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Microsoft Natural Pro

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      04.01.2006 11:22
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      Extremely strong egronomic keyboard that can help with hand pain - and has some nice extras.

      I needed to get a natural keyboard at work because I had started to experience pains in my hands from all the typing I was doing. This was the one that my employers purchased for me, and here's what I think of it.

      First of all, it really looks like it would be comfortable to use. Its large and the keys are separated down the middle with the number lock light, caps lock light and one other light (which I don't know what its for) filling up the space between the two sets of keys. If only for the excellent placement of these lights, I'd say that this keyboard is wonderful. It's very convenient to look straight down and see that your caps lock is on when you type in a password somewhere and get an invalid password page! It's kept me from trying over and over again to enter the password before looking to see if somewhere on the right upper corner of my keyboard there's a light on that shouldn't be. So kudos to Microsoft for doing this.

      However...
      The main reason why you purchase this keyboard is to help reduce carpal tunnel syndrome pain. And unfortunately, I cannot totally recommend this keyboard because I'm still feeling some pain in my left hand. The little pain I had in my right hand is gone, however, but that was truly minimal. I have tried using this keyboard in many different positions - with the legs up, with the legs down, angled to the right, angled to the left, and nothing seems to help stop the pain in my left hand completely.

      I'm sure all the other extras that come with this keyboard are very nice. It has two USB ports which I've never had the chance to use. It also comes with software called IntelliType Pro, but I cannot tell you if it is good or not, since my employer would not install this software on our computers. Also, the buttons for the CD player need the software so I can't tell you if they work well or not (hey, I'm not supposed to be listening to music at work, anyway).

      It also adds a sleep function if you want to save energy while you're away from your desk, and has a quick buttons for reaching the calculator and "My Computer". Even without the software, the "Mail" button works fine and calls up my Outlook faster than clicking on the icon in my toolbar. The buttons that effect your open web page work perfectly as well - these are basically the same as the buttons on your browser which are Back, Forward, Stop, Refresh, Search (which opens on my computer the Google page), Favourites, Web/Home. If anyone can tell me if they prefer using these buttons, I'd like to know. I hardly use them, myself - except for the calculator one, which I use all the time.

      You should also know that it took me about 10-12 days to get used to the differently positioned keys. Even now, after having this keyboard for a couple of years, I still find myself tapping on the wrong keys once in a while. But for the most part, it really isn't that difficult for a heavy use typist to get used to this keyboard.

      The keys themselves have a very nice feel to them. They make very little residual noise and have a soft feeling finish to them. They spring nicely under your fingers and that spring is what makes typing faster, in the long-run. They keys have a medium touch resistance, so you do have to put a little effort into pressing the keys, but not unduly so. I still don't understand why keyboard makers don't make the key resistance softer for your little and ring fingers and harder for your middle and index fingers. If you ask me, someone who does this will see us typists beating a path to their door! By the way, lately the left "Ctrl" button has become a touch sticky, and when I'm trying to copy and paste things, I sometimes have it not click. I guess after almost years of working on this one can expect that a key or two would get jammed up a bit. Still, it's the only key that does that, and I'd say that if this is the only problem after all this time, it's certainly an extremely durable item!

      In conclusion - while this is a nice keyboard and can be pretty fancy, I don't think it's really helped me all that much with my physical problem – although for the most part, I don't feel too much pain in my left hand and have no pain at all in my right one. If you're looking for something that will truly stop the pain in your hands, then I can't totally recommend this to you. But if your hands aren't all that painful, you need a bit of relief and you're looking for a really reliable keyboard that's heavy duty, then this could be the one for you. I'll give it four stars and recommended (but not wholeheartedly).

      Thanks for reading!

      Davida Chazan © August, 2002 – updated January 2006

      *****
      Technical Information

      The official webpage for Microsoft products in the UK is http://www.microsoft.com/uk/ and a little search there for Natural Keyboard will give you everything you ever wanted to know about this product.

