avatar image

Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
Did you miss your activation email?

Login with username, password and session length
  • Friday June 14, 2024, 11:19 pm
  • Proudly celebrating 15+ years online.
  • Donate now to become a lifetime supporting member of the site and get a non-expiring license key for all of our programs.
  • donate

Author Topic: Additional F-keys with inter-applic software vs keyboard manufacturers lunatics  (Read 4849 times)


  • Member
  • Joined in 2017
  • **
  • default avatar
  • Posts: 115
    • View Profile
    • Donate to Member
I've written about that problem several times, here and in Also, cf. my post re that Apple mobile Mac touch line above the F-keys, here, some year ago.


In a year somewhere around 1982, in the "IBM XP" or "XT" or whatever they called it, there had been 12 F-keys, in 2 6-keys columns (F1...6 and F7...12) at the left of the keyboard (kb): almost perfect, for ANY "batch processing" of any kind. Then, those 12 F-keys were REPLACED by 12 F-keys above the kb, in 3 groups à 4 F-keys; if those lunatics had grasped the need for ADDITIONAL F-keys, we wouldn't have fallen into that Windows-PC non-interactivity we've now have endured for almost 40 years.

F-keys to the left are for "batch-processing of any kind", as I've just said. This means that whenever you do NOT much of typing, but do "batch" processing of any kind, your left hand (for left-handers: everything to the right, 2 times more expensive, I know) will not be above the kb, but on your desk, to its (the kb's) left), and your digit will press the relevant F-keys. On the other hand, for any command you'll need when typing, those F-keys 1...12 ABOVE the kb are perfectly situated, e.g. for bolding things, or whatever, so we always would have needed BOTH ranges of F-keys, but hardware lunatics stole that setup from us.

As an aside: Cherry lunatics have been particularly idiotic - wait: I'll prove it: they're real idiots! -: Whilst in the Eighties, really good, i.e. journalist's kb's were about 300 Deutschmark (= around 300 bucks/Euros now), with LOTS of additional (F-) keys, in those years, Cherry produced some kb's with just SOME additional F-keys, mostly above the (regular) number keys / the regular 1...12 F-key range, and then, they only continued to sell those in the U.S. - not speaking here of the 5 left-alone key placements around the 4 arrow keys on your (standard or whatever) kb; whenever Cherry put those 5 keys there, it was for CRAZY kb's, having, instead of the num-keys, some what do you call again, for finger-mousing? Crazy, as said.

Technically, there is not the slightest problem with 24 F-keys, since the Windows system, from its beginnings or at least since very numerous years, is able to process the scan codes for 24 F-keys, not just for 12; ok, those F-keys 13...24 do NOT have dedicated scancodes, but those of Alt-Control-F...1...12 or whatever; I'm too lazy to look it up for you, not being your valet, but fact is, introducing, and then maintaining, 24 F-keys instead of just 12, would not have caused the slightest problem with anybody's system.

As you perhaps know, some "gaming" kb's have introduced 1...5 or 1...6, in exceptional cases even 1...10 or 1...12 additional (!) F-keys, at the left of the abc keys of their respective kb. Unfortunately, these come with totally crazy scan codes, almost invariably (?), since my trial with such a Logitech kb (the G910; and such a trial implies that you have to send that piece of crap back, and they will never sell you any other thing, good or bad, most of the time) showed me that its 5 additional F-keys send the scan codes of F1...5 - are those coders outright crazy?!!!

As said before, there are quite almost reserved scan codes for F13...24, and it seems (?) that no hardware (kb) manufacturer currently has the minimal IQ (of around 85, or let's say 82 1/2) to em- and deploy them.


Thus, you need additional input devices; some "keypad" or similar; of course some real numerical keypad which just doubles your regular numerical keypad will NOT do. (They send the same scan codes as your in-kb numerical kb does, so their only use if for left-handers using a regular, right-hander kb.)

As I said before (here and elsewhere), the almost-ideal solution for this problem is the Cherry (!) 4700, with 21 keys (18 of them being 1-key-size, 3 of them being 2-key-size: "0", "enter" and "plus"); the scan codes are NOT stored within some electronics within the keypad itself, so it relies upon (un-problematic) software, but it's just around 40 bucks/euro or a little less; the alternatives are a Preh 30 (with, you guessed it, 30 keys, which is, in theory, much better, but then, you can hold the Cherry (which then is always sitting on your desktop) in your hand, pressing the keys with your digit, and which comes tremendously handy, whilst the Preh 30 is much too big for that, and that implies you will NOT be able to press the (30) keys "blind", whilst you'll be able to do exactly that with the (21) keys of the Cherry).

And then, the Preh 30 (which was around 110-120 euro/bucks these last years) now costs around 150 euro/bucks, which is, for the little it has to offer, quite a fortune; similar for the U.S. alternative xkeys (came with 30 keys, now just offers 24; obviously, they GOT the very relevant idea of grasping the device with your hand, in order to then press the keys "blind"); both Preh and xkeys come with in-built electronics storing your functional assignments, BUT in your practical computer life, that does NOT make ANY difference to the ("electronic-less") "cheap" Cherry 4700 (and which is the only device tiny enough in order to be held in your hand, after all; and no, I do not get ANY dime for promoting the 4700 here).

There also are some foot pedals, but it's evident that with just 2 to 3 "keys" available from them, you will not travel far.


In practice, you will assign some key "combinations" to those additional keys, in order for them to be sent to your system, and then, you will have some macro tool which intercepts those (as much else), and which then assigns the respective commands = specific key "combinations" (i.e. "shortkeys") to the applications in question, e.g. in AHK by "if active window is named something, send this command, else if it's named something else, send another command (but which - hopefully - similar functionality), and if it's something else, this, that, and so on ad infinitum in case).

For my 4700 - I also own a Preh 128, but your digit-travel to reach the relevant key is too long, so I shelved that -, in the Cherry software, I entered the following key assignments: 2 rows à 4 keys on top: Shift-Alt-F1...8, then the 3x3 digit-rows 789, 456, 123 sending out Shift-Control-Alt-F1...9 (so original 9 is 3 whilst original 3 is 9, and so on), then the 2-key-space 0-key is Shift-Control-F10, the comma-key is ditto-F11, the enter-key is ditto-F12, whilst the 2-key-space "plus" key is Shift-Alt-F9 again, and which leaves me with ALL Shift-Control-Alt-F keys being "taken" here, whilst only the Shift-Alt-F-10...12 F-keys are to be used otherwise, the rest of them being taken, too (as said, 21 keys here, not 24 or more which would have been much better indeed).

Then, in AHK, I do the "real" assignments, as "for +!F1:: in appli x trigger a, in appli y trigger y, and so on".

All these devices come with - regularly inferior - software which in theory would allow for assigning, instead of just key combinations, full "macros", but these tools are so bad that's in your interest to just "program" key combinations, and then do the "real work" within the macro tool of your choice, all the more so since you will not have your macros spread over several tools, but in just 1 tool, also "servicing" your regular F-keys, your regular numpad-keys, and other non-abc keys on your kb.


With all those devices, the memory problem arises: How to know which key is the right one, for any such function, in any such program? As I said before, and of course, you will be interested in "targeting" similar commands to the same keys, "prev/next tab" should be assigned to the same keys, in every application, and whatever the specific commands in many such applications?

I have scripted a timer which, for every "active" application, updates (and displays) some "help file" for me, and in which I list the respective key assignments; it goes without saying that for such a setup, you need (quite big) 2 screens at the very least, and that there are 2 additional problems: (manual) sync problems with your real macro assignments and your updating your help files, and then, visually checking the help file, in some corner of your several-screens setup, doesn't really come handy since it takes time and effort. (It' understood though that you only need to check for rarely-used commands in your daily-used applications, and/or for (any) command in your rarely-used applications.)


Enter keypads or whatever which will SHOW the current key assignment. For some years, there has been some Russian developer who sells keypads, etc., onto which the keys have some luminous inscription (how do you call it again), indicating the current functionality (by LCD within the key itself); the prices are within several dozen bucks/euros per such key, of course; you will note that those are mini-LCD screens embedded within the MOVABLE part of each key, so it's / it would be no surprise if this is both terribly expensive, and also probably not really long-life? But this being said, if money isn't a factor in your expenses, you'd be probably well-advised to buy that Russian thing; google "Art Lebedev" (no dime for that either).

