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Notebook Ergonomics, Usability

February 26, 2004

Using a notebook as my primary system is proving great for keeping everything I need with me at home or at the office. (Yes, the infamous iBook, though I don’t expect that to hold true much longer.)

But the past two months of this are taking their toll. Placing a notebook on a desk and then hunching over the small screen all day is a quick way to a stiff neck; doing so day after day is a quick path to long term disability. I’m willing to spend the pennies now to avoid the corrective dollars later, so I went out and bought an iCurve notebook stand and a Logitech keyboard. Skirting around Apple’s generally more expensive hardware, I picked up a PC/Mac compatible USB cheapie keyboard. Smart.

Well, not so fast. Within 10 minutes, I had re-packaged the keyboard and was on my way back to the store. The problem was simple, but it was enough: my new keyboard was Mac-compatible, but it was designed for Windows. Instead of doing the logical thing and mapping the keys to the proper Mac spatial configuration, Logitech’s rock star product designer tried to logically map the Mac keys to the Windows equivalents. Command and Option were reversed.

It’s the little things that make all the difference, and though the included CD would most likely allow me to re-map them (and the others that were mapped incorrectly), I opted to pay the extra thirty dollars for an Apple Pro keyboard over spending the rest of my morning futzing with the configuration.

Paying double the price for subtle usability improvements: I must be a genuine Mac user now!

(For the curious: yes, the new setup is making a big difference for most work, especially typing. I’m still hunching when working in Photoshop though, so the screen is just too small. You win some, you lose some.)