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ATPM 7.05
May 2001




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Review: Datahand Professional II

by Paul Fatula,


Developer: Datahand Systems, Inc.

Price: $1299; $999 (personal version)

Requirements: ADB or USB adapter, $129 from Datahand

Trial: 30 day trial available to corporate customers only

“A man and his machine may be regarded as the functional unit of industry, and the aim of ergonomics is the perfection of this unit so as to promote accuracy and speed of operation, and at the same time to ensure minimum fatigue and thereby maximum efficiency.” —W. E. Le Gros Clark in Floyd & Welford, Sympos. Human Factors in Equipment Design, 1954.


The word “ergonomic” is applied to all kinds of computer-related equipment these days, in an attempt to win over buyers who worry about developing Repetitive Strain Injuries (RSIs). However, most keyboards that claim to be ergonomic merely use the term as a marketing ploy, sticking essentially to the familiar keyboard form and its numerous disadvantages. The Datahand is not another run-of-the-mill ergonomic keyboard with a slight curve between the keys of the right and left hands. Rather, it was designed from the ground up around the human body, the hands and the muscles involved in the typing process. The result is decidedly strange-looking, but it is also far better than any other ergonomic keyboard I’ve tried.

The Keyboard

One of the ways the Datahand helps to reduce RSI-related pain comes through requiring far less finger movement to type than do other keyboards. Each finger rests in a “well,” sort of akin to the “home row” on a traditional keyboard, except that the finger never has to leave its well. Each finger has five keys assigned to it, pressed by moving the finger north, south, east, west, or pushing down. Since a regular keyboard just uses one kind of finger motion (down) as opposed to Datahand’s five, the Datahand allows a greater variety of finger motions, reducing the repetition that can aggravate certain kinds of RSIs.


The finger keys give you all the most commonly used keys: the alphabet and the most common punctuation marks. But still, five directions times eight keys (plus thumbs) seems like a poor substitute for the 101 key keyboard most people are used to. Thus, the Datahand operates in several different possible modes. Each mode (normal, Numbers And Symbols (NAS), and function) maps the finger keys in different ways. Most of the time, you’ll be working in normal mode. If you need to access NAS mode, for a number or a less common punctuation mark, you do so much like you use the “shift” key on a regular keyboard: you can either hold down a modifier key, or “Lock” into that mode.

How It Works (Mouse)

The Datahand’s built-in mouse (yes, these guys think of everything) will not replace your regular mouse, but it’s convenient for short, simple mousing actions, and saves you from having to take your hands from the keyboard.

You enter mouse (and “function”) mode with a flick of your thumb. That done, you have a mouse, literally, at your fingertips. The left and right index fingers control mouse movement. The left moves the mouse at medium speed, north, south, east, or west; the right moves it slowly, and the two together are additive for high speed. Diagonals are possible, if not easy, by pressing two keys with one finger, or by moving in two directions (albeit at different speeds), one with each finger. Pressing down with either finger clicks the mouse button.

The shortcomings of this setup are pretty obvious: you have far fewer speed and directional possibilities than you have with a traditional mouse, and over time your index fingers will likely get tired. That said, the built-in mouse is very convenient when, say, you just want to activate a different window. As much as I’d like to be harsh on the mouse’s shortcomings, I frankly can’t think of a better way Datahand could have done it without substantially increasing the cost of the keyboard.

Mac Issues

The Datahand is made to connect directly to PCs through a 5-pin serial port; an adapter is necessary to connect it to a Mac, via either USB or ADB. I tried one of each, as provided by Datahand. The ADB adapter worked flawlessly, giving me access to the Mac command and control keys, though not the Option key. Not a big loss since I seldom need it anyway. Like the current Mac keyboards, there is no Macintosh power key on the Datahand, so if you’re using an older Mac, you might need to keep an older keyboard attached for its power key.


ADB Adapter

The USB adapter works just like the ADB one, but Datahand initially sent me the wrong one. Because of the LEDs the Datahand uses to indicate which mode you’re in, the keyboard requires more power than most keyboards, and thus a standard USB adapter can’t handle it: it stopped functioning altogether after a few days. To their credit, Datahand’s tech support staff troubleshot quite well, although it took nearly two weeks for the replacement adapter to arrive: disappointing, they really should keep a few units in stock. The USB adapter does work with my USB PC card.


USB Adapter

Adjusting to Fit Your Hand

Clever key layout isn’t the only thing that makes the Datahand so comfortable. Since everyone’s hand is slightly different, the keyboard is adjustable in a tremendous number of ways. Unlike the overwhelming majority of keyboards, the Datahand offers two separate units for the left and right hands, allowing you to place them at a comfortable distance apart from each other, and at any angle you like. This is very effective against ulnar deviation, or the outward bending of the wrist that is pretty much unavoidable with a traditional keyboard.

Underneath the inner sides of the Datahand are tabs that can be flipped down to give the hand units a slight angle to the side, meaning your hand won’t have to be in a completely palm-down position while you’re typing. While this adds to comfort, I would have liked to see Datahand go all the way, and allow the hand units to rest at a full 90-degree angle. Perhaps some sort of separate mounting stand could be devised to allow this.


Adjustability doesn’t stop there. Since we all have hands of slightly different shapes and fingers of slightly different lengths, the positions of the finger wells themselves are adjustable. On the sides of the hand units are knobs which you can loosen, and then raise or lower the level of the wells. Dials on top of the unit allow you to adjust how far forward or back the finger wells are from the palm rest. I found adjusting the height of the wells a bit difficult, since there are knobs on both sides of the hand unit. If I loosened them both, the wells sank. Then I’d place my hand on the hand unit, and have to, very awkwardly, reach over the unit and try to lift, tighten, and then lift and tighten the other knob. Ideally, the height of the finger wells should be adjustable with dials, as the distance is.


Finally, the Datahand comes with a Laplander, an extremely comfortable foam-backed pad to which the hand units can be securely bolted, allowing the Datahand to be used on your lap. Of course, the side-to-side angles of the individual hand units remain adjustable on the Laplander, as does the distance between the hand units. A slight tilt is available thanks to optional foam pads on which the hand units can rest. Personally, I’ve always preferred to use a keyboard on my lap, but have gotten away from it using traditional keyboards: since they have a bunch of extra keys off to the right, it’s impossible to comfortably hold a traditional keyboard, centered on your lap. The Datahand, thankfully, doesn’t suffer from this problem.

