The Honeymoon is Over
Posted on May 31, 2005 Posted by John Scalzi 32 Comments
I don’t want to suggest I’ve become displeased with my Mac, which is and remains a fine machine — a tool for living, if you will, and somewhere Walter Gropius is smiling. Be that as it may, I’ve finally given up on the keyboard that came with the Mac and replaced it with one of my old Windows keyboards. Why? Because the Mac keyboard sucks for typing, that’s why. The keys are mushy and the throw is too deep and I end up spending a crapload of time going back and re-inputting capitalization and special marks and developing sore wrists. Yes, the Mac keyboard is esthetically superior, but esthetically superior means little to my RSI. Off it goes, to the banishment of the closet, where it will nestle up to the gorgeous but really useless Mac mouse, and they will be the best looking pair of discarded peripherals in the closet.
As for the Logitech keyboard that replaces it (and which had been previously attached to the Windows box before I removed it and replaced it with a wireless keyboard), well, I think if it had feelings it would be like the reliable spouse who is breifly thrown aside when the other spouse has a mid-life crisis and goes for someone sexier, only to quickly find out what they really want is someone who understands them, and therefore slinks back begging forgiveness. I’m sorry, Logitech keyboard. Let’s never fight again.
I suppose my Mac is appalled by all this, its clean white lines now ruined by being saddled with a black keyboard and a Microsoft five-button scroll mouse. But now I can use the Mac the way I need to. My Mac being a machine for living is all very nice. But when it comes down to it, I need a machine for working. If I have to choose between esthetics and functionality, eventually esthetics is going to get the boot. I know. That makes me a slob. What can I say. I’m a slob that now can get stuff done.
I agree. I’ve been on a Mac for over a year and hate the keyboard….though I’m on an iBook, so discarding the keyboard is not much of an option. I’m curious what you do for your Open-Apple key on that windows keyboard though. (And also ditto on the mouse, they should have 2 or 3 buttons and a scroll wheel).
I should also state that I am punctuation’s worst nightmare. Wow.
The keyboard has the Apple key on it, and most third-party keyboards these days feature an “Alt” key of some sort which can be defined to be the Apple key if it doesn’t automatically default to that function.
The first GUI interface I used was on a Mac. And this was before Jobs returned to the company and noticed that holding down the mouse button until you had your menu choice was a massively stupid way to manage your desktop.
I loved the screen. Still like it better than Windows’ Start button (but not as much as the Show Desktop icon in the QuickLaunch bar.) I hated the keyboard right off the bat. And the mouse? I despise Mac mouses (mice?) with a passion. It annoyed me that I had to be so utterly dependent on such a useless peripheral to do anything. I thought, “Wouldn’t it be great if it had 2 buttons?” Lo and behold, a few days later, I’m parked at an IBM clone with one of those clicking Big Blue keyboards. It felt great, and the mouse had TWO! COUNT ‘EM, TWO! buttons! Unfortunately, this was in 1994, and all I had to work with was Windows 3.11.
When I got my own PC, a torture device known as a Packard Bell*, I soon dicovered add-ins that replaced double-clicking with the right mouse button.
Hated Windows 95, but I was well into an IT career, and got to play with WinNT, 2000, and pro versions of XP. If the earlier versions of Windows weren’t so leaky, I’d be an avowed Microsoft fan. As it is, I’d love nothing more than to find something that’s neither Apple nor Microsoft that’ll let me use iTunes and Napster.
Until then, I’m going to have to get off my lazy and start upgrading my browser to Firefox.
I shall recommend the Tactile Pro keyboard, which looks like a Mac
keyboard and feels like… okay, the only similes I can come up with
for “crisp” involve dried cockroaches, which isn’t the right
connotation. It’s a nice keyboard. It has keys in the Mac-standard
layout, including volume/eject, and when I type it sounds like a
crateful of marbles rolling down the stairs. I am addicted to it.
10.4 got a little confused about it, in that I had to go through the
“Calibrate your keyboard by hitting two keys” dialog every time I
logged out. I think 10.4.1 mitigated this bug but didn’t fix it
completely. However, it’s a small drawback, at least for me.
(Interest: merely a customer.)
Grr, meant to include the URL, but borked the
Having just completed a scan for keyboards, I ended up finding that a Microsoft wireless keyboard was the best by far. It felt like the keyboard I had with an on electric typewriter in the 80s- the keys are large and well-shaped, and there is no mushy feeling when pressing them. Can you use a Microsoft keyboard with a Mac?
Ray, I’m pretty sure you can — my mouse is Microsoft and it had drivers, etc for the Mac.
I can’t imagine how Unix people get along with the standard Mac mouse…Unix and X Windows practically demand a 3-button mouse. Fortunately, all scroll-wheel mice allow you to click the wheel to act as that middle button…and the wheel itself is well-supported these days in Linux, too.