A low-price alternative is the "Elgato Stream Deck", which for one, in its own software, specializes in facilitating YT stream commands, but which is also usable like any other external macro device, i.e. for sending out key combis; it costs, for 15 keys, around 150 bucks/euro, so it's only a fraction of the high-quality Lebedev devices, per key, but its quality is on par with its price it seems, cf. some review on the relevant German amazon page (it's also sold by MediaMarkt/Saturn and which "both" (b/c it's the same owner) sell a LOT of crap): You press those "keys", and you'll never be sure whatever the result will be; btw. any of those "keys" are either a "command" OR a "folder for commands", which means 2 things:

- 15 keys are not enough, I'd need ALL of them for "folders", i.e. for command RANGES alone, and:

- the software coming with those devices obviously is not able to check for itself in which "context" = application you currently are, and by extension, which SET of commands currently should apply, a task which AHK e.g. excels in:

In other words: You would have to switch to your "current context" manually, whilst in AHK, e.g., it's the macro tool itself which determines that context, and you just press the key in question.


Also, there is a fundamental problem with such, "visual-hint" kb add-ons: Their intended use is with "icons", and my personal assumption (which could be erroneous) is that all this is a resolution problem, i.e. how many pixels would such a "key LCD" have, after all? SOME icons are ok, the ubiquitous ones, but for any lesser-used function, text-driven indications would be oh so much better after all; with the Lebedev devices, they may be possible; with the Elgato Stream Deck, they do NOT be seem possible (or perhaps then 2-4 big chars)?

Hence my reminder of my thread, 1 year ago, re that Apple "touch board" here, or whatever they call it, or of that age-old on-screen (!) current-F1...12 assignment hints (3 blocks of 4 > almost-immediate visual recognition) mentioned in that Apple thread of mine here; of course it would be feasible to devise additional kb's with LCD fields BETWEEN the keys, but as implied above, currently the Cherry 4700 is the only such additional kb which is really FAST in key pressing, and ONLY (again, see above) for "batch" commands (b/o its tiny size), NOT for commands-within-typing, and any additional even just 21-key device would be double its size if it had to contain LCD fields above those 21 keys.


It's obvious that any non-lunatic kb manufacturer would do the following:

- use Cherry "brown" keys (for ANY key of course)

- put TWO 12-F-key ranges above the abc-and-numeric keys, sending the regular Windows F-key scan codes F1...24, and with 2 ranges of (quite-high-resolution) LCD screens, above and below (1 double-height such screen would put the second, the 13...24 F-keys range too much out of immediate reach of the users' fingers):

- the LCDs for F1...12 being "1-line", to contain the "regular" commands/macros, to be frequently triggered, and to be easily remembered (most of the time); the LCDs for F13...24 being "2-line", for "rarer" commands/macros / more-rarely-used applications, i.e. the LCD in place being able to neatly display some 20, 24 characters, incl. some (very short) comments applying to those commands/macros.

- again, top-to-bottom:
2-line LCD
1-line LCD

- then, for "bulk processing" - oh yes, since anytime you process "in bulk", e.g. distribute pics (or other, text/web/mail, entries) to their relevant tag or folder "targets", all those a...z and 1...0 keys are a helluva of a nuisance, in order to reach F1...12 (let alone F13...24) -, and you would like to put your left wrist on your desk: 2 to 3 ranges or 5 or 6 keys (if 6, with a little additional space between #3 and 4) to the left of the (yes, quite enlarged, but so what: whenever you do "batch processing", your fingers are NOT on the abc keys, but (should be, for left-handers) to the left of your kb: some perhaps 6, 8 cm further to the left then do not do any harm), and from left to right:

- very narrow LCD sidebar for:
- F-keys 25...30 (all these sending scancodes as explaines above, for "remote" key-combis)
- very narrow LCD sidebar for:
- F-keys 31...36, then:
- F-keys 37...42, and then a:
- larger LCD sidebar for the previous F-keys 37...42

- sell the thing for 300 bucks/euro

As you can see from the above, the only "difficulty" lies in assigning the relevant commands/"macros" to all these F-keys; it goes without saying that some such assignments will be doubled, appearing in the F1...24 keys for "immediate, in-text" triggering, as well as in the F25... keys, for "batch-processing", and that term also includes key commands triggered by your left hand, while your right hand actions the mouse, e.g. in graphic programs, in FontLab or similar (more-or-less graphical) programs (most of them being from Adobe nowadays).

Such "distribution of key assignments" should, of course, be specific to any given user, BUT it's also true that NO such user, or let's say probably 1 out of 10,000, would be willing to set up all this by themselves.

8 )

As explained above, I do it with automatically-displayed help files (rtf format) in some corner of my (3) screens; whenever I install new software, I assign the relevant commands/macros there onto the "standard" keys in question, and more "remote" commands/macros to additional ones; also, I use the whole standard numerical keypad (the one within my kb) for commands and macros (except for calc/spreadsheets applications, of course; as said, there's no manual application switching in AHK and similar tools): Since my Cherry 4700 is "too far away" for non-batch-processing, and since my only F1...12 keys are simply not enough, and not immediately-reachable enough either, in order to trigger lots of "in-text" commands/macros.

Most applications have got just a little bunch of "standard" uses, so it's possible to assign standard commands/macros to standard keys, even for other users, IF there's enough such standard keys.

Thus, for standard applications (and a lot more in my case), you simply need a range of standard commands/macros you often need, and then some standard "distribution" of all this functionality (which often replicates itself, more or less, over several such applications) over some standard keyboard distribution, together with the correct visual hint organization, and then your overall productivity will be enhanced by probably 30 p.c. or more.


You COULD say that all these additionals F-keys were NOT necessary/useful, since, yes, all they do is trigger weird key combis, and which, at the end of the day, you could enter as such, why not manually entering all sorts of shift-alt, control-alt, shift-control-alt and whatever key combinations? But simply, most of you will not have the necessary memory (performance) in order to retain all those key combinations, spread over all those different applications (50? 80? more than 100, as in my case? hence my almost 20,000 AHK lines), so some kind of more immediate access to it all should be welcome, AND with visual hints!

This also implies, for standard software (there are some 5, 6 standard file managers out there, for example), a rehaul of their respective .ini files or whatever they apply in order to store their respective, most of the time totally lunatic (instead of a little bit standardized) key combinations; in other words, with such a real 40-years-later kb should also come alternative .ini files, and registry scripts for standard applications "doing it" within the registry, in order to get to some


... from which then on the respective users could do, of course, all what they want, but especially for the lesser-standard, more specific commands/macros they will be in need of for their applications and specific use cases; this being said, it's obvious that my macros, in ANY application, num1 = "go to the very first tab", num2/3 = "go to the previous/next tab", are such a sort of tremendously helpful "normalization"; you need macros for it since according to the application in question, different "native" key combinations are needed to do that. (Another example: On my Cherry 4700, "1" is "cut" (red dot, and OF COURSE with the according macro which hinders me to then do a second "cut", before doing the (ie at least one) corresponding "insert") anywhere, "2" (yellow dot) is "copy", and "3" (green dot) is "insert" (and re-sets the "attention: pending cut!" variable to 0), while "comma" is the the same in any hierarchy, for "insert as child", whilst there, the "3" above is "insert as sibling" - in ANY hierarchy. And so on.

We're ALMOST FORTY YEARS after the introduction of the "personal computer", and up to now, all those promises of more efficiency have been quite poorly fulfilled, and no wonder: If you switch between dozens of applications, always having to remember which key to press for what function(ality), that's awfully poor, "more than 35 years later", don't you think so as well?


