Windows XP / Beginners

Upgrading keyboards

The keyboard that came with your computer wouldn't even make a decent boat anchor. Don't get me wrong. Those mushy, squishy, tinker-toy keyboards would make fine Cracker Jack prizes, and casual computer users can get by with them for years.

Seriously, if you spend more than a few hours a day at the computer, you're probably wondering why your fingers hurt and why you make so many mistakes typing. There's a good reason why. That keyboard you're using probably cost a dollar. Maybe less. Getting a new one can make a big difference in how well you type and can speed up your computing enormously.

Several companies now make ergonomic keyboards, which are contoured to let you type with your hands in a position that (supposedly) reduces the stress on them. These keyboards take some getting used to, but some users swear by them. You can get a wireless keyboard. You can also get a keyboard with a built-in pointing device to replace the mouse. Heck, you can probably get one that looks like Mickey Mouse.

If you're serious about replacing your tin-can keyboard, keep these points in mind:

  • Look for a keyboard that feels right. Some folks like quiet keys. Some prefer keys with short throws - ones you don't have to push very far. Some prefer minimal tactile feedback - when you push the key, it doesn't push back. Most current keyboards have a row of function keys across the top. Everybody's different, and the only way you're going to find a keyboard that you like is to try dozens of them.
  • If you've been using a "straight" keyboard, make sure you can get used to a split ergonomic keyboard before you buy one. A lot of people who have given up in disgust when their fingers couldn't adapt to the ergonomic split.
  • Wireless keyboards have batteries that wear out. With regular wired keyboard, you don't have to worry about interference or blocked sensors. Sure, cables are ugly. But they're very reliable.
  • Expensive keyboards aren't necessarily better than cheap ones. Bigname keyboards aren't necessarily better than generics.
  • Heavy keyboards are better than light ones, unless you're going to schlep your keyboard with you on your travels through Asia. Heavy keyboards with rubber feet stay put.

All keyboards designed for Windows computers are compatible with Windows XP. A keyboard may require a driver to operate its special features, though. Check its compatibility if this is a possible concern for you.

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