My own rig uses some cheap Memorex optical mouse and an IBM RapidAccess Pro keyboard. IBM keyboards have always had a good feel to me, and this one is certainly good enough. And, using the right X keyboard driver settings, the “keylaunch” daemon, and some creative shell scripting, I was able to get the extra buttons (the strip of “launcher” buttons at the top, and the audio-control buttons on the right) to do useful things under Linux.
Oh, I can’t stand the Mac keyboards (huge Mac aficionado here). My current iBook at home (and before that, my iMac) was set up with a Windows-style ergo keyboard. I also have a Logitech two button mouse, and love that too.
Need it be said? The “how many buttons on a mouse” debate vies for most heated flame war of all time up there with Mac vs. Windows and Coke vs. Pepsi. Suffice to say, every few years Apple runs an ergonomics study and “proves” that with their test group, 80% are slowed down by the right button.
Me, I’ve been on trackpads since 1993, and so I’m fairly happy with my one button even in X11. If someone can give me a three-button mouse that will squash flat when I close the lid of my PowerBook, I’ll be happy to try it out.
Re keyboards, matter of taste. The Tactile mentioned earlier uses the same mechanics as the old ADB Extended Keyboard II, which has been rated Best Keyboard Ever by a bunch of people who do such things. “Closest to a Selectric” is the review I recall, if you care about such things.
In any case, this Mac bigot doesn’t care if you trick it out with a Dell monitor and an MS keyboard. It’s all about the OS in my book.
Odd, I love my powerbook keyboard more than any other keyboard I’ve used before. The keys aren’t too deep, and they have a soft little ‘click’ that at least lets me know I hit the damn key–I tend to type while looking away from the screen at times. I just stare off into space and type.
Since I also use a keyboard protector (two dogs, two cats, hairs should stay out of my keyboard, thanks), the only time this becomes an issue is when the protector slips and I end up wutg a sebtebce tgat kiiks sinetgubg kike tgus, which is really annoying.
Keyboards seem to be a very personal thing. I’m sure your Logitech will forgive you…eventually.
If you aren’t already running Tiger, you might want to upgrade. Reason being that on most PC keyboards, the Windows key is the same as the Command key on Mac and the Alt key is the same as the Option key – that is, they are reversed. You can tweak this in Tiger from the System Preferences, but in previous versions you have to install a third-party add-on.
I’ve found that the most recent Mac keyboard is a lot less annoying than previous models, but I still remember the old IBM AT keyboard most fondly.
Microsoft hardware will work fine, and it’s what I use on all my Macs. (Stupid, stupid peripherals.) The Windows key works as the Apple key (ha) and F12 will eject CDs. Everything else should work normally, but you’ll have to get used to using the Windows key instead of control for cutting and pasting — cmd-C and so forth.
Steve Jobs is a saint and a devil. What Steve wants is what Steve gets and HE wants a one button mouse. End of discussion within Apple. Just about any USB pointing device can work with the aid of the 3rd party ‘USB Overdrive’ so my 5 button MS mouse lives on the desk and my pretty Apple mouse lives in the drawer.
If you miss clicky keys, you can get a mechanical keyboard:
I’m one of those small-handed folk who really appreciate the smaller Apple keyboards. I like the mushy touch and really don’t like the MS keyboards or the ergonomic ones because I have small hands.
I have a Logitech mouse and it works great.
Erbo: The OS 10 default gui has about as much in common with X Windows as the Seattle bus system has with an aircraft carrier (though you certainly can get X to run on 10). I use both, and have no problems with using single-button mice with either gui.
(If I wanted to fire up Maya, however, 3-button mice become desperately essential.)
David: your iBook should have a USB port, and therefore you should be able to use any keyboard you wish with your system.
Quite frankly, I’ve hated Macintosh keyboards since they threw aside the Apple Extended keyboard in favor of the abominations they use now. I used to believe that it was just a matter of getting used to it; but after using my laptop for two years now (and the dual processor G4 at work for a year before that), I have to conclude that I am NEVER going to get used to it. I pop over to the SGI and use the nice, durable, optimally spaced keys on the IBM PS2-style keyboard that ships with their machines, and I wish Apple would fix this problem of theirs.
The myth of Steve Decreeing the One True Button is a bit overblown. It is true that he’s done this, repeatedly, for other Apple hardware, but when it comes to Steve Decrees they don’t usually bother to run user testing.
What it comes down to is that nearly everyone who has never used a computer before, and nearly everyone who has only used Macs, hate using multibutton mice. The thinking at Apple is that if you want a two-button mouse, you can buy a peripheral. But if they shipped a two-button mouse, then programmers would design for it more aggressively and you’d have to use one. Ergo, unimice.