As, however, Emil Pascarelli and Deborah Quilter point out in their book Repetitive Strain Injury: A Computer User’s Guide—an excellent book, which should be required reading for anyone who uses a computer on a daily basis—adjustability only takes you so far: it can even be detrimental, if you don’t know how to properly adjust the keyboard. With the extreme adjustability of the Datahand, the potential for maladjustment is quite high.

Enter the manual, which describes a comfortable distance of separation for the hand units and gives instruction for properly positioning the finger wells to match the shape of your hand. If you currently suffer from RSI and are working with a physical therapist, I would suggest asking your therapist to help you adjust the Datahand (and your workstation in general); but if that’s not an option for you, the manual should allow you to optimally adjust the Datahand on your own.

The Learning Process

You would expect, just from looking at it, that the Datahand would take some getting used to. While Datahand’s own literature suggests that a month is typically needed for a new user to get up to their traditional keyboard typing speed, I found I was comfortable using the Datahand after far less time than that. A training guide and some typing templates are provided to help you learn how to use the Datahand.


With exactly four exceptions, you use the same finger to access a given letter key on the Datahand as you would on a traditional keyboard. Typically, the “home row” key is the “down” button on the Datahand, the key on the upper row is “north,” and the lower row is “south.” While this is surely done to make transition from a traditional keyboard easier, I’m not sure how much it helped: the first few days of using the Datahand, I was constantly looking at the keyboard (or the provided postcard-sized templates, taped to the monitor in a well-intentioned but futile attempt to prevent me from looking at the keyboard as I type) and searching for a key I needed. After a few days of solid use, my search-and-peck days were pretty much over, though it took a few weeks for me to get up to my flat keyboard typing speed.

If you are thinking of getting a Datahand, though, I’d suggest you switch to the Dvorak keyboard layout at the same time: your fingers are learning something new anyway. For those who don’t know, Dvorak is a substantially more efficient keyboard layout, which places the most used keys in the easiest-to-reach positions, and which is designed with the intent of minimizing instances of using the same finger for two letters in a row, etc. I can type much faster on Dvorak than I can on QWERTY. A Dvorak option is available for the Datahand for an extra $119, providing Dvorak templates and the ability, within firmware, to switch back and forth between Dvorak and QWERTY layouts; but, that said, you can just as easily draw up your own template, and use your “Keyboard” control panel to select a Dvorak layout.

Professional Extras

The difference between the Professional and Personal Datahand models is simply one of firmware: the keyboard itself is the same. The Professional model allows you to set up short macros and to remap keys. Like the Dvorak option, however, these abilities can be done far more cheaply with software, and so I suspect the Professional’s functions may be geared more towards Windows users. Mac users can remap keys using ResEdit (though that will effect any keyboard connected to the computer, not just the Datahand), and there are shareware programs available (KeyQuencer and QuicKeys come to mind) that allow the creation of macros. In addition, the ability to create macros activated by function keys is built into Mac OS 9.1. For most users, therefore, the Professional model is likely not worth the difference in price over the Personal model.

RSI and Pain

Let’s face it, this is an expensive keyboard, no matter how adjustable and comfortable it is. Adjustability and comfort are not goals of the Datahand: they’re merely the means to an end, the end being pain-free keyboarding. When you consider the cost of ongoing physical therapy and/or surgery (not to mention permanent damage to your hands), the Datahand comes out looking like a real bargain.

To that end, Datahand doesn’t just rely on a few quotes worth of user feedback (although there are plenty of positive user experiences posted on their Web site). They’ve commissioned several thorough scientific studies of exactly how much the Datahand helps reduce the occurrence of factors that cause repetitive strain injuries. Again, see their Web site. I’m not an expert on RSIs; the groups that conducted the studies are.

A lot of the ergonomic advantages of the Datahand, I’d suggest, you can see for yourself using nothing more than common sense. On a flat keyboard, 100% of your key presses are “down”; on the Datahand, only 20% are, with 20% each in each of the four cardinal directions. That’s pretty obviously a great decrease in repetitive motion. Your hands rest above the finger wells on a palm rest, meaning your wrists aren’t bent upwards as they can be using a regular keyboard.

The keys on the Datahand require significantly less pressure from your fingers to activate them than do keys on regular keyboards: again, the advantages are obvious as your fingers are doing less work. (I didn’t feel this until I switched back to a regular keyboard, when I felt how much more pressure was needed from my fingers to activate its keys.) Use of the Laplander lets you relax, sitting back on your chair instead of leaning forward.

My personal experience with the Datahand, after a month of use, is that RSI pain is reduced considerably, especially in the wrists, but not gone altogether. That is likely due to a number of factors. Firstly, it takes time. The Datahand isn’t a pill, it’s a tool: its effects are gradual. Secondly, I use a number of different computers during the day, and moving the Datahand from one to the other is obviously not always possible: I trust the Datahand would have better effects if I were able to use it exclusively. Finally, the NSWE movements are pretty new to my fingers: they aren’t really used to pushing keys in those directions, so perhaps those muscles need to develop a little bit, just like your pinky finger had to when you first started typing.


Overall, I find that I can type considerably longer on a Datahand than on a regular keyboard before I start to feel any pain whatsoever. Before I started using the Datahand, I would occasionally find pain in my hands even while not typing; after a month of Datahand use, my hands have at least healed to the point where I don’t have persistent pain any more. All that comes at nearly no expense in terms of typing speed.

While my experience with the Datahand by no means constitutes a controlled scientific study, it certainly was a positive experience; enough so for me to believe that “ergonomic” is far more than a marketing slogan for Datahand. It is quite literally what this keyboard is all about: the perfection of the single unit whose parts are man and machine.

