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FingerWorks Offers Replacement PowerBook Keyboard 82

JerryKnight writes "FingerWorks, the inventor of TouchStream keyboards such as the LP, is taking pre-orders for a drop-in replacement for the keyboard in a 15" PowerBook G4 that is pretty much the same thing as the LP. Now the beautiful PowerBook can be completely smooth. Words fail to express the enthusiasm felt by me and hopefully anyone else who has used these keyboards. No word on availability. List price: $259." It's called the MacNTouch. Hm.
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FingerWorks Offers Replacement PowerBook Keyboard

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  • great... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by kasper37 ( 90457 ) on Saturday May 31, 2003 @01:20PM (#6085169) Homepage
    Unless you use your left thumb for the space bar like I do...
    • Re:great... (Score:2, Funny)

      by Shishio ( 540577 )
      Wow, I never thought about what finger I use for spaces.

      I had to open up terminal and type a sentence just to figure it out.
      • Right thumb here. Of course I'm left handed.

        I wonder if right handed people use the left thumb by default, and left handed the right?

        Sad I'm even thinking about this :(
        • I'm right handed and I use the left thumb, so perhaps. I just realized that I use all of the fingers on my left hand and only my index finger on my right hand. Why do I use my non-dominant hand so much more than my dominant hand? I suppose I'll never know.
          • How did you learn to type? Most programs I've seen start with left hand on the home row. Left handed typing is probably what you learned first.
            • I didn't use a program to learn to type. I started with hunt and peck and eventually the way I type became the way I type now. I think it's possible that I type the way I do because I'm used to keyboard shortcuts, and on my first keyboard there were no right control/alt/etc. keys.
        • Depends on the person, the method of typing they learned, and which finger was last used to type a word.

          Me, I usually use my right thumb. Sometimes, I'll use my left, but not often.

          Granted, I don't do standard touch typing using all 10 fingers. I use three fingers on my left hand, three fingers on my right hand, and my right thumb. My pinkies are generally unused. And I can still attain 60-90 corrected wpm. :)

          It really depends on your typing style, the style of keyboard you are used to, and what your
    • Re:great... (Score:2, Informative)

      You can remap the BackSpace/Delete or any other key you like with our gesture editor (still in Beta). If you can put up with about a week's confusion from learning any new key swap, the thumb BackSpace will feel great for the rest of your life!
  • by AtariAmarok ( 451306 ) on Saturday May 31, 2003 @01:25PM (#6085202)
    I was about to replace my Powerbook keyboard with one from an old Atari 400. Now I won't have to.
    • Yep, "zero-touch" and "membrane" keyboards may look real cool, but unless you like looking at your fingers while you type, it is absolutely horrible in practice. Without those nice bumps and valleys all over the place, it's practically impossible to type reliably.

      For the young-uns out there, let me explain it in terms they can understand better. You know those cheap plastic DDR pads? And how sometimes your position drifts and you step on the "X" instead of the right arrow? This is the same thing, only

      • There are some huge differences between our 'zero-force' typing and a membrane keyboard. Membrane keyboards require you to apply pressure at the center of the key. You have to make sure to press hard to always meet the pressure threshold, and you have to make sure NOT to hit between keys, both of which slow you down to speeds 40wpm.

        Our 'zero-force' typing system is MUCH more forgiving. There is no minimum pressure threshold, so you can drop your fingers on the surface as lightly as you like. And when
      • Nope.

        Proper typing (that is, how people have typed for over a century successfully) has you only making contact with the keys on contact, which is not different whether there are edges or not.

        The primary tactile feedback necessary for touch-typing is the home-row dimple. To help align your hands, this keyboard has a dimple for each finger. Should work fine.

  • by Bookwyrm ( 3535 ) on Saturday May 31, 2003 @01:50PM (#6085389)
    After looking at some of the sample gestures for the keyboard, I have to admit I am somewhat impressed. Some very interesting ideas there. After looking at more of the sample gestures for the touch keyboard, I am still impressed, but wary.