This all comes down to targeted marketing. For the longest time, Apple’s target market was the newbie/casual user – the kind of folks Jeff Porten describes above as hating multi-button mice. As their target has moved (UNIX-based OS, “Switch” campaign, etc), organizational inertia and the need to preserve the brand has prevented them from responding to a new market segment.
Microsoft gets the same flack in large corporate environments for being a retail software shop at heart, which is why you can’t easily deploy their more complex apps in an enterprise-wide environment until Version 6 or so.
What I find most interesting about this discussion is the “guilt” associated with violating the Mac “look & feel.”. It would never have occurred to John to post a rationale for switching keyboards on his Wintel box. Just goes to show how powerful Apple’s brand loyalty is – even for a relatively new buyer like John.
It blows my mind that Apple, being so artsy and aesthetically aware, creates crap ergonomics. They give the impression of a human-friendly machine but the input devices are awkward and harmful for those of us with sensitive tendons. This is one area where they are clueless on the human factors. They put form above function when they could achieve both form AND function.
“It would never have occurred to John to post a rationale for switching keyboards on his Wintel box.”
Not true: http://www.scalzi.com/whatever/003540.html
I have to agree with this. I’ve been a Mac user for almost all of my life (and love the machines dearly), but I cannot stand the keyboard. I’ve had a black logitech keyboard for the better part of a year, now. Unlike the Apple keyboard my mom has on her Mac, the keys don’t stick and it has a lot of nifty features. The mouse I didn’t have as many problems with until earlier this year. I was enrolled in an Information Technology class at my school, and we were each given our own machine to work with. Of course, they were windows machines, all with two-button mice with scroll wheels. I got so used to using that at school, I had to buy a better mouse for my Mac.
I wonder if the entire Mac aesthetic/ergonomic thing is the reason Microsoft has dominant market share. Could the whole XP empire rest on something as simple as the usefulness of the right mouse button? Windows XP is as ugly as a HR manager making love to a Vogon, but more people use it.
Or maybe just entrenched business inertia. Dunno.
Microsoft’s (business-side) empire rests on the fact that it makes a really useful office suite, and makes sure that said suite works best on its own operating system. Apple is (apparently) the best computer manufacturer when it comes to doing things like photo-editing and movie making. But processing words on a Mac is a chore, even keyboard aside…
Actually, I use my Mac mainly for writing. I’ve never seen any difference between it and Windows when it comes to word processing. Except perhaps that Word in Windows is a tad bit harder to use because they seem to hide everything the Mac version has sitting there in little windows on the side. Oh, and I actually have to go into a menu to find all the little symbols if I ever need to use them, while on Mac I generally hit two buttons and I have any symbol I want.
Personally, I think the reason Windows is so sucessful is because you can build the machines from the ground up, and don’t have to buy from just one seller. The fact that Mac has made it so that THEY are the only ones able to produce and sell hardware for their machines husts them more than Microsoft having a good office suit does.
I actually still miss my Mac keyboard – my current one (PC) is the smallest I could find and it’s still too big. I never had much of an issue with the mouse, though – hell, I actually used the hockey puck mouse my G3 came with for a few years. I only got rid of it for a scroll wheel.
It’s all a matter of adjustment, I think. I went back and forth on PCs and Macs for years – almost hourly at one point – and aside from some initial settling in, it wasn’t really an issue.
In a comment to an earlier Mac-related post, I noted that I use a USB KVM to switch between my Mac and my PC.
I just want to give an update that my Mac isn’t working so well with the KVM, anymore. If I switch to the PC, the Mac stops working with any input devices, even if I plug them in directly and not through the KVM. I need to force a power-off and reboot before it will see a mouse or keyboard again.
I’m not sure if this is because of Tiger, or if it is because of a USB 2.0 card I installed in the Mac.
“Breifly”? Apparently you’re having problems with your new keyboard too.
Nah, that’s just me.
I really think its what you’re used to. I have always had macs (since I was 6) so when I have to use other people’s computers like @ work or wherever…I don’t like it. I feel lost. I’m sure if I had always used a PC and switched to a Mac keyboard I’d be lost as well. As for the mice, I am so sick of trying to clean out those lame PC mice that are forever getting stuck and full of crud..I love my digital optical mouse “built for speed and with a fluid elliptical shape for easy handling”…. I never have sore wrists or have to re-input anything unless I’m using a PC…a lack of buttons on my mouse does not make me work slower…on a mac you just use all of the shortcut keys…so you’re constantly using both hands.
Have you gotten rid of your Mac keyboard? Because I’ve been looking to get a new one. One that doesn’t have black keys. I have one of the old G4 keyboards and the black keys make it really hard to hunt and peek. I probably just need to learn to touch type. meh.
Anyway just thought I’d ask.