Author Topic: New: Microsoft Ergonomic Keyboard released Oct 2019  (Read 4536 times)

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Offline saint_james

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New: Microsoft Ergonomic Keyboard released Oct 2019
« on: Sun, 20 October 2019, 07:59:11 »
This was released a few days ago:

https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/p/microsoft-ergonomic-keyboard/93841NGDWR1H?activetab=pivot%3aoverviewtab

Anyone seen one in the wild yet?  Any observations or assessments of this keyboard?  Please discuss.

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Offline Findecanor

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Re: New: Microsoft Ergonomic Keyboard released Oct 2019
« Reply #1 on: Sun, 20 October 2019, 08:57:44 »
This, and the low-profile Microsoft Bluetooth Keyboard have two new keys: an Office key and an Emoji key.

Apparently, the Emoji key is supposed to launch an Emoji Picker in Windows 10, while the Office key is used as a modifier to launch different components of Microsoft Office. They are supported by Windows 10 version 1903 and later.

The new keys the Windows and Menu keys on the right side. Instead there are now four modifiers on the left-hand side: because the Menu or Fn key respectively has been located there. I predict that gamers using WASD are not going to like it because they would have to stretch farther over the Windows and Alt keys to reach the space bar. (and I don't see any Windows Lock function...)

The ergonomic keyboard looks like a replacement for the "Natural Keyboard" 4000. The keys are unfortunately flat and wide but higher than scissor switches (so I would question how nice that would be to type on).
However, they have reduced the offset of the bottom alphabetic row on the right side, thus making the columns straighter (which I think is a good thing...), and the left side's columns were already pretty straight on previous keyboards.
Looking closely, it seems that the ISO left shift would be 1u as on MS Sculpt Ergo and not 1.25u as on the MS 4000, and an ISO Enter key would be a small as on a Apple keyboard ... The Alt keys being 1u is not going well with ISO users either (they could have reduced the sizes of the huge Control keys, but noooo).
The media keys above the function key row, and the numeric keypad are somewhat similar to the MS 4000.
Print Screen, Scroll Lock, Pause and Num Lock have moved one step left to provide room for a new Clear key on the numeric keypad (which is what Num Lock maps to on Macintosh, but they must be using another USB key code).
And: the keyboard has not only two Backspace keys but now also two Del keys for some reason.

My verdict: The poop emoji

(This is an edited repost of my post on Deskthority)
« Last Edit: Mon, 21 October 2019, 03:27:11 by Findecanor »
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Offline saint_james

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Re: New: Microsoft Ergonomic Keyboard released Oct 2019
« Reply #2 on: Sun, 20 October 2019, 17:29:12 »
Findecanor, thanks for link to Deskthority discussion.  I will reiterate some of the questions/opinions I have (that also appeared in the Deskthority discussion) below. 

"Emoji" key and "Office" key are big turn-offs for me.  I am vehemently opposed to MS adding keys that are specifically oriented to their own proprietary applications.  This is enough reason for me NOT to even consider buying either one of these keyboards, unless they offer a means of reprogramming those key positions to standard functions (and perhaps offering replacement keycaps to swap out standard legends or even blanks).

On the new Ergo board, the straighter (ortholinear or close to it) stacking of keys seems like it could be a good thing.  That's probably the most positive impression I have of the new Ergo board.

I'm guessing the switch actuation is rubber dome, but wondering if the key travel is the 3.5-4mm that most productivity typists are accustomed to. 

The wide flat keycaps are a turn off.  Is this done purely for aesthetics?  Almost all productivity-oriented typists seem to prefer concavity on the tops of keycaps (either cylindrical or spherical) to aid in centering the fingers during use.

Key placement:  Bottom row placement of menu, winkey and alt key seems alien.  Is there some good (ergonomic) reason to shift all of these keys to the right in relation to ZXCV?  And why put the menu key on the left? 

New keys:  What exactly are 1, 2 and 3 keys on the top left of the keyboard?  Why the extra Delete key?  What is the "Clear" key for, and how does adding this benefit anyone?

Key sizes:  why is RCTL so gigantic, and how does this benefit anyone?  It seems that the CTL keys could have been made a bit smaller, and all the other bottom row keys could have been made a bit bigger.  The whole reason for "bigger than 1u keys" is for key chording, right?



