Laptop Keyboards, No More Page Up/Down for You!


this article discusses changes in laptop keyboards in the past 2 decades, and what it means for application's shortcut key design, in particular, emacs.

In past few years, there's a evolution of laptop keyboards.

In 1990s, laptop keyboards don't have the dedicated numerical keypad, but has it embedded in the main section.

ThinkPad Keyboard

Here's a 1990's style laptop keyboard from the IBM ThinkPad, renowned for its high-quality.

Lenovo ThinkPad Edge E545 keyboard 2014-02-08
Lenovo ThinkPad Edge E545 keyboard. amazon

Very famous is its embedded track-point. Many people love the track-point.

lenovo thinkpad keyboard 2014-02-08-2-2
Lenovo ThankPad laptop keyboard

Note the embedded numberpad keys.

lenovo thinkpad usb trackpoint keyboard
The ThankPad keyboard is sold by itself. ThinkPad USB Keyboard

Note some special designs:

2014 ThinkPad Keyboard

Here's a 2014 ThinkPad, with newly designed keyboard, following the trend. Many beloved keys are gone, and many ThinkPad users hated the change.

Lenovo ThinkPad X240 keyboard
Lenovo ThinkPad X240 keyboard. (thx to Gabriel Saldana) Lenovo Thinkpad Ultrabook X240

Lenovo ThinkPad Bluetooth Keyboard TrackPoint (new style)

though, useful keys are still there, including {⇞ Page △, ⇟ Page ▽, ↖ Home, ↘ End, ⌦ Delete}. Gone are {▤ Menu, Pause, Scroll Lock, Insert}.

Full-Sized Laptop Keyboard

In 2000s, laptop began to have wide-screen, and started to have full-sized keyboard, including the dedicated numerical keypad.

Here's a ~2005 style typical laptop keyboard.

Dell Inspiron laptop keyboard 2014-02-07-2
Dell Inspiron 15 i15RV-953BLK 16-Inch Laptop amazon

Note that, it is essentially the same as a full-sized PC keyboard. On this particular one, it doesn't have {▤ Menu, Pause,Scroll Lock} keys.

In 2009 and later, laptop keyboard again don't have the number pad anymore. But, further, they started to not have page up/down keys. This is lead by Apple's MacBook and Google's Chromebook, Chromebook Pixel

Macbook Laptop Keyboard

Here's a Mac laptop keyboard.

MacBook Pro 2012 keyboard
MacBook Pro 2012 keyboard. MacBook

Note, there's no {⇞ Page △, ⇟ Page ▽, ↖ Home, ↘ End, ⌦ Delete} keys.

ASUS 2012 Laptop Keyboard

Here's a 2012 laptop keyboard. Again, there's no {⇞ Page △, ⇟ Page ▽, ↖ Home, ↘ End} keys. But it does have ⌦ Delete key, which is often used on Microsoft Windows and Linux.

ASUS Zenbook Prime UX31A DB51 laptop
“ASUS Zenbook Prime UX31A-DB51 13.3-Inch Ultrabook” amazon

〔☛ Laptops 2012 Comparison: ASUS Zenbook Prime vs Apple MacBook Pro

Google Chromebook Keyboard

Here's a 2012 Google Chromebook keyboard.

Chromebook keyboard
Google Chromebook. amazon

The Google Chromebook keyboard has major changes. In short, the keys are much simplified.

〔☛ Can you install Linux on Chromebook?

Emacs Keybinding Design, Laptop Keyboards: No More Page Up, Page Down Keys, Multiple Keys for the Same Function?

Recently, started to work on Apple MacBook. One problem is that my Ergoemacs-vi Mode isn't designed for using on Apple keyboard. For example, Apple Keyboards in general don't have {↖ Home, ↘ End, ⇞ Page △, ⇟ Page ▽} keys. So, i had to make a lot adjustments of my own keybinding. 〔☛ Apple Computer Keyboards Review

The gist here, is that when you design a keybinding system for general public use, such as ErgoEmacs Keybinding, you then have to consider popularly used keyboard hardware, their key arrangement. For example, if the only key to do page up is the ⇞ Page △ key, and popular laptops don't have that key, then it's a problem. This is interesting because it touches on several issues.

When designing a keybinding system, ideally, a command should not have multiple keybinding, because it's confusing and redundant. (⁖ in emacs, there are 3 keys for undo: {【Ctrl+_】, 【Ctrl+/】, 【Ctrl+x u】}) However, this is almost unavoidable, because there are quite a lot different keyboard in popular use, some doesn't have particular key, some have them on different position. So, the ideal key only works on one subset of popular keyboards, and you need other keybinding for different keyboards.

The other interesting thing is that, if you really consider all keyboards, then you often ends up with a common denominator. Namely, do everything with a Ctrl combination, like most unix terminal software. Which means, very inefficient use of keys. 〔☛ Linux: Bash Keys, Terminal Keys, Man Page Keys ⌨

Of course, i knew the above, and have kept them in mind. But there's a new trend i haven't thought about. That is, many of today's laptops, no longer have {⇞ Page △, ⇟ Page ▽, ↖ Home, ↘ End} keys. This is a new trend, started few years ago, especially by Google Chromebooks. This mean, any software that assumed these keys, need to change.

this also has a major impact on key usage. For example, {【Ctrl+⇞ Page △】, 【Ctrl+⇟ Page ▽】} are used in browsers to switch tabs. And also {【Ctrl+Tab ↹】, 【Ctrl+⇧ Shift+Tab ↹】}. I'm not sure which is more popularly used. However, now, since many laptops don't have {⇞ Page △, ⇟ Page ▽} anymore, so the habit may gravitate to {【Ctrl+Tab ↹】, 【Ctrl+⇧ Shift+Tab ↹】}, and perhaps in a few years, shortcuts with {⇞ Page △, ⇟ Page ▽} keys may become rare and deprecated.

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