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New Apple Keyboard

Is this the new Apple keyboard (story here)?

A few questions arise from looking at the picture linked to in particular:

  • Why would you replace the "help" key with a "fn" key on a full-size keyboard?
  • Why would you interrupt the sequence of f-keys with an eject key in the middle?
  • What purpose will the extra f-keys above the number pad serve?
  • Will Apple really add media-control fn/f-keys to the keyboard?
  • WTF is that ugly picture on F3? Or even the image on F4 for that matter? If they're for Expos&eacte; and Dashboard, they're ugly, and what if a user changes them? Or is that option being removed? Currently they're on F9-F12, so why move them to begin with?
  • I don't like the new forward delete button, if this is the new keyboard. Put the picture below the word. It looks cramped.
  • Why is the "0" centered? Apple doesn't do that.
  • The arrows don't match what we see in our menus.
  • Enter is in italics, but almost nothing else is?
  • The command key loses the apple symbol but gains the word "command." Fine - that's overdue - but why not put the menu symbols for control and option on those keys as well?

Given the above, I'd give this, oh, a 75% chance of being a developmental version of the new Apple keyboard. I'd say there's very little chance this keyboard will ship in this form.

If it does, my oh my. Someone will really have to explain to me why we have a fn key. If it's required to access the hardware functions like volume, brightness, and eject, then consistency would dictate that it also apply to the software items like Exposé, Dashboard, iTunes/media controls, etc. And c'mon, it's a full-size keyboard, after all - we don't need to save space by having dual-function keys like we do on PowerBooks laptops.

Plus, I'm with John Gruber: I don't particularly think white keys on a silver keyboard look all that good.

43 Responses to "New Apple Keyboard"

  1. F3 = lots of small windows = Expose (or Dashboard)
    F4 = gauge icon = Dashboard (or Time Machine)

  2. This could be an Apple prototype, but I can't see how they would actually ship such a thing without at least changing the keycaps.

    Current versions of Mac OS X put brightness on F14-F15, and of course the volume keys are separate, not on function keys at all.

    This keyboard would cause a lot of confusion if used on a machine running Tiger.

    The Fn thing makes no sense at all. The help key is pretty pointless (given that Apple doesn't use it for anything anymore) but Fn is even more pointless.

    Random trivia: OpenStep had an "NSHelpPanel" which is no longer in AppKit, and it was triggered by pressing the Help key (which changed the cursor into a question mark) and then clicking on an item to get help. (it worked a bit like that stupid question mark button in the titlebar of dialog boxes on Windows.) Cocoa still does the cursor change when you hit the Help key, but clicking on stuff in help mode doesn't result in anything useful.

    Those arrow keys are horrid, as is the forward delete key. It's about time they removed the apple logo from the command key, and added the word "command" to it.

  3. I'd be surprised if this is a final version. Beyond the issues you mentioned, the alignment of the 'zero' key on the keypad is bizarre - Apple very rarely center-justifies the glyphs on oversize keys.

    The form factor seems plausible, though.

  4. I don't think they should add the word 'Command' to the command key. What they should do is put the option symbol on the option key like they already do on international ISO keyboards. That would make a lot more sense for people trying to match up keys with the menus.

    They should do so for all the other keys that are named on US keyboards - Control, Enter etc.

  5. [quote comment="42439"]Random trivia: OpenStep had an "NSHelpPanel" which is no longer in AppKit, and it was triggered by pressing the Help key (which changed the cursor into a question mark) and then clicking on an item to get help. (it worked a bit like that stupid question mark button in the titlebar of dialog boxes on Windows.) Cocoa still does the cursor change when you hit the Help key, but clicking on stuff in help mode doesn't result in anything useful.[/quote]

    Are you suggesting we bring back Balloon Help?!? 🙂

  6. The eject key is in the same position as on a MacBook with the additional function keys added above the extended section that isn't present on a laptop keyboard.

  7. [quote comment="42444"]I don't think they should add the word 'Command' to the command key.[/quote]

    It is an addition, remember. The command symbol is still there (if that's even an Apple keyboard). I think "command" should be on there too simply for phone support: "press the command and s keys" is a lot easier than the current alternatives.