    It reminds me of the problems with 'logically designed languages'. (i.e. all words for colors in the language might start with "cro", "crob" is blue, "crog" is green, "cror" is red, etc. The problem being that a single typos in the word might still be a valid word of a similiar type, but not what you meant.) I suspect someone who became a total expert with the keyboard could do just fine, but an intermediate user could get highly frustrated -- forgetting to use/accidently using an extra finger in a gesture might cause some unwanted operation to happen, not merely cause the desired operation to not happen. Maybe the software is smart enough to second guess some of these issues, but...

    Go to the company's page and look at the Enhanced Modifier Chords [] -- if you tap with six fingers on the home row, you get an Enter -- if you tap six fingers on the row above the home row, you get an Esc key press. (Personally, I would immediately redefine those two gestures to have far more difference between the two -- accidently hitting "Enter" when one meant "Escape" in some dialog boxes would be very bad.) Or the shift/control differences.

    Of course, one could just not use the gestures, but then why bother with the keyboard?

    Nonetheless, very interesting ideas, but it may not be ready for everyone.

    • I think this looks pretty neat for left handed powerbook users.

      It's a bit of a stretch trying to use modifier keys while pointing with another finger and then clicking with your thumb since control is on the left side of the keyboard.

      I'm allready a big fan of launchbar to avoid having to move my hands. I'd love to try one of these out for a while, but the price is a bit scary. I'm going to go try to dig up some reviews.
    • It reminds me of the problems with 'logically designed languages...

      Can anyone out there explain what this is referring to? are these computer languages or human-communication ones? I tried to google for the term (with or without a hyphen and singular or plural) and came up with nothing.

      • Try this link for an artificially constructed language to see what I was referring to: []

        It's very regular, very logically designed, and a single mis-typed character can still yield a valid word -- no way of error detection (i.e. in English, I can type "the color bluu", "the color bleu", "the color "bluo", "the color blu", and people can probably guess what I mean. In Ebubo, "awa" (green) and "awe" (cyan) and "awi" "red" have no such distinctive differences. If I
    • In my experience, it is a rare case to mistake a row on the chords, and the reason is this: In order to type on the LP (this will also apply to MacNTouch when it is released), your heels must be immobile, either by training or by keeping them firmly placed. This prevents "drifting" of the hands since you no longer have the feedback from the keys to keep your fingers in position. Once you learn this and successfully type on the keyboard, it is obvious to the hands where each of the rows is, and therefore
    • I have a touchstream keyboard and would not go back to using a mechanical one. The gestures are for the most part very intuitive. Mouse movement and text selection typically take only minutes to learn.

      The enhanced gestures you mention are aimed at expert users and have simpler non-zonal equivalents.

      I find the keyboard far more effcient and less stressful than any other setup and I've tried a few over the years!
      • ...and would not go back to using a mechanical one

        This is why I'm dubious, I have to use a lot of different machines, it isn't economic to replace the keyboards for them all, and this would just confuse me. QWERTY may be a crappy standard, but it is a standard.
        • QWERTY may be a crappy standard

          My keyboard is querty. I like to think of it as an extension of the mouse/keyboard interface. I have no problem using my laptop or any other setup for that matter.

          I use this because the amount of time I spend working on my computer any improvement in comfort and effciency is worth it to me.

  • Looks nice (Score:4, Interesting)

    by weeeeed ( 675324 ) on Saturday May 31, 2003 @02:20PM (#6085562) Journal
    BUT... ;) ...looking at the layout [](which I hope is not final), why is the function key replaced with shift? When I reach out for the fn key on my current keyboard I have trouble accessing the other keys covered by the left hand. I know I have small hands, but come on... leave it where it is at the current size (two keys wide).

    Same for return... umm enter... where is return??? I know quite some apps, where return and enter have different functions... take Fire for example: return sends out, enter makes a new line in the message... I do not think I would want to use additional shift for this. And it IS far too small, leave it at the current size, it was already difficult enough for me to stop hitting back-slash all the time...

    the whole right part of the keyboard is messed up and will require you to get used to the new layout.

