Frequently Asked Questions

How do you use it?

Five keys surround each finger.  The fingers move short distances (5mm or so) N/S/E/W to hit the side keys, which tip outwards, and the fingertips press down to hit the center keys.  By default, most letters are mapped to the same fingers and directions as QWERTY, so your touch-typing muscle memory will help you as you adapt.

The thumbs take on all the stuff your pinkies are so tired of doing:  Ctrl, Alt, Return, Tab, Backspace, Space, Shift, Number layer, and two layer switches for accessing Function and Navigation keys.

Is it faster?

I mean... yeah, somewhat.  But this is about *ease*.  Most DH/lal style keyboard users find they are a bit faster than on flat keyboards, but most also comment that the real benefit is about comfort and the lack of effort required.

JesusFreke, creator of the original lalboard, said it this way:

"I love how it feels when you really get in the groove typing on it.
Doing that 120 WPM from my youtube vid, it's just like.. my fingers are typing of their own volition, without me being aware of what they're actually doing"

Personally, I type about 10% faster on a Datahand than on a flat keyboard, and I use the original QWERTY-esque layout on both DH and flat keyboards.  But the *biggest* gains are in comfort and endurance, not speed.  Yet.  Maybe some speed typist will come and blow us all away...

Is it more comfortable?

Dramatically so.  The original Datahand had hundreds of testimonials from happy customers whose lives it changed.  The reduction in finger workload and reduced activation of connective tissues through the carpal tunnel results in greater user comfort, and reduced inflammation of the wrists and hands.  This product is not certified by the FDA to treat any medical condition, but… it saved my career and those of many others.

How long does it take to learn?

It varies.  Generally speaking, 40-50wpm is the rough threshold where it becomes reasonable to switch to full time use, so time to reach that point is probably the most relevant.  Beyond 50wpm, it's just a matter of time before you get close to or exceed your prior best speeds on flat keyboards.  


Of the first ten customers, one user in their early 20's was typing 50wpm in simple alpha-only practice within 24 hours of receiving their rig.

They're young, and used a split ergo board previously, so was used to having multiple thumb keys already, and uses the very efficient Colemak layout.

An ergo keyboard enthusiast in Poland hit 50wpm after a week.

A programmer in Chicago was able to start using it for work after a couple of weeks.

Another one in NYC was able to do the same after about 3 weeks.

Another two were more like 25-30wpm at 1-2 weeks in, but had been unable to practice consistently.

So basically: everyone progresses at their own rate, but if you use the layout closest to what you already know, you'll adapt pretty quickly.  It's MUCH easier than the QWERTY-Dvorak transition on a flat keyboard.

4 weeks is typical for initial adaptation, and 3-6 months to equal or surpass your previous maximum typing speeds.

Learning new keyboard layouts takes real work, but today, tools like MonkeyType, TypeRacer and Amphetype make practice easy, fun, and social (if you’re into that kind of thing). 

How much should I practice?

15 minutes a day is a great target.  More than about 30 minutes tends to be counter productive.  So relax and adapt at your own pace.  We promise you’ll enjoy the journey – it’s surprisingly fun to rewire your brain a bit 🙃

How many keys do I have to relearn?

One of the worst parts of traditional keyboards, even split-ergonomic ones, is that the index fingers have to make big contorted motions to strike (in QWERTY) the T,Y,G,H,B and N keys – the center columns.  These reaches cause fatigue, inflammation and pain for high-volume typists.  The graphic below highlights the relative efforts of the fingers on traditional keyboards:

Finger Effort Grid for flat keyboards

Eliminating the dreaded diagonal center column reaches (example: T/Y/B/N in QWERTY) means those keys move to different fingers (middle and ring inward motions).

Svalboard eliminates these reaches by remapping them to inward motions of the first three fingers.  So if you’re coming from QWERTY, the only letters you’ll have to learn new fingers for are T/Y/B/N.

That's 4 of 26 alpha keys, along with getting used to the amazing DH/Svalboard thumb clusters, which eliminate all the horrible pinkie reaches for things like Ctrl/Alt/Bkspc/Tab.

What Layouts does Svalboard support?

All of them!

Svalboard supports any layout you can dream up via the magic of Vial and QMK, but of course it comes with sensible defaults, too.  Currently available are QWERTY, Colemak, and Dvorak options.  A version of Hands Down Gold is coming soon! 

We recommend starting with the layout you’re most familiar with if you want the fastest path to productivity – that will mean re-learning the minimum number of letter positions.

But if you like a challenge and want maximum ergonomics, but also want minimal loss of useful muscle memory for common commands like Undo/Cut/Copy/Paste, our Colemak-based layout moves the bulk of typing effort on to the center keys, which gives a big head start vs going to Dvorak from QWERTY.