    [quote comment="42444"]What they should do is put the option symbol on the option key like they already do on international ISO keyboards. That would make a lot more sense for people trying to match up keys with the menus.[/quote]

    I agree that should be added for control and option. Maybe even shift, and enter too, as you suggest.

  8. I believe the keyboard is real. There's too much design thinking and refinement that is right in line with Apple's direction. There are about a dozen very small touches that all make sense but that someone trying to pull a spoof wouldn't have thought os hard about, or if they had, would have tried to call more attention to.

    The only item here that makes me think this is anything other than a final piece of hardware is that the 'delete' and 'enter' labels on their respective buttons are oblique (in the same way that every character and label is oblique in the current desktop keyboard) while everything else is non-oblique.

  9. Hey Erik, some thoughts. 🙂

    1. So happy to see the "Help" key gone. As much as I love temporarily turning my cursor into a question mark and accomplishing nothing with it, it sure was confusing for people who actually wanted, oh, help. 🙂 Having a dedication "fn" toggle key is a great idea, and putting it on the right is perfect: right hand "fn" + left hand function keys.

    2. Grouping "eject" with the media keys is the right thing to do, I think.

    3. The f-keys above the number pad serve the same purpose as F14/F15/F16 above the navigation chunk on current keyboards: just more function keys.

    4. Why is the "0" centered? You'll notice that ALL of the letter/number keys are now fully centered. And Apple doesn't do that? Someone doesn't own a MacBook! 😉

    5. "Enter" isn't, actually, in italics, if you look at the alternate angle.

    6. Putting the symbols in for option/control is actually a great idea. For now, I'll take what I can get. I can't explain how excited I am to have the word "Command" on that key! 🙂

    I am passionate about this keyboard for some reason. Bring it on!

  10. This keyboard is an eyesore and completely out of line with Apple's keyboard design philosophy whenever Jobs has been at the helm. It looks like it was designed by macally or something to attempt to appear 'Apple-like'.

  11. You're right about the enter key Cabel, and so the delete key is probably allso not oblique, and is just a trick of the pixels.

    I completely believe this keyboard is the real deal, and I'm usually pretty skeptical about leaked apple shots.

  12. Cabel - On the MBP, at least, they do it for letter keys but not for any of the oversize keys - they're all left or right justified (or the text expands to fill the whole key).

    I guess consistency on the keypad is important, but I like the bottom-left alignment they use on the current keyboards better. It keeps the numbers visible enough to distinguish them even with your fingers resting on the keys. Not a big deal for touch typists, but I think it's a nice touch for people who hunt and peck. But then, they seem to have abandoned that style for the home/end/etc keys too, so centering on keys may well be The New Way To Do It.

  13. I disagree that the "help" key should go away. I think that pressing the "help" key in the Finder should launch the Mac help software, like it did in OS X versions up to Jaguar (IIRC), and still does in other 3rd party apps, and even used to do in the classic Mac OS Finder. If a Mac newbie spots the nice friendly "help" key on their keyboard and presses it, they should be presented with the online help system. Why they should have to press Command-Shift-/ instead, I'll never understand.


    It's called the famous PC Jr.'s "Chicklet" keyboard that failed horribly... it was a huge disaster. Learn from the past!

  15. Overall I like the keyboard, mainly for the new key style. I hate the feel of the current keyboards and the macbook style keys are an improvement. Although I would prefer scissor keys like the MBP and older iBooks.

    The thing that doesn't make sense on it is the placement of the volume and play/FF keys F8-F12 are the default keys for Spaces and Expose. I think it would be hard to change those defaults since they're the only open F-keys on the MB keyboard (I think the MBP too) Apple would then be losing consistency between the desktop and laptop lines.

  16. I think that this keyboard has definite potential. When you think about the use of a keyboard, there are some improvements that I believe the engineers have put some serious thought into.
    As for the white on silver combination, I don't really enjoy it. I'd prefer if they went with silver/silver as in the previous (aluminum) powerbook days. Why not throw in some backlighting as well while they're at it? Just a thought....

  17. [...] inclined to believe that the shots are of a prototype keyboard as discussed by Erik Barzeski and DF. I will say that it looks fantastic and I would love to have one even in it’s current [...]

  18. ... anyone using photoshop "actions" function can use all the fkeys they can get...

  19. I like it. If only because it looks like a KB that could be CLEANED. I'm disgusted by all the nooks and crannies of stuff I have in my current Apple KB. No way to get at it to clean.

