customized keycaps will make it more personalized and help you create markers that make it easy to type when programming.
They help you improve your typing speed, but a keyboard without them doesn’t mean it’s bad for programming.
The switches you’re using for your keyboard can also significantly affect how fast you can type.
There are several options to choose from when looking at switches, but getting one you’re comfortable with is important.
I’ve met developers who prefer blue switches because of their satisfying tactile and audible feedback.
Others prefer quieter red switches that allow them to focus on what they’re typing.
I prefer optical switches that allow a smooth stroke all the way to the bottom with acceptable and satisfying noise levels.
Overall, changing your switches allows you to have the perfect keyboard that works well with you when you’re programming.
Should You Use Mechanical Keyboards When Programming?
Using a mechanical keyboard for programming isn’t a requirement. There are a lot of developers who would stick to whatever is accessible because it’s good enough for them.
I even know one developer who used the same membrane keyboard for years. He didn’t even spend money on it. It’s the same one that came with his computer!
However, it’s still important to understand why mechanical keyboards are better.
This will help you determine whether you should invest in one or stick to the one you already have. After all, they’re all capable of registering keystrokes, right?
Here are the advantages you can get from using a mechanical keyboard:
- It can help improve your typing speed. Membrane keyboards, or what many people consider regular ones, are prone to sticky keys. Some keys on the same keyboard may also be harder to press than others, affecting your typing speed. Mechanical types can help you avoid these inconsistencies because of the switches they use, helping you be a more productive developer.
- You’ll have better comfort when using it than regular ones. Aside from the tactile and audible feedback you get from mechanical keyboards, some also provide superb ergonomics that can make typing more comfortable for you. It may be less critical for average users, but comfort can make or break a programming keyboard for someone who spends most of the day typing.
- The features it has can provide exceptional reliability. Although there are regular ones with anti-ghosting and other reliability features, they still can’t replicate a mechanical keyboard’s reliability. If you want one that can keep up with your workload and won’t fail while working, you definitely want to invest in a good mechanical keyboard.
- You can replace most of its parts, making it easier to repair. Unlike membrane keyboards which are almost impossible to repair, it’s easy for anyone to fix a mechanical one. If you have the right tools, you can change most of its features, including the stiffness or softness of the keys and switches.
- Mechanical keyboards have better durability. Aside from their fancy appearance, they are also made from sturdy materials, making them much more durable than membrane keyboards. Some manufacturers even use a combination of heavy plastic and metal frames to make their products heavier and capable of withstanding up to 100 million keystrokes!
- You’ll have excellent customizability for the switches and keycaps. Customizability is one of the features that membrane keyboards can’t have. Changing the switches and keycaps allows you to have the best one for programming because you can mix and match the features you want.
With all these advantages, it’s easy to see why many developers prefer mechanical keyboards over membrane ones.
However, it doesn’t mean a regular one wouldn’t work for you. If none of these advantages can dramatically impact your productivity, then you can stick with the one you already have.
If you’re only starting your career as a programmer, there’s no reason to invest in a mechanical keyboard immediately.
Sure, it’s better for programming, but it doesn’t mean you can’t do your work with a regular one.
As I mentioned, many developers stick to what they already have because it helps them get the job done.
Are 60% Mechanical Keyboards Good for Programming?
60% Mechanical keyboards are compact units that give you more desk space without compromising the space between your keys.
However, it will be impossible to work on a text document without the arrow keys that allow you to navigate through the document.
If you want a compact keyboard without compromising your ability to write code, the smallest one I suggest is a 65% mechanical.
This is the smallest one with arrow keys you can commonly get, making it possible to work around text documents.
Considering all the advantages you can get and having more space on your desk for other stuff, I’d say a 65% mechanical keyboard is one of the best options for programming.
Should You Get a Mechanical Keyboard With Numpad?
The importance of a Numpad on a keyboard is relative. Most developers wouldn’t use the Numpad when programming, but some prefer it when typing numbers.
The choice between having a Numpad or not depends on what you need for programming and how often you’ll need it for your work.
I suggest getting a compact keyboard to give you enough space on your desk and a dedicated Numpad for flexibility.
It features a full-size Numpad that you can connect to your computer using a USB Type-C cable. You can also swap the switches and keycaps, making it easier to match them with the keyboard you have.
This modular setup can provide great flexibility, giving you all the advantages of using a compact keyboard without missing the Numpad whenever you need it.
It still works like a full keyboard, but you can keep it away when you need more space on your desk.
Mechanical keyboards are better for programming but are not required to be productive. There are good membrane ones that work just as well as mechanical ones.
You don’t even have to spend much money to start writing codes.
To determine whether you should get a mechanical keyboard, start with all the advantages you can get from it.
If they are enough to drastically affect your typing speed or comfort, investing in one will help you be more productive.
A comfortable keyboard can also help you avoid injuries related to sustained typing activities.