Can Programmers Benefit from Mechanical Keyboard Tactile Switches?

March 6, 2024

As a coder, you've likely devoted many hours working at your keyboard, your fingers consistently crafting code.

Have you ever thought of the potential benefits of a mechanical keyboard with tactile switches? These switches produce a noticeable bump mid-key press, providing a tangible acknowledgment of each keystroke. These cool keys might just boost your typing precision and speed.

What are Tactile Switches for Mechanical Keyboards?

Tactile switches are a type of mechanical keyboard switch that provides feedback when a key is pressed. When you press a tactile switch, you will usually feel a noticeable and distinct bump that occurs during the keypress. This tells you that the key has been registered. 

  1. Metal Contacts: There are two metal contacts separated by a small gap inside the switch. At its rest stage (i.e. the key is not pressed), these contacts are not touching each other.
  2. Tactile Bump: Tactile switches have a noticeable bump in the middle of the keypress, providing tactile feedback. This bump is created by a specific mechanism inside the switch. The tactile bump is usually created by a small piece of plastic called the tactile leaf or bump integrated into the switch. When the key is pressed, the stem of the keycap pushes against the tactile leaf, generating the bump.
  3. Reset Point: After pressing, a spring returns the key stem to its original position for the switch to reset. 
  4. No Audible Click: Unlike clicky switches that produce an audible click sound, tactile switches are generally quieter. The tactile feedback is felt by the user but doesn't necessarily come with an accompanying click sound.

What Are the Advantages of Tactile Switches For Programming

a close-up image of a colorful mechanical keyboard

Tactile switches offer several advantages that make them appealing to programmers with specific preferences and needs. Here are some advantages of tactile switches:

  1. Tactile Feedback: Programmers can feel a distinct bump at the actuation point, allowing them to know when a keypress has been registered without bottoming out the key. This feedback makes typing a more deliberate and controlled experience.
  2. Reduced Typing Fatigue: Because of the tactile feedback, programmers develop a typing rhythm without having to press the keys all the way down. This reduces typing fatigue during extended typing or programming sessions since users may not need to apply unnecessary force to the keys.
  3. Improved Typing Speed and Accuracy: Some programmers find that tactile feedback improves their typing speed and accuracy. The feedback helps them identify the actuation point, reducing the likelihood of accidental key presses and improving their overall typing efficiency.
  4. Quiet Operation: Tactile switches are quieter compared to clicky switches. This makes them suitable for environments where a quieter typing experience is preferred such as shared workspaces or quiet home offices.
  5. Versatility for Various Tasks: Tactile switches strike a balance between the smooth keystrokes of linear switches and the pronounced feedback of clicky switches. This versatility makes them suitable for various tasks including typing, coding, and gaming.
  6. Smoother Transition for New Users: Tactile switches can provide a smoother transition for users moving from membrane keyboards to mechanical keyboards. The tactile feedback helps new users adapt to the distinct feel of mechanical switches.

What Are the Disadvantages of Tactile Switches For Programming

Like many computer peripherals, tactile switches have their share of disadvantages. 

  1. No Audible Click: Tactile switches lack the audible click of clicky switches. Some programmers who appreciate an audible confirmation of keypresses may find tactile switches less satisfying.
  2. Less Pronounced Feedback: Compared to clicky switches, the tactile feedback in tactile switches is less pronounced. 
  3. Not Ideal for Gaming: Some gamers prefer linear switches for gaming due to the smooth, uninterrupted keystrokes. Tactile switches may introduce a tactile bump that could be less desirable for gaming scenarios that require rapid and repetitive key presses.
  4. Noise Level: While tactile switches are generally quieter than clicky switches, they may still produce some noise. In quiet environments, such as shared workspaces, the sound may be noticeable and could potentially disturb others.
  5. Learning Curve for New Users: Some users, especially those new to mechanical keyboards, may find the tactile feedback initially challenging to adapt to. 

Which Tactile Switches Are Best for Programming?

a close-up image of a white mechanical keyboard

Which switch is best for programmers? Given the extensive variety of mechanical switches in the market, choosing the perfect tactile switches for programming can feel overwhelming. Nonetheless, certain switches are known for their accuracy, reliability, and comfort. Let's help ease up the confusion.

  1. Cherry MX Brown
    • Tactile with a moderate actuation force
    • Gentle tactile bump without an audible click
    • Preferred by many programmers for its balance between tactile feedback and quiet operation
  2. Cherry MX Clear
    • Tactile with a higher actuation force than Cherry MX Brown
    • Offers a more pronounced tactile bump, providing a distinct feel
    • Suitable for programmers who prefer a slightly heavier keypress
  3. Gateron Brown
    • Similar to Cherry MX Brown but often considered smoother
    • Offers a gentle tactile bump without an audible click
    • Suitable for programmers who appreciate a smoother keystroke
  4. Zealios V2
    • A premium option with a smooth keystroke and a strong, pronounced tactile bump
    • Available in different weight options to cater to individual preferences
    • Popular among keyboard enthusiasts and programmers alike
  5. Topre (Variable Weight)
    • Electrostatic capacitive switches offering a unique feel
    • Variable weight versions provide a tactile bump with a variable actuation force
    • Considered by some programmers for its high build quality and unique feel
  6. Matias Quiet Click
    • A quieter alternative with a tactile bump
    • Designed to be quieter than traditional tactile switches
    • Suitable for programmers working in shared or quiet environments
  7. Kailh Box Brown
    • Features a tactile bump and a smoother keystroke
    • Utilizes a box design for better water and dust resistance
    • Offers a different feel compared to traditional Cherry-style switches

Conclusion

Tactile switches might just be the breakthrough you need in your programming tasks. These switches provide noticeable bumps that confirm each keystroke you make, potentially increasing your speed and accuracy.  Ultimately, the perfect tactile switches for programming are the ones that feel comfortable under your fingers.

Chris Greiner, a Mechanical Keyboard specialist, boasts a solid educational background with dual bachelor's degrees in Computer Science and Business Management from Lewis University. His additional certification in Mechanical Keyboard Design showcases his dedication to staying on the forefront of keyboard technology. Chris primarily writes for keyboard enthusiasts and has been featured on platforms like Jestik, solidifying his reputation as a thought leader in the mechanical keyboard community.
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