    The more function keys the better. I reprogram all of mine anyway. I use'em all the time (websites, programs, directories, etc).

  20. I was excited then I saw it was from Engadget..

    Seriously though, I saw another post like this a few weeks ago on AppleInsider, but it didn't go into as much 'depth' as Engadget. Maybe they gleaned this from another internal memo? I digress.

    Either way it looks like a major hardware refresh is coming along for iMacs, so who knows.

  21. This can't be a production keyboard - the design is still unworkable. If you look at the position of the raised feet in the underside view and in the side view, you can see it would never stand on them. At best it would rock about on the rear feet.

    So, while it might be a concept model someone has lifted from Apple, there is no way it's final.

  22. It's funny how people like John and you don't like the keys' color. So you would have preferred fake metal keys, as used in current MacBook Pros? I guess it's a matter of taste: Those keys always were a reason for me not to even consider buying a MacBook Pro. (Yes, I'm superficial.) To me, fake metal looks incredibly cheap.

    And I remember having read once about a design principle that says it's never a good idea to make materials look like something they are not. I agree with that principle, and I guess Mr. Ive does, too -- at last. He could have chosen real metal for those keys, but that would probably have been too expensive.

    So yes, I really like this keyboard; and I'm tempted to buy one. But then, I'm working on my MacBook most of the time anyway, and I'm not sure yet whether those additional keys will really justify an external keyboard that -- ideally -- works just the way the internal MacBook keyboard does.

  23. Agreed, some of the symbols (most of all the forward-delete-key) could use some polishing yet.

    But I think the white/silver combination is gorgeous!

    Although I wouldn't mind backlighting, either.

  24. The biggest worry I have concerning this keyboard is to do with the decrease in key depth. I struggle to type accurately on my MBP keyboard and always use an external keyboard whenever I can (I took one with me to HackDay this year for that purpose alone!). A friend of mine reckons it's just lack of experience with it, as he thinks the keys on the standard MB are very good, but I'm uncertain. I do remember that the original iMac keyboards had shallower key depths, and I wasn't too keen on that one either...

  25. The Apple logo on the sticker in the back of the keyboard really sucks...

  26. All those pictures really seem legit and promising. It's like a copernician revolution finally (and logically) coming to the Mac : design everything on a desktop as if it were a laptop.

    I've been using mainly a laptop at home and switching to the huge, present Apple keyboard is painful. It's too high, it's too big & heavy, keys are hard to press, they are tricky to adjust. Design-wise, switching to macbook-style keyboard is a great evolution.

    Moreover, keys mapping is obviously both supposing the desktop should adapt to the laptop and leveraging some strong OS X feature. It has always struck me : why - although Apple is so dependent on integration between soft+hard - isn't there any dedicated key for Exposé? This is great for ergonomics, discoverability, accessibility.

    Too many discrete details are too-well thought for this to be a fake. Under the KB, you can see there is exactly the space needed for batteries for a Bluetooth version. USB ports are done so you won't see the plug, just see the wire out of the KB.
    I'm also enthusiast with the hardware Media controls. This is like volume and brightness : media (iTunes) is commodity. It has to be piloted from the KB.
    And the fn keys for the dedicated right-hand part? Great.

    Hopefully it'll soon make a sweet sound...

  27. There's no symbol on the Alt/Option key. All the menu shortcuts that use Alt show the symbol - how is a user to know that the two are in any way related ? The same goes for the Control/Ctrl key : however, the current keyboard have no Control symbol on the key.

    Same goes for the Enter key and symbol.

    Apple keyboards currently show a symbol for Shift too - this one has the word. The same applies to Tab.

    I hope this is fake !

  28. [...] MacBook keyboard, and I very much like the style, but I’m not quite convinced that this is real, and if it is, why did Apple do some of the stuff it did? Given the above, I’d give this, oh, [...]

  29. I'm willing to bet this is a real evaluation and testing prototype.

    While a commenter at engadget objected to the formatting of the Apple property tag, the tag on this article is indeed consistent with a current Apple prototype tag.

    Additionally, EVT articles are commonly used as cosmetic test articles. The WallStreet (PowerBook G3 series) PowerBooks were developed with several cosmetic iterations, resembling the final, shipping design only in shape. There was even a semi-transparent "tortoiseshell" plastic that was circulated.

