Kinesis Corporation has produced a long-awaited update to their Savant Elite line of foot pedals. If you find yourself with wrist or RSI pain, you might consider giving them a look.

Disclaimer: Kinesis Corporation sent me an evaluation model of the SE 2 foot pedal. As a long time fan (and advocate for anyone who helps people overcome RSI problems) I agreed to write a blog about it!

Being that weird person with the foot pedals

click click click

"What is that noise? Are you doing something with your feet?"

I step back from my desk and show them. Then I explain how, years ago, I had to decide between capitalizing words and having the ulnar corner of my left wrist be painful to the touch. Luckily, I got my RSI under control, but it's left me with artifacts that have become essential to my hacking environment:

  • Kinesis Advantage keyboard
  • Kinesis Foot Pedals
  • Evoluent Vertical Mouse

SE2

Admittedly, I mostly use the foot pedal now for pressing shift. As an Emacs user, I considered using them for Control or Meta (as the old saying goes: "Emacs: Escape Meta Alt Control Shift!"), but never got into the habit of it.

Aging technology

The biggest problem with the Kinesis SE1 line of foot pedals, which many people swear by, is that you can only program them using an extremely old Windows program, and it's such a finicky process it might as well be a digital rain dance. Here's what my SE1's look like:

SE1

I programmed my pedals in 2010 and haven't changed them since. This is a bummer since you can associate fairly complex macros / character sequences with them, and often when faced with a repetitive task I've wished I could quickly program something in.

While cosmetically and functionally the SE2 has changed little, the software and firmware is completely new. Programming them is now a breeze. Howard Abrams gives more detail on how the program works. It's even bundled on the foot pedal, so you aren't left digging around the Kinesis website to find it. It can't be run on Linux, but once you program the foot pedal it will work on any computer.

The biggest issue I have hit (as mostly a Linux user) is that OS X won't allow modifier keys from one USB device to modify another. So while my pedal-as-Shift works fine on Linux, it doesn't work on Mac. So if you want to off-load modifier keys, and you use a Mac, caveat emptor.

Summary

If you've ever been curious about using foot pedals to improve your computer ergonomics I recommend giving a 2- or 3-pedal Kinesis set a look. I had stopped recommending them to people because of the programmability issue, but now that the hardware and software has been renovated, now is the time to give them your consideration. Like all Kinesis components, you can expect no problems in any 5 to 10 year period.