Keyboard recommendation?

I’m not happy with my current mac keyboard situation.



I have an Apple wireless keyboard, but I find the keys too hard to the touch. I prefer a keyboard with a really soft touch, like the keyboard on the PowerBook. I’d use the PowerBook keyboard, except it has a monitor attached to it.



Then I have a Kinesis keyboard, which is fine, except it’s not very well suited for the Mac. With a Mac, I really want the shift, control, option, and command keys there, right next to each other, since I use them all the time, and in conjunction with mouse clicks, so having them spread out between two thumbs and two pinkies, like you do on the Kinesis, is not practical.



Bonus question: What’s the difference between the “English” and the “English (Int’l)” layouts of the Apple keyboard, and which do I want?



Update: At the Apple store they said that the “English” version would have the pound sign, where the Int’l would have either a Euro or a Dollar sign. Otherwise they’re the same. So “English” means “British English”, it seems. That would’ve been clearer labeling.

17 comments

Mark Aufflick

No one is English but the English - some people just choose to use their language ;) I remember that the International version of the Apple //e had a hardware switch under the keyboard. It didn't change the hash (#) hey to a pound (£) key per se, it actually changed the display rom around so that ASCII 35 would be displayed on screen as a pound!! Australia used to get that version because it had PAL video. Not that anyone cares :) Now for some useful info... before I bought my Kinesis keyboard (which does kinda suck on a Mac I have to agree) I used to use Happy Hacker lite keyboards on everything - they have a normal layout, control key in the right place and have no keypad so your mouse is nice and close. And you can get them in black :) http://store.yahoo.com/pfuca-store/haphackeylit1.html You can always have a USB number pad if you want.
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Thanks for the tip. I do remember Michael Yoon using one of these back at ArsDigita, but I never got around to trying it. At that time, I was a fan of the MS natural keyboard, but not so anymore :) I think I'll give that a spin. The Lite model isn't too expensive, and there's apparently a reseller here in Denmark (http://mazzive.dk). Now, of course, i can't figure out whether to go for the Lite2 or the Pro. Lite2 is $200 cheaper, has a two-port USB hub, and arrow keys - and you can get it in black. The Pro has the 45g touch (compared to 55g for Lite2), and seems to have a special Mac mode, with volume up/down buttons, which I happen to use and like currently. What to do? I'm leaning towards the LIte2. /Lars
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Mark Aufflick

Ah, so you've reverted to the kinesis! How do you weal with the option/command issue? (Especially since I assume you need the option key to type accenetd characters). I was thinking of forking out for the software upgrade from kinesis so I can reprogram the page up key as option, but surely I can do that in software somehow...
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Mine allows arbitrary reprogramming via the "Progrm" key in the top right corner. I have the "Advantage MPC USB/QD" model (MPC for Mac and PC, USB for, well, USB, QD because it has both Qwerty and Dvorak labels on the keys). The Advantage part is probably about the programming, not sure. I wasn't aware of a software upgrade. Is that just for "Essential" users? I've mappet it so both thumbs have Ctrl, Shift, Command, and Option, which means I don't have any Page up/down or Home/End keys.
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Mark Aufflick

Quoting email from Kinesis: --- Hi Mark, You can actually purchase a memory chip for $49 that you can install yourself that will allow you to re-map your keys. Please call to place an order. Our toll free number is 800-454-6374 and the sales extension is 1. We will need the serial number of your keyboard when you place an order so please have that available. Please let me know if I can further assist you in any way. Regards, Erika Kinesis Corporation Sales<br> www.kinesis.com<br> 425 402 8100 ext. 1<br> 800 454 6374 ext. 1 "Where comfort and productivity go hand in hand..."
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I just (as in, today) bought a Kinesis, and found this post while searching for a solution to the missing command key (I think I have an older model, a Professional QD). I've decided to remap caps lock to command. Caps lock is pretty useless, and my thumbs don't easily reach the alt keys. This comment is taking 10 minutes to write but I kinda like it.
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Mark Aufflick