It's obviously not about the soft- but about the hardware manufacturers; of course, it'd be easy to implement all the necessary "un-do"'s, i.e. scripts saving previous ini files and all that previous, individual user's info if they then aren't happy with the result, but fact is, with "overall", with "over-all-application" user-software NORMALIZATION, AND (much) better keyboards, ideally with visual indicators, both for the "learning" phase and then, also permanently, for "lesser uses", i.e. for the more "remote" commands / macros / applications... with what you'd call

visually-assisted user-machine-interaction normalization

and except for those very specialized users who predominantly do just ONE thing on their computer - just number crunching, just graphics, just writing fiction e.g. -, I seriously reckon you'd win at least 1, if not 2 hours EVERY DAY - but of course you're all free to laugh upon my lack of the necessary hardware factory, while continuing wasting your time and your energy.

(In the Eighties, journalists had special kb's, with special software but just for writing; of course, that market was too tiny, and at the time, nobody obviously had the idea to make real use of those ace keyboards, so they vanished, together with their special writing software, and now, almost 40 years later, almost everybody go with a kb that is scarcely better than a typewriter's, but now for ALL their work to do, and just because they're all too lazy to do some scripting, individually, whilst better human-machine interaction is hardly seen but in big corporations, here and there, and because hardware manufacturers obviously don't know anything about users' (global-software) needs.)

You know, years ago I published here my (original!) idea for young people of earning 4,000-5,000 (bucks/euro) a month BUT spending 2,000 on that, ever month, on some unofficial help, instead of getting their first freehold flat in record time, but in order to earn 10,000 a month very, very soon, after which those helps in further career will be fully official.

I'm quite sure some followed my advice, with brilliant results, and of course without any "thank you", all to the contrary, calls to be be silenced are all I get. And then, there are those who do not even "get" what they're told beyond their previous standards, and they are legion; ancient Rome is history: not because they were all dumb but because most of the decision-makers - not speaking of the idiot masses then and today - over there were lunatics: smart people but who insist on thinking on rails though.


Num 1/2/3: Num1: More precisely, if the application in question has the function(ality) "go back to the last-active tab"; if not: "go to the very first tab in the row" - it just occurs to me that the "go to the last-active tab" is possible, in most cases, by some application-independent variable, to be set on any tab change.

Ini files and other storage places of the original keyboard shortcuts of the specific applications: I missed the fact that many macro tools (incl. AHK) even permit you to leave those original key assignments mostly all alone since they permit to assign (original) key assignments to (macro-tool) key assignments, e.g. in AHK for a specific application: num4 = send Shift-Alt-F5, that +!F5 being the original key assignment for some command in that application, and +!F5 in AHK and hence for your global assignments, by this, is NOT "done with", but remains fully available, for assignments, so if you then do "+!F5" in AHK, even in that application, it will NOT trigger that application's command (except if you say so of course).

In my practical work, I usually avoid* such "broken circles" but simply re-assign the original shortkey, within the application, to "nothing", in case, assigning the "global" shortkey but within that application, to the desired functionality, but for a third-party, commercial product, you simply would LEAVE ALONE all these original shortkey assignments, and just OVERRIDE them in that "broken circle" manner. (Just very simple macro tools do not allow for this, not being able to intercept the original key (combi) assignment.)

*=Thinking about it while writing about it, it occurs to me that with my (at last) fast computer, there is no (more) speed reason to do so anymore; just intercepting the original assignments and transferring them to the wanted, (hopefully) "global" shortkeys (or at least, to some 1-key shortkeys, for original 2- or 3-key combis) is the "neater" way, not speaking of other people's pc's.

And in order to further simplify things, you can perfectly allow every user, individually, to put on or off any "global-software" interaction with their specific software tools (application-bound toggles): You just refrain from doing your key-assignment (i.e. interception) tree by key, then by application, but you build it by application, then by key (for speed reasons, this variant will not work well on 8088 computers, he, he!).


Well, to present this sub-subject correctly, some important commands, within the respective applications, do NOT have been originally assigned some shortkey, and instead of then doing (visually ugly) menu or ribbon commands, whenever it's possible to assign an(y) additional in-application shortkey which you then can simply intercept / further process later on, that's much preferable. Hence the need to run some script on those elements of the application in question. And this again shows what a poor "servicability" most applications have got, not API or such to smoothly permit such kb (or other setting) changes from the outside. Also, we see here how bad the OS (Windows) is; had they foreseen these global-standardization needs (of the users, in order for them to work efficiently, with multiple programs), they could have easily enforced the necessary interfaces between the application level and the OS.

Also, so-called window management is incredibly bad, by OS means; shifting around windows into different (standard) positions (for different workflow combinations) should be really easy, i.e. be available by kb - I've got quite some such key combinations consumed for such means now but can't really remember when I last tried to move or resize some window by mouse: just aligning windows is really the most primitive part of these routines... and all this is genuinely kb task (and so easy code-wise that you really wouldn't need some special tools for that), fit for some global kb package, which of course should comprise as many standard applications as benefit maximizing greed would allow to maintain up-to-date.

EDIT 3 (July, 23):

To be honest, the Logitech kb comes with software which then allows for assigning other functionality - hopefully some key combis - to those 5 keys, and which then you can probably trigger from your global macro thing; don't know since I bought and returned it when I hadn't a pc on which that theirs software ran; but even then, having to run another dedicated software package just for 5 additional keys is crazy, sending F13...F17 would have been so much more natural in that case, than, as said, sending another 1...5 again.

This being said, it MAKES sense to duplicate functionality, for in-text(ing) use AND for batch use, for right hand AND for left hand, in some cases; e.g. for cut/insert, for bolding..., but it certainly makes NO sense to double the functionality of left-hand 1...5 (over qwerty/z) with 5 keys just some cm away. -

Remember, in the Mac-mobile thread, I said that they did NOT ADD that visual-key line to F1...12 keys, but they just replaced them with it, but since all this application-specific (or even situation-specific) key assigning is about making available what you will most probably need there/then, just 12 or so "things" isn't enough, especially since it's not even user-specific but done by the respective developers for then all of their applications' users. It seems, in practice, that in most situations, will not NOT even have 12 virtual keys in that line, but more often than not, many less - while in theory, at least, it seems that within that line, even more than 12 such "keys" are technically feasible; of course, more needed precision in digit tapping will reduce your speed even more (additionally to the speed reduction caused by the fact that it's about virtual, not physical keys). -

Another aspect of mobile devices: If they don't come with a numerical keypad, you're more or less helpless, command-access-wise, since you will not even be able to use your regular keypad commands; in other words, you shouldn't buy 13" devices or lesser, and strictly discard any bigger-screen device which doesn't come with a numerical keypad - there's room for such a thing from 14" screens on, but even some 15" devices come without. -

As an aside and alluding to my sayings here re "application/window management" in some other thread, and also adding to what I've said above re the application-OS interaction, it's simply crazy that with "on-board means", you're unable to quickly and consistently identify the currently-"active" application, i.e. the one that will "accept" your kb input.

Btw, for fast window switching alone (the mouse cursor should be switched in line, which is technically very easy: it's simply crazy to switch active window, just for having then to find the current position of the mouse cursors visually (e.g. by moving the mouse a little bit), and then to move it manually to its new target window, but that's exactly what most of you do), you need some additional keys; for 4 such windows (left screen 1/3, left 2/3, right 2/3, right 1/3) I've used F9...12, but needing more such windows for 3 screens, also for some, 2 windows beneath each other, I'm currently searching for a better solution, shift-F9...12 and such not being fast enough; F1...24 above the 1...0 would have been the ideal solution for this problem, with up to 10 keys in 2 rows just for window targeting - the mouse having been invented for graphics programs in its day (and then you really need F-keys in some left-hand device, not, for your hand, on top of a full kb, beyond all the a...z keys for each key press).

So for active-window identification, I only found the really ugly solution to have a timer in case (ie if there's been a change) move some quite big color rectangle onto the caption of that active window, a little bit to the right so as to permit to read some of that caption's text altogether, and bigger than those captions, for better visibility - there's systematically some room for this (i said it's really ugly); in the old days, the active window had much better been identified visually, whilst today it's often almost impossible: it's more or less been smoothed out, for esthetical ("beautifying your screen experience", my ass!) reasons, up to a point where you need to revert to such crazy means as mine described here, in order to visually identify your active window (and not having to press the respective F-key; btw, such an F-key will only be really available for other, better things IN that window (and different such things, depending on WHICH application currently is in that window) if you can always be sure IF that window is currently active or not, without that visual check taking long seconds.

