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What do you think about the minimalist 'Concept 4' keyboard?
Poll ended at Sat Aug 24, 2013 10:22 pm
I wanna buy one 27%  27%  [ 6 ]
Cool! I like it! 14%  14%  [ 3 ]
Not sure 9%  9%  [ 2 ]
I prefer the original layout 36%  36%  [ 8 ]
You must be joking! 0%  0%  [ 0 ]
Throw this idea to the nearest bin 14%  14%  [ 3 ]
Total votes : 22
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 25, 2011 10:22 pm 
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If you don't know what a Thinkpad Keyboard is, please see here:
http://www.lenovoblogs.com/designmatters/2008/12/thinkpad-external-keyboard-survey-just-your-type/


Overview

In this post I present my thoughts about the Thinkpad Keyboard. I also introduce the Concept 3 and Concept 4, which are dream keyboards, which only exist in my imagination, and some image editing I did based on these thoughts. They are basically the Thinkpad Keyboard but aiming a minimalist layout and aiming maximum efficiency whilst typing. I would love to have one of these imaginary beauties. Maybe someday Lenovo decides to make them? :)


Background

Let's talk about what the major differences are between the old Thinkpad Keyboard the the current model.

The old Thinkpad Keyboard had a numpad, as you can see in the link above. Most people do not use the numpad at all. It's absolutely useless, just a waste of space. If you really needs a numpad, you can connect an external device via USB directly to your computer or better yet to the Thinkpad Keyboard (if it had an integrated USB hub). So... numpad? Remove it!

The old model had a mousepad. Well... if you already have a trackpoint and 2 buttons next to the spacebar... why on Earth you need a mousepad with 2 additional (read: redundant!) buttons? So, mousepad? Remove it!

Lenovo already did these cuts.

Image



Introducing Thinkpad Keyboard Concept 3

Let's now propose more cuts.

Why you need a keyboard which fits a laptop 15" screen? In particular, why those void centimeters near the space bar? Just to rest your hands? It does not sound a very strong argument because, the same way as a numpad, if you really need a palm rest, you will be able to put whatever better fits your preferences in front of the keyboard, when and only when it is really needed.

That's it. Cut the unneeded/useless/undesirable palm rest and you have the Concept 3 thing.

Image



Introducing Thinkpad Keyboard Concept 4

The Thinkpad Keyboard Concept 4 is product of several weeks looking for a perfect keyboard which rewards portability, compact size and efficiency whilst typing. Given the affordable price of a Thinkpad Keyboard and aiming on these aspects, the Thinkpad Keyboard Concept 4 offers easy access to keys and functionalities you need all the time whilst it gets rid of everything you rarely need.

I've been collecting ideas and evaluating every professional / semi-professional keyboard for weeks, trying to find the perfect one. The Thinkpad Keyboard Concept 4 condenses this research.

Image

If this thread gains enough interest, I can comment later what the design decisions are.
Here I present only a summary:


Layout

1. Get rid of function keys;
2. Get rid of numpad key assignments using Fn key;
3. Get rid of multimedia keys, buttons and assignments using Fn key;
4. Inverted T (arrows on right bottom) are used all the time and should be normal sized keys;
5. Harmonize size of important keys like shift and control. Left Win key must be a normal sized key.
6. Add another Fn key on the right hand.
7. What about Caps Lock and Appl? You don't need them. Remove!
8. Backspace where Caps Lock was, as proposed by Colemak
9. Move highly used arrows and cursor positioning keys very close to strong fingers, next to the home row.
10. Fn+Space as an additional another Backspace


Hardware

11. USB hub so that you can connect an external numpad, mouse, tablet or more sophisticated input device;
12. Programmable keyboard: I would love to have it natively running QGMLWY instead of the horrible QWERTY.


Languages

13. There's still room for more function keys. Japanese and Chinese typists, among others, would benefit.


Design

14. User could choose colors.


Thanks


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PostPosted: Thu Aug 25, 2011 10:54 pm 
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I like two and three, but I'm really most interested in a wireless version for my HTPCs.

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PostPosted: Mon Oct 10, 2011 10:13 pm 
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Bluetooth wireless version..pretty (*****Expletives removed by Moderator*****) please. With Laptop like palmwrest. That is what I need.

I wouldn't use one as a primary keyboard. They are good but not real keyboard good. There are a lot of old ultranav keyboards out there with a wire..what I need is a wireless keyboard that functions well for when I'm in bed. Might as well have a touchpad too..obviously with trackpoint.

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PostPosted: Wed Oct 19, 2011 1:18 pm 
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I'm a big believer in choice. We should have the choice to omit touchpads and palmrests and 10-key, to reassign meta-keys, and choose our interface (usb, IR, bt, ps/2). A good engineer would have no problem designing an external keyboard with these characteristics.

