One of the most versatile keyboards currently manufactured, the Freestyle2 is an adjustable, separated keyboard offering considerable ergonomic benefits. The Freestyle2 Keyboard is divided into two separate modules connected by either a 9" (the most common) or 20" cable. This separation enables individuals to position the left and right sides of the keyboard shoulder width apart, allowing the shoulders, elbows, arms and wrists to relax in an anatomically neutral position. This greatly improves posture and blood flow in the upper body, prevents undesirable rotation at the shoulders, and eliminates ulnar deviation at the wrist.
The compact symmetrical layout is achieved by removing the numeric keypad found on the right side of most keyboards. This reduces the reach for the mouse for right-handed individuals and optimizes the workspace for everyone. The Freestyle2 Keyboard provides access to numbers along the top row, as well as via an easily toggled numeric layer embedded into the right-hand module. (Please see the Numeric Keypads category for external numeric keypads that are compatible with the Freestyle2 Keyboard.)
The Freestyle2 Keyboard features low-force, tactile membrane keyswitches. At only 45 grams, this is at least 25% less force than most traditional and even many other ergonomic keyboards. Rated at 10 million actuations, the keyswitches on the Freestyle2 will provide years of quiet, comfortable typing.
Note: The Freestyle2 Keyboard comes with a component that secures the two modules together at a pivot point. Although this Pivot Tether is intended primarily to secure the two modules during transport, it can be used, to create a splayed (i.e. joined at the centre top) keyboard. However, this configuration will significantly limit the ergonomic benefits.
The Freestyle2 Keyboard can be further customized with one or more of the Optional Accessory Kits described below (sold separately). With the addition of the appropriate Accessory Kit, this already highly configurable keyboard can be customized to provide even more ergonomic benefits.
Optional Accessory Kits
Palm Support Accessory Kit: Palm Supports can be attached to the keyboard to provide support and to prevent wrist extension. The Palm Support Accessory includes Lycra-padded Palm Pads that provide a soft surface for the Palm Supports and help to prevent pinch points on the underside of the palms. Note: Palm Supports will not fit on the V3 Accessory. If the combination of tenting and palm supports is desired the VIP3 Accessory (below) should be purchased.
V3 Accessory Kit: The V3 Accessory allows the keyboard to be tented to 5°, 10°, and 15° to help reduce pronation. The V3 Accessory does not include Palm Supports. (This accessory is worth considering if tenting is required, but the keyboard location is a tray with built-in palm supports.)
VIP3 Accessory Kit: The popular VIP3 Accessory allows the keyboard to be tented at 5°, 10°, and 15° to help reduce pronation. The VIP3 Accessory includes Palm Supports that move as the keyboard is tented, helping to reduce wrist extension by offering full support at all angles. If desired the tenting mechanisms can also be detached at any time with the palm supports being retained for a more traditional keyboard position.
Ascent Accessory Kit: The more specialized Ascent Accessory independently tents the left and right modules of the keyboard in 10° increments, from 20° to a full 90°. The Ascent Accessory can be used with the Palm Supports at angles up to 40°. The 20" linking cable is generally advised when using the Ascent Accessory, as the longer cable facilitates better ergonomic positioning and allows greater flexibility. A linking plate, included with the Ascent Accessory, can be attached if desired to increase the stability of the two modules.
Palm Pads Accessory Kit: Includes one pair of replacement Palm Pads for the Freestyle2 keyboard which are also compatible with its predecessor, the Freestyle Solo. The Palm Pads are custom-fitted and attach directly to the Palm Support Accessory. The pads are approximately 0.25" thick and made of closed cell foam with a gel-like feel, and are covered with a smooth Lycra fabric. The pads can be removed easily when they need to be replaced. One pair of Palm Pads is included with the purchase of either the Palm Support Accessory Kit or the VIP3 Accessory Kit.
Eliminates Overreaching for the Mouse - The Freestyle2 enables individuals to keep the mouse or other pointing device right beside the right or left edge of the keyboard. Keeping the mouse well within the comfort zone, can greatly reduce the potential for shoulder, neck and wrist pain to arise from repeatedly reaching over the number pad for the mouse. Right-handed individuals with conventional keyboards are required to reach 12" or more for the mouse. The symmetrical, compact design of the Freestyle2 reduces this reach to under 6" for both left- and right-handed users.) Learn More About Overreaching.
