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Things I Love: Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000

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Even though it’s not usual fare for this site, I’ve been thinking that it might be helpful for me to from time to time talk about something I have or use that I can strongly recommend. I’ve done this for Scrivener in “How Tools and Environment Make Work into Play, Part I: The Example of Scrivener” and “Would Scrivener Make You a Happier Writer.” Here’s a brief discussion of something you may find useful if you do a lot of typing (I do a lot of typing): the Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000.

What I like about this keyboard:

  • It has an ergonomic rather than flat or simply curved layout, which helps me stave off hand and wrist injuries.
  • The two main sections of the keyboard are split, which makes my hands stay on their sides and forces me to type properly. I learned to type through multi-finger hunt-and-peck, so a little rigor really helps me stay in the groove of typing the “right” way–and thus more quickly and accurately. My typing speed is about 80 wpm on this keyboard, which is a little faster than without it. (After all, it’s important to be able to type quickly if you’re going to write prolifically.)
  • It has a number of useful buttons and gizmos, like a zoom slider, multimedia buttons, calculator button, Internet button, e-mail button, and a bank of programmable buttons.
  • Both the wrist rest and the keys feel really nice to me. I’m always a little disappointed when I go back to my older ergonomic keyboard, which I have set up on another computer.
  • It looks cool as long as you’re into black. I know that’s not important, but it’s nice to have. Who in the name of all that’s holy ever decided that “putty” would be a great color for computer devices?
  • It’s the only keyboard I’ve ever seen (though I’m sure not the only one existing) that comes with a piece that elevates the front of the keyboard for a reverse angle–instead of angling the keys up in the back like so many keyboards with feet do. My understanding is that lifting up the back of the keyboard is asking for repetitive motion injuries, while a reverse angle is ergonomically ideal.
  • It’s pretty cheap for a terrific keyboard–less than $40.

I understand and sympathize if you’re one of the many people who’s used to propping a keyboard up in back and/or who is very uncomfortable with an ergonomic layout. About these things, I can just say that my experience was that I got used to the new setup within about a week when I changed over years ago, and I’m very much willing to go through that kind of temporary inconvenience to permanently guard against injuries.

Complaints:

  • Honestly, none so far. Maybe it would be nice to have an easy way to label the 5 programmable function keys, but that’s just getting picky. It’s a pretty nice piece of equipment for the typing-conscious.
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