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Articles: Slimming Down Your Keyboard

Often people think of the display as being the most important point of contact with a computer. It is true that a bad display can make even the best computer look worthless, but the display is only half the story. A display will get the information out of a computer, but your keyboard is what gets most of the information in. As important as a keyboard is to the computing experience we often give it the least amount of thought. We buy expensive mice and tablets but few people invest in a new keyboard. The included keyboard from Apple is a quality keyboard that lasts through years of key pounding. Undoubtedly that's why they are rarely upgraded. But just because Apple makes a good keyboard doesn't mean that a different style keyboard would not serve you better.

The question of what is a great keyboard for you personally is a subjective question. With one-size-fits-all recommendations, the best result you will ever get is "good." That's how Apple ended up with the keyboard they have. However, there are many factors that can lead to better typing. A new trend of thin or "low profile" keyboards are appearing on store shelves. They have been around for a few years, but are only now making a serious push onto Mac user's desks. Thin keyboards look like a laptop keyboard, but with a full-sized keyboard layout including a number pad and standard arrow keys. For those of us who remember the early days of laptop computers, the notion of using a keyboard modeled after a laptop's keyboard might seem ridiculous. In the early days of portables, the keyboards were cramped plastic torture devices that encouraged users to pack a full-sized external keyboard in their laptop bags. The fact that a desktop keyboard would imitate a laptop's keyboard is a testament to the improvements portables have seen over the years.

The main benefit of a laptop-style keyboard is that the keys themselves are thinner and travel less distance when stroked. The keys on the thin keyboards are one-third the height of standard keys. They barely rise above the outside bezel of the keyboard. This allows your hands to lay flatter on the keyboard than with a traditional keyboard. It has the feeling of typing directly onto the desk's surface with your wrists flat. There are many variations of the thin keyboard, but most have the same benefits of shorter keystrokes. I offer my three top picks, all of which would all be a good choice with the potential to improve your keyboarding.

Macally makes the iceKEY (PN 371857) keyboard that has an oval tube along the back containing the USB ports and brains of the keyboard. It is a funny-looking keyboard, but very comfortable to type on. The keys feel a little loose, like an iBook keyboard, and it makes clicking noises when typing. It is my front-runner because of its short keystroke typing amenities, but the design may turn off some people.

Kensington's Slim Type keyboard (PN D60294) is a close second. It places second mainly because it is the best-looking keyboard of the bunch with its rounded edges and a silver band. The keys are soft but sturdy. One of the biggest detractions of this keyboard is that it's much more like a traditional laptop keyboard than the other units. The arrow keys are squeezed in between the number pad and the main QWERTY keyboard. The density of the keys on the keyboard could make you feel cramped, especially if you have big hands.

The third place pick could easily be first place if price is a big factor. Macally has a low-cost thin keyboard called the iKeySlim (PN G00623). This keyboard has the same layout of the iceKey, but in a slightly thicker package. It looks more like a traditional keyboard from above; it's when you're at desk level do you see its slim design. Depending on your needs, the iKeySlim could be a perfect fit as it has the power button that has long been absent from Apple keyboards. This good keyboard becomes great at nearly half the price of the other two.

Whichever keyboard you decide on, a slim keyboard can improve your experience when typing. Shorter keystrokes keep your fingers rested and the flat angle can keep your wrists from becoming sore. The only problem with all three thin keyboards is their color. All of the above keyboards are white. This matches Apple's keyboard color and it fits into the Mac design, but as a snacker with frequent dirty fingers I would like at least one black keyboard option. :)

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