Also in This Series

Reader Comments (80)

Jan Oonk · August 20, 2001 - 11:23 EST #1
Does anyone have more experience with the Datahand? Especially those with severe RSI and who use Datahand much longer than 1 month. Please e-mail me.
hsr · August 20, 2001 - 16:41 EST #2
Paul Fatula, if you are able to read/reply -- first, did you follow up on any of the four year old information on the company's home page, particularly the reports about Sarah Lee company using these keyboards? Are there any more recent reports? Any research citations that you can find? (I can't; the company's page mentions names and institutions but not journal cites.) I was able to read DataHand's page from a Macintosh with iCab, but not with a WinTel PC with Microsoft Explorer 5 later the same day -- the latter hangs at their "detect.html" page on which the only active link leads directly to the ATPM review, rather circular. I'm using a Kinesis after failed carpal tunnel surgery left me in pretty bad shape. I like it OK but am getting more pain as the months go by, and would like to know more about the DataHand -- both for Mac and for Intel/PC.
hr · August 20, 2001 - 18:19 EST #3
A Google advanced search for "ergonomic keyboard" turned this up: The site has links to ergonomic articles, including one from December of last year from MSNBC -- that one quoting Datahand as saying they'd have an inexpensive, $400-range home user model sometime in 2001. The Keybowl itself is taking preorders at that price for their no-fingers-at-all input device, which looks very interesting.
Paul Fatula (ATPM Staff) · August 21, 2001 - 10:58 EST #4
Jan- Datahand's site has some testimonials which may be of interest to you. Click on Testimonials, where there are not only soundbites but a downloadable, 95-page (!!!) PDF containing extensive commentary from a number of users. In a few cases, contact information for a commenter is given. Full names and company names are given as well. One user (pp. 10-11) started off with "so much pain, his ability to do his job was severely affected" and reports after 4 months that while his pain is not gone, he can "type as much as I want." hsr- On the DataHand page, if you click "Studies" it shows only a "brief summary", but in the frame above that, there are links ("Health and comfort", "speed and fatigue", etc) with more extensive information about particular studies and links to the full text of the studies. I'm not sure why you couldn't access their site with MSIE; I'd guess their site was just down at the time. I don't have a Windows machine to test from, but I'd be pretty shocked if their site was inaccessable by design from the most popular browser on the most popular platform :) hr- The keybowl does look cool; I heard about it a few months back, but alas the Mac version (was then and still) is forthcoming. I can't find the reference on their page now, but if memory serves when I first checked out their site it said typing speed maxes out at 20-30wpm. If I'm remembering that correctly, that would mean a pretty heavy productivity hit, as opposed to Datahand which studies found offers productivity gains (and which, at least in my experience, doesn't offer any productivity hit after a month of use). I haven't heard anything about a home user model of Datahand, but I'd really love to see one; I'll see what I can find out and if I learn anything substantive I'll post it here.
Paul Fatula (ATPM Staff) · August 22, 2001 - 11:05 EST #5
Well, Datahand is indeed working on a new keyboard offering, but they don't yet know the price, or even whether it will be considered an ergonomic keyboard. So I'm afraid we won't be seeing a low-priced version of the Datahand I reviewed any time in the forseeable future. To reiterate what I've said to several readers in emails, though, I really think the Datahand is worth its high price, if you can afford it.
LAC · August 27, 2001 - 17:38 EST #6
I have been using the DataHand keyboard for the last 6 years or so after having a severe bout of forearm tendonitis. Simply put, w/o the keyboard I would not have been able to continue to type and continue at my job. Thus, I can speak very highly of the keyboard and its effects.
Ole Voss · September 25, 2001 - 16:48 EST #7
Hi there, I've been looking into Datahand products and am VERY amazed by their keyboard (the price did dumbfound me for a bit). My problem is not so much the hands or wrists, but rather the shoulder. I've been working with computers since age 13 (that makes 14 years now). But only when life got serious about 3 years ago, did the shoulder start to ache. Sometimes it's so bad that I can hardly go to sleep, and I wake up at night. I presume that the combination between a Datahand keyboard and the mouse offered on their website would be an ideal solution to my problem, but maybe somebody else with similiar problems could offer me some advice or at least give a positive feedback before I blow a month's salary? Ole.
tivo · January 20, 2002 - 23:04 EST #8
Anyone have any current info? My pain is debilitating.
Johanna · September 14, 2002 - 09:40 EST #9
I am looking for new comments as well. I do typing as well as image processing which requires a lot of mouse movement/clicking.
Hank R. · September 16, 2002 - 15:24 EST #10
I'd sure like to know if they have their "personal" keyboard out -- and if it's the same design.

I'm wondering about asking my employer to go for the thirty day free trial offer, since I've already had carpal tunnel surgery and it failed to improve the nerve conduction or sensation losses.
Chris · October 12, 2002 - 17:46 EST #11
My fingers can't move 1/2 inch side-to-side, so how am I supposed to use this keyboard?
Ole Voss · October 13, 2002 - 07:56 EST #12
I bought the DataHand professional sometime last year and used it for some time before I found that using a notebook and leaving it resting on my lap was also very relieving. The pain, or the problem for that matter, have not seized yet. The notebook I use is a plain Toshiba Portege 7020ct which is lighter than the DataHand and has an integrated trackpoint. The biggest problem I found using the Datahand was the mouse movement. In the GUI-oriented environment one works in nowadays (both Mac and PC), you NEED a mouse. The DataHand replacement was not very effective for my needs. Neither was the Track-IR (naturalpoint) mouse. I found that I got neck-aches after about 2 hours. I don't give up quickly and I used the mouse for some days before tossing it. I still have the DataHand and will probably start using it as soon as I have my new computer office chair designed and welded to my desire.

