Computer Keyboards

Since getting my laptop (a Dell Inspiron 8100), I’ve been absolutely disgusted with regular PC keyboards. I’ve always envied Mac owners the soft touch of their keyboards, but it never bothered me until doing extended work on my laptop. Comparatively, the PC keyboards I work with are stiff and far too high; the amount of work I have to do to depress a key is silly.

When I go to Best Buy, I fondle the keyboards in a way that makes the staff ask me to leave. I look like a pianist (or something that sounds alike), testing the tuning. But I’ve never found a regular PC keyboard that feels the same.

Am I S.O.L.? Is there any PS2/USB keyboard out there for a PC that feels like a Mac keyboard? What’s the mechanical difference?

Many modern PCs can handle USB keyboards (on mine, there’s a BIOS setting that you have to adjust). PS2 keyboards are fairly universal, but I have no direct knowledge on USB.

I’d say if you found a Mac keyboard you liked, go ahead and buy it. If it didn’t work, just take it back.


If you like the feel of the Inspiron keyboards, you should look into some of the “mini” PC keyboards.

I’m sorry I don’t have a company name for you,. but I THINK PC Concepts makes one.

The mini keyboards are almost just like the ones found in laptops.

Is there a difference between Mac and PC keyboards, beyond the obvious stylistic advantage of the Mac?

Yeah. Mac keyboards are way too small, and you can’t feel a thing! She’s talking about the ‘softness’ of a keyboard, which is… well, I guess inversely proportional to the amount of noise it makes, in general. Mac keyboards are EXTREMELY soft. I suppose preference kind of depends on your hands. She may have tiny, short fingers which lead her to yearn for a tiny keyboard which is effortless to type on.

Mac keyboards are kind of similar to laptop keyboards, IMO.

I used to work at a computer training center with both Mac and PC labs, and we discovered that the USB keyboards from our iMacs also worked with our USB-equipped PCs without needing an additional driver or BIOS adjustments. Just plug the keyboard into one of the PC’s USB ports.

Apple’s Pro Keyboard has that “soft” feel and is not undersized. It’s USB so there’s no reason to think it won’t work on a USB-equipped PC. I’d recommend getting the Mac to go with it, though. :wink:

I haven’t used macs for a while, but I always hated their ‘stiff’ high keys, though I don’t know what its like on i-macs etc.
I now use a laptop mostly [pc], which has very soft keys. Going back to normal PC keyboards I find it quite difficult to type on them. I quite like the new Dell keyboards [PC ones], and I think you simply have to get used to them. It usually takes me a few minuites to get used to normal PC keyboards; its a little like going from driving an automatic car to driving a manual.

Wow, this might just be it. One question: I looked at it on Apple’s website, and there’s no Alt key, and (obviously) no Windows key, but there is a key that seems to read “options”, and another with the apple logo on it. Do these function on a PC? I can live without a Windows key, but an Alt key is necessary.

Generally speaking, the Option key on the Mac does the same thing as the Alt key on a PC. In fact, it’s labeled on the Mac as both Option and Alt.

That doesn’t answer your question, though, does it? Not having a PC handy, I can’t test it myself but if you can wait a few days I’ll get a friend who still works at the center to test the iMac keyboard on the PC. Stay tuned…

I have a Mac with a third party keyboard that works with both Mac and PC. It has the Mac keys with their Windows equivalents printed in small letters above them. It says “alt” over the option key, “num lock” over clear, “print screen”, “scroll lock” and “pause” over F13-F15, and “ins” over help. I also assume that the Apple (command) key doubles as the Windows key. IIRC, that’s how those keys worked when I had a working copy of Virtual PC (a Windows emulator for the Mac).

I don’t know how much of a keyboard fanatic you are, but have you checked out Kinesis Keyboards? Five years ago I was having pain in my right forearm from having to twist my pinky up to hit the delete key, but on the Kinesis keyboard, the right thumb is the spacebar and the left thumb is the backspace key. Haven’t had a problem since. The key press feels more “Mac like” to me. They cost some bucks around 175-250, but if you use a keyboard as much as I have, it’s definately worth it YMMV.