    Too much self advertisement... use it for bigger keys instead, although the hand is quite cute.

    Can I press command + option with one finger only? I hope so.


    What about the heat? I have 1GHz and it gets quite hot already. If you look at the current keyboard, it is designed to provide better air circulation. You think it is not important? Buy the hoover TiBook, wait until the fans go on, lift the keyboard and wait for a while... the fans go off. With the keyboard it takes longer time for the fans to go off, I dunno about MacNTouch with no holes at all.

    I do not think I will buy it, maybe I would for my iBook, but it has IMO too many design/usability flaws. I had to try it out first.

    • I think that there are so-called chords for most modifer keys, so you won't have to reach for the fn- or the shift key. (Not sure if that makes things better or worse...)

      Personally, I'd go for the iGesture Pad []. It might not be usable on a plane, but it's most probably easier to master gesture-mousing than gesture-typing.

      Then again, the TouchStream ST has scored excellent reviews [].

      Considering my budget, however, I'll most probably never get my hands onto either one... :-(

      (No pun intended.)
    • Can I press command + option with one finger only? I hope so.

      I didn't even think about it, but I press command + option with only one finger too. But the only function I can think of off hand also includes the Escape key. Do we really use Force Quit Application that much in OS X?

      I guess one could always create a gesture for Force Quit Application. Maybe a circle with a line through it?
      • I didn't even think about it, but I press command + option with only one finger too. But the only function I can think of off hand also includes the Escape key.

        There are quite a lot of applications with rather long key shortcuts: Being web/it-developer I use Photoshop a lot, my favourite shortcut is: Comand+Option+Shift+S (Save for Web).

        View Source in Safari: Cmd+Opt+V

        BBEdit has quite a bunch of those shortcuts as well.

    • We've posted some notes [] on the layout page to explain why the modifier and enter keys were relegated to the bottom row.

      href= NTouch_printable.html

      Basically, TouchStreams have home-row chords and other convenient gestures to replace all these keys. Our customers quickly find the gestures are easier to learn and use than any pinky key placement, hence we focused on large, comfortable placement of the alphabetic keys.
    • Having used the LP (obviously since I submitted the story) for a while now, this is a welcome advancement from Fingerworks, even if I don't own a 15" Powerbook (yet). The layout I find to be very intuitive relative to the LP. The LP itself has some oddities that really help after learning them.

      Modifiers: I can say from experience that you will never use the modifier keys again, except maybe for double-modifier combos (although double-chording does work). Chording is the way to go. You can even "chea
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 31, 2003 @02:44PM (#6085700)
    I read a review onthe TouchStream LP somewhere that said it cut battery life in half when used on notebooks! I hope the powerbook version draws less power.

    I haven't measured, but the keyboard on my TiBook looks very similar to the one in my iBook... I wonder if it would work in both?

    Still, for the money, perhaps it would be better to buy the TouchStream LP and just bring it along with you. It folds up for portability. I know the drop in replacement is slick, but it means it will only ever work on the TiBook... if you are like me and move from machine to machine, I think portability of such an expensive keyboard would outweigh the wow-factor of having it built in to the TiBook.

    But then, maybe I am crazy. Or something.
    • I think the 'cut battery life in half' was a bit of an exaggeration, unless the reviewer's test was on a mini-notebook. We don't have the final specs yet, but the MacNTouch should use less than half as much power as the TouchStream LP, which uses 250mA@5V -> 1.25 Watts/hour. The 15" PowerBook's battery supposedly has a 61 W-hour capacity. You do the math...

      As we're able to reduce the TouchStream LP's power usage, we'll update its tech specs page as well.

  • Not to troll, but getting a replacement 2 button trackbad to the market is the only way I'd ever be able to use an Apple laptop. I've got an old 190cs as a toy, but for daily use? Nope.