Here again, it's the "overall interoperability of your system" or whatever you call it, which is clearly lacking, buy OS means, not speaking of the fact that it's Windows itself, of course, which should correctly and automatically re-position your mouse cursor (within the center of that window, whatever it may be) with any active-window switch. (It goes without saying that within macros with interact with different windows in their curse, the timer stops, so as to not flash the visual indicator around while it's of no use for the user anyway.) -

As for additional (and left-hand, to be used in combination with the mouse in your right hand, or vice versa) input devices coming with software, there are available some such - at least software-wise, dedicated - devices for Adobe's Photoshop, and also for (equally expensive) video cutting software, the kind within the 4-digit range: It's obvious that people who make their living with such a program, and obviously for time (/) efficiency reasons (or their respective employers), are willing to spend several 100 bucks for such dedicated devices, coming with dedicated (? at least originally sharply targeted) software, which then can probably be adjusted to the specific user's needs, for that one single software (used many hours a day).

On the other hand, it's not worthwhile to even think about marketing such additional devices, including software, from a developer's point of view, since for one, as (more or less) explained above, it's not even reasonable to do much with additional devices, all day long in general pc use, a simple 4700 will suffice, and you will only need it in order to replace those missing 18 F-keys ideally on (! instead of to!) the left of your kb, whilst on top of the kb, there's some other 12 F-keys which are missing, and some other 5 keys missing "around" the arrow-up key - of course you can color those 5 keys differently, e.g. red within an otherwise grey or black kb, in order to clearly differentiate 3 groups of keys there, the 6 on top, the 5 additional ones, and the 4 arrow keys; btw, it's especially those 5 keys which I miss a lot, since the ONLY "functional" key which is in immediate vicinity of those arrow keys, is the "delete" key, and with all due respect to idiotic "engineers", it's clear as day that most of the time, if you do "manual batch processing" within some list, some tree, it's NOT for deleting most things, but for triggering other commands on (some of) them, and unfortunately, if you really want to use your numerical keypad for those commands, you would need to use your thumb for the arrow keys (down-arrow, most of the time), a thing which I never got accustomed to, or you would need to move your hand A LOT, in order for your digit to press the arrow keys AND then the - far-away - respective commands, your only other alternative being to press the numpad-keys, more-or-less "blind", with your ring (4th) finger - thus, not having those 5 keys "around" the up arrow available, I use my 4700, with my left hand of course, in combination with my right hand pressing the arrow keys, and that's far from being perfect since, being a right-hander, my left digit moves much slower, so that my right digit, being under-employed by just doing the navigation, waits almost all the time for my left hand to have pressed the correct command in-between; WITH those 5 missing keys, I could learn/train a 2nd/3rd/4th-finger use for this arrow-AND-command key package.

And yes, this invariably leads to the finding that if you had a (full-sized) additional key beneath (!) your down-and-right-arrow key (instead of, quite often, mini-sized "media" keys just there), doubling the down-arrow-key (but sending another scan code of course), you could finally press that key with your thumb, for anything and mostly for "down" = next item in (whatever) the list, using the full numerical keypad, with your 2nd and 3rd finger, at very acceptable speed; the current position of the down-arrow pressing your right hand into a very awkward (and unhealthy) position if you try to do that now.

And btw, the arrow keys were originally set up as a real cross, with a space (no key) in its center, and here again, the original, very good idea was then lost: nowadays, you will probably not be successful in discovering any kb where the arrow keys except for the "up" one will NOT be positioned within a line. Yes, that has some advantages, too, but the obvious solution for all these problems is "doubling" the down-arrow, in order to make its "double" "thumb-ready", with different scan codes but which by default would function as down arrows (if the user doesn't then re-assign otherwise, for some applications / workflow situations), just like the 1...0 keys and the num1...num0 keys send different scan codes (ditto for num-, num+, num-enter), but send identical digits by default.

Back to dedicated left-hand devices: Since they come with their "factory" set-ups, they allow for immediate use within that single application, and since they don't come with dozens of keys, the user's memory will not be really strained: After some hours, the users will have memorized which key to press for which function, more or less. It's obviously not the same situation for some system trying to make the user efficient overall, in all their applications and, ideally, all their standard "workflow" situations: Here, the memory problem is an overwhelming one, hence the need for visual indicators, and as explained above, you could do - well, with some fonds that is, having it physically made by third parties - it for an additional device, but again, as explained above, this would force the user to "do it all" on and with that additional, left-hand device, while most of the time, kb-integrated F-keys and the kb-integrated num-keypad would have been the much better choice, but which then isn't available because of the lack of visual indicators, and so it's not surprising at all that additional keypads have never become widespread: the lack of visual hints is only part of the problem.

Also, there would be some learning phase indeed; following visual hints is one thing, taking the time for reading them, in that apprentice phase, is another one. But integrating visual hints within a(n also otherwise amended) kb (instead of forcing the use of some left-hand device even for things you better do within the kb) is comparable to those mobile Macs' visual-hinting, virtual (and as said over there, "context-sensible") F-keys ribbon: It's all there, it's (automatically, without user-side scripting) context-sensitive, and it's so much better than (remembering, to begin with, and then pressing) some Shift-Alt-something, so the learning phase will be more or less long, depending on the applications and contexts, but users will use more and more of the immediately-available, 1- (or, just for "remote" things, 2-) key commands, simply because doing so will greatly speed up their work, and because 1-keys come so much more handy than key combinations, remembered or not.

As said, Apple took away the physical F-keys, so concerned users don't have a choice anymore, but that's not the point: even if Apple had left the physical F-keys alone (and making that LCD or whatever it is a little bit broader, in order to also give hints there for the current command assignments of those physical F-keys), users would have adopted the virtual, additional, context-sensitive "keys": anything which is immediately available AND useful in that work context, is more than welcome, instead of taking away your hand(s) from the kb, as for example it's needed in order to press weird key combinations: the interruption in your work is quite sensible with anything NOT immediately-available-when-needed - and that's perfectly understandable, too: Remember those authors do refrain(ed at the time) from pc use, providing the explanation that writing by hand was "immediate communication with the result on paper" (or something on that line of thought), whilst using a text program would "interrupt" their work: even using arrow/del keys for inserting something, some words up, then going back, breaks your "workflow" - in fact your flow of thoughts! - to a much larger degree, than just crossing out some words by a single line (of the needed, immediately available length) of your pen, and replacing it with some other term(s) perhaps, scribbled in-between your lines or in the margin.

Thus, it's upon kb manufacturers to physically build such (corporate and home) "office" kb's, and then the necessary software will be NO problem whatsoever, software costs of even perhaps 10 bucks per 300 bucks kb should be bearable, and with users' (forcibly) sharply rising productivity (and that info coming down to non-users, left behind provisionally), sales will rise consequently. Remember, better kb's were available at some time BUT came without pre-figured software, and writing the necessary code then - let alone the really bad software systematically coming with those kb's which, except for the fact that it's resolutely proprietary, often does not even allow for a simple "if" - simply isn't out of reach, and be it just for time reasons, of the "regular user", hence the current situation:

Almost "40 years after", there is NO generic smart input device available, while it's obvious that kb manufacturers could, with better hard- and real (call it "overall-productivity" or something like that) software, compensate lots of the OS's deficiencies; it's utterly ironic that even MS builds (or have being built by third-parties) kb's and mice, but that those come with the worst software of them all; not even key combination assignments to mouse buttons were possible at the time*; this may have changed in-between.

*=Here, as with the kb, for the time being and in the absence of such elaborate software coming with the kb**: You assign some weird key combi to the key/button within the software accompanying the device, and then, in your real macro software, you intercept that key combi and write the necessary, in case multiple, routines for it, specific to the active application and/or the current work context.