This is a sort of update to the comment I posted earlier on (above).
Mary B. · November 29, 2002 - 15:43 EST #13
I want to buy one used at a lower price, if anyone is interested. The computer is my life, and I am disabled and poor (I can document this).
Kevin · December 13, 2002 - 09:09 EST #14
I would like to buy one. Where have people found the lowest price?
Brian · January 7, 2003 - 18:40 EST #15
The lowest price I've found so far is at this site. Retail is $995 for the personal edition (fine for most everyone) and this site reduces it at least $20 down to $975. Of course shipping is $35, so you're still over a grand, but I've gotta at least try one of these things. Ease and comfort aside, the DataHand just looks really cool.
Kevin · May 9, 2003 - 11:14 EST #16
My hands hurt when I type. My index finger even hurts when I left click on the mouse and I have been looking for an ergonomic keyboard for quite some time. The Microsoft Natural Keyboard just doesn't cut it but I don't want to pay for this DataHand system. Is there something else out there equivalent to DataHand but doesn't have its heavy price tag?
Kevin · May 11, 2003 - 10:16 EST #17
I am interested in purchasing the Datahand system. I am trying to decide on which keyboard I am going to choose--either the Datahand or FingerWorks TouchStream LP. I am not quite sure which keyboard will be better. The TouchStream is a tradational keyboard layout and I don't see how it can help with my RSI. The Datahand looks more ergonomic and friendly. I am a cyberworker who spends at least 17 hours a day on the computer.
H. · May 11, 2003 - 13:23 EST #18
If your hands hurt or if you are dropping small things (Post-It notes, stamps, paperclips), see a neurologist and get a nerve conduction check.

Quoting my neurologist: "You're very lucky you came in now. I see so many people who have been in pain or who have been dropping things go for five or six or seven years before getting checked, and many have so much damage, they can't fully recover."

In fact, after two carpal tunnel surgeries that failed, I haven't recovered either.

This is no joke. The people who are injured this way just quietly disappear from the workplace. The current administration has killed the ergonomic regulation that might have given some worker protection.

Don't be greedy. If you have pain or are feeling clumsy, accept that you may have already lost the future you imagined. Get checked by a competent neurologist. Pay for it yourself. Get your regular doctor to get you checked. You do NOT know why you have a problem until the neurologist tells you, at which point you can tell your employer--medical report in hand, documenting the problem.

If you tell your employer first, if you are under the United States laws, you may never get a proper test or treatment. The laws were written by employers for employers to protect the businesses by limiting the total cost of care for injured workers to much less than ordinary health insurance would cost for the same problems.

Nolo Press has decent books on this.
Paul Fatula (ATPM Staff) · May 12, 2003 - 10:54 EST #19
Kevin--I have seen the TouchStream web site and have made several attempts to get a review unit. Unfortunately, I have had no response from the company so I'm unable to give you a comparison between that and the DataHand.

A few words about DataHand's price, though, in response to your first comment. If you consider the cost of physical therapy or, worse, surgery, I think you'll find that the DataHand is relatively inexpensive "preventative medicine." If you work 17-hour days, you're probably making enough money that you can afford a DataHand (or, perhaps, you're important enough to your employer that they'll consider buying you one).

If you're really wanting something less expensive, I reviewed the Kinesis Advantage Pro a few months ago. No doubt it's superior to the MS Natural Keyboard you're using, but considering how much time you spend on a keyboard, I think the DataHand would serve you better.

Regardless of your keyboard decision, you should see a doctor if you're experiencing pain.
Kevin · May 19, 2003 - 12:04 EST #20
Paul - thanks for the feedback. I guess I am going to have to go with this DataHand system. On the same topic of ergonomics, I am currently looking for some alternative desks and chairs. What I've discovered so far is MicroSphere. Paul, can you ask them for a review of their system? Also, can you recommend any good ergonomic chairs with arm support.
Paul Fatula (ATPM Staff) · May 19, 2003 - 12:43 EST #21
Kevin-I'm rather skeptical of the M1 and other such systems. While the traditional keyboard is not adjustable at all, most standard office chairs are highly adjustable: back height, seat tilt, seat height, distance and direction from keyboard, arm height, etc. Something like the M1 might offer increased adjustability but, while it is, of course, easy to adjust in the sense of moving the back support, etc., it can be no easier to adjust than any other chair in the sense of making it properly fit your body. Even with the DataHand, it's adjustable, but the key to its being good for you is adjusting it properly, which can take some effort, trial and error, etc.

But all that is biased by my situation: I don't have the back/shoulder pains which the M1 is, according to its web site, designed to help with. So, to me, the M1 would, at best, be a very comfortable chair with a uselessly small surface area attached, and I have abysmal posture. As I type this message, one leg dangles over the arm of my chair and my spine is twisted in the opposite direction to allow me to face the monitor.

My opinion is that if you have back/shoulder problems, your money is best spent on a chiropractor--who would also be in an ideal position to advise you about ergonomic seating and help you adjust it, come to think of it.
Henrik · May 20, 2003 - 23:32 EST #22
My biggest concern is how well the mouse feature works. In my work, I have to shift quite often between the mouse and the keyboard, but I'd still say I'm using my keyboard enough for the mouse feature to be of convenience. I'd just like to know if I'll be able to use the built-in mouse properly (after training, of course) or if I'd still have to have a standard mouse beside me, which woul dmake the DataHand a lot less convenient.

Also, how often is the pedal used? I was thinking, as an alternative to the mouse, perhaps it could have a foot-controlled mouse available as well. The product looks awesome, though. I just need to figure out a way to scrape together the money!
Ole Voss · May 21, 2003 - 03:33 EST #23
Hi Henrik,

I found that using the built-in mouse was totally inadequate for graphical work. It was tedious enough to move the cursor around, let alone do some serious clicking. I tried the 3D mouse..what was it called...natural point or something? It was a drag and I got neckaches constantly, so that wasn't for me either. Besides, it wasn't the cheapest device I had ever bought. I've been getting some very good results from a Wacom art pad and a Logitech trackball (I change my input devices periodically to see if anything new will work better). Anyway, I find the DataHand is totally inconvenient when working with the mouse. You can get around, but you should memorize all the shortcuts your OS has to offer.


Kevin · May 25, 2003 - 19:09 EST #24
Thanks for all your comments. I have a question about the mouse.

So, we all know now that the DataHand mouse will probably not be sufficient for any serious user. It was designed maybe six years ago. How about that Fingerworks iGesture pad? Does anyone know of a good mouse replacement for the DataHand or, better yet, on overall good mouse replacement?

Paul, did you do any reviews on ergonomic mouse? If so, tell us your results.

