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New Apple Keyboard Thoughts

My new "aluminum" Apple keyboard arrived today and, after installing the 1.1 update, I rebooted and put the keyboard to use.

I've long used Apple's standard keyboards, from the Extended to the black and then the white USB keyboards. I've liked their feel and always felt I had to adjust somewhat to typing on my laptops if for no other reason than my posture and the position of my hands were different.

New Apple Keyboard

Feel
I adjusted to the AlBoard more quickly than I'd have expected - about five seconds or so, literally. The thing is so slim it feels as though I'm typing on my desk's surface. The feeling is rather futuristic - almost like typing should feel like in 2020 or something.

My fingers are still used to pushing through a little more travel as I'm a bit heavy-handed with my typing right now, but I'll soften up over time.

Looks
The looks are great and reinforce the "futuristic" feeling. They nicely complement the Mac Pro and the aluminum 23" Cinema display. the only thing that sticks out now are the SoundSticks I still use. If they ain't broke…

I have no proof of course at this point, but I suspect the keyboard will remain quite a bit cleaner than the predecessor. I hope so - there doesn't appear to be any way to pop the keys off to clean beneath.

Keys
By default, the F3 and F4 keys do Exposé and the Dashboard, as we'd guessed. The F7 through F9 keys rewind/repeat, play/pause, and fast forward/skip even when iTunes is not the front-most application. When a QuickTime movie is frontmost, the controls affect the movie. Since up/down control volume, the dedicated F10 through F12 keys always control system volume - meaning there's still a need for Synergy, since I have keys mapped to adjusted iTunes' volume in Synergy. Plus, sometimes, ctrl-opt-space (for play/pause) is going to be easier to hit than F8.

Oddly, the keyboard shortcuts section of the Keyboard & Mouse system preferences shows no changes. If you hold the "fn" key down, F9 does indeed still do Exposé. For some reason, I was expecting these to be automatically changed when the OS detected I was using the AlBoard, but I can understand why my expectations were off target. Toggling the checkbox status of "Use all F1, F2, etc. keys as standard function keys" toggles the functionality of the "fn" key as well.

BTW, I was glad to see that ctrl-eject was still a shortcut for the old power button and gives you sleep, restart, shutdown, and cancel options. And it appears immediately, unlike before, while ejecting still requires a longer keypress.

What I Said Before
Originally I did not believe this was the final Apple keyboard. My thoughts, in order, are now:

  • Replacing the help key makes sense. I think I'd still have rather seen a help key as a shortcut for cmd-?, but doubling up on the keys is fine. The "Help" menu is rather clear, after all.
  • I still wish the eject key didn't interrupt the sequence and still existed in the top right corner.
  • I guess the extra f-keys can serve whatever purpose you'd like.1
  • The pictures aren't quite as ugly in person, but it'd be nice if they were customizable. F3 and F4 are such awkward places.2
  • I still think forward delete looks cramped. I would have liked to see the x-arrow below the word "delete."
  • The centered 0 still looks odd but I'll get used to it.
  • The arrows still don't match what we see in menus and I wish they properly reflected the standard looking arrow.
  • Enter isn't in italics.
  • I wish the other keys (shift, option, control) had their menu keyboard equivalents on them as well, like the command key does.

All in all, a win, but with a few quirks.

Keyboard Prefs

New Apple Keyboard

New Apple Keyboard

Footnotes

  1. I tried to set the F19 button to perform something in Synergy, though, and it failed. The F16 through F19 buttons all displayed the same funny symbol in Synergy's key area and pressing the buttons had no effect (the computer just beeped at me). I suspect Synergy might need a bit of an update.
  2. F1 and F2 make more sense to me, but they're occupied by the screen brightness controls (which don't make much sense on a desktop keyboard).

16 Responses to "New Apple Keyboard Thoughts"

  1. Am I reading you correctly that F10 is hard-coded to be volume now? I develop applications in 4D, which assigns function keys (especially F4 and F7-10) for use during debugging. If this new keyboard would remove my ability to use F10 as "step" during debugging, that would really stink.

  2. Daniel said on August 14, 2007:

    Am I reading you correctly that F10 is hard-coded to be volume now?

    The F10 key is mute/unmute. Hit fn-F10 or check the "Use all F1, F2, etc. keys as standard function keys" checkbox and it'll behave like good ol' F10.

  3. Erik J. Barzeski said on August 14, 2007:

    The F10 key is mute/unmute. Hit fn-F10 or check the "Use all F1, F2, etc. keys as standard function keys" checkbox and it'll behave like good ol' F10.