**=Any kb manufacturer would have such software proprietary in functionality, but, in view of facilitating user-side adaptations, written in some AHK- or AutoIt-aligned code, and since many users, some even for health reasons, prefer using a mouse (or similar) of their own choice, (even third-party) mouse integration would be provided by interception of the mouse commands (sent by the software accompanying the mouse) by the "global" software, accompanying the kb but fully replacing what your current AHK- or AI-installation could do (so at the end of the day it SHOULD be AHK or AI; both are more or less in the "public domain" and thus "adaptable and adoptable", I assume), incl. e.g. text expansion and other goodies; with some better OS / Windows-internals integration than what's available to me, I'm also sure that "window management" and especially "active window's better visual identification" can be done in some more elegant way.

In theory only, such software would be independent from the hardware, but at this point in time, there simply is no hardware available which would make such generic software acceptable to buyers: i.e. immediately useful to them, that factor being a condition for possible marketability. You just can script such tools for yourself, and then live with the current real-life conditions grossly reducing the potential of what you will have coded, kb manufacturing, let alone the integrated lcd's or whatever, being simply much too expensive for your usual 1-man shop. (Oh yes, and there's always "crowd funding", ho, ho, ho...)
« Last Edit: July 23, 2018, 05:27 AM by ital2 »


  • Supporting Member
  • Joined in 2008
  • **
  • Posts: 7,543
  • @Slartibartfarst
    • View Profile
    • Read more about this member.
    • Donate to Member
Crikey! This OP looks like a cross between a Rant and a Thesis.
I'm not entirely sure I correctly understand all of it, but I'm trying. This OP surely stands out as something quite different - unique even - something which the rest of us mere mortals can only gape at in awe and could probably only strive to achieve something similar in our dreams. I would respectfully suggest up front that this OP arguably deserves some kind of a DCF award, in an entirely new class of its own. Maybe we could call it "Zany 2018" or something?

Has it really been nearly 40 years since the advent of the Apple Mac and PC?
Yes, yes, it has, hasn't it? My goodness, how time flies.
And is @ital2 correct about the dearth of the promised efficiencies arising from computing? Yes, indeed I think he is - where the heck are they? I think it's time that we were told. I've seen far too many examples of people in the workplace having to struggle to use Macs/PCs, without any training at all, left to sink or swim. The ergonomics of the keyboard are shocking, which merely serves to compound the confusion for those luckless computer users. The cost of the consequential inefficiencies would probably be enormous but unknown/unknowable.

Ah, F-Keys - the FUNCTION keys! Yes, it seems like it was only yesterday that I was carefully laying out a self-adhesive printed cardboard label strip above the function keys and which aligned neatly with said function keys (not sure whether it was the 2x6 F-key groups or the 3x4 F-key groups), where each F-Key performed a unique and complex functionality - abbreviated on the label - in that wonderful DOS-based Framework V program - the likes of which we have sadly not seen since (about 1988). Of course, I was only 72 at the time and this was before my gender-change operation, but I recall it well.

And then the amazing Lotus Agenda was launched in the market - again with F-keys being assigned a unique and special functionality - but quite different of course to the functionality of Framework V. This, I feel sure was not intended to be a cruel trick on the user or intended to tax their intellects. No, it was just that the program designers probably thought it was a good idea. However, they took the (to me) novel step of laying out the F-keys in the lower part of the screen display of the application, only showing those F-keys that were relevant in the context of any given application screen display. This turned out to be really a prescient and smart thing to do, and was even ergonomically sound. It did away with having to select a key from amongst all of the F-keys, by limiting the choice of F-keys to only those F-keys that were relevant in the context of a given program display screen. It also saved on paper/cardboard and adhesive costs, so environmentalists and Lotus management would probably have overwhelmingly approved such a brilliant step. But then everything about Lotus Agenda was pretty brilliant - for example the patented design, where the database was actually two databases: DB-A was a sequential database of text records and DB-B was a database of the Category virtual hierarchy in the database, containing pointers to the records in DB-A which had been assigned to those categories in DB-B - and the whole thing was able to be dynamically changed and updated in real time, with selected views of the categorised data being available on-screen and able to be printed out in WYSIWYG fashion on an HP Inkjet printer. It was useful in assembling data and collating relationships of almost any type between data, and in printing/displaying organised data views for reports of for viewing on a screen in a brainstorming session, or writing a book, or writing a contract, etc.
As I said: Brilliant. And the clever use of F-keys was also brilliant.

Coincidentally, only yesterday (before reading this OP), my son (just turned 8 this month) was querying why I only use a few fingers to type with, as opposed to all the digits like he does.
He wasn't being a smart-ass, he just happened to have noticed it at that point. He had instinctively taught himself to use all fingers some time ago and hadn't noticed what a slowcoach I was at typing. So I introduced him to the stand-alone Y-7100 Type-right keyboard device from DSE (Dick Smith Electronics), which I bought years ago for my children to teach themselves to touch-type.


It's a full-size QWERTY typing keyboard, with good feedback keys shaded grey and off-white in columns, for each of the fingers, and a label along the top of the keys that tells you which finger is in each column. The keyboard is a hard-coded computer that leads you through the course (9 levels) and has an 8+1 digit LCD display - that's all; just enough room for a single row of characters. What you type comes up in that display, and is to be copied from the training book. It knows what you should be typing, and it checks for accuracy and speed of typing. Progressing up a level is dependent on your passing the test at the end of the previous level.
It's very simple and minimalist and a superbly designed typing training tool.


The above training book - cover and page 1 shown - that comes with it (Type-right Course Book, ©1988 Video Technology, printed in Hong Kong) is simple and well laid-out and printed in the form of a portrait-oriented shorthand-style typist's notebook, with a ring-binder in the top, so you flip each page over to read it on one side only in one direction, test level-by-level, and when you get to the end you turn it around and read it the other way to the end of the notes. At the end of the notes (and the course), it gives you a test where, if you score sufficiently high, then it reveals a prize code that can get you a prize certificate, or something. I always told my kids that they would get $50 if they unlocked the prize code, but so far no-one has achieved that.

The reason I mention the Type-right in this thread is that I observed, whilst showing it to my son, that the Type-right has no F-keys (or Number pad). It is of course just a typing tutor. So, even if one learns to touch-type, there's still relative chaos and lack of consistent standards when it comes to all the other PC keyboard keys - e.g., including F-keys and NumPad, Windows key, Ctrl, Alt, etc.
The state of keyboard standards is such a mess that one can't even expect the F1 key to consistently do the same thing on different PCs or even within different applications on the same PC. Such chaos cannot be conducive to good ergonomics and.or efficiency.

In writing this, I feel as though I've only scratched the surface of what @ital2 has discussed - even his Edits are longer than what I have written - but it's a start, at least.
« Last Edit: July 23, 2018, 06:03 AM by IainB »


  • Supporting Member
  • Joined in 2006
  • **
  • default avatar
  • Posts: 11,186
    • View Profile
    • Donate to Member
You could also look at it as hardware problem- you say that you don't think it's worth marketing a hardware product, but as you say, there have been instances of it in the past.  There is a whole community around vintage keyboards- the finding, restoring, and adaptation of the same.  There are also custom keyboards being built all the time; in my case, I just have those function keys to the right on my custom board.  And also custom sub-boards that are relatively inexpensive, while retaining power usages.  And last but not least, there is the use of keyboard programming software that already exists on keyboards adapted to them, i.e. QMK (  It's quite powerful and very generic, and I have my own custom layout programmed to exactly what I need it to be.

As far as remembering what the key assignments are, that's a different problem.  For myself, I've solved it with my own program that overlays an image that shows my key assignments.  There are also LED oriented aids, i.e. LEDs to let you know what layer you're on so that you can always tell what you should be typing.  Additionally, there are also Relegendable keys that have a bit of paper in them that can be labeled with your own personal layout.  I just rely on memory and repetition personally, so I've never used those, but they operate similarly to the OLEDs in the keys proposed by Art. Lebedev Studios that you referred to above- the Optimus Maximus and other expensive keyboards of varying varieties that followed from that same studio.  Speaking of that, there was a more affordable version of those keyboards from UnitedKeys, but it is no longer available - a keyboard and a keypad with limited OLED keys so that accounts for the affordability.  Of course, Apple has caught on to this with their new MacBook replacing the function keys with an OLED strip with mixed results and a mixed reaction.  But as that was their first stab at it, I'm not totally convinced that they might not be going that way, though there are downsides in the feel of typing which has the net effect of slowing down productivity.