Has anyone tried those vertical mouse or the no-hands "dot" mouse?
Brian Cornellison · May 25, 2003 - 20:10 EST #25
To everyone on this thread - you have all discussed some very good issues and I have a lot to add (most of it good, too).

The DataHand keyboard is a true testament to computers, but the learning curve is steep. I have tried it and gave up, as life and work was too fast for me to really apply myself to learn the system. Also--and I think it's an agreed-upon fact--the built-in DataHand mouse is worthless as a functional tool. I have concluded, without a doubt, by my own experimentation, that there are two keyboards out there that offer the best ergonomic solutions. One is the Kinesis Ergonomic keyboard, which offers everything you need with the exception of a separate number pad. Deal with it. The problem with it is that it's still more or less "flat," which sucks for anyone with wrist issues. Pronation is not good.

The best vertical keyboard, and the other keyboard of which I mentioned, is the SafeType keyboard. It promotes perfect ergonomic and orthopedic posture, but is only good if you're a touch-typist and don't need to see the keys. The problem with that keyboard is that the number pad and other keys (arrow keys and six-pack) are in-between the two vertical panels, making it very hard to reach and use. If someone out there at Kinesis is listening, break your keyboard in half, flip-up the two halves, and make them vertical in the same fashion that the SafeType has done. This would be the best, most versatile, and most perfect design imaginable (I am currently in the process of doing this thing myself via a hacksaw and solder gun, but it's really gonna look cheap and rigged once I'm finished).

As for mice, I have tried them all. If you are okay with pronation of your wrist, a simple sculpted mouse is still the best, such as the Logitech MouseMan Wheel. If you prefer to keep your forearms in a more natural position (which I do), then the gentleman who made the last comment about the Vertical Mouse is right on the button. I currently use the 3M Renaissance Mouse, a.k.a. Vertical Mouse, and it's awesome. It's not really the "gamer's choice," but is very fast, regardless, and the learning curve is light. I don't think I'll go back to a regular flat mouse for a while.

I hope this info is helpful to everyone.
Henrik · June 12, 2003 - 08:35 EST #26
Thanks, Ole. (Do we both come from Denmark?)

I use trackballs myself, as well, and Wacom. I have a Logitech Trackman Marble+ and a Logitech cordless optical Trackman that I shift between for whenever I wish to use my thumb for the ball controlling, or my other fingers. The Wacom is probably the best tool for graphics in most cases and I enjoy it a lot. My keyboard is a Logitech ergonomic thing and I'm rather pleased with its use as it is. But am always looking for better solutions. The Datahand, though it may be somewhat old, looks appealing, hence the reason I asked about its mouse feature. Once I win that million in the lottery, I'll buy it and the foot-controlled mouse. :-P

Jeff Schwartz · August 1, 2003 - 10:32 EST #27
I tried the foot mouse once (if you want to buy mine from me, e-mail me) and it sucked! It was not responsive and was hard to control. It broke after a couple weeks and I had to exchange it for a new one.

What did work was removing my shoes and using a regular trackball (a large Kensington model) with my foot and pushing the buttons with the other foot. This worked for a couple years but then I actually started getting numbness between my toes from it, so I stopped doing it.
Ole Voss · August 20, 2003 - 16:16 EST #28
Hi everybody. I thought it might be interesting for some of you that I am going to part with my DataHand since my pain has subsided substantially. It is currently up for auction on eBay until 8/28/2003.
I wish you all better health and much luck in pursuing a useful remedy. :-)


anonymous · October 10, 2003 - 16:13 EST #29
I wonder whether you can actually type faster with a Datahand keyboard than with a normal one.
shefi · December 18, 2003 - 13:09 EST #30
1)is there anyone here who tried this datahand and the touchstream and what did he find as better?

2)I would like to purchase a datahand.
so if anyone is selling, please contact me at:
Josh · December 18, 2003 - 13:38 EST #31

The TouchStream is not a traditional keyboard at all, it can be bend up to 45 degrees because of it's flexibility.
I recommend the touchstream and the quill mouse for any RSI problem, If not the quill mouse, try the anir mouse by 3m.

I would like to ask if the datahand has the flexibility to be rotated 90 degrees like the safetype keyboard?

Mark · December 27, 2003 - 03:35 EST #32

To answer your question: "I would like to ask if the datahand has the flexibility to be rotated 90 degrees like the safetype keyboard?"

The short answer is yes. The two pieces are independent. The long answer is that the company does not manufacture a desk mount that allows for this (you'd have to device something of your own). However, they do manufacture a chair mount (see the accessories page of the DataHand Web Site) that allows for such flexibility (they also sell a full combination package of the DataHand and a Chair with the mount). A company representative states: "DataHand offers a chair mount kit that will mount to most standard office chairs and allows you to put the hand units at almost any angle including perpendicular to the floor. (This quote is from the "post-review" discussion forum of the review of the DataHand done at

Hope that helps.
Buddy · January 4, 2004 - 07:24 EST #33
How far apart can you seperate the two halves? I would like to be able to place the keyboard on my desk with one half on either side of my monitor (which is actually a multiple monitor setup and is a couple of feet wide) Any thoughts on this? Would the chair mount kit allow me to place the two units further apart?

Mark · January 5, 2004 - 20:26 EST #34
Buddy - I am not sure how long the cable that interconnects the units is (someone else may). I myself have not yet purchased the units. I have been researching them for the past month or so and plan to purchase one shortly. I'd recommend sending an e-mail to datahand ( and asking. They have been very responsive to my inquires. In the manual I downloaded from, in the one illustration, it looks like it uses a standard 25-pin connector on the cable that interconnects the two units; so you probably can place an extension cable between them. I suspect that that may be the case, thinking that an extension cable of some kind is supplied with the chair mount so the cable can be threaded down the one arm of the chair, across the bottom and back up the other arm - but I am just guessing. Drop them an e-mail and ask; then let us know the answer.
Jon Knowles · April 19, 2004 - 13:47 EST #35
I am a medical transcriptionist and solved my early CTS problem by switching to a "natural keyboard" and using Instant Text, a text expander. Now I am looking at using another keyboard since my natural one gave out and looks like I'll try the Kinesis Advantage. I learned a lot from the discussion above.

