The Future of the Keyboard’s Numeric Keypad

Question: I am in contact with a keyboard manufacturer and discussing the value of the integrated numeric keypad. I would like to collect as many thoughts and opinions as possible on this matter (see below). I will post summary results to the lists.

Background: My Master’s Thesis showed the numeric keypad is only used about 4% of the time (as I best remember). Short keyboards exist without keypads (or optional, separate unit), and other keyboards imbed the keypad into the right-hand key section. It is assumed that part of the problem with pointing devices is the long reach to them and that elimination of the numeric keypad would allow pointing devices to be placed closer, and thus be less stressful to use. Mice “Bridges” are even available that fit over the keypad to mouse on.
The general questions of interest are:

  • Does the current level of numeric keypad use justify its integration into the keyboard?
  • Would having a separate, optional numeric keypad be acceptable or better than an integrated one?
  • Would having the numeric keypad embedded in the right hand key section be an acceptable compromise?

Any other thoughts on the topic?

Answer 1: It would be great to be able to detach it, and re-attach it optionally on the *left* of the keyboard. I make use of the Win95 “MouseKey” software (where the 5 key on the keypad substitutes for a mouse click). It would be ideal to move the mouse with the right arm, and “click” the 5 with the left hand, without having to reach over so far to the right with both arms.

Answer 2: The Apple Ergonomic keyboard has a separate numeric and function keypad which you can put anywhere you want. I keep it behind the main keyboard because I use it very little.

Answer 3: I use a Cherry keyboard. It is a split keyboard, and the angle of the split is adjustable. Also, the exact tilt of the two halves of the keyboard can be adjusted very precisely. Like the Apple keyboard, it has a separate number pad, which I use on the left-hand side of the main keyboard, chiefly as alternative source of cursor keys as most of my RSI problem is with my right hand. As a computer programmer I tend to spend a lot of time moving up and down sections of code with the cursor keys. I also use DragonDictate and Dragon NaturallySpeaking, however, neither of these is particularly useful when editing code, hence my use of the keypad.

Answer 4: Apologies for all the typos in my previous posting. This was caused by my sending the text from my PalmPilot (PDA), having written my text into it, copying it from my crashed PC’s screen before a hard reset, without looking at what I was writing. The handwriting recognition is 90-95% accurate, but I was writing at some speed! Of course a sensible man would then have proof-read it before sending.

Answer 5: Could you possibly post the exact model/number of this Cherry keyboard, and details of the supplier ? How much does it cost?

Answer 6: Right, I’ve managed to get the invoice from our purchasing department. We got them from:
Access Keyboards Ltd
Unit 18
Suttons Business Park
Tel: 0118-966-3333
Part Nos:
G80-5000HAAGB – for the keyboard=09
G80-5700HAAUS – for the numberpad
Back in April 1997, it cost:
99.15 for the keyboard
22.15 for the numberpad
9 for next day courier

This makes a total cost of 130.30 plus VAT (153.11 inc. VAT). Of course, if your employer is paying for it (as they should be in order to be seen to be doing their part to stop you getting RSI) then you’ll be quoting them the 130, as they’ll get the VAT back, and it sounds less! I tried the Microsoft Natural, and found that the angle of split wasn’t great enough. The Cherry seems to have a lot more flexibility, although ultimately the angle is restricted.

Answer 7: What do you think of the PalmPilot? I’m looking to upgrade my Psion Series 3 and the new Series 5 is not Mac-compatible at present. Alternatives seem to be the PalmPilot or the Newton (which is pricey). How does using a wand affect your RSI?

Answer 8: I can’t live without it. This sounds sad, I know, but as I was fairly reliant upon my Filofax for my diary, address book and a to-do list it has proved invaluable. In addition to the standard programs that come with it, (address book, diary, calculator, to-do list, memos, expense record and email) – a fairly impressive sets of applications in themselves, one can easily load additional applications (that have been written for the PalmPilot) from a PC. Many of these are easily available via the Internet, most of which are free or shareware. I even found an alternative version of the “Program Manager” used to select applications on the PalmPilot screen. The ease with which one can back-up data is brilliant. I just place the PalmPilot in its cradle and press one button. This then launches a program, called HotSync, on the PC and the newest data from either the PC or the PalmPilot is copied to the other. Deleted memos and to-do items etc. are archived on the PC. Some of the additional applications I have are:
ToDo Plus (a shareware improvement on the original)
ThoughtMill (on trial – a hierarchical planning tool)
AportisDoc (a document reader, that can cope with large files (the
memopad has a 4K limit per file))
Hardball (a break-out game)
Invaders (the classic Space Invaders game)
Roids (Asteroids)
Ted-Truss (Tetris)

With AportisDoc, I’m reading a Sherlock Holmes novel – available in PalmPilot format from a website called The Lending Library (FREE!) along with quite a few other classic books (that I wouldn’t necessarily buy until I knew I’d enjoy them). And most importantly of all… A Tricorder emulator (no, I’m not a fan of Star Trek, but it amused me!) Seriously though, there are a lot of very useful applications out there. Many of which will synchronise your data with well-known PC applications such as Schedule Plus, Outlook, databases etc. If you are going to buy one, I would only consider the Professional edition. This has 1Mb of memory (which is plenty, but upgradeable to 3Mb). It also has a TCP/IP stack, which means you can send and receive email from the PalmPilot (either via a Pilot modem, or your MS Exchange account when you HotSync). The PalmPilot Personal only has 512Kb memory, and can’t do email (because there’s no TCP/IP stack.

I can’t recommend them enough, BUT you must look at what suits your needs. For example, I have a friend who has different requirements who gets on much better with a Psion series 5. Of course that cost him 500, whereas my PalmPilot cost me 250 (inc. VAT), but that’s only one consideration. Also, the PalmPilot is small enough and light enough to fit in my shirt pocket. Hope I haven’t sounded too much like a 3com agent or vendor! It’s just really great that *finally* someone has come up with a reasonably cheap PDA that does everything I need, and does it in a good way.

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