    Of course, maybe I should be suggesting same to manufacturer, rather than bitching about it to the slashbots?
    • Ok, when you use mac os you don't really need 2 buttons. It's a myth, in windows and unix you NEED 2 buttons, in mac os you don't. You 190cs should have NO use for a 2 button mouse at all (unless you run some heavy duty apps, but i doubt that), apple didn't introduce control clicking (right click in windows) until OS 8 I believe. I doubt your 190cs is running 8.

      Personally I mostly use mac os x gui apps along with terminals to unix boxen. I've had no real need for a 2 button mouse. When the powerbook is on
      • True, I don't *need* the right mouse button, but I sure as hell prefer it.

        And as for the 'toy' comment, I was referring only to that 190, since it's so underpowered by today's standards. I wasn't talking about Macs in general, as I quite prefer my 533mhz G4 tower to the 2.5ghz Dell I have at work.

        And again, all this is academic (or worse!) since I have neither the cash nor the need for a PowerBook. (I'm saving up for the 4.2ghz Quad 980 that's being released next month.)
        • But... (Score:3, Informative)

          by 2nd Post! ( 213333 )
          If you're using the mouse, you have one hand (at the most) on the keyboard and the other at the pad; index on the pad, thumb on the button, and let's say your left hand on the keyboard...

          Immediately that means you have a five button mouse at your disposal:

          C o mmand-click

          Not to mention chords:
          Sh ift-option-click
          etc, etc, etc.

          So... why is the lack of a right mouse button (ctrl-click, but you know this already, right?) stopping you fro
    • You know that would be a killer product. Having owned a Powerbook and a few desktop Macs I get used to having the 2 button scroll on my desktops, not that ctrl+clicking is that bad (esp on a laptop where your hands arent really going to ever be but a few inches from the keys) but its still annoying. Should Apple change and make 2 button track-pads? No, and we arent going to get into why. But would I buy a replacement 2 button pad? Ya damn right.

      "Bob, how much would you like to wager on our first test?... A
    • Not meaning to troll, either, but my experience is just the opposite: Whenever I'm at a Windows laptop, I find myself constantly hitting the wrong button below the trackpad.

      Well, I guess it's all just a matter of what you're used to.
      • Whenever I'm at a Windows laptop, I find myself constantly hitting the wrong button below the trackpad.
        Well, I guess it's all just a matter of what you're used to.

        Not entirely true. I'm used to 3+ buttons, and I constantly hit the wrong button on a windows machine's trackpad. One thing I did like was the way the right hand edge of the tackpad on said machine worked as a scroll wheel (which is something I miss far more than the second button when I use an Apple mouse). Does / can the PowerBook trackpad

        • Not quite, but uControl [] offers similar functionality: You can scroll via trackpad by pressing the function key (configurable).

          It's mainly a keyboard-remapping software - the trackpad stuff is just an added bonus.
    • by addaon ( 41825 ) <> on Saturday May 31, 2003 @06:31PM (#6086825)
      How hard would it be to do this as a home-made mod? Even if a company were to come out with a two-button trackpad add-on (which I would love, even though I don't have a personal need for it; choice is good), it ain't going to be for anything older than a albook / ibook (I'm surprised this keyboard is for the nearly-dead tibook). Looking at my ibook, the clicky thing (button) is right in the center of the trackpad button, so the right-hand third of the button could be removed without problems. This leaves a left-click button larger than the potential right button, but as left-click is more common anyway, this could be argued away as a good thing. Now, what can we put in the space we have? I haven't looked inside an ibook for a while, but imagine we're quite space-limited. Even so, it shouldn't be hard to wire in something from a membrane keypad or some such, or even or a more typical switch in the available space. Now, how to connect it? I suspect this is where we get bit, although on an albook without bluetooth, it's manageable. The bluetooth modules in the albooks hook up to usb headers. All you need is the board out of a usb mini-mouse, wire it up to the usb sensor, and rewire the right-button switch to use the switch you added. To the OS, the left and right button signals will appear to come from different mice, but that should be acceptable. The iBook, at least, has enough empty space for an additional circuit board that size (wrap it in electrical tape and just stick it in somewhere)... haven't been inside an albook yet.