Dan, I suggest to anyone getting a Kinesis keyboard that you spend 10 minutes a day or so using a typing tutor to retrain your typing. It shouldn't take long for you to get back into the rythm. A good multi platform typing tutor (that you can try out online) is <a href="http://www.typingmaster.com/individuals/maclinux/default.asp?m=1">typing master</a>
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It would be cool if you posted a video with a close up of your remapped-keyboard and how you use it :-)
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I've been using a Kinesis (Advantage MPC USB) for a few years now but only recently started to use it with a mac. I too had to remap the modifier keys. I left the command keys in their default positions, gave myself two option keys beside the command keys, and two control keys below the option keys. I moved the pgup key to left side and I no longer have home and end keys. My primary reason for this choice was all accomodate all the default shortcuts in Eclipse, and also, moving from Windows, where end takes you to the end of the line, I was happy to lose the end key since I almost never want to move to the end of the file. Has anyone done any additional remappings to make programming easier like moving {} to somewhere more convenient? I think moving the caps lock key to somewhere else is a good idea, but I'd still want one elsewhere on the keyboard for typing CONSTANTS. The other thing that would be nice would be to move the ` key since that would make switching windows easier.
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Follow-up from Apple store by email: With the English and Internation English keyboard, the only difference is the default symbols above the number keys. Please see below the difference in the typing. International English keyboard. Numbers keys 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 ! @ # $ % ^ & * ( ) (pressing Shift) ¡¬†™¬†£¬†¢¬†¬†§¬†¶¬†•¬†ª¬†º (pressing alt) English Keyboard Number keys 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 ! @ £ $ % ^ & * ( ) (pressing shift) ¡¬†¬†#¬†¢¬†§¬†ˆ¬†¶¬†¨¬†ª¬†º¬†(pressing alt)
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My keyboard is programmable, though -- I've remapped Ctrl and Alt keys and stuff. Your suggestion to drop one of more of the Home/End/PgUp/PgDn keys isn't bad, though, I think I'll try it. The Kinesis is still too high for me, though, so I would like something to switch between. I'll get the HHK Lite 2 and report back. /Lars
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Jesper Hvirring

I'm just about to order a MacBook and will need an extra keyboard for it, so I was wondering if you ever got the HHK and if you're happy (no pun intended) with it. Also, I'm trying to decide whether to get the MacBook with a Danish or English keyboard. I'm leaning towards the English - any issues with that I should be aware of (being a Dane and often communicating in Danish, but spending most of my time coding)?
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I got it, and I'm not using it. It doesn't work for me. I find that the big problem with keyboards for the mac is the modifier keys. You need all four -- command, option, control, shift -- and you need them next to each other in the left hand, so you con hold them while clicking your mouse. That's one more than Windows and Unix keyboards typically have, and that's where the trouble begins. The HHK just doesn't have enough keys to cover the needs. Besides, I found the touch too heavy. Presumably, they have another keyboard that's way more expensive and not sold in Denmark, which has the softest touch ever, but I haven't tried it, and there's still the problem with the keys. What I did for the longest time was use the keyboard on the laptop. It's a bit too cramped, and I miss the option key on the right side of the space bar, but it's got a perfect touch, and the fact that the keys are close together, and that the trackpad is so easily within reach is a big plus. The downside is that it made it tricky to use my fancy 23" cinema display, because the 12" laptop display would be in the way. Just recently have I started using a real keybard again, after I got a new height-adjustable desk. I'm using the good old time-tested Kinesis contoured keyboarcd, which is still my favorite full-size keyboard. I've remapped the keys so it has all four modifier keys on both thumbs, which means I no longer have the Home, End, Page Up and Page Down keys. I keep an extra standard Apple keyboard connected for when I really need those, and that keyboard also has the volume and eject keys, which can be useful. Just this week I got a keyboard tray, which I haven't mounted yet, a foot switch, which I haven't programmed yet, and a vertical mouse, which I did put to use, and I mostly like it. So there you have it. If you want to borrow my HHK for a week to try and buy if you like it, let me know. Good luck!
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Jesper Hvirring

Thanks, but it sounds like the HHK isn't the way to go and a Mac specific keyboard would be a better choice. Found the Tactile Pro (http://matias.ca/tactilepro/), which even has special characters available (like æøå - and printed on the keys) when you press the keys in combination with the option or shift-option keys. What are the options in OS X for typing characters like æøå? I know you can switch between keyboard-layouts with a key-combination like ctrl-shift, but I find that switching the whole layout is usually a pain. Can you easily remap a few keys to type æøå in combination with the option key as with the Tactile Pro? /Jesper
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Yeah, I got one of those, too, but it didn't do the trick for me, either. The problem with those, as well as with Apple's own, is that the numeric keypad and those arrow and other buttons on the right side push the mouse way too far away. If it was just cut-off right next to the return key, or these keys were on the left or somewhere else, it would be okay. As for Danish characters, since there's just three of them, I just use the option-key combos, which are standard on the Mac, you don't have to do anything special for them. What's printed on the Tactile pro keyboard is just what the Mac does by nature, the keyboard doesn't do anything special inside. The combos are option-o for ø, option-a for å, and option-, for æ. Works fine. My wife switches to Danish layout, but then it's not her primary computer. I never switch keyboard layouts.
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Jesper Hvirring

Thanks, sounds like the perfect combination with an English keyboard and the key combos for æøå. I'm even more excited about switching now - it's gonna be a long wait... BTW: Sounds like you have some severe keyboard issues ;) /Jesper
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Yeah, I've been through a thing or two. Before switching I had it all sorted out with the Kinesis. After switching, I had to try a bunch of different ones before resorting back to my trusty old Kinesis. Bah, could've wasted the time and effert. But yes, my hands and whole upper body hurts when I'm using the wrong keyboard. Or mouse. Or desk. It's a physically tough job, and I've been at it since I was 10. Thankfully I've been able to keep the problems at bay so it hasn't gotten worse in the last 5 years or so.
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