Eliminates Ulnar Deviation and Associated Risks - The modular design of the Freestyle2 means that individuals no longer have to bend their wrists to an awkward angle in order to align to the keyboard. Rather, they can now either spread the two keyboard halves far enough apart to maintain a perfectly neutral alignment, or can use a combination of both "spread" and "splay" to achieve a more neutral alignment of the hands and forearms. Awkward wrist alignment has been associated with reduced circulation to the hands, pressure on the median nerve and may possibly contribute to the development of associated RSI. Learn More About Ulnar Deviation.
Reduces Wrist Extension - Most standard keyboards are positively inclined (i.e. the number row is higher than the space bar). A positive inclination forces one to lift their hands by bending up at the wrists. Maintaining the hands in this position strains the wrists and the muscles along the top of the hands and the forearms. The Freestyle2, even without added accessories, has a neutral, low-profile design (7/8") with 0° slope. The keycaps are actually negatively inclined at 10°. The result is an overall negative slope that helps to reduce wrist (and finger) extension when using this keyboard. Learn More About Wrist Extension.
Facilitates Relaxed Position with Maximum Circulation - Complete separation of both left and right keyboard modules encourages anatomically neutral and relaxed positioning of the shoulders, elbow, arms and wrists, greatly reducing the risk of pain and discomfort caused by shoulder rotation, elbow abduction, and ulnar deviation. Learn More About Ergonomic Risk Factors and Sources of Injury.
Negatively Sloped Keycaps Optimize Finger Pad Contact - The keycaps on the Freestyle PRO are negatively sloped at 10 degrees, aligning with the natural orientation of the fingertips when typing to help the finger pad (last segment of the finger) make full contact with the keycap on every keystroke.
Reduces Finger Strain and Fatigue - Tactile, low-force membrane keyswitches reduce the amount of effort required to type, benefiting all typists, regardless of their level.
Can Eliminate Wrist Extension - With the addition of the Palm Support Accessory, the potential for wrist extension is effectively eliminated, whether the keyboard is used flat or tented with the VIP3 Accessory. Learn More About Correct Usage of Palm Supports.
Can Decrease Forearm and Wrist Pronation - When a tenting accessory is attached (either the V3 Accessory or the VIP3 Accessory), the Freestyle2 Keyboard offers the option of typing with the palms slightly facing each other, rather than in the traditional "palms down" position that can often lead to fatigue or pain in the hands, wrists, elbows and arms. Both tenting accessories raise the inside edge of each keyboard module, offering tented angles of 5°, 10° and 15°. The V3 permits tenting alone; the VIP3 offers tenting combined with integrated palm supports. Learn More About Pronation.
Easily Accommodates Individual Needs and Body Types - The Freestyle2 Keyboard can be configured to meet the unique needs and preferences of most individuals, whether tall or short, broad-shouldered or of slight build.
Can Support Vertical Typing Positions - With the addition of the Ascent Accessory, the Freestyle2 provides an option for those whose forearm pain is unusually severe, or whose arm may be immobilized due to injury. The Ascent Accessory permits each half of the keyboard to be tented in 10° increments from 20° all the way to a fully vertical 90°. (Note: for the majority of people there is little ergonomic benefit to typing in a fully vertical position. Those who choose this option must be touch typists (as they will be unable to see the keys), and they must have arm support while typing to avoid straining the muscles of the shoulders and upper back.) Learn More About Pronation.
Variable Separation: The two halves of the Freestyle2 can be separated up to 9" apart, a range which is sufficient for most. A 20" separation is also available for those with broader shoulders, or for use with the Ascent Accessory.
Quiet, Tactile Key Switches: The Freestyle2 features quiet, low-force, tactile membrane keyswitches. Rated at 10 million actuations the keyswitches on the Freestyle2 require only 45 grams of force, significantly reducing the effort required to activate each key and below that of most common keyboards and even below that of many other advertised ergonomic models.
Sleek, Ultra-Low Profile Design: The Freestyle2 has a substantially thinner and narrower design than most ergonomic keyboards, with a height of only 7/8" and a width of 15.375".
Familiar Key Layout: Standard key layout means minimal adaptation time for experienced typists.
Embedded Numeric Keypad: In place of the separate numeric keypad found on traditional keyboards (which places the mouse outside of the comfort zone for right-handed individuals) the Freestyle2 provides a numeric keypad embedded into the right-hand module as a second layer. Along with the number keys on the top row of the keyboard, this embedded number pad is an effective option for numeric input. (Note: Standalone numeric keypads are available as optional accessories for those whose work involves numeric data entry. Look for these in the Numeric Keypads category.)