Both the Concept 3 and 4 look good to me, with a preference to the 4.
Maybe we could get a 10.1" WXGA Thinkpad as well?

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PostPosted: Sun Oct 23, 2011 1:55 am 
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They likely won't produce concept #4 since that would prevent the (re-)use of the T400s keyboard FRU.

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PostPosted: Sun Oct 23, 2011 6:20 am 
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Your concepts look very nice. "3" is clearly the normal keyboard only with the palmrest removed for size/mobility consideration. It's a preference thing.

I "dig" some of the ideas behind concept 4, but overall the package is not acceptable, and I would not agree to use such a keyboard. Here's why:

Quote:
1. Get rid of function keys;--Unacceptable. Many applications use the function keys for various actions. Starting from the oh-so-common Alt+F4 / Ctrl+F4 to close windows, through F5 (refresh) and all the way to the various debug commands used by Visual Studio and other development environments. I am sure there are dozens of other application-specific uses which I forgot or never knew.
2. Get rid of numpad key assignments using Fn key;--While I never found them useful, I don't see how they are harmful, and in any case they are probably more useful than doubling the existing navigation keys.
3. Get rid of multimedia keys, buttons and assignments using Fn key;--Why?
4. Inverted T (arrows on right bottom) are used all the time and should be normal sized keys;--This is a very welcome change.
5. Harmonize size of important keys like shift and control. Left Win key must be a normal sized key.--Agreed
6. Add another Fn key on the right hand.Is it really so important?
7. What about Caps Lock and Appl? You don't need them. Remove!--Caps lock can be useful. Probably not useful enough to justify its huge size and centered location, but removing altogether is probably going too far. I use the application key from time to time, but I agree it's nothing I would sorely miss.
8. Backspace where Caps Lock was, as proposed by Colemak--OK, I can see why someone might get used to a backspace on the left...
9. Move highly used arrows and cursor positioning keys very close to strong fingers, next to the home row.--But you have to press Fn to use them? I find it highly unlikely that any significant number of people would prefer the Fn+letter option to the regular location of the keys.
10. Fn+Space as an additional another Backspace--So we have three backspaces? And not a single Delete key that can be accessed without pressing Fn? I see it as a huge step backwards.

In fact, what I really don't like about this layout, and why I've been so unhappy with most laptop keyboard layouts short of the core (T/X/R/W) series Thinkpads - it messes up the navigation keys (Home/End/Pgup/Pgdn) in a way that moves some of them from their historical locations and makes others inaccessible without a special Fn key override. So a Shift+Pgup becomes Fn+Shift+UpArrow, and God forbid if someone wanted to use Ctrl+Shift+Home on a keyboard that had the Home key tied to Fn (luckily, yours isn't like that). ;)

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PostPosted: Tue Nov 08, 2011 8:27 pm 
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ZaZ wrote:
I like two and three, but I'm really most interested in a wireless version for my HTPCs.


I completely agree with this! I've tried just about everything wireless for my HTPC and am currently reduced to using the Logitech Dinovo Edge, despite the fact that I truly believe touchpads to be the invention of the devil! :evil:

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PostPosted: Wed Nov 09, 2011 12:49 am 
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schen wrote:
I completely agree with this! I've tried just about everything wireless for my HTPC and am currently reduced to using the Logitech Dinovo Edge, despite the fact that I truly believe touchpads to be the invention of the devil! :evil:

I got a couple of these for my HTPCs. They work fairly well, but mouse buttons are a bit clicky for my tastes and there's no back light for the keyboard. That makes it more difficult to use in the dark.

I bought the original Lenovo Multimedia Keyboard Remote to use with my main HTPC as I only really watch movies on it. It worked fairly well too, but there was no back light on that either and with the keys being so small, it was very hard to use. Now they came out with a new version, bought that too, that has a back light, but they switched the trackball, which worked well, to something similar to a trackpad from a Blackberry. While that may work well on a phone screen, it doesn't do so good on a 1080 screen. If they could combine the trackball with the back lit keyboard, they'd be onto something. The quest continues for a good HTPC keyboard remote.

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PostPosted: Fri Nov 11, 2011 10:16 pm 
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I'm like you in that I use a combination as well with the Dinovo Edge for actual typing and a Dinovo Mini for quick navigation. However, I do you one other thing attached directly via PS/2: an actual M4-1 w/M4-1 keypad attached as well. I've been told that I'm a little bit of a freak when it comes to keyboards/mice! :oops: But my stance on the wireless stuff is that you never know. They can and do go dead at the worse possible time and I don't want to be stuck.

