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Compact/Mini Keyboards: Details


Table of Contents


What is a Compact Keyboard?

Scissor Switch Compact Keyboard
  • Compact keyboards have a smaller footprint (from ~9" to ~15" wide depending on model) than the typical standard keyboard (~18" wide).
  • They are also referred to as small footprint keyboards and mini-keyboards.
  • This reduced size is often achieved by eliminating the numeric keypad and reducing the overall length by as much as 6.5”.

Why Compact Keyboards?

Why would someone use a compact keyboard? The following list highlights the most common reasons.

  • Limited or confined work space.
  • Loss of function of one hand or arm.
  • Getting the mouse closer to the keyboard.

Limited or confined work space

Confined space on a keyboard tray
With the keyboard tray being too narrow, the mouse must be placed on the desk - not a good ergonomic position.
  • Keyboard tray is too narrow to fit both the keyboard and the mouse.
  • Desk space so cramped that a full size keyboard is too big.

Loss of Function in one Arm or Hand

Loss or reduced function in one arm can result from a number of causes:

  • Amputation
  • Neurological or orthopedic damage as a result of an external trauma.
  • Stroke resulting in one-sided paralysis (hemiplegia).
  • A syndrome that results in severe pain in one arm, such as a repetitive strain syndrome.

Problems related to the Loss of Function in one Hand or Arm

The loss or reduced function in one arm can produce a number of problems.

  • Reduced range of motion of the joints.
  • Reduced strength.
  • Problems with coordination.
  • Reduced endurance.
  • Difficulties with cognition/perception.

Other Issues Related to “One-Handedness”

Electric Can Opener
Devices, like this electric can opener, are great accommodations for people who can only use one hand.

When forced to use one hand for all activities, the following problems are experienced:

  • Overuse of the “good” hand as all activities are done one-handed.
  • Problems performing everyday functions, such as personal hygiene, preparing meals, etc.
  • If the dominant hand is affected, the problems of writing with the non-dominant hand.

Keyboarding can contribute to overuse problems

When forced to use one hand for all activities, the following problems are experienced:

  • All repetitive movements occur in one hand.
  • All the force used to activate a key comes from one hand.
  • Typing style and position must be changed.
  • Reaching for the keys can contribute to problems of the shoulder.
  • Using modifier keys (Shift, CTRL, ALT) can be difficult if not impossible.

The smaller size of the compact keyboard helps to deal with problems related to reaching and the typing position.

Getting the mouse closer to the Keyboard

  • Approximately 87% of the population are right handed, and most right handed people operate a mouse with their right hand.
  • The presence of the numeric keypad on the right side of the standard keyboard causes the mouse to be positioned at least 6.5” further to the right than if it was on the left.
  • In fact, the standard keyboard is probably better suited to left-handed people who operate the mouse with their left hand.
  • To operate the mouse on the right of the standard keyboard, a greater amount of shoulder external rotation is required.
  • This extra shoulder movement can irritate or contribute to shoulder pain.

Solutions (for people operating their mouse with the right hand):

Evoluent Mouse Friendly Compact Keyboard
Evoluent Mouse Friendly Compact Keyboard places the numeric keypad on the left of the keyboard, bringing the mouse at least 6" closer on the right side.

  • Train yourself to operate the mouse left handed.
  • Switch your mouse operating hand throughout the day, so the stress of operating is divided between the arms.
  • Get a compact keyboard (without numeric keypad) or a keyboard with the numeric keypad on the left side of the keyboard.

Compact Keyboard Layouts

Compact keyboard layouts vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, and from model to model. Layout changes can include:

  • Relocating keys such as the cursor control keys and the Page Up/Page Down keys.
  • Embedding the numeric keypad in the alphabetic keys.
  • Changing the size of keys.

Relocating Keys

Scissor Switch Compact Keyboard
Half of the Scissor Switch Compact Keyboard showing the relocated keys.

The keyboard sample to the right:

  • Cursor control keys occupy the lower right corner of the keyboard.
  • The PgUp, PgDn, End, and Home keys are in the column on the far right side.
  • Insert and Delete keys along the bottom row, next to the cursor control keys.

Embedded Numeric Keypads

Embedded Numeric Keypad
The embedded numeric keypad in the SolidTek Mini-Keyboard.

The keyboard sample to the right shows an embedded numeric keypad. The Numeric portion of the keypad is in blue.

  • After pressing Num Lock J becomes 1, K 2, L 3, etc.
  • After pressing Num Lock a second time the keys revert to the letters.