Browser, Editing, and Multimedia Hot Keys: Easily accessible, driverless hot keys offer the option of decreasing the number of mouse clicks and increasing productivity. These hot keys include volume control and mute keys, a calculator keys, commonly used browser functions such as forward, back and home, and application functions such as cut, copy and paste. Hot keys on the inside columns have vertical raised ridges to provide tactile feedback and maintain positional awareness when using these keys outside the regular alphanumeric areas.
Pivot Tether: The left and right modules of the keyboard can be connected on the top edge by the Pivot Tether. With the Pivot Tether attached, the keyboard can be splayed at the pivot point (forming an 'A' shape), rather than fully separated. (Note, however, that this configuration sacrifices many of the ergonomic benefits of complete separation.)
English or French Canadian Layout: The Freestyle2 Keyboard is available in either US English or French Canadian (bilingual) layout.
Images (Click on any thumbnail to view larger image)
Freestyle2 - Compact configuration
Freestyle2 - Splayed configuration
Freestyle2 - With 20" separation cable
Freestyle2 with VIP3 Accessory
Freestyle2 with V3 Accessory
Freestyle2 with Ascent Accessory
Freestyle2 with Palm Support Accessory
Freestyle2 Palm Support Accessory
Freestyle2 side profile
Side profile comparison between Freestyle2 and original Freestyle Solo
Atlas Ergonomics White Paper: Published in March 2010 by Atlas Ergonomics of Grand Haven, MI., this white paper reports on that company's intensive five-month study of a split keyboard design. The Freestyle Solo (the predecessor to the Freestyle2) plus the compatible VIP Accessory, was chosen for the project. Researchers studied the impact of the Freestyle Keyboard’s split design on the posture, discomfort, and performance of approximately 80 software manufacturing employees, focusing in particular on the positions of the hands and upper extremities during keyboard use. The study found that 92% of participants used the Freestyle in its split configuration, rather than splayed (i.e. with the two modules connected at the pivot point). The degree of ulnar deviation was reduced across all BMI levels and body types with no reduction in performance for the duration of the study. At the end of the study 96% of participants said they preferred the Freestyle over their previous keyboard. "An Evaluation of a Totally Split Compact Keyboard and its Impact on Posture, Discomfort, and Performance" by Atlas Ergonomics, is 21 pages long and available in .pdf format.
Make sure the keyboard is properly positioned. Sit in your usual position at your desk and gently square your shoulders. Allow your upper arms to relax to your waist. Lift your forearms at the elbow and extend your fingers so that there is a straight line from your elbow through the centre of your wrist to your middle finger. Place the two halves of the keyboard on your desk or keyboard tray such that your arms and hands can maintain this position as you type. The modules ought to be shoulder width apart.
Place the mouse on the side of your dominant hand. For most people, the compact design of the keyboard will bring the mouse close enough to the body. However, if your pain is more severe, you can prevent even more movement at the affected shoulder by positioning the mousing side of the keyboard closer to the centre of your body, and then turning it slightly so that your arm can remain perpendicular as you type. You will then be able to reach the mouse with very limited involvement of the shoulder muscles.
Become familiar with the embedded numeric keypad. The embedded keypad gives you two additional layers, one for numbers, and one for navigation. These layers are accessed via the same keys on the right hand module of the keyboard.
Consider the Palm Support Accessory if you would like Palm Supports, but don't need to tent the keyboard.
Consider the V3 Accessory if you need to tent the keyboard, but don't want palm supports. The V3 Accessory can tent the Freestyle2 to 5°, 10° or 15°. Note that the V3 Accessory cannot be used in conjunction with the Palm Supports. Common situations where this accessory is recommended include using the Freestyle2 on a keyboard tray, or with an inline pointing device that has non-removable Palm Supports.
Consider the versatile VIP3 Accessory if you need to tent the keyboard, and also want palm supports. The VIP3 Accessory tents the keyboard modules by 5°, 10° or 15° and comes with removable Palm Supports included.
Consider the Ascent Accessory only if you must type with your hands in a more than 15° vertical orientation. (Note that you must be a skilled touch typist to use this more extreme solution effectively.) The Ascent Accessory can be used with Palm Supports (sold separately) at angles up to 40°. The 20" separation cable is typically recommended for this accessory, as it provides the needed flexibility. An optional linking plate (included with this accessory) may be used to connect the two tenting modules if desired for increased stability.
Consider purchasing a separate numeric keypad if you key in a lot of numeric data. See the Numeric Keypads category.