    The keyboard displayed at engadget is almost certainly the real thing, despite the odd silkscreening on the keys and inconsistencies like the centered '0'. I have some other reasons for thinking so, but won't air them here. 😀

  30. One can only hope this is a real prototype of the new Apple keyboard because the current keyboards Apple sells at its stores (which I presume ship with all new Macs) blow monkey chunks.

    The space key's plastic-and-metal assembly squeaks, the keyboard cannot lie flat as the key rows are tiered, and the whole thing just feels cheap in comparison to the Apple Pro Keyboards that shipped with PPC systems starting somewhere near Quicksilver.

    For the poster above grossed out by the dirt between his/her keys, try I have one for my trashy desktop keyboard and another for my iBook. Was the silicon cover, dry it with and you're good to go.

  31. I'll make another note; by posting photos of the particular revision and PT tag number of the keyboard, this attention seeker has likely gotten someone (if not several someones) in VERY hot water.

    I'd wager that this keyboard was stolen; additionally, I think that whoever posted the pictures is a very stupid individual. Apple regularly adds nonsensical markers to evaluation equipment...just like the "hunh?" placement of silkscreening and other cues on this keyboard.

    Of course, the PT tag gives it away anyway, but if, for example, someone had blurred the PT tag, the silkscreening would give away the revision and reveal a list of who had access to this particular batch of prototypes.

    This is part of how they track who is clueing in the rumor sites.

    If I had to imagine what happened here, I'd say someone stole this off of the loading dock or out of someone's car.

  32. I'm assuming the "fn" key is there to add quick, dual-functionality to the function keys. For example, adjusting contrast by pressing fn + F1, and simply using the F1 key otherwise. The Help button has never seen much dedicated use on the Mac platform.

  33. Probably the ugliest thing I have seen from Apple ever.

    -- I'm not a geek, but I don't want those f*ucking stupid drawings on the Fn keys. That's what the standard PC brand does, not Apple. There's nothing more ridiculous than my parents' PC keyboard, with the special 'Internet shortcut keys.'

    I customise my keyboard, don't come and physically assign me a key for Exposé/Dashboard like a f*cking bully.

    Idem iTunes shortcuts: leave me the f*ck alone, it's my Mac, I set the function keys how I want them to be, industry standards are OK, but not if you f*cking engrave them!

    -- Taking the Apple off? Come on! I have convinced many people to buy MacBooks, and the Apple served as a mental frame: 'Window becomes Apple.' It's f*cking logical and helpful to switchers.

    Adding Command? Tell me you don't see how beginners don't get confused here: Command and Control, yeah, go on, make a f*cking mess of the keyboard, manuals are gonna be even more fun to decipher.

    -- Where's the logic of the new Fn keys over the numpad? It's not even a continuous row, the Eject key just stands out like sh*t in the middle.

    What was wrong with its former location, far-right?

    -- Could you draw an uglier Del key if you were asked to? Probably not, and large amounts of money wouldn't change that.

    What's happening here, who's heading the Developmental Keyboard Commonsense Visual Evaluation department? Lindsay Lohan?

    -- Oh yeah, the Backspace key is now textual. So that's two Delete keys with different actions on the same keyboard. It must be Lindsay Lohan. Or Paris Hilton. Or Kevin Federline.

    I'll stop here, almost every single change here is idiotic. Let's pray our respective transcendental entities that this utter crap is a bad joke. I'm saving an old iMac keyboard to escape this if it ever hits the market.

    This keyboard has the full potential to cover a company respected for its design with a long-lasting sheet of ridicule. Wake the f*ck up Apple, this is not even a good alpha version for a keyboard, it's not "promising" or "innovative". It's f*cking lame, useless and counter-intuitive. I would use any previous model than this one.

    My compassionate thoughts go to the family of the guy who is actually responsible for failing so badly at designing a correct keyboard. I have seen random garbage in dumpsters with better symbolic consistency.

  34. Fr: Woah, dude. Forgive me, but it sounds like any change at all would inspire your rancor and profanities.

    For devil's advocacy, how do you feel about them removing the 'help' button? How much do you hate the volume controls on current keyboards? You know, the ones over the f*cking numeric keypad? How much sense does that f*cking make?

