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[personal profile] julesjones
I know people love to hate Microsoft -- but they do sell good hardware. When I finally had to abandon my ancient Trust ergonomic keyboard because my new laptop wouldn't support an AT connector even through an adaptor, I went straight for a Microsoft keyboard -- the Microsoft Natural 4000. I've had it just over a year, so it's time to report.

The 4000 is a split-and-angled layout designed to reduce RSI. Even though I'd been using such a layout for the last ten years, it did take me a few days to get used to this one, as the exact slope and dishing of the keypads is slightly different to my old one. And I can remember how long it took me to get used to an ergonomic keyboard the first time. If you've never used one before it will take a while to adapt, especially if you're like me and have a fast but totally untrained typing method that wanders all over the keyboard.

It's well worth taking the time, as for most people a good split keyboard such as this will reduce the risk of RSI and help people who already have problems. This model is very comfortable to use -- the keys generally give good feedback without feeling spongy or requiring a lot of force, although the space bar needs something of a heavy hand. There's an integrated padded wrist rest, which is very comfortable and used properly reduces arm strain. There are foldaway feet to raise the back of the keyboard if desired, but there is also a clip-on platform for the front of the keyboard which gives a slight reverse slope, which is actually more comfortable for many people. (Note that it may not a good idea to rest your wrists/palms on the rest while actually hitting keys -- what it's good for is dropping your hands into a supported rest position for a second while you think about what to type next.) I have RSI that will flare up with very little provocation, and this is one of the two most comfortable keyboards I've ever used.

There's a collection of extra buttons, some programmable -- most of which I personally don't use, but which are likely to be useful to some people. The two that I do find I use regularly are the zoom lever, which is a godsend when trying to read webpages with tiny fonts, and the mute key, which lets me switch off the sound *fast* when I hit a webpage with annoying embedded sound.

The shape means that it takes up quite a bit more desk space than a standard keyboard. One word of warning -- I use a left-handed mouse, and you'll have to stretch for the mouse if you place it on the right.

It's relatively pricy by the standards of ordinary consumer keyboards, but if you have problems with RSI and this one works for you, it's worth the extra money, and it's a *lot* cheaper than some specialist keyboards.

(But don't let your cat knock a glass of wine over it, right, [livejournal.com profile] desperance?)
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