New Keyboard at Home - trying out the Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000

I accidentally poured too much water into my old trusty MS Natural Keyboard (bought sometime in 1999 or so). Very sad, since I very much enjoyed it. I still use this kind of keyboard at work, though.

I tried to take it apart to let it dry, but unfortunately, it didn’t help. Must be some corrosion somewhere in the layers of metal-covered plastic that keep track of which key was pressed, since only some of the keys are malfunctioning.

As a side note, the old keyboard had the text “Keytronics” printed on some of its internal parts.

Since I’ve really enjoyed this keyboard, I decided to try the new generation of MS Natural Keyboard, and tried a MS Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000 at a local hardware store. It felt nice, so I bought it.

I unpacked it yesterday, and to much irritation, the F3-F12 buttons didn’t work at all, not giving any keycode back. Mumbling about Microsoft doing stupid things, I went to bed.

This morning, after doing some google queries, I found out that you must have the “F Lock” button pressed to get all F-keys working. Not 100% obvious, if you ask me.. but I guess that’s what I guess for not following the instructions about installing the software before plugging the keyboard in. Not that I expect a Linux version of the software on the CD.. :-)

There are some keys on the keyboard that don’t give any keysyms, including the zoom key in the middle. There seems to be ongoing work on a Linux driver for this hardware, that will enable this as well. All important keys do however work.

So, what about the ergonomics and feeling of the keyboard? Well, after typing a while, my initial impression is that I really like it. I’ve had to adjust my armrest’s positions a bit to compensate for the slightly higher keyboard (I’m currently trying it using the piece of plastic that makes it higher in the end faced to me. It does make the keyboard look like an UFO, but it feels right!).

The feeling of each keystroke is quite similar to the old one, perhaps being a little bit softer. The space button is a bit harder to press down, and the enter key is a bit smaller, but so far, I haven’t managed to hit it.

I usually don’t enjoy products from Microsoft, being a user mostly of Linux and other UNIX derivatives, but their keyboards are very good.

Written on January 21, 2006