I do recommend using an expander like Instant Text or Shorthand for anyone who does a lot of repetitive typing. There are other text expanders, but IMO these are the best two for the PC. And IT is simply amazing.

Jon Knowles
A Web Site on Typing Productivity (
Paul Fatula (ATPM Staff) · April 19, 2004 - 14:32 EST #36
Jon--In case you didn't see it: i also reviewed the Kinesis Advantage (

i've not tried a text-expander with either keyboard... you might take a close look at the keyboard layouts of both the DataHand and the Advantage, as both use somewhat unorthodox placement of modifier keys... not sure whether that would have an impact on shorthanding methods.
Dean Burell · May 4, 2004 - 17:58 EST #37
I have been researching both the SafeType and the DataHand for a couple of months now. I have a couple of comments or concerns about both. And would love to hear from someone who has used both products.

1. The SafeType does not come apart. Being a software road warrior, I spend much of my time in Hotels, Customer Sites, and Airplanes. While I have given up on trying to work in a plane or Airport, I still spend most of my time somewhere other than my office. At 7" high, it makes putting it in my travelling case with my other gear almost impossible. I have a foam lined rollaboard hard case that I use to transport my laptop, keyboard, etc in. When I gave up trying to work on the plane, I bought this case, now I have less shoulder pain from lugging a laptop case around.

2. The cost of the DataHand is still really high. Even at $600+ for a refurbished unit, it is still a substantial investment.

So at $150 for a refurbished SafeType or $600 for a refurbished DataHand, is the DataHand worth the extra $$$
derik · July 10, 2004 - 01:02 EST #38
Where are people seeing these refurbished DataHand Units for $600? The best price I have seen are the ones on Ebay that (I think sold by DataHand Systems), but the price on these is $650 for the (non-programable) personal versions. Ouch!

DataHand Systems seem to be focused on selling to companies. They compare the cost of the keyboard ($1300) to the cost of an employee's salary and say that even a small increase in productivity will have a "return on investment". They fail to realize that most small businesses can't apply this kind of logic! And neither can individuals.

Paul Fatula compares DataHand's keyboard cost the value of my career. I can't afford it even if it "would" save my career. I can't afford it even if it would save me lots of pain and suffering before my career ended anyway. I just don't earn that much money. Heck, the car I drive to work in cost me less than that! If they really want their idea to catch on, they will have to market it to the public. They have done a lot of research and I recognize that there needs to be a profit margin in there somewhere to pay off the venture capital. But I see a lot people saying they would buy it if only it was cheaper so maybe they would make some thing on the mass production angle.

A refurb unit at 50+% off would be a big step in the right direction. These would mostly sell to individuals and small companies buying small quantities. But I haven't seen these anywhere.
derik DeVecchio · July 16, 2004 - 03:03 EST #39
I was wondering, where are peple seeing these refurbished units for $600? I haven't found refurbs for that price. Well at least no the professional II model. I have seen some DH200 units, but that was a pre-production unit without all the same features (same basic design though).

The cheapest I have seen is $650 for a "personal" edition refurb. That is lot for the non-macro version of the device.

paul fatula (ATPM Staff) · December 2, 2004 - 13:03 EST #40
Just noticed this on the DataHand website: "While inventory lasts, we are offering 50% off listed price for any Personal or ProII DataHand® Ergonomic Keyboards ... order must be placed and accepted by midnight December 31, 2004." If you've been lusting after a DataHand but couldn't afford it, now's your chance.
chris · March 4, 2005 - 07:45 EST #41
Im selling a datahand for £100,

if the item ends unsold you can email me for it at
Andrew Taylor · March 5, 2005 - 23:14 EST #42
I've been using a pair of proIIs for several years now. They're excellent. Be prepared for a month or two of backspacing. I'm up to 90%+ of flat keyboard... when combined with the convenience of the mouse, surely quite a bit faster than a conventional keyboard and mouse. Get a good chair and get the chair mounts. I was having hand cramps and shooting pains when I started my quest for ergo. Went thru several combos, then splurged on a datahand. Pain went away within 2 weeks (seriously). The last few years I've managed to crank out and refactor 60,000+ lines of code, without anything more than the occasional minor forearm irritation. Definately worth it if you're in for the long haul. As I've already mentioned, get the chair mount. If I've any regret, it's that I didn't go that route earlier. I'll be happy to answer any questions within this thread.
Chris · April 9, 2005 - 23:59 EST #43
Thank-you Andrew for your comment. I am a software engineer and also type and revamp a lot of source code. I have mostly seen Mac users that are probably journalists or writers. A keyboard that is good for writing is not necessarily good for coding because of the increased frequency of symbols and punctuation. I use a computer probably 14 hours per day and am starting to feel a distracting amount of pain and am educating myself on what I can do about it. I have already had an inkling that the best solution is a chair mounted keyboard. If re-adjusting things in my environment and a less expensive keyboard that I am about to order doesn't do the trick I will probably end up ordering the datahand with the chair mounts as per your recommendation.
Jake · June 8, 2005 - 11:07 EST #44
For the price, the technology needs to be brought up to speed on this. There's no way I'm going to blow that much money on a keyboard replacement.
Andy · June 13, 2005 - 20:02 EST #45
Has anyone purchased one of the half price datahand keyboards from the website? Getting a $1300 piece of equipment for $650 just seems too good to be true.

I called the customer support number and was told that the sale priced units could not be returned for a refund and the warranty was only 90 days. I would love to believe that this is a legitimate sale of new units, but it really does sound more like they have a lot of refurbished models they're trying to unload.
Jim Bottino · July 13, 2005 - 14:48 EST #46

I have purchased two sets of the ProII's (actually, work purchased one set and I purchased the other, so I have a set at work and at home).

Both of these sets were at the 50% off price and are NEW units. I've had them for about two months and would guess that I am at about 80-90% of my flat speed. Really though, the comparison isn't fair, as I could only type on a flat keyboard for short periods before the pain in my hands became to severe to continue. (I have carpal tunnel syndrome).