      According to uk.pricerunner.com (http://tinyurl.com/dhn68) at the time of updating this review, there were two retailers in the UK that sell this item, and the prices were £13.50 from Udiggit, and a whopping £48.18 from euroffice.co.uk! I'd check out Ebay as well, if I were you.
      *****

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        22.01.2002 05:05
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        I own this keyboard. In fact, I could not even think about using anything else now. You would think a keyboard is just like any other, until you see the Natural by Microsoft. Instead of its normal linear fashioned layout, the Natural takes the standards for tradition and throws them out of the window in the way the type writer was discarded by the PC. It does this in its shape and usage. The normal layout of the keyboard would be 4 lines of numerical keys and letters in a continous line from Right to Left. Not forgetting the spacebar at the bottom. Now, the keys have been divided along the middle vertically into 2 parts and angled to each other. This is so that when you type, the keys are aligned to your fingertips. No bending of wrists to hit the keys and thus relieving all Wrist strain related injuries such as RSI. The space bar however remains as one piece, it sweeps around in a curve under both sets of keys. SO rather than having..... QWERTYUIOP You now have QWERT YUIOP This is great if you use the keyboard in such a manner that you do not need to "stray" across to the other keys with your typing. I, however, tend tended to use my Left hand on the Y key and it took some re-education. A small price to pay for a much more fluid and pain free typing style. Fitting it is not a problem. It plugs straight into a traditional Keyboard socket and even comes with an adapter if you do not have the P/S2 style socket. Alternatively you can plug it into a USB socket if you have one. Extras that the keyboard has includes 19 hot keys which you can use to access the web and your email at the touch of a button. No scrolling through menus. You can set your favourite web sites up to link to these keys. You also get 2 USB ports on the actual keyboard. This saves pulling the back of the machine out when you need to plug in your joystick, scanner or printer. Desktop plug and
        play should be the future. This is a great Keyboard and one of the best investments I have made for my Home Computer. Buying one cost me £55. This is quite expensive when you think that you can buy one for as little as £5 and a similar shaped one by an alternative manufacturer for £25. You don't, however, get the microsoft build quality, piece of mind or guarantee that you will get maximum compatibility. I say stick with Microsoft. A few more pence makes a lot more sense.

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          17.01.2002 18:27
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          ... and I’ve also heard people laugh about the “Natural” keyboard. But look at us now, if it’s not a wheely mouse we won’t use it! And the same will be true for the “natural” keyboard (the correct word would ergonomic meaning: Natural to your bodies movements, but Microsoft assumes us all to be stupid!). I brought one on a whim, thinking maybe it would help ease the pain in my wrists (not that I’ve injured or strained my wrists in anyway at all!) The keyboard comes in a lovely cardboard box with all the instructions you could ever need. It also comes with some device drivers on disk and some Intelli-type software. I never installed any of this software due to my complete dislike of Microsoft products and my assumption that any Microsoft Intelli-type would be pants. (And you don’t need the device drivers). Also you get one heck of a tomb of a manual with the keyboard so you’re not going to get confused about how to depress and release keys!!! The handiest thing you’re going to find in the box though is an adapter for the keyboard cable, which means you can plug the keyboard into older non-PS2 computers. (V handy) Having got the keyboard out of the case I finally realized what they meant by natural keyboard. The keys are basically divided into two sections, down the middle. So you have from Q to T on one side and Y to P on the other and instead in the middle you have a huge gap and some lights! The two sections of keyboard are then positioned slightly at an angle, so if you reach out with your hands and do a Fonze “Hey,” then that is where your hands will fall on the keyboard. This is not what I expected to see to be honest, but I thought “hey ho” it kind of makes sense that you’ve got two hands why not use them separately. Installation is beyond easy, turn off your machine plug in keyboard. TADA! (Don’t; forget to turn th
          e computer back on though :) So I sat down and started to use my new weird keyboard. Now I personally have done a few typing courses and can get up to about 50 words a minute. And for the first few hours of using the keyboard I was doing roughly about 3 words a minute!!! Because I was constantly hitting the big gap in the middle whilst my fingers reached out for keys that just wern't where they should be! But after a while I got used to the big gap and in fact found my typing to speed up a bit as I forced me to type Very correctly with both hands. Also the stress on my wrists was considerably less than when I use a normal keyboard! So lets list all the good and bad points: Pros: Good for your wrists. Will teach you better typing skills. Handy adapter in the box Cons: It will take a little while to get used too! Slightly more expensive than a normal keyboard It takes up more space! 6 years later, I won’t buy any other kind of keyboard, for the £15 difference compared to a cheapy standard keyboard it is worth it. It will save your wrists and will force you to touch type more and so may improve your typing. A definite must for anyone that uses his or her PC a lot! I would even recommend this keyboard to people that don’t use there computers very much as its really nice to use once you’ve got the hang of it. It's not a pain to use old keyboards afterwards either. But if you’ve no patience for typing don’t bother! Top keyboard well done MicroArse! (Damn seems the "A" key is stuck, and the "r" ...) :)

