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How can I solve the problem of loud keyboards?

I like my keyboard a lot, I've been using it since childhood and it's the only keyboard I feel comfortable using. But it's rather loud, so it may be disturbing to potential coworkers. I know it disturbs me when somebody else is typing something with it. I'm working remotely right now, so there's no one to disturb, but I'd like to know how I can solve this kind of problem.

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I for one write all my code with a mouse: select, copy, paste. This is as silent as it gets: no complaints about noise, only reviewers seem to be unhappy, wonder why is that? –  gnat Feb 14 '13 at 14:03
    
I could recommend using a touchpad — there's no clicking involved, only the sound of your finger rubbing its surface. –  user7793 Feb 14 '13 at 14:06
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interesting. Wonder if there's software that would somehow accompany finger rubbing touchpad with a sound of a knife rubbing a plate? Maybe this would make my colleagues finally notice me –  gnat Feb 14 '13 at 14:10
    
There must be an app for that. But really, I wonder if the problem described in my question does exist, or it's something I'm overthinking. I bet others use silent keyboards, or wear headphones. Maybe I'll have to wear them too. –  user7793 Feb 14 '13 at 14:13
    
Hi User, welcome to The Workplace SE! Remember, this isn't just a site for programmers, it's for anyone who works in the professional workplace setting. I edited your post to make it applicable to anyone who uses a computer. Good luck! :) –  jmort253 Feb 16 '13 at 18:31
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closed as not constructive by squeemish, jcmeloni, scaaahu, ChrisF, Kate Gregory Feb 17 '13 at 22:20

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3 Answers

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The first step is to simply ask if it's a problem. Other people might not notice nearly as much as you'd expect (after all, your keyboard noise is several times louder to you than it is to them due to the "inverse power law" business).

How loud any one keyboard is isn't the whole picture either; in an open-office plan without so much as cubicle walls a keyboard may be perceived as much louder than in an office plan with much more padding between users.

Once you've found out that it is a problem and you know how much of a problem it is, you might simply find a "quieter" keyboard. Rubber dome keyboards are much much quieter than mechanical keyboards (especially if you type gently), but you can also try jumping from Cherry MX Blue (obscenely loud) to Cherry MX Brown (normal loud) keyboard switches, or find a similar "leap" in keyboard volume. If you're using a buckling spring keyboard (e.g. the IBM Model M) note that those are some of the loudest models possible. For some more info on keyboard models, see Differences between Cherry mechanical keyboard switches. If you don't want to lose your keyboard and it's a board with Cherry MX switches I believe you can swap out the switches yourself to make a quieter keyboard (or just a different one), but changing ~100 keys is a bit time consuming.

Also ask what sort of keyboard your employer will be willing to provide. They may buy from specific retailers or have specific models. It's more about what your coworkers are able to put up with and what your company is able to provide than anything. Unless you slam your hands down with every key press there's not much you can do to reduce the volume on a specific keyboard in a specific office layout.

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BTW the VT100 key click was way louder than a IBM type M –  Neuro Feb 14 '13 at 14:28
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@Neuro that terminal is 12 years older than I am, so I'm afraid I've never used one –  Rarity Feb 14 '13 at 14:53
    
+1 for looking at different cherry switch models. Red or brown might be the ticket if the OP can get used to tactile feedback rather than auditory feedback. There's a good choice on elitekeyboards.com. –  Angelo Feb 14 '13 at 16:10
    
@Angelo Browns are indeed great for "quiet" typing, I have one myself (a Das Keyboard). Can't stand the high-pitched click of blues. –  Rarity Feb 14 '13 at 16:21
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I can only speak from my own experience working in a small software company, but we all have headphones. There's five of us programming in a room of up to eight people tapping away at the keys.

In all honesty it doesn't bother me and I suspect in fact anyone here because it has never been a point of discussion among us.

  • while you're programming and actually hacking away at the keyboard, you're in deep thought (hopefully in the zone) and most probably wouldn't hear a plane crash next to your desk.

  • while you're debugging, researching, testing or otherwise NOT heavily coding, headphones and some tunes of your choice can bring the solitude and isolation your brain needs if and when it needs it.

To be quite honest, the sound of keyboards and mice both soothes and stimulates me in the workplace. But that's just me.

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In my opinion this is a bigger problem than people make it out to be. If you work in an open-concept space, loud keyboards and loud mice mix in with the general drone of distant conversations, people's shoes clicking, air conditions working, etc. All this noise adds up and adds to the distractions and fatigue.

So, having a quiet keyboard is a question of curtesy towards your coworkers. When I work I use the mouse very rarely and I hit a lot of keys (VIM for the win!). I carry my favourite keybaord with me job to job, and it happens to be the chiclet-style Apple keyboard (it is quiet). Keyboards are a very personal and subjective matter though.

I highly advise spending some time to find one that you like because the amount of time you use a keyboard throughout your life is probably greater than the time you spend inside your car, on your favourite couch, or watching your expensive TV.

Find a good one that you like (make sure it's quiet). Buy it. Bring it to work everywhere you go. Don't wait for employers to do this for you.

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