With my two sets of datahands, I have been able to, litterally, type day and night.
daniel saragea · November 30, 2005 - 16:49 EST #47
..oh, nothing to say; but that I'm becomming ill day by day (what to say even about the nights of the first months since I saw this .."written on my heart" thing)after finding out that something very close to my ideal of fast and correct typing tool is 'out-there'; the limit for me being the price - Don't make me spend this much -in a relative future- God will beat me for not sharing them with lots of poor people here in Romania, or from elsewhere.
Andrew Taylor · March 23, 2006 - 23:40 EST #48
There have been some complaints about the mouse on the datahands. I find it fine 99.5% of the time, but the other .5% is sheer frustration... I also find that the mouse sometimes gets clogged with dirt, causing stuttering. Cleaning is not easy, as the spaces are tight. So, I went out and bought a touchpad off ebay. Very nice and mounts easily on the datahands, as seen here. They can be found on ebay.
Pupeno · August 8, 2006 - 17:49 EST #49
I am interested in purchasing one, but I have the same question as Chris (October 12, 2002 - 17:46 EST), my fingers, specially the fourth counting from the thumb, just do not move laterally; how should I press those keys then ?
Andy · August 9, 2006 - 16:51 EST #50
Well, it's more like 1/8" and there's no problem reaching the keys. If you've an injury and have no lateral movement for some reason, you'd still have enough movement in your hands to press the keys. I'm sure they have a return policy of some sort.
Pupeno · August 9, 2006 - 18:12 EST #51
Thank you for the answer.
Rob Mosher · June 6, 2007 - 09:16 EST #52
I'm still not sold that you can make the lateral movements necessary to type. With the index and pinky finger it seems fine. But with the ring and middle finger, the side to side movement is limited, and tied together. So it seems the side keys would be very slow, and you might hit two keys at once. Plus this movement seems more unnatural, and thus less ergonomic then pushing down on a key.

Could someone with a DataHand post a video on youtube? That would be infinitely more helpful for seeing how thins thing actually works. Someone in marketing should be fired for not already doing this.
John Hodge · July 1, 2007 - 23:34 EST #53
Looking at the illustrations in the user's manuals, I could not tell which mode controls the underscore ( _ ) character; actually, I didn't see any mention of the underscore at all. If the Datahand has one, where is it located?
Jim Bottino · July 2, 2007 - 10:34 EST #54
I'm typing this on a set of _DataHands_.

The _underscore_ is in NAS mode on the switch that is the ' in normal mode. ie. just to the right of the letter J.
John David Hodge · July 2, 2007 - 11:43 EST #55
From the illustrations on this page, it appears that the underscore key is accessed from NAS mode using left index / down. There is no way to guess that from any information Datahand's user manual provides.
Adrian · August 10, 2007 - 19:27 EST #56
excellent cheap (under 20$ on eBay) alternative mouse: "Rocketmouse"
...hand in any position you like!
...anyone else have one?

( complete sentences here - just started switch to Dvorak from ridiculous Sholes (QWERTY). ;) )

...should probably spring for Datahand, but in the meantime Dvorak's a no-brainer.
Telamon · October 28, 2007 - 21:42 EST #57
It does seems good. I would like to try this little bizarre keyboard.
A S · February 26, 2008 - 17:45 EST #58
I've been using the Datahand since 1998. Unfortunately, has announced a supplier problem and is currently not shipping the keyboard. Mine recently developed a repairable problem but I have been unable to find a service center.

I've spent the last few days trying to find a suitable replacement to no avail. I need an integrated mouse and a 10-key because of my financial work.

You'd think that in 10 years the market would have designed something by now!
Jim Bottino · February 27, 2008 - 07:38 EST #59

Datahand Inc is still doing service on the datahand. I have spoken with them in the last few days and wrote a letter to them urging them to continue production (even if it means raising the price). If you contact them ASAP, they should be able to fix it for you.
Sam · July 17, 2008 - 22:32 EST #60
This is horrible, I know a few people, me included, who's professional lives depend on this keyboard.If my keyboard breaks I have to find a different profession.
Toby · October 22, 2008 - 12:32 EST #61
I've contacted them several times regarding repair and/or replacement issues and no reply whatsoever.

As a side note i found a really neat ergonomic mouse bar/pad that clips to the desk and really works nice unfortunately they too have run into production issues. I guess there is just too much money in fixing rsi and cts to back preventative products.