      Anyone have any suggestions for improvement to this technique?
      • I've never looked inside the case of one of Apple's new laptops, but if you're good you should be able to wire something up so that by pressing the new button, the option key and the regular mouse click signals are both emitted. That would save the necessity of another mouse board, and would appear to the operating system to be the default "contextual menu" key/mouse combo.

        There might be a bit of timing involved in this solution, however.
      • The main thing to keep in mind is that all Powerbook trackpads, presumably even the current AlBook models, are... ADB! Yes, the venerable Apple Desktop Bus is still not quite dead yet. ADB never had a standard way to support a right mouse button, and always required driver software.

        Wiring up a gutted USB mouse chip to a spare internal USB header is a pretty clever idea, if you (like me) don't give a rats ass about Bluetooth.

    • by shunnicutt ( 561059 ) on Saturday May 31, 2003 @10:23PM (#6087654)
      On my PowerBook, I always tap on the trackpad in order to click. I always use the tap-drag to drag. I never use the physical trackpad button.

      I'd love to find a piece of software that recognized the physical trackpad button as a control-click, thus simulating a two-button mouse.
      • On the same note, I always thought it would be nice if, if apple is really going to stick with this one-button strategy, they made the touchpad touch-surface the whole size of the touchpad. That is, eliminate the button entirely, and just support tapping on a larger surface. And since apple uses touchpads with the same aspect ration as their monitors, it would make the touchpad significantly wider as well... bigger is better, when it comes to control surfaces, whether on airplanes or laptops.
        • That would not be nice at all. I use the trackpad button all the time. I've turned off the trackpad tap function. When its enabled I constantly find myself clicking, when I just trying to move my finger around on the pad. Its all about getting used to it of course, but Im fine with the button. Keep the button!
  • How does the mouse work on that thing?
    • Just slide two fingers anywhere on the right half, right over the keys! To click, tap two fingertips simultaneously anywhere on the right half: ui de.html
      • Two more cents worth...

        Three fingers is click/drag, so gone are the days of double-click-dragging on the glidepoint. Another very useful thing is two-finger-drag on the non-mouse hand (default: left hand). That controls the text cursor.

        Yeah, check the gesture guide. There are too many to mention, most of which I use frequently.
  • ugh.. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Suppafly ( 179830 ) <slashdot@sup[ ] ['paf' in gap]> on Sunday June 01, 2003 @01:34AM (#6088272)
    am i the only one that thinks splitting the space bar in half and making the left half of it into a backspace is a stupid idea. people learn to type on keyboards that have the space bar under either hand, its ignorant to assume that only the right hand will be used for space. backspace and space and totally different, its really annoying to be typeing along and delete the last character of every word you type and string all of your words together because some keyboard designer thought it would be cute to make half the space bar into a backspace key.. atleast make it a programable key so people can make it back into a space bar. if you make it just a backspace or delete key, its not really possible to remap it without messing up the backspace key that is in the proper location.
    • Well the labelling may be permanent but the function isn't. If you really have a serious problem remapping the backspace key in your head, remap it with the gesture editor. You can change just about anything the firmware does with that.

      And no, I don't think the split space bar is stupid because backspace is now extremely easier to hit.
  • Every time I see yet another lateset and greatest, high priced, "ergonomic" keyboard with the ancient Sholes (QWERTY) layout, I have to laugh. If you want minimal finger travel, less muscle stress, and faster touch typing, then switch over to the Dvorak layout. Apple makes this easy in software (System Preferences -> International -> Input Menu -> Dvorak). I've done this along with a keycap migration with all my machines including my 15 inch TiBook and, like nearly all Dvorak users, will never g
    • I switched to dvorak about a month before getting the LP, and yes that switch alone helped my typing comfort immensely. Then I got rid of my mouse by switching to the keyboard the MacNTouch seems directly descended from (glue the halves together and compact it a little to fit).

