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The Apple Pro Keyboard
August 15, 2000 Review

 

Over the years, the size of Apple keyboards has ebbed and flowed. Since the original Mac in 1984, Apple had hoped to ship a slim, friendly keyboard that did not dominate a user's small, home desk. In reply, users have clamored for a wide keyboard containing a cursor pad, number pad, and a full set of function keys. Apple had offered extended keyboards in the past, but since 1998 Apple's products, including the professionally targeted desktop machines, have shipped with the small keyboard designed for the iMac and the kitchen table. Apple's new Pro Keyboard brings Mac users, once again, a large keyboard suitable for professional use. The Apple Pro Keyboard ships with the new iMacs, the G4 Cube, and the G4 tower machines. Starting in September, the Apple Pro Keyboard will be sold by the Apple Store for $59.00.

Keys to Success

The original iMac keyboard included cramped keys and lacked both a full-sized cursor pad and a number pad. Many users replaced these little keyboards with full-sized keyboards offered by manufacturers such as Adesso, Belkin, Genovation, Macally, and Microconnectors. These keyboards, though popular, do not offer high-tech features but instead concentrate on the essentials: reasonable spacing between keys, cursor pads, numbers pads, function keys, and page-up and page-down keys.

The Apple Pro Keyboard also offers these essential features. The keys are well spaced and comfortable for even a large hand. The keys have a long throw, giving 0.5 centimeters before hitting bottom. The keys have a lively spring providing good feedback.

To the right of the main letter keys are three sections of support keys. Immediately to the right of the standard keys, along the bottom, Apple has provided four, full-sized arrow cursor keys in the traditional inverted 'T'. The original iMac keyboard also includes the cursor keys, but they are half-size and can be a torment for both the touch typist and the game player. The cursor keys are supported in all Mac word processors and text editors, and their return as full sized keys is very welcome.

The Cursor Keys
The Cursor Pad

Above the cursor pad is a group of nine keys laid out in 3 rows. The top row in this section provides three extra function keys, F13 - F15. The middle row has the help, home, and page-up keys. The last row in this section offers a forward delete key, an end key, and a page-down key.

The Edit Pad
The Edit Pad

The usefulness of the keys in this group is a mixed bag. Starting with OS 9.0, Apple provides the Keyboard control panel allowing any application or document to be attached to a function key. Most Mac users, however, never use these keys, so the addition of three more function keys, F13-F15, does not provide a benefit for most.

Hot Function Keys Dialog
Apple's Keyboard Control Panel Function Keys Dialog

The help key will, in many applications, bring up the help system. The support for this key is spotty across Mac applications, so one should not be surprised when it has no function. For the Mac user who feels comfortable at the keyboard, the full-sized home and end keys provide a convenient way to jump to the start and end of a document, respectively. Similarly, the page-up and page-down keys are supported in most text editing applications and can scroll a text of page either up or down.

The number pad makes up the remaining set of keys. The top row of the number pad provides a set of new keys for the Mac user. Starting at the left of this row are three keys for controlling the Mac's volume: a softer, a louder, and a mute key. The rightmost key in this row will eject the disk from the CD/DVD drive. These four keys are very convenient and work well with the newly released Macs. Existing Macs will need an updated "HID Library" for their extension folder. When the keyboards go on sale individually in September, hopefully the Software Control Panel will download the needed software.

Number Pad
The Number Pad with Volume Controls

Lacking Power

The new volume and eject keys are a welcome addition to the keyboard, but there is one key noticeably lacking. Apple has removed the power key. Generations of Mac users have enjoyed powering up their Macs by striking the keyboard's power key, and its loss will be sorely felt, at least for awhile. Those Mac users who, at the end of the day, subconsciously hit the power key and then the return key in one fluid motion and head for the door secure in the knowledge that their Mac is shutting down will need a new routine. (A shutdown AppleScript attached to the F15 key is an answer, but it sure would be nice if it were built in.)

So what is Apple's plan for users without a keyboard power key? The power button on the new monitors works like the old keyboard power key, so part of the answer is that this functionality is moving to the monitor. The monitor, though, seems a much less convenient place for the system's power key. Apple's grand plan probably envisions users making more use of the sleep command in the Finder and doing less shutting down. Putting your Mac to sleep means that it can quickly awake with the strike of any key and the user avoids the lengthy boot process. It is possible that this strategy replaces shutdown for many users in the future, but, then, where is the sleep key? (Another AppleScript tied to F14 perhaps?)

The Apple Pro keyboard is configured similarly to its smaller cousin with two available USB ports. One port is available on each side of the keyboard so that left handed and right handed users can plug in a mouse on their preferred side.

Summary

The Apple Pro Keyboard is a boon for new Mac buyers. The new keyboard and Apple's new mouse mean that buyers can save the $100.00 or so they would have spent for a better mouse and a full sized keyboard. For current Mac owners looking to replace their keyboard, the Pro Keyboard should be considered, but its lack of a power key and otherwise pedestrian feature set leave third party keyboards in the running.

USB Keyboards

iMediaKey Keyboard

Macally iMediaKey
$69.95

Adesso TruForm Keyboard

Adesso NU-Form
$64.95



Straight Keyboards

Belkin USB MediaBoard

Macally iKey

Macally iMediaKey

Microconnectors USB Flavored Keyboard


Split Key Ergonomic Keyboard

Adesso NU-Form Keyboard

Adesso Tru-Form Keyboard


Number Pads

Genovation MicroPad 631



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©2000 allUSB.

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©2000 allUSB.

looking to replace their keyboard, the Pro Keyboard should be considered, but its lack of a power key and otherwise pedestrian feature set leave third party keyboards in the running.

USB Keyboards

iMediaKey Keyboard

Macally iMediaKey
$69.95

Adesso TruForm Keyboard

Adesso NU-Form
$64.95



Straight Keyboards

Belkin USB MediaBoard

Macally iKey

Macally iMediaKey

Microconnectors USB Flavored Keyboard


Split Key Ergonomic Keyboard

Adesso NU-Form Keyboard

Adesso Tru-Form Keyboard


Number Pads

Genovation MicroPad 631



Home | FAQ | USB Blog

©2000 allUSB.