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Using Tools that Fit

By Andy Warren,

Today we have a guest editorial from Andy Warren as Steve is out of the office.

As IT professionals and knowledge workers we don’t need much in the way of personal equipment. A carpenter or plumber might have as many as a hundred tools and assorted items to support their day to day work. What do we need? A computer, monitor, keyboard, mouse (or trackball or trackpad), a place to sit or stand, and probably a chair. Given that you have all of those items, which matters most, or at all beyond having it? Not a question with a one size fits all answer, but still interesting.

At work I use a name brand $20 wireless keyboard. It works. I can’t say I’m less productive because of it. Same for the mouse. Dual 23” or 24” monitors, an OK (at best) chair, and a nice standing desk. Better than some places for sure. At home I use three 27” monitors, a standing desk, a USB dock, a chair I like, a mechanical keyboard I like, and now that I think about it, an OK mouse. The monitor arm I use at home is on the list to be replaced - functional, but just not what I want long term. Three 27” monitors is perhaps right on the edge of too much, its close to 6 feet from side to side even when mounted on an arc. Maybe I’ll change that, too!

Thinking about all of that, I ordered myself a mechanical keyboard for work, knowing that I might not like it (this one has cherry red switches, the one at home uses brown) and that it might bother colleagues. Just unboxing it evoked some interest and soon others joined as we discussed who used what, and then someone brought out a key switch sampler that we all spent a couple minutes clicking. I watched someone who uses one of those flat Apple keyboards break into a smile when they tried the green switches and heard/felt the crisp click.

My point isn’t to say you have to have a lot of equipment, or the best equipment. Plenty of people do great work on a laptop with no accessories. I can’t tell you that you would be more productive if you spend more more money on a keyboard, or switch to using two, or three, or six monitors. No, it’s to remind you, even challenge you, to revisit your tool set once in awhile and think, does this work for me well enough, is it time to make a change? Humans are adaptable, sometimes too much so; we’ll keep using that keyboard with the key that sticks long beyond the point of common sense.

For me, a little change here and there is good. I think my next big experiment will be trying a 32” or 34” monitor because scrolling to look at query plans isn’t fun and zooming in and out isn’t fun either. Drop me a note in the forums, I’d love to hear what you use and like (or don’t like) about the tools you use.

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