      I don't really laugh at the qwerty-ness of the MacNTouch. Somebody "normal" at some point will want to type on it since it is so cool. They won't pause for a month to learn Dvorak before trying out the keyboard, and dvorak typers
  • by TomatoMan ( 93630 ) on Sunday June 01, 2003 @10:04PM (#6092645) Homepage Journal
    Why on earth can't someone make a powerbook keyboard with the control key in the right place? I defy anybody to type a ctrl-a with their left hand, with the ctrl key one key to the RIGHT of the fn key in the corner, without either rotating their entire hand from the wrist, or inflicting major tendon damage. Don't even TRY ctrl-q.

    Apple's own full-sized keyboards put the control key in the lower left corner where it belongs, although it should REALLY go where caps lock is. Why must they have it out of place on the powerbooks?

    Yes, I know about the software mapping utilities such as uControl [], which I use, but they all have quirks and have a nasty tendency to cause kernel panics on system upgrades. If someone comes up with a "programmers's keyboard," I've got a nice pile of money to throw at them.
    • This is really a mute point with TouchStreams, since our modifier chords:

      for Shift, Ctrl, and Alt are much nicer than any pinky control key. And if you're an Emacs user, our Emacs mode automatically generates those crazy C-x C-f ... sequences from simple gestures.
      • moot point? :)

        I appreciate the thought, but my emacs keys are wired into my brain (and fingers) with about 17 years of use now, and I can do C-x C-f with about one braincell's worth of reflex directive. I'd just like the friggin' control key in the corner like it is on every other keyboard on earth.

        Note this is primarily a gripe at Apple, not you.
  • ... software synthesizer manufacturers will start bundling their own control-surface keyboards for use with their apps.

    I like this idea, actually, as much as it doesn't make sense for me to do so (I work for a company which makes hardware synthesziers, after all)... if more apps were able to have their own keyboards for special-uses, maybe we'd see some really interesting innovation in hardware control surface design...

    Anyway, it'll be interesting to see how long it takes until NI Reaktor comes with its o
    • interesting idea... I know there is a touch-based control surface that works over USB or MIDI, but it is more like 5+ 'strips' that would work well to replace mixer controls. This smooth surface could emulate mixer controls as well as piano keys! sure playing a real acoustic piano is the real®©(TM) thing, but this would be great for music composition on the road. now if only there were some small LED under the keyboard to make multiple radical remappings more apparent.... :)
  • This certainly does look interesting, and I do like the concept of "chords" replacing modifier keys. But I have to admit that, like everyone, I'm resistant to change.

    How long would it take me to change over to not having the click-y feeling of mechanical keys? It's a fact that my fingers have had that feedback system beat into them for over 20 years now, and I'm not sure I'd be able to change (even if it is better for me in the long run).

    It sounds like some folks here are happy users of these keyboards
    • Having used an LP for about 10 months, I can say that it is well worth the time and effort (and money!). It was a rough 2 weeks at the start, learning to type again, but after that it has only gotten easier. I still make a few typos, but that may partially be due to learning Dvorak only a month before switching to the LP. I would NOT recommend trying both switches simultaneously.

      If you remind yourself of the awesome mousing/gesture abilities the keyboard offers, the headache of learning zero-force/zero
    • We're in the process of setting up a community/forum on the FingerWorks site, which could certainly become an organizing hub for TouchStream User Groups. I'll talk to my colleagues about having a 'TouchStream User Group' section.
  • I have been using the touchstream LP for about a month now, and I am toatally hooked. I take it with me on trips now, because using a traditional keyboard is annoying.

    This is how it works.. The touchpad can sense diferent numbers of fingers on the board: typing is one finger, mousing is two fingers (right hand), click-drag is three fingers. There are also 'gestures' that can be used to do common things (similar to the command-* keystrokes). You can do things like copy, cut, paste, open, save, close, et

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