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            30.11.2001 15:39
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            The Microsoft Natural Keyboard is a keyboard you either love, or, you guessed it, hate! Lets explain it first though for any of you who don’t know what the Natural Keyboard actually is. I actually only had mine for about 2 weeks before I spilt lemonade all over it, so first off I can tell you that it isn’t lemonade proof and secondly I can tell you that you shouldn’t spend £50 on a keyboard and then go and spill stuff all over it! Firstly, I’m sure you’ve all seen one. The Natural Keyboard is the keyboard that is split into 2 areas, one for your left hand with half the keys on and the other half for your right hand with the rest of the keys on. It is also contoured so that your hands fall naturally on both the areas. The middle of the keyboard is higher than the rest of the keyboard, and also the areas are at an angle, again for where your hands naturally fall. This is actually quite hard to explain for people who haven’t seen or used one! In the centre of the keyboard, you have your caps lock, scroll lock and num lock lights which is a pretty unique place to have them! The whole point of the natural keyboard is to give heavy typers a more comfortable experience, and Microsoft have really tried to push the health and safety aspect of the keyboard. The keyboard comes with a book which tells you all about comfortable typing positions and how to sit properly when typing. I’m not following any of this though as I’m typing now! It also tells you how to arrange your workspace and how to set up your keyboard. If your confused it’s basically a posh way of telling you that there are little feet on the back of the keyboard that will adjust the height for you, as with most keyboards! So, onto the actual keyboard then. This is probably one of the most sturdy keyboards I have come across as yet. It feels sturdy when holding it and also when your typing on it. You can actually tell that this keyboard
            had emptied a space in your wallet for you! The keystrokes are very responsive and it all feels very nice when typing on it, as long as you have got used to the new shape. The space bar is huge! However, it’s easy to press, if your right or left handed. A lot of the other keys on the keyboard are of an unusual shape aswell. The CTRL key for instance is about twice the size of a normal keyboard and the cursor keys are set up in a completely different way to standard keyboards. The keyboard comes with a built in wrist rest for your comfort which does make a big footer on the keyboard, but nevertheless, helps your typing no end. To actually house this keyboard on your desk your going to need a lot of space. With it being shaped differently I think you would need twice the space you need for a standard keyboard, which is a bit annoying, as who actually has loads of desk space once they have cluttered it up with their dirty mugs and cuddly toys!? I know I’m going a bit off the subject now, but I have to tell you that the box is also one of the sturdiest boxes I have ever come across for a keyboard, and it also stands out! Why are you bothered about the box? Well if your like me and keeps boxes purely because of the warranty, you’ll like to know that it can be chucked from one end of the loft to the other loads of times and it doesn’t seem to crush! You’ll also know that your keyboard won’t be hurt by the clumsy delivery man! Talking of warranties, you get a 3 year one with the Natural Keyboard, which isn’t too bad, but Logitech have done better with their 5 year warranties and a warranty is very important when your shelling out just shy of £50 for a keyboard when you can go and buy one for under a tenner! To end it all then, as I’ve probably bored you to tears now with my geek speak, this keyboard suits one type of person. The touch typer, or someone who has got long enough to get used to it.
            I used it for 2 weeks and I personally wasn’t getting along with it, I might have done if it wasn’t for the lemonade though! Who knows. This is a very good, strong keyboard and I would definitely recommend it, and what’s more it comes with the Microsoft label on it. And to me, that means quality (although maybe not in all of their software!!). It’s getting 5 out of 5 from me!

