Compact Keyboards for One Handed Typing

Half qwerty keyboard

A variety of keyboard options are available for one handed typists. Likewise,  there are a number of different philosophies about methods of input, whether to use a standard QWERTY,  alternative or specialty keyboard method . Some of the options of alternative or specialty, one handed keyboards include but are not limited to:

How do you chose the method of input or keyboard for one handed typing? Lily Walters, in my opinion, has a great website offering information and her philosophy about one handed typing methods and considerations. She presents 5 areas to consider when selecting a one handed keyboarding method¹:

  1. Ease of use
  2. Speed of learning
  3. Speed of typing after instruction and practice
  4. Usability at school/home/employment
  5. Will the user use the system in 5 years?

Of the 5 areas Lily Walters rates them by importance to be considered¹:

  1. Will the user use the system in 5 years, will the device be available on the market in 5 years?
  2. Usability at school/home/work – will the user be using a dedicated computer in the environments computer access is required? Will it be compatible with the operating system available?
  3. Speed of typing following instruction and practice – what rate can be accomplished with the method or keyboard chosen?
  4. Ease of use – not only input but will a keyboard need to be carried or available in all environments?
  5. Speed of learning – does the user have existing skill in use of a keyboarding method that can be enhanced with a keyboard or practice? What time and effort is the user willing to commit to learn a new method or device?

Her philosophy suggests there are typically three different choices of keyboards available for one handed typists which should considered with the 5 questions in mind:

  1. Standard QWERTY keyboard
  2. Dvorak keyboard
  3. Specialty one handed keyboard (Maltron, Half Qwerty, BAT, etc. )

Certainly there are special situations for each one handed user and the choice of method should be up to the user which input method or keyboard is selected. According to Lily Walters, use of a standard QWERTY keyboard with retraining using a one handed method is the most universal method of one handed typing allowing users access to any computer with QWERTY keyboard. I have to agree with her philosophy generally and find most clients when presented with the options choose a one handed method of typing using a QWERTY keyboard. Perhaps the fact that most of the clients I work with looking for solutions for one handed methods of keyboarding are 18 years or older and typically have experience with the QWERTY keyboard and prefer to use their familiarity of prior keyboarding skills and they transition to a one handed method. Along with determining their method of input also includes providing them with one handed keyboarding instruction and trialing QWERTY keyboard options that are available.

Using a QWERTY keyboard, what features might be considered in QWERTY keyboards?

  1. Use of a standard 101 key QWERTY keyboard typically found on most desk top or laptop computers.
  2. Use of a Half QWERTY keyboard such as the Matias keyboard using a mirrored method of typing with one hand. This keyboard can be used as a standard QWERTY keyboard or in a Half QWERTY mode.
  3. Use of a compact QWERTY keyboard, especially for individuals with smaller hands (children and females). Consider the hand span of the typists, can their thumb to pinkie finger span from shift “a” key to backspace? If not consider a compact , or mini keyboard, for learning or individual use. Trial is recommended as the feel and reach of each keyboard is different.

The following compact keyboards are recommended from experience with many one handed clients:

  • Logitech K380 Keyboard – This PC/Mac/iOS/Android wireless keyboard is about 10 1/2″ in width, smaller than a standard without the number pad, allowing an easer reach from “a” to backspace key with use. Working with many individuals with one handed typing, when learning to type reaching across to correct errors initially on a standard keyboard interferes with maintaining a new home row position. A smaller keyboard aids maintaining position.
  • Logitech K400r Keyboard – This PC/Mac/iOS/Android wireless keyboard is similar to the above K380 keyboard, but has a touch pad mouse to the right side. Good for the right one handed typist, but not convenient for a left one handed typist. Reach from “a” to backspace key is about 8.25″, reduced from 9″ on a standard 101 QWERTY keyboard.
  • Adesso Mini USB Keyboard – A PC wired keyboard, this keyboard has been around for a long time and continues to be a frequent choice for many one handed typists. With an embedded numeric keypad, this compact keyboard has a reach of 8.5″ from “a” to backspace key.

If learning one handed typing on a 9.7″ tablet as an Android or iPad with a keyboard, the above Logitech keyboards can be used, or tablet cases with keyboard provide a compact keyboard. Realize that some function keys are in different locations pending iOS/Android or PC systems.

My favorite wrist rest for compact keyboards is the Glorious Gaming TenKeyLess wrist rest, a firm, compact rest that fits nicely with the 10 1/2″ keyboards. This wrist rest comes in different widths and lengths pending the type of keyboard and support surface needed.

What One Handed Keyboarding Programs are available?

The following are a few of the one handed keyboarding programs available providing structured lessons:

Lily Walters One Hand Typing –  $49.  for CD.

Lily Walters One Hand Typing Manual – $29.

Five Fingered Typist – $85. CD and manual

Typing One handed typing-First month free, $9.00/month. Custom Solutions website.

Doorway Online – Single Handed Typing – free online one handed typing tutorial.

In the past Five Fingered Typist was the typical one handed typing program recommendation. With free one handed typing options as Doorway Online, my recommendations now include Doorway Online lessons.

What do you recommend for one handed clients for instruction and input methods?


¹Walters, Lily. “How To Type With One Hand on a Normal Keyboard.” BEST How To Type With One Hand – About One Hand Typing, Keyboarding and Keyboards. About One Hand Typing, n.d. Web. 01 July 2017.                          

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About Carol Leynse Harpold, MS, OTR/L, SCLV, ATP, CATIS

OTR/L with more than 35 years experience in pediatrics, school based therapy and adult rehabilitation. Masters of Science in Adaptive Education/Assistive Technology with 20 years experience in AT in education of elementary, middle school, secondary, post secondary students and work environments for adult clients. A RESNA Assistive Technology Practitioner with ACVREP CATIS credentials, AOTA Specialty Certification in Low Vision, USC Davis Executive Certificate in Home Modifications, servicing adults and students with disabilities in employment, education, and home environments. A 2020 graduate of the University of Alabama Birmingham Low Vision Certification Program.
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2 Responses to Compact Keyboards for One Handed Typing

  1. Denise Dorgan-Miller says:

    what do you recommend for a person who has had chemo and the side effect is neuropathy in both hands and toes? She’s a PT and mother of young children and needs to work but documentation is rough when you can’t feel your fingers…

    • Denise, I am assuming that documentation is via typing/word processing?
      Are there any options for using voice recognition? Certainly there are privacy challenges and it depends on the devices used for documentation that might result in accuracy and efficiency. Does she use a keyboard, putting tactile markers (Velcro might be considered) on some keys may help with navigation. Some keyboards also offer some characteristics that might also assist with orientation . Just a few thoughts…

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