NWA-PCUG Newsletter Article, January 2012
Keyboards and Stuff
By Merle Nicholson,
Secretary, Tampa PC Users Group, Inc., FL
April 2011 issue, Bits of Blue
merle (at) merlenicholson.com (click to email author)

I’ve modified and programmed keyboards, trying my best to optimize my time at the computer. Not that I don’t enjoy my computer and the things I can accomplish, but, First, I’m a lousy typist, despite having practiced continuously since 1976, and, second, I hate messing with things that are obviously flawed. Keyboards are all flawed, that’s a given. Here’s how I’m coping.

I pretty much settled, a couple of years ago, on a Logitech Gaming Keyboard model G11. It’s been succeeded by a model G510 ($106 at NewEgg), which is only slightly improved from the G11. I’m always on the lookout for new keyboards, but so far I haven’t found anything else to excite me. The G11 is distinguished by 18 programmable keys, key backlighting and multimedia controls. The G510 is the same except the backlighting is probably better and it has a small multipurpose LCD screen. It’s the backlighting and programmable keys that make it worth it to me. The picture below is the left side, showing the key arrangement and my labels.

You can use these 18 keys in 18 times three ways (54) because there are three buttons at the top of the array – M1, M2 and M3 – that will switch the whole bank of 18 to three sets. So far I haven’t found a use for switching the banks. Eighteen seems to be enough, so it stays on M1. Programming is pretty versatile. It accepts macros, shortcuts, functions, text and a scripting language, so I’d guess that you’d be hard pressed to find anything you couldn’t program.

The bottom three keys in the picture are pretty obvious: They’re a replacement for Ctl+X, C and V. I use these three constantly, since I’m a real believer in cut, copy and paste because I make a lot of mistakes and need to avoid typing as much as possible. The next set up is new for me, marked 1 2 3. They (and cut, copy, paste) don’t need labels; I marked them for this article. 1 2 3 run a little program I wrote in VB.NET that will pop the mouse cursor to the center of my monitors 1, 2 and 3 and blip some eye-catching circles. The only disadvantage in using three monitors is finding the mouse and how to get it where you want it. Problem solved: The buttons “Computer”, “F:”, “G:”, ”C:” and “D:” all just open Windows Explorer to those drive letters. “UP” moves Windows Explorer up one level in the directory tree, “close” closes the current window (it’s really Alt+F4, and a bit hazardous to use). “KP”, “outlook”, “IE” and “WAtracker” all launch programs and are used perhaps once a day. I’ll ditch any of these if I find any other use for the keys. “Date” runs another program I wrote to push the time and date into the clipboard ready for pasting. I use this, well,...sometimes.

There are several other ways to alter keyboards. I’ve disabled the “Caps Lock” key. It has no effect when pressed. It takes a complicated little registry change to do that, but just think about it; the only time I EVER use the Caps Lock is to switch it off after accidently switching it on. What a waste of keyboard space. Likewise “Scroll Lock.” I’ll bet not one in ten thousand keyboard users know what Scroll Lock is, and it’s on every keyboard waiting for an accidental bump. How about the “Ins” key? Although I probably would not disable it as I did Caps Lock, I’d like to at least disable it from an accidental bump almost all the time.

Now that I’m started on this – let’s look at Num Lock. Ok, I’ll concede that some people use it. But I do own three keyboards (two on notebooks) that have no numeric keypad. But Num Lock switches an array of character keys to numbers if you don’t have a keypad. More than once I’ve gone crazy knowing that I know the logon password on a computer that wouldn’t take. Guess what. The num lock was on, the password used characters U,I,O,J,K,L or M, and being a password wouldn’t show up on the screen. Man, I hate that.

What I really want is a 100% fully programmable keyboard program built into Windows. How hard could it be?

There are programmable keyboards. One or two really are 100% programmable. Even some that you just place the key switches wherever you want on a slate. But I don’t want it bad enough to pay them $1500!

Pictured above: Logitech G510, NewEgg Item#: N82E16823126100 $106.

Also nice in my living room (think NetFlix): Logitech diNovo Mini Black 63 Normal Keys Bluetooth Wireless Mini keyboard Item#: N82E16823126039 $120. pictured below. ?

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