A half-keyboard is designed for one-handed use, allowing the typist to activate switches to change the key layout. This compact design can be useful for spaces with limited room, and allows typists to keep hands free for activities like using a mouse or stylus. The learning curve for people adapting to a half-keyboard can vary, and training exercises are available to help people get used to the input system. It is also possible to remap a conventional keyboard to a half layout, although this will not offer the same space savings.
This style is usually designed for use by the left hand, as the idea is that the often dominant right hand should be used for fine motor tasks like controlling a mouse. Layouts for the right hand are also available. In standard setting, the half-keyboard contains the letter keys the user would expect to find on the left side of the keyboard. By pressing a key, the typist can switch to the other side of the keyboard. Input speeds can be very rapid once the typist is used to switching back and forth.
Additional options on a half-keyboard can bring up a number pad, keyboard navigation, and function keys as needed. The layout may be customized in the keyboard settings on the computer, allowing the typist to add shortcuts that may be helpful. Many designs also use a sticky key input system, where function keys remain activated when pressed. To type a capital letter, for example, the operator touches the shift key and then the letter, instead of having to activate both at the same time.
One reason to use a half-keyboard is to be able to handle phones, documents, and input devices with the other hand. Secretaries, for example, can find the design useful, as can transcriptionists. Another reason may be a disability. Hand disabilities can make it difficult to type, and a half-keyboard may help someone refine typing skills in one hand, or use a remaining hand after a severe injury. Half-keyboards are sometimes less expensive than specially designed adaptive technology.
The full half-keyboard is a variant on the design. This is a full-size keyboard that offers three input modes. Typists can operate it like a regular keyboard, or switch to one handed typing with the right or left hand. This can provide flexibility for different needs. In shared work environments where a computer may be used by several people, the design can ensure that anyone will feel comfortable at the keys.