The problem of synchronicity of the keyboard with the software, I think will only be solved by a combination of both- one of the applications that I currently use my G13 from Logitech for; it allows me to have generically named keys that are reassigned based on the games that I'm playing; so I have a unique layout.  That leaves the recognition part, but they also have a software application that runs on a mobile device that queries for the custom layout and shows it on the screen.  It works quite well, but unfortunately, they've not been making noises as they would continue down that path, which is rather disappointing.  I'm personally waiting for the update to QMK that they've talked about that will result in the ability to program the keyboards without a hardware reset- hopefully at that point, someone can combine those together.  It is for this reason that I think the eventual resolution to the keyboard UI issue is going to come from custom hobbyists rather than the companies, with the companies hopping on once they see the capabilities.


  • Member
  • Joined in 2017
  • **
  • default avatar
  • Posts: 115
    • View Profile
    • Donate to Member
(See my edits above, all of them (except for typos) AFTER the main text.) I should probably delve into that thing, unknown to me up to this day. Quite a general observation: "synced " would be spoken out "synssed", whilst "synched" would be spoken out "synked", and which obviously would be the only correct abbrev for "synchronized", but then I admit I seem to be the only person world-wide to insist on this fact. ;-(

"you say that you don't think it's worth marketing a hardware product" - no, that's a misunderstanding, I said that without the necessary hardware (more or less) being present, you couldn't market (just give away, that's for sure) some "your system in some way globally affecting" software, hence my idea that the next hardware offering to that effect should come with really good software (AND the visual indicators making even the very first steps with that software easy).

Of course mobile Mac users are not happy with using some "film" ("though there are downsides in the feel of typing which has the net effect of slowing down productivity"), without getting tactile feedback for their (virtual) "key" pressing; I'm aware of the fact that within a mobile device, this is a real problem, but then again, it's the screen which asks for a minimum size of the device, and then, separating physical keys from their visual indicators should be possible indeed. Also, as said, and according to the application in question, that virtual key "ribbon" does not even offer the otherwise full 12 physical keys of their 2015 mobile devices, but less, probably, and according to the situation, just 3 or 4 virtual "keys" - it's about the respective developers' real understanding of their customers' work, and from my (Windows, though) experience, that's not very intimate...

"There are also custom keyboards being built all the time; in my case, I just have those function keys to the right on my custom board.  And also custom sub-boards that are relatively inexpensive, while retaining power usages." - this is highly interesting, please give url's. Sent from the U.S. to the so-called "European Union", in fact the very first mafia world-wide who dares to act in broad daylight, any prices are doubled anyway, but independently from this aspect, I never even encountered such keyboards anywhere... not speaking of the aspect though that even the in-kb numerical keypad is "too much" for many a user, restraining the desktop "moving room" for your mouse indeed (BUT it comes so handy for commands/macros, except for Excel and similar tools!), so if there are additional keys even further on the right, well?! Whenever I insist that additional "manual batch processing" keys should be within the kb but at its outer, left edge, that's because "there's plenty of room", for one, but resting your hand, i.e. your fingers 5, 4 and 3, will at least some strength, some "positioning" in order to press keys quite fast, to your left hand's digit if you're a right-hander: (with for left-handers it all being upside-down,) on the right of your abc keys, there's plenty of fast, easy action but room since you would prefer using it for your mouse, whilst at the left of your abc keys, there's plenty of room but quite reduced action, for most people their left hand not executing their brain's commands as fast or as target-oriented as their right hand does; trying to switch the mouse to your right hand, then, seems the worst pseudo-solution indeed; you will discover this whenever you'll break your right arm - hopefully you'll own a well-run-in dictation software at your disposal then!

"I've solved it with my own program that overlays an image that shows my key assignments." - you mean something in light-gray which overlays what you're (in case) typing, on-screen? How/when do you trigger its appearance there, since you certainly not want to have it there all the time? (As I said, I use 2-to-3 screens, with, currently and miserably, (at least automatically-updating) rtf text files in some corner.)

"it allows me to have generically named keys that are reassigned based on the games that I'm playing" - so you do this within the software coming with the kb, and within that software's limitations, then? I do it with AHK's:
a) if winactive("windowname"), then, in case,
b) if (var x = "" ); in fact, with: if var x = somedigit (ie "work contexts" I put on with toggles, for some batch processing tasks), or, again within a),
c) if active control = "" (technically by: "controlgetfocus, ac(for ActiveCountrol), A(for ActiveWindow; within a), as said), then: "if ( ac = "" )") ; I never play games but, OT: lately, I discovered some game, by accident, which permets children to cater for animals, cats, dogs, rodents, on-screen: some real tear-jerker, as far as I'm concerned, and applying to children living with sadistic parents or in rental apartments where keeping of animals is (sadistically and legally*) forbidden; *= shithole countries like Germany, for example (/OT).

"There are also LED oriented aids, i.e. LEDs to let you know what layer you're on so that you can always tell what you should be typing." - yeah, that's the 1980 version of what we're speaking of, and even today, all those manufacturers mentioned above try to sell their devices on that attribute - fortunately, we're both one step further now, with automatic switch instead of manual one, and in applic a it's that command, in applic b that other (hopefully similar, for standard commands) command, just by "changing windows"; as said, for special needs, I do toggles, but most of the time, they are NOT necessary even; I'll give an example: When distributing pics in FastStone PictureViewer, AND when in the tree, pressing num1...9 will ASSIGN the currently-active (sub-) folder as target (and will list the path within a little window overlaying the FSPV window where it doesn't harm), whilst pressing the same num1...9 key if within the thumbnails windows of that applic, the currently-active pic will be moved to that target folder - I never ever was in need of these "layers", then, layers being for graphics... ;-)

"Relegendable keys" - yeah, that's the Preh-KeyTec philosophy: The capping of the key isn't opaque but transparent, and with a little plastic instrument, you remove the cap in order to replace the little piece of paper laying there, but there's a problem with that principle: there's only so much room for (ever so tiny) inscriptions on that paper, and if you need hints for not 1, 2, 3... but for 15 or more different applications, you're in trouble, both with tagging your piece of paper and then especially with deciphering it - hence the interest of LCDs or other, similar technical solutions, but since that part of the key is the movable part... (or again, the lisibility will be hampered...)

"no longer available" - yes, I left all those out; it's all about durability of such movable key parts... or of "visual keys, by sort of film strips": no wonder users are very unhappy with such "brilliant" solutions after just some weeks...

OT again: Some weeks ago, a read some slut's (wait: I'll prove it, very soon!) opinion and which went this way (citing from memory): "Yes I know mobile Macs' kb's have been crap for some years now, but I don't bother buying a new mobile Mac Pro EVERY year (my markup) since I oh so much love those admiring glances in public, from poor people discovering I can afford those (overpriced, my remark) machines! Poor girl! And another one: Some frog "journalist", writing daily (and even, quite often, 2 to 3 times a day!), in some frog "newspaper", about Apple products, told us, equally just some weeks ago, that Apple's "willing" to replace defective mobile Mac kb's, and that slut continued by giving its opinion that this was oh so kind of them; not a mumbling word about the fact that Apple's "readiness" had to be triggered by not 1, not 2, but, yeah, 3 class action suites against Apple! - you see, that's the difference between an Apple fansister and an Apple whore! (Whoever writes several times daily about Apple, for money, knows about such facts, so they take their readers wilfully for idiots.) But back to our subject of non-defective, just sub-par kb's:

"that runs on a mobile device that queries for the custom layout and shows it on the screen" - in my Apple-virtual-ribbon thread around 1 year ago here I spoke of these "current functionality assignment" indicators, on-screen, of very early DOS programs; I should probably have commented on that idea of those times, here again. In fact, in my post above, there's quite a LOT of additional keys, and I all need them: I take full advantage of my 4700, my (only) 12 F-keys, all my "virtual, additional" F-keys within the numeric keypad of my kb, and then, also, there's the "^" key, the "<" key, "the "#" key, the "+" key, there are the öäü/éàè keys when writing neither in German nor French, so there's some possibilities indeed...