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              01.08.2001 01:51
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              I was diagnosed with R.S.I (Repetitive Strain Injury) just after I left college due to the amount of work that I did on computers and of course keyboards. My life and work revolves around being able to type accurately and with some speed attached as well. My old keyboard was simply one they chuck in with any new PC. I used it for a couple of months and felt my wrists getting much worse. So after contacting a local association that advises on these matters, I invested in the Microsoft Natural Keyboard. The price didn’t bother much; if it could keep me typing I didn’t really care. When it arrived I plugged it in and it worked straight away, no need to do anything what so ever. It’s a funny thing to look at. Its curved with a shallow slope on the front of the keyboard. This is supposed to give the wrists more support. The keypad is effectively split into two, with one set of keys on the left, one on the right and then the usual number pad and arrows keys on the far right. In the middle is the little indicator lights (when you have caps lock on for example) and “connecting” the two keypads is the massive space bar. Along the top you have your F keys and prtscn etc . I’ve had it for a month now and to be honest I’m typing much quicker. It hasn’t really helped my RSI, its something that will always hurt after spending all day on the computer. It has reduced the niggling affects of it and I am able to stay on here for even longer now. The manual and advice that came with it was very, very poor and could have down with a guide of how to effectively use this keyboard in terms of wrist positions. I like this keyboard and once you get used to it is a very nice thing to use and it actually makes it a little easier to touch type as well.

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              07.05.2001 01:05

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              With all the recent bad press about RSI (Repetitive Strain Injury), anyone who spends any serious time at a computer should strongly consider investing in this product. More comfortable and practical than the conventional keyboard, it is also faster to use once you become accustomed to it. After that, you will never want to go back to its predecessor; in fact, using a standard keyboard feels distinctly uncomfortable for me now. However, for those who do not touch-type, the benefits are more questionable, given that the process is so different. It may be a hindrance, given the greater distance between the most commonly used keys. In any case, it's worked for me.

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              31.10.2000 19:08

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              Having only had tjhis keyboard for a few months i think that it was an awesome buy for the money and event though there are other fake inmitations of the original on the market that our cheaper, this is simply the best and has the most ergonomic style. Although I do not think highly of somwe microsoft products this is simply excellant. The only real way to know this is to try it in a shop. Its slightly hard to get used to at first but once you have got the hang of it you can really zoom through work especially good for programmers like myself. For beginners I feel it is an excellant product that forces the user to type correctly and even though some features such as the arrrow and insertion part are hard to get used to after a while you get the hang of it. Have a go see what you think? but beware copies i've tried are no way near as good.

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              22.10.2000 08:58
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              I suffer from an industrial disease, which has worn away a fair bit of cartilidge in my hands, so using a computer keyboard can be uncomfortable at the best of times. In order to make the job easier, I went to a local office supplier who had the microsoft version of the egonomic keyboard (at 69.99) and a kensiko varient at under nineteen quid. Big price difference for very little product difference. Typing has become a lot easier with the split keyboard, so it's not just a design gimic. Comfortable to use although it does take up a lot more desk space - something to bear in mind if you have one of those home computer work stations as some keyboard shelves are very small indeed. Having tried both versions, I can see no just reason for why microsoft should have a price tag of over fifty quid more than a competitor - which may well come out of the same factory, like a number of keyboard brands do. Save your money and don't buy the microsoft one. Bill gates is rich enough as it is, right? Footnote:- whilst not what's known as disabled, I feel this sort of keyboard would be a great benefit to others with simular difficulties with their fingers and hands - the keyboard is "split" in the middle so there is a bit more room to work with.

