July 24, 2007

Day 3: First impressions

Two MacBooks and two MacBook Pros arrived. Before we even switched them on, there were some things we noticed: they’re aesthetically pleasing machines, nicely proportioned and rounded (except for the oddly sharp edge on the front of the palm-rest surface which Chris noted earlier). They’re also refreshingly devoid of stickers blathering on about which operating system or processor was inside, and the build quality seems good (though not neccesarily better than Windows notebooks costing the same sort of money).

Opening them up, a few things which we wondered about:-

  • There’s apparently no delete key; how do you delete the character in front of the cursor?
  • There’s no dedicated PageUp and PageDown keys. Very small sub-notebooks sometimes dispense with these keys because there just physically isn’t the width to get them in, but the MacBook Pro has a 15” screen and the keyboard space to match, so it seems like an odd omission.
  • Double quotes aren’t on Shift-2; they’re over with the single quotes, where the @ symbol is on a Windows machine. It does seem kind of logical putting the double quote and single quote characters on the same key, but I wonder how easy it’ll be to remember. I’m vaguely surprised, though I don’t really know whether I should be, that this isn’t something which has just standardised itself across all keyboards by now.
  • Will the lack of a second button under the trackpad turn out to be a nuisance? How do you right-click without a (two button) mouse plugged in?
  • No PCMCIA or ExpressCard slots on the MacBook; a single ExpressCard slot on the Pro. As Chris has already noted, this is a bit of a pain for mobile connectivity. Perhaps you can get USB dongles that do the same job nowadays, but we don’t have any lying around, whereas we do have PCMCIA cards.

My only other observation is that my own personal preference in notebooks is for the sub-notebook form factor; I’ve used Sony Vaio TX and Toshiba Portege notebooks in the past, and my current notebook is a Dell X1 whose dimensions and weight are just about perfect. It’s silly to criticise the MacBook and Pro for not being something which they don’t claim to be, but I’d love to see Apple provide a model in their range which is comparable to a Portege or X1 or Vaio TX model – ultra-thin, 12” screen, lightweight, smaller-than-A4 footprint.

- 4 comments by 4 or more people Not publicly viewable

  1. Delete key – hold down “option” and use backspace
    Page up/page down – I think this is “option” plus a cursor key
    It’s suprising how easy it is switching from UK to US key layout for ” etc. What you can do in the System preferences though is change it to pretend to be a normal keyboard though.

    Right click without a two button mouse either uses the Apple key and a click or you can now do fancy click patterns on the key pad. What you’ll find though is that most Apple applications have been designed so you can get to things without needing that right click, it’s less used than in Windows.

    25 Jul 2007, 06:18

  2. John Dale

    I had presumed that there would be some sort of two-key combo for delete-forwards and PageUp / PageDown. My point, though, is that this is a Bad Thing; these are sufficiently frequently used keys that shouldn’t be accessed through two-key operations.

    And if I change the keyboard so that double-quotes returns to shift-2, will I be more or less confused when the key doesn’t do what’s printed on it?

    25 Jul 2007, 09:16

  3. John Rawnsley

    Keyboard layouts have never been all that standardised on Macs and vary from model to model. Having to use AZERTY keyboards I’m used to having to look at the keys. 3 powerbooks ago I actually bought one with an AZERTY keyboard but used it with a QWERTY layout so hardly any characters were where the keytops indicated :-)

    Different key locations is a problem using Parallels to run Windows as Parallels provides no keyboard translation. I solved that by downloading Microsoft’s Keyboard Layout Creator and making a layout for an Apple UK keyboard to get Windows characters from Mac locations. The only downside is that when the Novell system does its weekly reset of my roaming profile I have to reinstall the layout.

    My wife has a Portege and they are very nice machines. My 12” G4 powerbook feels much heavier.

    25 Jul 2007, 11:58

  4. Mike Willis

    The thing that irritates me most about the Mac keyboards is that there’s no # key. It’s hidden on alt-3 btw if you’ve not found it. Not very helpful positioning for people who edit code in languages that use # to denote comments.

    If you plug in a standard PC keyboard you won’t find a keyboard map to match in Mac OS X. This is irritating if like me you use a Mac via a KVM switch with a PC. Fortunately you can get a keyboard map from http://www.gyford.com/phil/writing/2005/11/20/using_a_british.php I use that with the alt and command keys switched over to how they are on an Apple keyboard so the alt key is really the alt key and that key with the Windows logo on that just about every keyboard manufacture insists on using works as the command key. (Which on an Apple keyboard of course has an Apple logo on.)

    25 Jul 2007, 13:00

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