But I did some thinking about it now, from reading you, and yes, quite efficient visual screen representation of "F-keys" (whatever they originally may have been) is possible (hence no real need anymore for LCDs or similar on the kb) IF you recycle your window distribution quite a lot; what's not working is putting visual representations of your "numpads" and whatever, far away from the real, physical keys; e.g. the left edge of my left screen is 40 cm (!) away from my left (the 4700) "keypad" (and kb).

For one, you need to keep your keys as near to you as possible, so you cannot relegate their visual representations to the far edges of your screens, in order for them to remain useful, but there's a solution indeed. File manager on your left screen, relegated (as before) to its far left; some main applic on your left screen (as before), "centered" with regards to yourself, i.e. to the right of the left screen: no changes here: outer 1/3, inner 2/3.

But then, your main application not starting anymore at the left bounds of your right screen, but there, visual representation of your left "numpad" or, better, of those 18 additional F-keys at the left edge of your kb - 15 (3x5) would be ok, but just 5 or 6 is simply not enough, I would need my 4700 additionally all the same, while my idea would have been to replace it, with a really good kb; above that, some (tiny) Todo app - it's clear as day that it would be much easier to get - from ANY source - a kb with 15-18 additional keys to its left, and a second range of another 12 keys on top, than a kb with ample LCS visuals!

Then only, somewhat "centered" on your right screen, your main applic, with a double "ribbon" beneath its bottom, for F13...24 and F1...12; for a good screen, this would take around 10 p.c. of its height and would thus be acceptable (for the user to get their main applic reduced by that height).

Then again, for the far-right quarter of your right screen, your right "numpad", and which is quite near the physical numpad of your kb, and on top of that visual, some other, tiny, tool - for other lists or similar, you'd then need a third screen indeed, again to the right - or to your far left.

As a result, this would divide my right screen, instead of 2/3 and 1/3, into 1/5, 3/5 and 1/5, and the result would be a little bit cramped though, on a screen around 2566 pix wide, which is better than many, but yes, it would be feasible; people with a 1920x1080 screen needing, but also being able, to place their third screen somewhat nearer, for their right-numpad representation being displayed at its left edge then - fact is, without a third screen, they will not be able to do a viable setup, and quite few people are willing to maintain 3 (or even 2) screens, but then, my left screen is dispendable for most, so realistically, we're at one 1920x1080 main screen, and a (really cheap) 1280x1024 screen to its right, with always missing "left" F-keys (few people would buy an additional keypad), and missing "second-row" F-keys above...

But fact is, from what you've written, I now far clearer see possible screen visuals, instead of (broadly unrealistic) kb visuals - thank you a lot, wraith808!


"72 years", "before sex change": lots of irony all over the place it seems; can't comment on Lotus Agenda, don't know it but by name. Just alleging that such a big groupware package certainly had a lot of functionality, and probably lot of it for what I call "manual batches above": have a short glance over some document, then send it to some fellow worker in order to process it further; then do the same with some other document, then again with some other: No real, extensive abc use but mostly navigation and dispatch, but to multiple recipients: a perfect example for "dispatch mode" (1 key, could also be the default, according to the hierarchical/functional position of the person in question), and then F13...24 would assign specific, often-contacted recipients, and with modifier keys, less-often contacted ones, F1...12 remaining available for "nearer" functionality, e.g. within text processing. A (very) bad example for how not to organize software: Outlook 2016's folder organization which is as basic as it gets, and which constitutes a big obstacle to productivity, email distribution into folders being as error prone as it is time consuming. And re "normalization": "new folder" in OL is ^n, in Firefox('s bookmarks) it's ^f, for me its the same 1-key in EVERY application. There are applications' specifics, but applications' similarities should, whenever feasible, be made available in some consistent way, so "This, I feel sure was not intended to be a cruel trick on the user or intended to tax their intellects. No, it was just that the program designers probably thought it was a good idea." should apply to specifics, and good ideas should be adopted, but among ^n and ^f, I prefer num9 (e.g.) = 1-key for both, since I use these commands a lot, and then you need a sufficient number of num keys, with modifiers indeed for less often used commands.

As for "(not sure whether it was the 2x6 F-key groups or the 3x4 F-key groups)" - as far as you will remember, in assigning functionality to keys in those groups, that those groups are for entirely different "workflow" situations, everything's fine: above the abc-kb mainly for functions needed when typing; left and right of the abc-kb for functions needed for "manual batches", i.e. whenever you "so something on" a quantity of elements, with no or very few abc-typing, and when you would have otherwise to reach out over the abc keys.

And if I'm not mistaken, WordStar did not make use (in its first versions) of the (available) F-keys, and people were quite unhappy about this; even early MS Word versions used these F-keys (with modifiers also switching the screen hints), and people fled WS in droves; if I'm not mistaken, again, Word's proportional screen fonts only came some years later, and then WS was doomed indeed, but from my memory (which could be failing in these details), people switched from WS to Word for the F-keys, and then only, some versions later, the rest switched for the screen fonts - then only (?), WS made use of the F-keys, too, but it was too late. (And, of course, MS sold heavily to corporations, but most people liked to work with Word, some preferred Word Perfect, but in most cases WS was chosen, that was - let's face it - because it was ubiquitously and illegally available for free.)

"The cost of the consequential inefficiencies would probably be enormous but unknown/unknowable." - that's why I sometimes say "30%" (= wishful thinking), and then again, "1 to 2 hours a workday": at least 1 hour a workday (which would make it around 12, 15 p.c.) seems very realistic to me, incl. better organization in general, i.e. less searching (electronic) things.
« Last Edit: July 23, 2018, 05:33 PM by ital2, Reason: just typo »


  • Supporting Member
  • Joined in 2006
  • **
  • Posts: 7,566
    • View Profile
    • Donate to Member
I've written about that problem several times,

Luckily you can write about it once more.


  • Supporting Member
  • Joined in 2006
  • **
  • default avatar
  • Posts: 11,186
    • View Profile
    • Donate to Member
I've written about that problem several times,

Luckily you can write about it once more.

Let's not start this again, please?


  • Member
  • Joined in 2017
  • **
  • default avatar
  • Posts: 115
    • View Profile
    • Donate to Member
Thank you, wraith808. I hope there's been lots of NEW elements here, though, but not everybody's interested in details, which isn't too disastrous if at least the global situation is upheld, but with kb's, that's obviously not the case, to the detriment of us all. The apple thread is here: https://www.donation....msg408995#msg408995 "Apple does it again - this time, they re-invent the context-sensitive F-key", the key word being "TouchBar".

Here are some quite regular kb layouts for their time, just a little bit enhanced; nowadays, we've all lost this.

For journalists and other professions, there were even much more elaborate kb's availabe (I don't remember how the additional key assignments were done (kb-specific software and/or the specific application software and/or "external"/third-party macro-tools), and unfortunately, I don't have any version of "euroscript" left, which made use of (any available? at least all) those "regular" additional F-keys: I switched from WordStar directly to "euroscript", just used Word and WordPerfect on some occasions for output formatting, but then PageMaker and, before that, that Corel shit which they never got stable and obviously not even were willing to get stable to begin with, I don't even remember its name, so much I hate that shit and Corel - did then never bought another program from them up to this day).