It was the Kinesis keyboard that Tommy Lee Jones used in Men In Black.

They don’t have a USB in the classic keyboard, it’s a PS/2 interface. However, you can buy a Griffon adaptor to use it on the Mac, which I have and it works great.


      • There’s a company usually listed in Computer Shopper magazines indexes that only sells PC and terminal keyboards, most of which they build themselves. The keyboards are constructed to the original US gov’t/mil specs, and cost $80-$150+. They have mostly “classic” computer keyboards, but also have a couple mini/‘laptop’ models, and a couple other variations too. Whenever there was a ranking of “best keyboard”, this company was usually mentioned first or second, along with the Happy Hacker. (-I meant to buy meeself a better keyboard when my MS natural wore out, but never got around to it… -because it ain’t wore out yet) - DougC

Not only can you use a Macintosh USB keyboard on your USB-equipped PC (and yes, the Option key is the Alt key, it even SAYS Alt on it as well as Option; I don’t know about whether the Apple Command key becomes a Windows key or not, the Windows key is a later development) – you can even use an original Macintosh Extended keyboard, the big old ADB keyboard characterized by the Caps Lock keys that snap down and stay down. Best keyboard texture of any keyboard made. Just get a USB to ADB adapter and then plug it into your USB port.

(Also good advice for Mac users with newer non-ADB Macs)

I’m typing this right now on a Win 2k machine using my little “iMac style” keyboard. The option key (which is also labled “alt”) does work as the alt key, and the apple/command key works as the windows key. CAPSLOCK WORKS

Whoops, sorry, I was seeing what worked and what didn’t.

I just found out that tab in most web browsers doesn’t insert a tab, it takes you to the next active control, which happened to be “Submit Reply”, and space just happens to trigger it.

As I was saying: Capslock and numlock work as advertised. Pgup/pgdn and “home” work too. The “help” button doesn’t seem to do anything. Delete works as a windows “backspace”, but since the “clear” key is numlock under windows, there isn’t anything on this keyboard that behaves like a windows “delete” key. However, the Apple Pro Keyboard does have a delete key, it looks like.

Oh, one thing is that the apple/windows key and the option/alt keys are in reverse order to most windows keyboards.

When I plugged it in, plug n’ pray recgonized it as an “Apple USB Keyboard” and gave it a generic HID driver. It also recognized the keyboard as a hub, as it has two unpowered USB ports on it.

I really don’t see anything mechanically different from this and my newer PC keyboards, as they’re all membrane type keyboards.
One thing that I think may make a difference in feel is that the Mac keyboard’s key bed (the bottom, where the keys get mounted) is actually curved slightly, rather than flat. So even with your hands in position over the home row, your fingertips come straight down on all the keys, rather than at an angle for the ones off the home row.

Also, I think the throw (how far the keys need to be pressed) is slightly shallower than either my HP or Logitech (which I suspect were both made by Logitech) pc keyboards, but I don’t have anything to properly measure that with.

Because of the lack of a delete key, I don’t think the older, little iMac keyboard would make a good PC keyboard. Though I think the new Apple Pro Keyboard probably would work well, but I’d want to test out the delete key first.

IBM Type M. The second best keyboard ever made, behind the Northgate. You’ll often find old Type Ms at flea markets and surplus computer stores. I grab 'em for a buck or two a piece, throw 'em in the dishwasher key side down, and let 'em dry for a few days. Good as new.

I’ve got the Type M, great keyboard! Its got that whole ‘clack’ thing going on, very positive feedback to the things you type. Though, if I’m on speakerphone, everyone can hear my typing, loud and clear.

The thing feels about as solid as any piece of computer hardware I’ve ever used.

The ‘clack’ you are talking about is exactly the opposite what the original poster wanted.

It’s weird. People who use keyboards a lot tend to have different preferences for key feel, yet key feel is never something that is outright marketed to consumers. We are left to fend for ourselves.