    Gotcha. That's what I do right now to get F10 to act like F10 - I so seldom use it as "make keyboard brighter" that I have the fn button operation swapped.

  4. Regarding the brightness controls on the keyboard...you might want to check out one of the new iMacs in person. They're incredibly bright - though, you might not pick that up in an Apple Store.

    I wish the brightness went all the way down...seems like the lowest setting isn't dim enough.

    Agreed on the keyboard, though - it's a really nice keyboard. :D

  5. I'm in the market for a new or slightly used iMac or MacPro (gotta replace my home machine, a G4-466). I have been on the fence of actually making the purchase (I was leaning twords a 24 inch iMac), but now, the new iMac and keyboard design has me hooked. I went to my local Apple Store to drop some systems in for service and got a look at the new keyboard. I'm in love. Got to shuffle the cash around tonight and place the order.

    ...and the keyboard is what made me decide to just go for it. How sad is that? ;)

  6. Thanks for the review - I like the new keyboard, despite its quirks. I'll be ordering my new iMac sometime soon. I really love the Macbook keyboard though (after it grew on me) and am anxious to have the same across my desktop.

    Hopefully Synergy will push an update out soon.

  7. [...] New Apple Keyboard Thoughts | NSLog(@”Erik J. Barzeski”); [...]

  8. Erik:

    Thanks for posting this info about the new Apple Keyboard.

    I purchased one to replace my wife's aging Apple Pro Keyboard on her G5. My wife is a hard core Quark user and needs the raw Function Keys and is very frustrated she no longer has one button/finger access to the sound/volume mute/up/down. My wife has disconnected the new keyboard and gone back to the Apple Pro Keyboard.

    I've been Googling and searching Apple's web site for a way to use the F16 - F19 keys for sound/volume control with no luck. I've found other users looking for the same help.

    The new keyboard has a wonderful feel but having the sound/volume controls on the F10, F11, and F12 keys is a show stopper for my Quark loving wife.

    Joe Adams
    Denver, Colorado

  9. Hello, I have to comment on the alluminum keyboard, my cons are one, typing is harder it seems that i have to make sure to type much harder onto the keys, therefore, my fingers get exhausted (the keys are just too low despite the elegance), but the good thing is its sleek, macbook-like experience for some not me, although it has new function keys they do not work on my PowerMac G4, now my biggest Disappointment is that my mac's keyboard (M2452) stopped working and since then no other keyboard created by Apple has a Power Button, this is very necessary considering when I turn the power on my mac, when I could do it from the keyboard, Apple should've added that instead of the extra F16-19. What do you guys think? Is it possible that after selling millions of the new alluminum keyboard worldwide Apple might consider this on a wired keyboard, instead of the wireless only? So

  10. What do you mean that the new function keys won't work on your powermac G4? I have the MDD 2003 G4 and all keys work as they should. I think you need to go into system preferences and assign the keys to do tasks. Thats what I did and it works fine.

  11. you MISS your 2452! ... Welcome to the new world Noah - now you have a volume control on the keyboard . You should be using "sleep" under the apple ... so forget the power button. RARELY should you "shut down" or "restart" ...

    You have to update your OS to 10.4.11 ( or so ) to use more F keys on the modern keyboard .... Good Luck.

  12. Can you explain to me how to get the F7 button to hide guides/show guides as it always has done in Quark. This new apple keyboard might look the part but I am damned if I can put up with this! Using OS10.4.11. Have tried to reset the keyboard shortcut but absolutely nothing happens. It's as if the F7 button does not exist at all. When I try to type it into the keyboard command box nothing enters...very strange. Anyone got any ideas?

  13. Hi Julie:

    Under System Preferences -> Keyboard & Mouse -> Keyboard Tab (not Keyboard Shortcuts Tab) have you turned on/checked the "Use all F1, F2, etc. keys as standard function keys"?

  14. Thankyou so much Joe. I was half way to sending it back!

    :razz:

  15. Do you know of a way to trap (and map) the "fn" key on Apple's aluminum keyboard so that it performs some user-defined action (for instance, behaving as the standard PC "insert" key -- or as the Apple "help" key)?

    Thanks.

  16. The new keyboard has a wonderful feel but having the sound/volume controls on the F10, F11, and F12 keys is a show stopper for my Quark loving wife.

    You can change that in the preference, just uncheck the box


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