Evolution of Laptop Keyboards, No More Page Up/Down Keys!

By Xah Lee. Date: . Last updated: .

In past few years, there's notable change of laptop keyboards across board.

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

lenovo thinkpad keyboard 2017 01 14
ThinkPad USB Keyboard. ThinkPad keyboard

Note the embedded number-pad keys.

ThinkPad is very famous for its embedded track-point. Many people love the track-point.

Note some special designs:

2000s, Widescreen + Full-Sized Laptop Keyboard

In 2000s, widescreen became popular, and laptop got larger, and have 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 Dell laptop

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.

Here's a 2000's style ThinkPad.

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

Macbook Laptop Keyboard

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 led by Apple's MacBook and Google's Chromebook.

Here's a Mac laptop keyboard.

macbook keyboard 2015-03
Macbook Keyboard 2015. MacBook Pro

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

Mac have always favored the compact keyboard, without the page up/down home/end key cluster, nor the numeric keypad, since the first Mac in 1984.

Chromebook Keyboard

Google, started to make its own laptop in 2011, with a completely redesigned keyboard.

Chromebook pixel keyboard 2015 a202d288
Chromebook keyboard. Chromebook Pixel

Chromebook, drastically reduced the keyboard complexity.

  1. {⇞ Page Up, ⇟ Page Down} are gone. These are quite useful. More efficient than using touchpad to scroll. (but less efficient than a scroll wheel with acceleration.)
  2. There's no {↖ Home, ↘ End} keys.
  3. No ⌦ Delete. No need for this key if you are mostly browsing web.
  4. The pesky Caps Lock key is gone. Replaced by a giant Web Search 🔍 key.
  5. The F1F12 also gone. Bad point for programers. (the top row can actually be switched back to as F keys, but now there's no label.)
  6. Ctrl and Alt are huge. This is excellent, especially for Emacs users.
  7. Also gone are number pad embedded in the letter keys.
  8. No more ❖ Window or ⌘ command key.
  9. No more diddling with Fn key.
  10. The labels for the letters, are now lower case. a b c.

Microsoft Surface Book Keyboard

microsoft surface book keyboard 2016 58947
Microsoft Surface Book Keyboard, 2016. Microsoft Surface Book 〔image source https://www.itunity.com/article/surface-book-unboxing-2725

The Microsoft Surface Book, came out in 2016, its keyboard is mostly traditional.

However, it retains the ⌦ Delete as dedicated physical key.

Keys like • PrtScn↖ Home↘ End⇞ Page Up⇟ Page DownInsert are merged with the function keys, accessed with holding Fn.

There is one significant innovation: The Microsoft Surface book shifted the number key row to the right!

Look at the keys 7 and u. Now, look at other laptops of these keys.

This innovation of Microsoft Surface Book keyboard is great, because the traditional keyboard number key row position is shifted way to the left. It was that way inherited from mechanical typewriter's design, in order to keep the levers underneath evenly spaced.

〔►see Computer Keyboard Design Flaws

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 Ultrabook X240 keyboard. Lenovo Thinkpad (thanks to Gabriel Saldana)

see also: “ThinkPad Compact Bluetooth Keyboard with TrackPoint” Buy at amazon

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

ASUS 2012 Laptop Keyboard

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

Asus zenbook keyboard-3d39610f
ASUS Zenbook laptop. ASUS Zenbook

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

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

Recently () , started to work on MacBook. One problem is that my xah fly keys Mode isn't designed for using on Apple keyboard. For example, Apple Keyboards in general don't have {↖ Home, ↘ End, ⇞ Page Up, ⇟ Page Down} keys. So, i had to make a lot adjustments of my own keybinding. 〔►see 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 shortcut to do page up is the ⇞ Page Up 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. (For example, 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 don'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. 〔►see 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 physical {⇞ Page Up, ⇟ Page Down, ↖ Home, ↘ End} keys. This is a new trend, started few years ago, especially by 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 Up】, 【Ctrl+⇟ Page Down】} 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 Up, ⇟ Page Down} anymore, so the habit may gravitate to {【Ctrl+Tab ⇥】, 【Ctrl+⇧ Shift+Tab ⇥】}, and perhaps in a few years, shortcuts with {⇞ Page Up, ⇟ Page Down} keys may become rare and deprecated.