« Last Edit: Sun, 20 October 2019, 18:05:41 by saint_james »
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Offline ErgoMacros

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Re: New: Microsoft Ergonomic Keyboard released Oct 2019
« Reply #3 on: Sun, 20 October 2019, 18:01:37 »
...
New keys:  What exactly are 1, 2 and 3 keys on the top left of the keyboard?  Why the extra Delete key?  What is the "Clear" key for, and how does adding this benefit anyone?
...

Here's what the tech spacs page says:

Technology details
Hot key features: Favorite keys (1/2/3), media keys (Mute/Vol+/Vol-/Music/Previous Track, Play/Pause/Next Track), Calculator, Snipping, TaskView, SysLock, Search
Product feature performance

Customizable features: Favorite keys reassignment; media keys reassignment; LED indicator management (NumLk, Caps Lk, ScrollLk); Enable/Disable Application key; Emoji key reassignment (can only be assigned to Application key)


So, I guess 1,2,3 are "programable/reassignable" via MS "Mouse and Keyboard Center software." Explicitly states not macOS.
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Offline saint_james

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Re: New: Microsoft Ergonomic Keyboard released Oct 2019
« Reply #4 on: Sun, 20 October 2019, 18:15:41 »
...
New keys:  What exactly are 1, 2 and 3 keys on the top left of the keyboard?  Why the extra Delete key?  What is the "Clear" key for, and how does adding this benefit anyone?
...

Here's what the tech spacs page says:

Technology details
Hot key features: Favorite keys (1/2/3)...

... Customizable features: Favorite keys reassignment; media keys reassignment; LED indicator management (NumLk, Caps Lk, ScrollLk); Enable/Disable Application key; Emoji key reassignment (can only be assigned to Application key)


So, I guess 1,2,3 are "programable/reassignable" via MS "Mouse and Keyboard Center software." Explicitly states not macOS.

Thanks ErgoMacros. 

Wondering how one might use those 1/2/3 keys as "favorite keys" instead of actually just using the "favorite keys" in their native positions.  Removing hands from the home row seems inefficient, unless the 1/2/3 execute macros or chorded key combinations. 

It is also good to know that the Emoji key can be reassigned to the Application key.  Also, the ability to reassign media keys is another small positive.
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Offline Findecanor

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Re: New: Microsoft Ergonomic Keyboard released Oct 2019
« Reply #5 on: Sun, 20 October 2019, 18:35:15 »
BTW. according to this review it does have a detachable wrist riser, for negative tilt, like the MS 4000. It had not been mentioned on the product page...

"Emoji" key and "Office" key are big turn-offs for me.  I am vehemently opposed to MS adding keys that are specifically oriented to their own proprietary applications.  This is enough reason for me NOT to even consider buying either one of these keyboards, unless they offer a means of reprogramming those key positions to standard functions (and perhaps offering replacement keycaps to swap out standard legends or even blanks).
I have looked, but not found any documentation on them for software or hardware developers. Only that support was added in the May 2019 Update of Windows 10 (version 1903).
I would really like to extract the keyboards' report descriptors and sniff what kind of reports the keyboards send over USB.

What exactly are 1, 2 and 3 keys on the top left of the keyboard?
Those are programmable macro keys. The MS 4000 has five of them in the centre, but the keyboard is not programmable itself: that is done by a driver on the host. I anticipate that the new keyboard would work the same way.

What is the "Clear" key for, and how does adding this benefit anyone?
Supposedly, it clears the active test (or number) field. The designer was probably inspired by Macintosh keyboards, which have a Clear key in that position instead of a Num Lock. Actually the USB HID code sent from Macintosh keyboards is called "Num Lock and Clear": so that the meaning is just different on different operating systems. The USB HID standard does also have a dedicated "Keypad Clear" code, and it is that one that I would expect this keyboard to use. (Sorry, I repeat myself from my previous post)
« Last Edit: Mon, 21 October 2019, 03:25:51 by Findecanor »
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Offline saint_james

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Re: New: Microsoft Ergonomic Keyboard released Oct 2019
« Reply #6 on: Sun, 20 October 2019, 20:10:25 »

My verdict: The poop emoji


I'm in agreement with this.  MS could have made an affordable, approachable, "sub-optimal yet good enough" ergo keyboard.  This is a missed opportunity.
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Offline Findecanor

