New keyboard

Microsoft Digital Media Pro keyboard

The other day, while we were in Edinburgh, I popped into the local PC World and bought myself a new keyboard; my first new keyboard in about five years, and it was a long overdue purchase.

I’m a firm believer in choosing input devices that are right for the job. The peripherals I use most on any system are the monitor, keyboard and mouse. These are the things that I have my hands on or are looking at all day long. So it is essential that these are both comfortable and intuitive to use.

My last keyboard was the Microsoft Internet Pro, which is sadly no longer available. It was a comfortable, beige corded keyboard with integrated palm rest and a plethora of additional (and highly useful) multimedia buttons. The buttons I used most were situated above the number pad and allowed me access to My Computer and My Documents. And whenever I want to open either of those locations now (no matter what keyboard I’m using) I always tap that area of the keyboard. So I knew that I must have one with programmable buttons in that area.

My only real criticism of this keyboard was its height. It was angled too steeply which resulted in a little too much RSI for my liking. In the end it hurt my fingers too much to type. Not just because of the angle, but I’d also worn the keys down so much having battered them day-in and day-out from typing, that each time I pushed down on a key there was no resistance and it jarred my fingers.

So, I needed something similar but softer. And to that end on Wednesday I bought the Microsoft Digital Media Pro keyboard for £24.99. (As you can see I like keyboards manufactured by Microsoft and that have the word ‘Pro’ in the title.)

What I LIKE about this keyboard:

  • Comfortable angle (less risk of RSI)
  • Built-in palm rest
  • Soft keys for typing
  • Programmable keys including new “My Favorites” keys
  • Handy zoom control
  • It is not wireless
  • The price

What I DON’T LIKE about this keyboard:

  • I can’t reprogram the Sleep key
  • F Lock
  • F Lock
  • F Lock
  • F Lock
  • F Lock
  • F Lock

You’ll gather that I don’t like the F Lock. The F Lock is a way to toggle between the good old, standard function key (F key) … er functions and the shiny new functions that Microsoft think we should be using these for.

Obviously someone at Microsoft HQ looked at the keyboard in all of its legacy, text-only-OS glory and wondered why he had twelve rarely used F keys and what could these better be used for. So now we have the following programmed to the following F keys:

  1. Help
  2. Undo
  3. Redo
  4. New
  5. Open
  6. Close
  7. Reply
  8. Fwd
  9. Send
  10. Spell
  11. Save
  12. Print

Whereas what I’d like these to be programmed to are what the programmers of each application wanted them to be used for. So in Microsoft Word I want F7 (not F10) to be Spell, in Lotus WordPro I want F8 to change the current paragraph to the Title style, and in Microsoft Outlook I want F9 to be Send/Receive.

Sure, give me these new enhanced features if I must have them but please allow me to opt-in to these if I want to, not have to opt-out of it in order to simply return to my standard F keys setup — the ones I’ve been used to and using since, in some cases, 1995!

That said, I’m really pleased with this keyboard and I’d happily recommend it to anyone. Especially you.