Where They Should Be
When I saw the new Apple keyboards a few months back, I thought they were pretty ridiculous; they’re as thin as a Ritz cracker and barely raised off of your desk. It seemed more like comical modernism, as in the case of the Mighty Mouse, than something realistically useful. I must admit, after trying one out and finally buying one, I love the damn thing. The ridiculous height and lack of girth turned out to be the best typing experience I’ve had.
This past weekend I was using the previous Apple keyboard on a friend’s computer and it was like rediscovering my old Commodore 64 after years of it being hidden away—clickity-clack, clickity-clack—and as silly as it sounds, I became acutely aware of the finger effort needed to depress each key. The new Apple keyboard laughs at all of that, combining the ease of typing on a laptop with the scope of a full size keyboard. Plus there’s barely any room for dirt and fuzz to settle inside… there really isn’t an inside!
As beautiful as it is, I have but one small beef: Apple moved the volume keys from the top right of the keyboard. It seems like such an insignificant thing, but it screws with the use patterns I’m accustomed to. On the previous keyboard the volume controls and disc eject keys resided at the top right. Now they double up in the middle of the keyboard (joined by three iTunes play control keys) occupying the F7-F12 keys. For whatever reason, I can’t seen to get this through my head. I’ve been using this keyboard for weeks and I still find myself hitting the top right keys.
Perhaps weirdest of all is the eject key. In both the current and previous keyboards it didn’t share space with a function key; it was only the eject key. Previously, it was in the extreme top right spot; F19, then to the right, eject. Clean and simple. On the new keyboard, eject is slapped in between F12 an F13, creating an odd break in the continuity of the function row. It gets even more confusing when I use my MacBook which places all dual purpose F keys to the left while leaving the eject key by itself on the far right (the MacBook Pro can’t decide either).
Why did Apple move them? Did they change them for the sake of the new truncated wireless keyboard that more closely resembles a laptop keyboard? That way the wouldn’t have to manufacture different F keys for the two keyboards, one set with those seven keys on F7-F12 and one set with them on F14-F19. With the groupings they have now—three iTunes control keys, three volume keys and one eject key—they could’ve easily map these sets to the sections of three and four function keys on the right side of the keyboard. It seems so much more natural and intuitive, much the same way that in the middle is avoided in the OS menu bar; important functions are pushed to the far left and far right sides. Isn’t that where they should be?