Introducing the kinder keyboard...; hardware review

Like so many people, I spend long hours at a computer. Which was fine until four months ago, when my shoulders and neck started aching even after short periods on the keyboard.

I decided a new routine, a new seat and a new keyboard were in order. And amid comments from friends that it was nothing more than designer junk, I bought one of Microsoft's Natural keyboards.

The Natural keyboard is about the same length as a traditional keyboard and has keys, but here the similarities end. The keyboard is sloped towards the user, with the main keys split into two areas. It has a palm rest and wrist lever built in, all combined to make typing more relaxed and comfortable.

The combination worked. I have found I can type more accurately, and faster, and have discovered I can touch-type after years of crossed fingers and hands. Typing is more comfortable and the new design easier to use than a conventional keyboard. I soon got used to the new layout, although my productivity dived while I was learning to use it. And I gather some people find they cannot get to grips with it, no matter what.

The keyboard comes with a piece of software, "IntelliType", which "learns" and corrects your common typing errors as you work. It also has three extra keys that allow you to take short cuts to launch applications when using Windows 95. The only problem is that it is easy to hit them by accident.

The Natural keyboard is not cheap, but it is much more than a designer peripheral - it is a valuable tool for anyone who spends a lot of time in front of a computer.

Microsoft Natural Keyboard, pounds 80 inc VAT (01734 271000).

SARA EDLINGTON

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