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Spotlight on the keyboard: what to know when buying one

We still spend half of our computer time using our mouse, but we are increasingly being encouraged to make more use of the shortcut keys. That makes having a good keyboard essential. What should you be aware of when buying a (compact) keyboard?
Download PDF EU directive

Ever since IBM introduced the personal computer in 1980, the keyboard has always been an integral part of it. Back then, it was the keyboard alone that controlled the computer, but things changed in 1984 with the introduction of the mouse. The EU directive, which is virtually identical to the relevant ISO standard, applies ergonomic reasons to advocating more use of keyboard commands and less use of the mouse. The directive also advises a neutral posture for using the keyboard and the mouse. In the following video, you can see how a compact keyboard without a numeric section ensures a neutral posture. According to the ISO organization, this is impossible to realize with a standard keyboard. If you make frequent use of the keyboard’s numeric section, a good solution would be a separate numeric pad or a compact keyboard with a numeric section. The clip also shows why a compact keyboard (with or without a numeric section) works better than a standard keyboard. Because the width of a compact keyboard with a numeric section is almost 3 inches shorter than that of a standard keyboard, this makes it perfect for financial accounting specialists.

Full-sized vs. compact: how they differ

Size is not the only difference between standard and compact keyboards. The position of certain elements is also different. The numeric section is not included, but also the arrow keys are in a different place, and the compact keyboard has an editing section including the delete key.

The following illustration clearly shows how a standard full-sized keyboard differs from a compact keyboard:

1) the numeric section
2) the cursor
3) the editing section

keyboard layout
Full-sized keyboard
keyboard layout
Compact keyboard with integrated numeric section

Compact keyboard for laptop users
One should also be able to detach a keyboard from the screen, especially when you work with a laptop longer than two hours. This makes an external compact keyboard absolutely essential. Another advantage is that a compact keyboard is convenient to carry in a laptop bag or case. But keyboard size is not the only reason why users prefer a compact keyboard. To keep you from having to lift your arm over and over again, the keyboard should also be no thicker in the middle (around the ASDF keys) than 35 mm and preferably thinner than 30 mm. A slope of 0-12° is also recommended to prevent excessive wrist extension. This is why it is best to keep the legs of the keyboard retracted. The color of the keyboard is also important. Dark letters on a light background are easier to read than light letters on a dark background, so a light-colored keyboard with dark letters is preferable. And the keys should also have a matte surface to prevent glare.

The most important points to consider when buying a keyboard:
- Decide whether you need a numeric section or not
- Weight and thickness
- Color (light background, dark letters)
- An anti-slip surface on the underside of the keyboard
- Touch (how hard do you have to press on the keys?)

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