    How dumb is it that there are two (count 'em) TWO keys both labeled 'delete' that do different things on the current keyboard? Insane!

    And what's the deal with that fucking ^ key that you get when you hit shift-6? What's that for, other than for japanese teens to make fucking cat smilies ^__^?? Waste of space.

    Seriously, I'm mostly kidding, but dude, you've gotta see that not every change is the end of the world, nor is every change a personal attack against you. Of course, if you disagree, you should really take it up with the man himself. You can write to him at

  35. Wouldn't someone doing a fake keep the Apple logo on the command key? That's a bold move taking the logo off, the sort of thing that Apple might do, but I can't see anyone predicting that.

  36. Kevin: you are mostly kidding, indeed. None of this compensates for the appalling mistakes displayed on the model. Concerning your keys:

    - Help key I have used this key intensively in my first three years-or-so of computing.
    - Delete key: this fallacy has been corrected on the MacBook keyboard.
    - ^ key: I can concede this shifted key is a waste of plastic and that I will not cry at its burial.
    - And please, please do not tell me that not 'every change a personal attack against me' when Apple* starts** thinking about drawing on my Fn keys to tell me what to do with them.

    You probably got the idea that I wrote the same kind of comment when they changed my Performa keyboard onwards. I did not.

    Cautionary cues: * if this is a genuine Apple model — ** the model is obviously developmental.

  37. Fr: I'm not sure I understand: Didn't Apple start thinking about drawing on your Fn keys when they made the Lombard powerbook? Didn't they continue when they made the Aluminum powerbooks that had brightness controls, volume/mute controls, and display-mirror controls all indicated with 'drawings' atop your function keys? Heck, the Macbook Pros even have keyboard illumination drawings on two more function keys.

    I personally am happy to see eject moved above delete, not just because 'delete' and 'eject' share a bond in a world where you can eject a disc by dragging it to the trash, but because it might finally stop me from accidentally popping my drive open when something brushes the corner of my keyboard.

    As for the 'window becomes apple' comment, I don't understand. The 'window' key does something completely different on Windows than the 'apple' key does on a Mac. What's the value in telling switchers that 'window becomes apple'? Don't they press the 'apple' expecting a start menu to pop up? Aren't they frustrated when they see that pressing that key along does nothing at all?

    If I could change anything about this keyboard it would be to make the fn key modal, with a little green light so I could easily switch between using the keys for my application's purposes and for the OS purposes.

    As is always the case with Apple's overloading of the function keys, there would certainly be the option to turn off the 'special features' attributed to the pictographed function keys if you should so choose.

    That said, it would be splendid if the keys were magnetically attached so you could pop them off (heck, perhaps even rearrange them (how sweet would that be?) and pop on 'unscribbled' keys if that was your choice. For that matter, it would be cool to get keys with no markings at all. For the strong touch-typists, that would be one clean-looking keyboard.

  38. -- Drawing on Fn keys: no, the keys you quote address hardware settings, not system-wise functions that I may drop if I do not see any utility to them (unlike Exposé but like, typically, Time Machine). Consider that too nuanced to be arguable if you like, but I draw a distinction between having a mute key and a (new and visually unmodifiable) Exposé setting.

    -- Eject: that rationale is probably the one they had at Apple too. I have never had this kind of accidental eject.

    -- Window/Apple: and yet this is how I have seen several people react, before realising the real swap is between Ctrl (PC) and Cmd (Mac). Check the “what changed on your keyboard” question on recent switchers.

    -- Magnetic keys: sounds nice but not cost-effective.

    (All this in addition to the several points raised previously, of course.)

  39. Actually, that F4 key is clearly an “ⓘ” (Info) button. Maybe fn-F4 replaces the Help key. Or maybe it invokes Get Info/Show Inspector if the frontmost application has it.

  40. F4 is the dashboard button. I don't recall what site had the close-up shot, but it's a gauge and needle, not a circle-i. I'm sure we'll all get much better pics on Tuesday.

  41. Look like this is the real deal.

  42. I tried out the keyboard today. it looks strange and modern (in a good way), and it feels great. And it's nearly flat on the desktop.

    The throw on the keystrokes is very short and very easy to enact.

    overall, it's a great, ergonomically good keyboard.

  43. [...] 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 [...]