Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000
Computer keyboards are like mattresses--you don't know how crappy yours is until you try a good one. If you don't have an aversion to split keyboards, the Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000 can help you keep RSI therapy off your list of things to do this year. The split keys and the angled keyboard keep your wrists in a more natural and comfortable position, and the dedicated (and programmable) buttons reduce the amount of mousing you do. At $64.95, however, the keyboard is rather pricey, and it takes up a lot of desktop acreage.
Setting up the Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000 is a breeze. Load the IntelliType Pro 5.3 software from the included CD, restart your computer, and plug in the USB keyboard. The printed quick-start guide gives instructions for using a PS/2 adapter, but we tried it on two different systems and couldn't get that to work. Microsoft confirmed our findings that the keyboard isn't PS/2 compatible; we would rather use the PS/2 connector to free up a USB port.
Along the top edge of the bulky Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000 is a row of programmable silver buttons. Aside from the five Favorites buttons, they come preprogrammed to do things such as open a browser window, open an e-mail client, control media playback, and open the desktop calculator. You can easily reprogram them to open a different version of a program (for example, Firefox instead of Internet Explorer or Outlook instead of Hotmail) or to do something different altogether (such as open a particular file or launch a program). The five Favorites buttons aren't preprogrammed; if you forget what functions you've assigned them, hitting the My Favorites button calls up a window that shows you.
The function keys also do double duty on this keyboard. With the F Lock on, they perform their standard functions. With the F Lock off, they execute a number of shortcuts, including undo/redo, save, print, and reply/forward/send for e-mail programs. The F keys are all labeled with their secondary functions.