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Re: New: Microsoft Ergonomic Keyboard released Oct 2019
« Reply #7 on: Mon, 21 October 2019, 07:05:53 »
The layout with the additional Delete key, ScrLk, Pause, NumLk and Clear is apparently lifted from the Microsoft Surface Ergonomic Keyboard, (I have not bothered to look that closely at it before.)
The Surface Ergo also has four keys to the left of the Space bar, but the left Control key is smaller.
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Offline RSanders

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Re: New: Microsoft Ergonomic Keyboard released Oct 2019
« Reply #8 on: Mon, 21 October 2019, 15:08:15 »
Looks like an updated modernized version of the original Microsoft Natural from the mid to late 1990's.  It was garbage back then.  I used one very briefly as a medical transcriptionist and found the experience to be quite horrible in terms of ergonomics and excessive key pressure.  For users who only type occasionally, it is marginally better than a standard flat "came with the computer" keyboard but for any serious users, well.... Without actually seeing one of these new ones "live" and just going by the pictures, I don't see anything to indicate that this is nothing more than better looking modernized garbage, especially at that price point.  Don't bother with it.  Either make a suitable ergonomic keyboard with real mechanical switches yourself or purchase a commercially available "real" ergonomic keyboard like one of the offerings from Kinesis or, better yet, Maltron. 

Offline saint_james

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Re: New: Microsoft Ergonomic Keyboard released Oct 2019
« Reply #9 on: Tue, 22 October 2019, 04:52:44 »
... the original Microsoft Natural from the mid to late 1990's...

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Offline Endeavour1934

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Re: New: Microsoft Ergonomic Keyboard released Oct 2019
« Reply #10 on: Tue, 22 October 2019, 05:14:55 »
I don't care about the MSOffice key, but the emoji key is an interesting addition, because in Windows 10 it also gives access to other symbols/characters, like a shortcut to charmap.exe
You could view it as a modern reinterpretation of the Compose key, and I actually like the idea of having that key/functionality back without needing to remember obscure alt+number combinations.

« Last Edit: Tue, 22 October 2019, 05:16:58 by Endeavour1934 »

Offline Findecanor

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Re: New: Microsoft Ergonomic Keyboard released Oct 2019
« Reply #11 on: Tue, 22 October 2019, 07:37:19 »
You could view it as a modern reinterpretation of the Compose key, and I actually like the idea of having that key/functionality back without needing to remember obscure alt+number combinations.
That's an interesting comparison...

First, the position of the Emoji key is the Menu key's old position. It is about the same as the position as the Compose key on old Unix keyboards such as those from Sun. On Sun keyboards with USB, the Compose key has the same USB HID keyboard usage code as the Menu key (since the inception of USB), and users of the Compose key on Unix/Linux and Windows (with a third-party program) with PC keyboards often map the Menu key to Compose.
But with the current USB standard, you can't have a keyboard that has both a Compose and a Menu key by default: you would have to map one or both in software to a different key/s.
I hope that Microsoft has assigned a previously de-facto unused but existing standard key code to the Emoji key instead of making it fully proprietary: then Unix users would map that to Compose, and it could become considered a separate Compose key by convention.

The classic Compose key can already produce some emojis, at least on modern Unix systems: <Compose> : ) produces ☺ for instance. But the classic Compose key is limited in that it interprets almost only two-character sequences, with a few three-character sequences.
For longer sequences to be viable, there would need to be better feedback to the user, and a way to cancel (other than running to the end of an invalid sequence).
I'd think that an interactive on-screen panel could be an improvement to the Compose key.

I went and tested the panel on a Windows machine, using the older Windows + . (period) key combo to open it, which works on older keyboards.
Weirdly enough, it does not grab keyboard focus to itself. Instead it forwards the input to the application beneath. If the active application has an active text field, it works like an input method for it, working on input in front of the original cursor position. Apparently, some text fields keep the cursor put not showing where input goes while others move the cursor, showing no marker where the emoji sequence started.
This gets weird if you open the emoji dialog over an application but there isn't an active text field.