I don't know if my assertion re some "regular" IBM kb with more F-keys (for some months then, I said: F-keys on the left AND on top) yesterday is true or an error of mine, and anyway, on the left there were not 12 but 10 F-keys, and not in 2 columns 1...5/6 and 6/7...10/12 but in 5 rows F1-2, 3-4, 5-6..., but here are some layouts which remained quite "regular" even, while being you could easily say "perfect" (and NOT totally overpriced, while more expensive than the really regular ones indeed):

https://www.seasip.i...intagePC/kb3270.html (KeyTronic KB 3270 Plus)

Left: F1...F10 (see above), on top: 2 ranges of 12 F-keys, so we're at the usual 34 addditional keys (in fact 35), compared with today's meagre 12; on this kb, the ranges on top are NOT grouped by 3x4 (3x8 then), but just in 2 ranges, with makes it necessary to visually identify those blocks by color stickers, e.g. "nothing" for the 8 keys on the left and to the right (but see below: you'd need to put stickers everywhere, but clearly distingued as 3 blocks left/centre/right), while you put 8 yellow stickers to the 2x4 keys in the center (in a similar manner, I better=faster identify the keys of my keypads, with blue stickers on the numeric keys 0...9, but with a slight adjustment: Since on the 4700 - I should get money from Cherry! -, there are TWO rows of 4 keys above the numeric block, not just one (num/divide/multiply/minus) like regularly, and I wanted, for other things than within a 3x3 block, keys immediately availabe, i.e. not on top of the device, but near its bottom: Thus, I shifted the 3x3 block (1...9) one row higher (blue stickers, NOT for digits but keys within a 3x3 block are immediately identifiyable for anything, by their position IF that block is visually clearly distinguished from the rest of keys), and then, the original 1, 2, 3 keys as explained above: red sticker for cut, yellow for copy and green (ditto, as said, for the comma key beneath it) for insert: Such (clearly distinguished, hence the unifiedly-blue-colored (shifted) 1...9 block: with too many colors all mixed up, the speeding-up value of colors is quickly lost again) color stickers are a BIG help for fast typing since most of the time, it's not entirely blind typing on such devices (upper row: 2 yellow stickers, then 2 green ones, similar for my 12 stickers on my 12 F-keys on top of the "abc" since, as said, in a 3x3 block, or in any 1-2-3 row, the keys are immediately identifyable by their position, while a 4rd key within a block/row slows down your key pressing.

The descriptions in this link are very instructive since there's numerous "protocols", including one "XT Protocol" in "Native/Irma/Enhanced mode", and so it seems that there probably WAS some IBM  XT kb for some months with had (not 6 but) 10 F-keys on the left, and (not 24 but 12) F-keys on the top. I didn't get it yet, but there's highly instructive info there.

All this is obviously lost on people who today try to ridicule the "old times" and incl. what those had to offer really good; it's similar for many a devices' ancient build quality vs todays' devices often dying after 13 months when legal responsibility of the vendor is 12 months, and where electronics are often built on purpose in a way that heating elements destroy neighboring elements sensitive to heat: most manufacturers weren't as cynical as that yet in those times.

But I said "a blind key in the centre of the arrow cross" (shifting the down-arrow 1 row down, compared to today (and in fact's it's the other way round, they shifted that arrow key up, unfortunately) and which is helpful in many situations, see above), and my links prove that (at least for the better kb's of that day) that's NOT the case: that's additional key number 35 from above, and it's evident that this centre key is of tremendous utility, as a second "home" key or then, according to your work situation, as a second arrow-down key, or for whatever you'll need in immediate reach!

From the above, it's already become obvious that today's kb manufacturers make us eat shit, and they can do so since old times are ridiculed by many, and we all buy these totally inacceptable devices (inacceptable since there's PROOF it can be done so much better), instead of systematically refusing anything non-acceptable, which in practice would mean that re kb's, nobody should buy any other "regular" kb anymore, but at least prefer those at least SOME additional F-keys, and then manufacturers would begin to re-introduce more F-keys in order to compete on that field.


An NCR XT/AC "switchable" kb; in don't know for sure if this "switchable" here means that you either have the F1...10 keys at the left at your disposal OR the F-keys 11...30 on top (similar for some of the many additional F-keys in the link above, according to its "current" setup then). I cite this example for 2 reasons: Again, you see the additional, central key in the arrow block, and, yesterday, I spoke of an additional key "beneath it all", in order to use it with your thumb, in immediate reach of the (according to application / work situation, reassigned) kb-integrated numpad; here we have the capslock key in an almost similar position, for possible thumb use in combination with your other fingers on the arrow keys (in this specific example: if you reassign the central home key to arrow-down, reassigning the arrow-down key to other uses. Also, your regular capslock key of today is the control key here, and there's no need whatsoever to discuss any alleged utility of the capslock key at its "regular" position, it's only the question WHAT functionality you would like have to get there instead which's debatable.


Finally, a "classic" "just-a-little-bit-enhanced" kb by ITT, with the 10 F-keys to the left, the 24 (instead of 12) F-keys on top, again a working central key within the arrow cross, and again an additional "function" key positioned for (or, in fact, positioned in a way that you could probably make use of it that way, see above) thumb use - I insist on the fact for BOTH the arrows cross (which isn't even a cross anymore nowadays as explained above) AND the kb's numpad, respective THUMB KEYS (at least 1 each) would of tremendous utility.

Btw, that additional key here has the inscription "Dateifreigabe" and was probably meant for manual "transactioning", i.e. doing a block of connected commands, by kb and on screen, but which were all withheld, then visual screen check, then only triggering the whole "transaction" by pressing that key.

And, you see here that the 24 F-keys on top all come with their own comment field, and yes, in those times cardboard templates were available, for different "setups" / layers applied to different applications / work situations; these keys, and their comments, were somewhat tilted into the direction of the user, for one in order for them to more easily read those hints, and secondly, also, for facilitating key pressing, the necessary reaching out of your fingers being reduced by the inclination. (I have spoken above of the importance of the hints being near their respective keys, and of course, having these hints not on-screen but as near to the keys as in this - quite perfect - example is the optimal solution, at least for the - "ever-changing" - F-keys 1...24 on top, just 2 lcd "films" instead of cardboard; and always, the "nearer" F1...12 are in the bottom row, the "more remote" F13...24 are in the top row; also, for right-handers, the "more important", ie the more frequently used commands/macros should be assigned, by preference, to the right part of these 24 keys, so "logical grouping" (ie process-connected commands should be in each other's vicinity) would decide upon some frequently-used "key" (function) being assigned to the bottom row (even for left hand triggering) or probably in (farer-away but) top row, but for right-hand use.

On the other hand and as said, the additional F-keys to the left of the kb are there for "manual batch use", not for replacing missing F-keys on top, and that implies that for such batch use, you will probably know/remember the respective key assignments: I use the 4700 extensively, but then, again and again for just some applications (except for some "global" keys there I would have much preferred  being on top of my kb anyway), for the same work situation, so I don't really need visual hints for them (while only the internal commands my differ, as in the example above: ^f vs ^n for "new folder" in different applications, but that should not be the problem of the user, for whom it should be the same key). Ditto for my key assignments to the kb-internal numpad: For one, there's lots of functionaly relegated over there since simply I don't have the - necessary! - keys on top of my kb (the F13...24 missing there), and then, there's batches, often duplicated from the (left-hand) 4700, for speed reasons; again my example for FSIV: in the tree (pane), num1...9 assign the current folder as target, in the thumbs pane (and also in the full-size, called "preview" pane), the same ONE-key num1...9 assigns the current pic to that target folder: smart 1-key assignments avoid key combinations...

Thus, for your keypads (of which the permanent visual representation on screen would take much too much of very valuable screen real estate, not speaking of the looks), a 1-key toggle for "display the current key assignments of all (other) additional keys (ie excluding F1...24 on top), in some big window just on top of all others" (and given there's 24 top F-keys available, not only 12), ie NOT taking permanent screen space, would be the best solution after all, while the F1...24 on top (and of which the current assinments would be a lot less "predictable" whenever it's not a very common application / work situation) should "tell" their current function permanently, ideally by on-key lcd's (replacing the cardboard template in my last example above), or on-screen in last resort: most people have accepted, application-specific, so-called "ribbons" on top of their screens, so why shouldn't they accept another overall, application-independent (but, among other things, application-sensitive) ribbon at its bottom, if its heigh is just around 2 cm, but the distinction between the keys of row 1 and 2 (e.g. F13 and F1) will be clearly hampered, (the lcd version of) my example 3 (where the keys separate the respective hints) would be much faster in the end.

In the old days, software was lacking so that the general public could profit from such a setup; for special-business use only, the "numbers" were obviously insufficient in order to come down with manufacturing prices - also, see the chaotic scan code assignment to the additional keys of those special kb's of the time, hinted at in my first example above. As for sex change, you can run into deep (throat) trouble even without, this link showing off a current, very amusing example:
« Last Edit: July 25, 2018, 07:06 AM by ital2, Reason: I obviously missed the obvious, it\'s added and bolded now. »