Changing the Size of Keys

Scissor Switch Compact Keyboard
Half of the Scissor Switch Compact Keyboard showing the keys of different sizes.

In this example (when compared to a standard keyboard):

  • The Function keys are smaller.
  • Shift keys are about half the size.
  • The Backspace key is about half the size

Summary: Comparison with Standard Keyboard

Comparison: Compact to Standard
Comparison of standard (in this example Logitech) keyboard with the Scissor Switch Compact Keyboard.

In this example (when compared to a standard keyboard):

  • Compact keyboard ~ 6.5” shorter.
  • Some keys, like function keys, are smaller.
  • Cursor navigation keys, and other keys (like Page Up) placed in right and bottom rows.
  • Numeric keypad embedded (keys with blue characters)

How are Compact Keyboards Used?

Right handed mouse operation
Right handed mouse operation with the Evoluent Mouse Friendly Compact Keyboard.

For two-handed operators:

  • Home keys and other typing methods remain the same.
  • Mouse is brought closer to the keyboard to reduce shoulder rotation.


Scissor Switch Compact Keyboard Marble Mouse
Scissor Switch Compact Keyboard with Marble Mouse for right hand operation.

For one-handed operators:

  • Home keys change to F, G, H, J.
  • For left-handed operators, the keyboard is moved to the left so the hand is immediately over the home keys, with minimal shoulder rotation.
  • For right-handed operators, the keyboard is moved to the right so the hand is immediately over the home keys, with minimal shoulder rotation.


Comparison of some Compact Keyboards (smallest width to largest width)

Model Image Dimensions Keys Other
Super Compact Mini Super Compact Mini Keyboard 8.74"W x 4.05"D x 0.63"H 77 Keyswitch type: Scissor switch
Compact-Touch Compact Touch Keyboard 11.38"W x 8.94"D x 1.06"H 88 Keyswitch type: Membrane
Includes Cirque Glidepoint Touchpad
Mini Keyboard Mini Keyboard 11.40"W x 5.51"D x 1.14"H 88 Keyswitch type: Scissor switch
Scissor-Switch Compact Keyboard Scissor-Switch Compact Keyboard 11.81"W x 5.91"D x 0.71"H 88 Keyswitch type: Scissor switch
Evoluent Essentials Full Featured Compact Keyboard Evoluent Essentials Full Featured Compact Keyboard 13.0"W x 6.75"D x 0.375"H 96 Keyswitch type: Scissor switch
Mini Quiet Pro Keyboard Mini Quiet Pro Keyboard 13.26"L x 6.5"W x 1.38"H 81 Keyswitch type: mechanical
My Kids Keyboard My Kids Keyboard 14.2"L x 6.5"W x 1.2"H 103 Keyswitch type: membrane
Anti-RSI A-Shape Keys
Evoluent Mouse Friendly Compact Keyboard Evoluent Mouse Friendly Compact Keyboard 15.4"W x 6.25"D x 0.5"H 104 Keyswitch type: Scissor switch
Numeric keypad on the left side
Compact Financial Keyboard Compact Financial Keyboard 15.75"W x 7.4"D x 1.69"H 104 Keyswitch type: membrane

Other Solutions

Another solution is to use the "Half-QWERTY" style of keyboards. The Half-QWERTY keyboarding method works as follows:

  • The fingers are positioned over the home keys that are normally assigned to that hand. For example, if you are typing only with your left hand, place the fingers over the ASDF keys.
  • The characters on that half of the keyboard are typed as would normally be typed.
  • To type characters on the other half of the keyboard, hold down the space bar with the thumb and do the same movement that would normally occur with the other hand. For example, if you are typing left-handed, and want to type the letter "L", hold down the space bar and press with your ring finger (the ring finger is the finger on the right hand that you would have used to generate the "L").

Note: People who were touch typists are the quickest to adapt to this form of typing.


Left side of the Half-QWERTY Keyboard Right side of the Half-QWERTY Keyboard
Left side of the Half-QWERTY Keyboard Right side of the Half-QWERTY Keyboard

There are two types of Half-QWERTY keyboards:


Half-QWERTY Keyboard

Half-QWERTY Keyboard
  • Full-sized keyboard.
  • Can be used for one-handed typing with either the left or right hand.
  • Can also be used by a two-handed typist.
  • For more details click here.


Half-Keyboard

Half-Keyboard
  • The left half of the keyboard.
  • Designed for right-hand operation.
  • For more details click here.