Purchasing a laptop computer should be a relatively routine experience by now. You have only to decide which size you want and, of course, how much you are willing to pay.
Not so fast, it seems. While the standard QWERTY keyboard has remained unchanged since its introduction, some of the other commonly used keys appear to be randomly placed.
I’ve been looking for a small laptop (netbook size but with more horsepower and flexibility) and was shocked to learn that certain keys were either missing, moved, or configured elsewhere on keyboards belonging to laptops less than 14” wide. Yes, we all know giving up the numeric keypad was a price we had to pay for portable machines, but some have gone as far as removing, relocating, or reconfiguring the HOME, END, PAGE UP and PAGE DOWN keys!
I was poised to purchase an HP laptop until I read one particular review about the missing keys. It turns out the functionality exists, but is now built in to the arrow keys by way of the Function key. While this may sound trivial, for someone like me who is a writer, moving they keys around is tantamount to sacrilege. It’s challenging enough going from my work laptop to my home laptop where those particular keys are spaced slightly different. However, they are at least in the same general area.
Since finding out about this keyboard anomaly, I have been conducting extensive research to see if there are any laptops under 12” with those four important keys in the correct vicinity. Only one brand of one company has the configuration I’m looking for – the Lenovo Thinkpad. Too bad the configuration I want costs more than my last two computers combined, and significantly more than larger laptop models with the same horsepower. I guess my search will continue until they are more affordable.
Computer manufacturers really should consult typists before messing with key placement. I remember a woman I worked with a number of years ago who was a speed demon at data entry. As technology moved from mainframe terminals to Window’s-like fancy user interfaces, she was reluctant to move forward. Not because she didn’t like the new interface, but because the keyboard for the PC lacked an extra tab key on the right hand side that existed on her mainframe keyboard. This one single missing key would have slowed down here data entry speed considerably.
Laptop designers, I hope you’re taking notes. Before you start messing with key placement, have a few real typists, people who use both hands without looking, give the new product a thorough testing. You might actually end up selling more than a few additional units.