praise be capitalism!
Andy · October 31, 2008 - 16:03 EST #62
RIP datahand. I hope they manage to sort out manufacturing issues! It's worrying to not be able to go just out a get another pair, should something happen to these.
Bryan · November 18, 2008 - 03:32 EST #63
My datahand saved my life, my publishing company, would have died years ago without it. I have 2 keyboards and am hunting for a 3rd as back up in case they go out of business. I may have one to sell if people are interested. Not sure yet, though.
Lisa Gamuciello · November 21, 2008 - 18:02 EST #64
Be careful. The DataHand also "saved" my career 4 years ago, but now I have "tennis elbow" and tendon problems in my left hand. I am sure that it is from holding my arms and hands rigidly in one place. I was never able to adjust the DataHand to make all movements feel "right". I could never get the built-in mouse to work in the way that I needed, so I use a touch pad. I have given up touch-typing and use the one-finger hunt-and peck method on a regular keyboard. My condition has improved, but I am months away (at best) from living without splints and straps.
eric highs · October 29, 2009 - 08:57 EST #65
sorry but this is the dumbist key bord ever. how are u sapposed to use this.
Austin · November 2, 2009 - 09:04 EST #66
Are they still selling the DataHand? It looks good, but when the company goes out of business you have to wonder... if it was really so great then lots of people would be buying it. RSI is widespread.
Bryan · November 2, 2009 - 10:28 EST #67
I own 3. They don't make them anymore and if mine ever stops working, I have backups. They also come up on Ebay occasionally. The keyboard saved my career. If you don't believe me check this out. This is my very busy home business and you can see the datahand. If the camera angle was a little wider you could see the 2 spare's sitting on a shelf up high.
Jim Bottino · November 2, 2009 - 10:49 EST #68
I also own several sets, and Datahands have saved both of my careers (sysadmin and novelist). The last time I talked with them, they said they _will_ be making new ones as soon as they can get a new supplier. (You can call and ask to be added to the waiting list). I think Datahands are a bit ahead of their time (which always makes things difficult) and, unfortunately, the $1,000.00 pricetag has prevented a great many people from getting a set.
Bryan · November 2, 2009 - 10:53 EST #69
Jim, I agree. Also I think only the most motivated people learn to use the DataHand, others fail, because for people like us, it is do or die -- use it or lose your career. I would pay $5000 for a datahand easily.
Austin · November 2, 2009 - 10:56 EST #70
Thanks Jim and Bryan. Any idea where I can purchase a used DataHand? I'd rather try it "bargain" priced before taking a $1000 plunge... I have early signs of RSI and I'm very concerned: without typing my career is over, and the pain is definitely increasing.
Austin · November 2, 2009 - 18:28 EST #71
Talked to a DataHand rep today. They are out of stock but expect to have a new batch in 4-6 weeks. I'm also looking at the OrbiTouch at It's a lot less expensive than DataHand and sounds like it achieves the same. Any thoughts on how the two compare?
Bryan · November 2, 2009 - 18:37 EST #72
That orbitouch looks interesting. It probably depends on what you train your body to use. I like the Datahand. That orbitouch looks like it would create fatigue in wrists, elbows, etc, as you constantly have to make macro movements with your whole hands and arms. It looks promising but I'll pass. Also, it looks infinitely more complex to learn than the datahand due to the dual action needed to type a single letter. Also, it is missing the versatility that the datahand offers in the thumb keys, very intuitive and well thought out modes, and frankly, the reliability and robustness of a tried and true product. Maybe orbitouch has robustness, but with fringe products like this you can never be sure, and I can say that although I have spares, my original datahand has NEVER broken despite dropping stuff on it, 2-year old messing with it, and heavy 70 hr a week use for 5 years. But, I bet there may be some people out there who would hate the datahand and love the orbitouch. I'd just like to see a few testimonials from people who have used orbitouch for serious no joke careers with 70 hours a week of use and I'd like to hear those people say "yea, this keyboard works, doesn't stress my body and joints, is robust, and is efficient." I can say right now -- you may think I'm crazy - that even if my body healed over night I would never go back to a regular keyboard. In fact my injuries have mostly healed and when I'm at my family's house and use thier computers, I am impatient and dumbfounded by how lame a regular keyboard is and how long it takes me to get things done. I run 2 monitors in my home office, have no employees, and do the work of 3 people. The datahand flies and keeps up with me. I love it.
Bryan · November 2, 2009 - 18:39 EST #73
...........To complete my above post I'd like to add that for a mouse I found the datahand to be sorely lacking. I use a Bamboo tablet mouse from Wacom, was about $80, and I love it. It takes away all the pain of a regualr mouse - I HATE regular mice.
Dan Dzina · November 18, 2009 - 13:39 EST #74
I was notified by Datahand in the past few days that they are getting a shipment in to fullfill backorders. I requested a backorder about 3 months ago despite the discontinued manufacturing notice.

While they may not be producing the keyboard on a ongoing basis, they appear to be fullfilling orders in batches. I'd recommend emailing them if your serious about picking up a new DataHand.
Lisa · February 23, 2010 - 01:40 EST #75
I have a used Datahands available, Personal model. On the back it says Model: Pro II / PAL. Comes with the lap pad, serial connector and USB adapter. Large hand pads. It's on Ebay right now, but I'd be happy to entertain outside offers. It's in excellent condition.
Austin · February 23, 2010 - 08:28 EST #76
Lisa - I might be interested. can you drop me an email? austinlasseter at gmail dot com. thanks.
Lisa · February 24, 2010 - 23:56 EST #77
Correction to my previous post: The DataHand Personal I have for sale has the PS/2 connectors, and a PS/2 to USB converter/adapter. Also, I am not positive that the hand pads are the large size. I just know they are way too big for my hands. Is there a way to tell for sure?
James Cobalt · March 20, 2010 - 00:08 EST #78
I bought my first Datahand about 5 years ago. I had horrible pain in my fingers, wrists, forearms, shoulders, neck...

It didn't take me long to learn. Within 3 days I was up to 40wpm and within a couple weeks I was back to my regular typing speed.

After using it for a few years the pain continually reduced then leveled to a very manageable degree. It helped me as much as it could; now I do physical therapy for my hands and neck to decrease inflammation and pain.

If it wasn't for this keyboard I wouldn't be able to work. Or I'd be bagging groceries at best. It's expensive, but think of it this way- loose your entire paycheck because you can't work; or loose $1,000 for the keyboard.

Also I can't speak highly enough of the people at Datahand. Even after they stopped manufacturing them when I had issues they promptly returned my emails or phone calls. When one of the keys snapped off after a couple years they rush-mailed me multiple new ones. I didn't even have to ask. No charge.

It's $1,000, but you're getting more than just the keyboard for that price. Also they manufacture these in very small quantities (it's no longer a full-time business) so the manufacturing costs are a lot higher.

I have two of these keyboards now; one for work and one for home. Couldn't live without them.

Also bought the Touchstream multitouch keyboard for the macbook. Looks pretty and fun to use but not practical for typing and actually made the pain a lot worse.

(technically I have three Datahands I guess... I bought an older model for a backup but it has a slightly different layout and texture... i can't get used to it- anyone want it for $200?)
Austin · March 20, 2010 - 08:58 EST #79
James - I'm interested. I'm not ready to drop $1000 yet but I might give it a try for $200, if your equipment is in good condition. Can you contact me at the same email address I gave Lisa (above)?
Andrew Taylor · March 20, 2010 - 15:44 EST #80
Just thought I'd post to say the datahands are still working great. I've sent them in for repairs on several occasions, and while shipping is expensive from Canada, they are always fast and courteous. They're somewhat fragile and I'm somewhat abusive, so issues have been my fault.

Here's a shot of the latest datahand workstation:

The datahands are stuck to the la-z-boy via double sided carpet tape and an extender cable is used to connect the two sides. With the 1080p projector and nice sound I've been able to keep cranking out the code.

Recommended for heavy typists, of course.

(Saw Contact in HD last night. There are brief glimpses of a set of datahands in the circular pod with Jodie Foster)

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