I think a better design would at least grab keyboard focus to itself, and not include the input sequence into the text the user is working on.
Like it does now, it should show the input sequence (so far) and use it as a search string, narrowing down the search results as you type, allowing you to go between alternatives with the arrow keys and select with Enter.
With the existing panel, you cancel by backspace'ing to the beginning. I think Esc should also cancel.
The current panel does not detect code sequences as such: it only works like a search engine. However, it does not show the names that it matched to unless you hover the mouse over the icons.
The Emoji Panel requires the user to press a glyph to select it, while the Compose key exits compose mode and produces the glyph as soon as it has a full valid sequence.
The Emoji Panel did also not recognise any common Compose character codes that I tested: there are no ligatures (such as Ć - which is in the Danish and Norwegian alphabets), and only very few graphical characters.

The Compose key had been introduced way back when we used only 8-bit character codes, when the code set was relatively small. It would be awesome if it could be extended to work as an alternative to the Character Map for access to the full Unicode key set, with Greek, mathematical symbols and other things, and not just be used for emojis that had been added to Unicode for use by those who think that ASCII art is too hard.

Edit:
I noticed that GTK+3, has an emoji selector. It works only in programs based on the GTK+ library, which is used by e.g. Unix/Linux desktop environments Mate, Gnome and Cinnamon, and only where supported: The text editors and text fields. It does not work in the terminal.
It is patterned after Windows selector, and enabled with Ctrl + . (period).
It has its own text field and closes with Esc. Unlike Windows' Emoji Picker, it supports only emojis and the "tabs" for different categories are bookmarks within one large page of emojis...
« Last Edit: Tue, 22 October 2019, 15:13:03 by Findecanor »
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Offline vvp

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Re: New: Microsoft Ergonomic Keyboard released Oct 2019
« Reply #12 on: Wed, 23 October 2019, 03:28:16 »
But the classic Compose key is limited in that it interprets almost only two-character sequences, with a few three-character sequences.
For longer sequences to be viable, there would need to be better feedback to the user, and a way to cancel (other than running to the end of an invalid sequence).
My classic compose key(*) definitely supports at least 4 character sequences. I'm guessing the length of the sequence is not limited. A composition in progress can be indicated by a compose led but it is not installed on most keyboards and also many times not supported in software (e.g. I suspect that the X11 client library I use does not support the compose led on my keyboard). Broken/escaped compose sequences can be indicated by a "beep".

(*) GTK_IM_MODULE=xim

Offline phinix

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Re: New: Microsoft Ergonomic Keyboard released Oct 2019
« Reply #13 on: Thu, 31 October 2019, 05:51:25 »
Is it really the most ergonomic keyboard?
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Offline vvp

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Re: New: Microsoft Ergonomic Keyboard released Oct 2019
« Reply #14 on: Thu, 31 October 2019, 13:58:05 »
It is an ergonomic keyboard only by name  :))

Offline MajorKoos

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Re: New: Microsoft Ergonomic Keyboard released Oct 2019
« Reply #15 on: Thu, 31 October 2019, 15:12:22 »
I spent more on switches for my LZ Ergo than what this keyboard costs.

Offline Symbiote

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Re: New: Microsoft Ergonomic Keyboard released Oct 2019
« Reply #16 on: Thu, 31 October 2019, 15:49:45 »
I spent more on switches for my LZ Ergo than what this keyboard costs.

That's a problem really.

I want ergonomic equipment to be affordable for everyone, and to be considered "standard" rather than being "what's that weird keyboard you use".

Offline MajorKoos

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Re: New: Microsoft Ergonomic Keyboard released Oct 2019
« Reply #17 on: Thu, 31 October 2019, 15:57:11 »
The MS Natural had that sort of appeal back in the 90's I guess.

Offline harlekein

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Re: New: Microsoft Ergonomic Keyboard released Oct 2019
« Reply #18 on: Thu, 14 November 2019, 09:13:04 »
Still more ergonomic than the Alice.

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Re: New: Microsoft Ergonomic Keyboard released Oct 2019
« Reply #19 on: Fri, 15 November 2019, 12:10:23 »
This was released a few days ago:

https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/p/microsoft-ergonomic-keyboard/93841NGDWR1H?activetab=pivot%3aoverviewtab

Anyone seen one in the wild yet?  Any observations or assessments of this keyboard?  Please discuss.

I have seen a ton of ergos , especially the microsoft natural. I've tried them and they too weird, not going back to ergo again unless i absolutely have to.