While touchscreen interfaces are currently what we’re pushed towards for tablets and mobiles, on the desktop and laptop there’s very little arguing that traditional interfaces are still very much the norm.
Yes, Windows 8 does offer a variety of touchscreen enhancements if you’ve got a laptop or tablet with touch features built in, but that’s still a minority case. If you’re a heavy keyboard user, you’ll also be well aware that nobody — and I do mean nobody — has yet come up with a touch solution that can rival a physical keyboard.
I’ve been spending a lot of time lately testing out keyboards for tablets alongside more regular keyboards, and even in there stark differences exist. You really do get what you pay for, and while it can be tempting to simply put up with whatever came with your PC — whether it’s a laptop, desktop or even a tablet — if you rely on your PC for crucial business functions and need to do more than just a couple of characters worth of typing, a good keyboard can quickly pay for itself in both productivity and comfort.
On the tablet side, there’s no shortage of keyboards, mostly with an eye towards the iPad. Don’t stress that particular detail, though, as all of them use regular Bluetooth connectivity and profiles, which means if you’re an Android or Windows tablet user, as long as your tablet has Bluetooth — and pretty much all of them do — you can use the exact same keyboards. In combination, you can get the excellent battery life of a tablet along with the kinds of productivity you’d normally get out of a laptop. I’ve long been a fan of Logitech’s Ultrathin Keyboard Cover for iPad, and I’m in the middle of testing Belkin’s equivalent FastFit Keyboard Cover. Both offer much the same feature set, including making your iPad into (pretty much) a notebook style form.
On the desktop side, I’ve recently tested out Microsoft’s Sculpted Ergonomic Desktop, a $129.95 mouse and keyboard combo. That’s quite a lot to pay for a keyboard — it’s feasible to buy a wired keyboard for less than ten bucks these days — but it’s quite an exceptional keyboard, with the “split” design that Microsoft’s been using in its ergonomic keyboards for some time now.
Why go split? Simply because over time, and especially if you’re a touch typist, the effort of extending your digits over a regular flat keyboard can lead to all sorts of strains and pains. The split design encourages a more neutral position to rest your wrists, as well as putting keys within the easy and correct reach of each finger in turn.
There’s a learning curve to using a keyboard like this; when I first switched over to an ergonomic keyboard I spent a rather unhappy week watching both my accuracy and typing speed plummet. Within two weeks I was back up to speed, and within three the aches and pains I used to encounter at the end of each working day were fading away fast. There are times when I’m forced back onto a standard keyboard, especially if I’ve got a laptop and nothing else — but I’m always glad to get back to an ergonomic keyboard for the comfort factor alone.