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              05.10.2000 19:17

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              I have recently bought the natural keyboard and I am very please with it. I am not a typing whizz by any stretch of the imagination but I am getting faster at typing properly since buying the natural keyboard. Before I got it I could find my way round a keyboard reasonably well but the old right hand strayed to left hand side quite rgurlary. Now I find myself using two hands and they are only hitting the keys they are suppeosed two. I think that anyone who is typing 20 words per min or more could definitely benefit from this keyboard. If you are still at the stage of tyoing with one or two fingers, well, either go on a typing course or stick to a normal keyboard as the letters are hard to find when the keys are divided in two.

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              18.08.2000 19:58
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              The original MS Natural Keyboard was better. If you can find one of these going second hand, this may well be a better bet for you. That's not to say that the new one isn't good. I've only tried the new one out briefly, but it didn't feel good enough to me to part with the amount of money it costs. I'm using the old one at work now, and it's great to type on. The key action is a little soft for my liking, and the shift keys don't always seem to work, but this is an old and heavily used model. There's two main differences with the new one that put me off. The cursor keys are laid out in an unusual format. You'd probably get used to this after a while, but it could make life more difficult switching keyboards if you use the cursor keys a lot. The other difference, and this is the real problem, is that the new one angles up at the back. The old one was fairly high at the back already, but had a single long 'foot' at the front to lift the front edge and wrist rest up in the air - this is much more comfortable than it sounds, and is one of the main reasons i like this old keyboard. The only other thing to watch for is where the keys are - i had to relearn the 'B' key, as i've always used my right hand for it.

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                15.08.2000 08:11
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                After deciding to upgrade my keyboard the only question left was "which one?". After shopping around, spending hours on end in pc world i decided on the Microsoft Natural Pro. I am so glad I did, This keyboard looks and feels fantastic. It comes with its own wrist-rest and a fantastic array of "shortcut keys" along the top which perform everyday tasks at the touch of a button. Everything from moving backwards and forwards in a browser to launching your favourite email client and software packages. The build quality is second to none, as you would expect from the "Big M". I will certainly be buying more microsoft periphials in the future and this one comes highly recommended, get one now!.

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                  19.07.2000 04:39
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                  This natural keyboard, with the sloped "two hand shaped" design, is great - if you can touch-type. Luckily I had a free copy of Mavis Deacon with this keyboard, and after a couple of hours I can (almost) touch type. The keys are not too soft and not too hard, nice and springy, with a huge range of hot keys that I have still not got accustomed to using. I do find the music CD controls the most useful, I can skip tracks, turn the volume up, or stop the CD when the phone rings with one touch on a soft blue button. If I had any complaints, it would be that I would like a proper cover. Gone are the days when technology came with a dust cover packed in the box, and the covers on offer are made to fit only the traditional keyboards.

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                    28.06.2000 20:56
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                    OK - so it looks funny! It's split in the middle with each section of the keyboard at an angle so you can have a more natural position when typing. Not only is it ergonomical, but it also impresses your friends when they see it! I have found that it took about 2 days to really get used to it. Unfortunately when I try to type on real keyboards now it feels strange and dramatically reduces my typing time! This is definitely not a keyboard you want to learn on, or if you're a 'hunt-and-pecker' - you're better off starting with a cheaper plain style keyboard. But if you type a lot and are finding that you are suffering RSI-type symptons, then you want to seriously think about getting one of these! They cost a bit more but the price is definitely worth it! It is the king of all keyboards!

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                    25.06.2000 05:28
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                    but only if are relatively good at touch typing. it looks pretty damn sexy, split in to two sections, bending upwards... hmmm as i say, if you arent too good at touch-typing then this keyboard isnt for you. but the layout, i.e. the argonomics, is very good. a lot of time has been spent on designing this keybaord to fit a persons hands and fingers. it feels good typing this out. i can just lay back and type away. easy. not much else to say about it... the latest keybaords have extra buttons for sound and internet navigation. but this still holds a place in my heart.

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