Actually I have virtually the same setup in my classroom. I use a Dinovo Edge to walk-around while I'm lecturing, but have a wired keyboard connected to the Mini-Dock, just in case. :lol:

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PostPosted: Thu Dec 29, 2011 6:53 pm 
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That's a good topic.

I've just ordered the new TP USB keyboard, but had I had the choice, I'd probably have bought the Thinkpad Keyboard Concept 3 that features a smaller footprint.

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PostPosted: Thu Dec 29, 2011 7:02 pm 
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Many people need the embedded numpad so getting rid of that is not good. e.g. generating characters that don't exist on the keyboard is done by using Alt-nn (or Alt-nnn) on a numpad and this doesn't work on the number keys at the top of the keyboard.

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 09, 2012 8:17 am 
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I wish they still had one with a touchpad :(


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PostPosted: Sun Feb 12, 2012 4:23 am 
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I'm a big fan of Concept 1. I think the best compromise would be to bring back an updated, full-size Concept 1 to complement Concept 2 or 3.

So I suggest two main models:
1. Full-size, all-in-one keyboard with trackpoint, numpad, touchpad, and USB hub. Oh, and audio ports for headsets!
2. Portable version with trackpoint but no numpad, no touchpad, and no USB hub. I'd be okay losing the palmrest since this is the compact version.

Ideally, there'd be more options: wireless versions of each of the above plus one with touchpad but no numpad. But marketing will only allow so many variants.

I ordered the Concept 2 as soon as it came out. A few weeks of varied use sent me to Ebay in search of the old-school ones. [I've now got a stash of Concept 1s in the attic.]

I need the touchpad because I want visitors to feel at home at my desk. I, myself, don't miss the touchpad on my X60T, but everyone who borrows my laptop does, which is a huge pain when collaborating at school & work. Keeping the touchpad will open the keyboard and trackpoint to a larger market and allow non-trackpointers to transition. The primary market differentiator for this product is it's all-in-one solution, and for that it needs a touchpad. Plus, if multitouch & gestures continue to increase in popularity, then a touchpad will be somewhat necessary. They won't be just for laptops anymore (see Macintosh).

I think Concept 4 is overkill, but I like the placement of navigation keys in the home row by using Fn. That might work well. Great idea! But did you intend to make two Windows keys?

Dual Fn keys, YES! All keyboards should have that a la Shift/Ctrl/Alt. Every key combination should be doable one-handed. I hate needing two hands to adjust the brightness.

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PostPosted: Sat Feb 25, 2012 4:08 pm 
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I just picked up one of these Thinkpad USB keyboards. I found that for my preference there are 3 fundamental flaws with them, none of which are actually addressed here, but all of which can be pretty easily corrected. These are that they are too light, there is too much vibration, and there is too much give when you type. This makes them feel unlike a Thinkpad.

To correct this, I did two things. The first is I opened the thing up and packed all the spaces inside with Dynamat -- several layers in places to really build it up (you can get it at BestBuy). This is basically a foil backing coated with a layer of sticky tar. Car stereo guys use it to dampen speakers and car parts (doors and trunks) to keep things from rattling. This not only provides some direct support under the keys, but it also adds heft and dampens vibration. Second, I removed the 6 little rubber feet from the bottom. This has the effect of allowing the desk underneath to evenly support the whole thing, thus removing all bend while typing. This actually has made the keyboard feel more solid than the one in my T410. Finally, I got a sheet of thin adhesive backed rubber from McMaster-Carr to cover the bottom so that it does not slide around. All of this made the keyboard nice enough that I am considering not using a Thinkpad full time for the first time in about 14 years.

My only real complaint now is that the angle of the keyboard is slightly more inclined than the one on a laptop, which I don't like. But, a plastic shim of some sort may correct that.

And I for one like the palm rests. I don't want to have to carry around a separate part.


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PostPosted: Sat Feb 25, 2012 4:29 pm 
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projanen wrote:
Dual Fn keys, YES! All keyboards should have that a la Shift/Ctrl/Alt. Every key combination should be doable one-handed. I hate needing two hands to adjust the brightness.


I wish they had dual Fn keys on Thinkpads to begin with!

drs wrote:
My only real complaint now is that the angle of the keyboard is slightly more inclined than the one on a laptop, which I don't like. But, a plastic shim of some sort may correct that.


I had to get used to flat keyboards after using my 760XD for so long. I wish there were a flip-up incline on my T61.

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 17, 2012 12:20 am 
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I would buy concept 3. Its compact but still very useable. Concept 4 is too minimalist in nature. It could make for a decent wireless kb for use with a tablet if it had bluetooth.

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