Posted by: Ed Tittel
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Along with its new Windows 8 OS, MS has been introducing various new items of hardware to help users make best (or at least, better) use of this new runtime environment. In past months we’ve seen a revisited Touch Mouse, a Wedge Touch Mouse, the ultra-thin Sculpt Mobile Keyboard (a petite cousin of this model, lacking a 10-keypad for numeric data, and many special function keys), and the Touch Cover, designed to work with the MS Surface tablet as a combination screen cover (when draped over the Surface display) and as a wireless mobile keyboard (when detached from the surface and laid out keyside-up for typing).
Now, the company is almost ready to start selling its Sculpt Comfort keyboard as well, a $60 (MSRP) wireless and ergonomic keyboard. It features a split space key front and center, that allows users to redefine the left hand half of the space key as a backspace key if they so choose (research shows that using the regular backspace key, at the upper right of the QWERTY layout, breaks typing rhythm and speed by forcing users to stop typing as normal as they seek out and use the backspace key instead; this redesign lets them train their left thumbs to get in the game and keep their hands in normal typing position).
The keyboard also includes keys for the so-called Windows 8 “Charms” (the symbols that show up when you call up the top-level, right-hand side activities menu — namely Search, Share, Device, and Settings) on the top edge of the keyboard, along with media controls for sound, video, and audio. The Windows 8 key replaces the older “Windows key” found on most MS keyboards, and calls up the Start screen (but also invokes the Start menu on older Windows versions).
As somebody who makes his living typing like mad all day long, I’ve come to appreciate and use the Microsoft keyboards all the way back to the original microphone style keyboard connector version of the MS Natural keyboard (I still have one with a PS/2 connector in my office, though nearly all of my production keyboards are USB or wireless these days). My current favorite is the USB attached Comfort Curve 4000 keyboard from Microsoft. I’ve tried several wireless models recently but encountered communication problems between dongle and keyboard that put me off my stride — a definite no-no for somebody who types for a living. Even so, I’ll gladly give the new MS model a whirl when it becomes available, mostly to see if the left-hand thumb backspace can help me improve my productivity. My gut feel is “Yes, it can!” But the proof’s in the typing, so we’ll see if it works for me or not…