I’ve been frustrated with keyboards for a very long time. I’ll blame Apple because after they went through their mushy keyboard phase when all the original iMacs came out in the late 90s, they eventually moved more and more to the kind of low-travel chiclet keys found everywhere (and because Windows PC makers followed Apple’s lead in using the current chicklet keyboards, most Windows keyboards are not of the quality they once were either).
I’m posting this in “Mainly Macintosh” because most of my work is done on a Mac, but Windows users are affected by ineffective, low-travel keyboards, too. In fact, because I needed a new Windows laptop for travel, my quest for a good laptop keyboard made me hunt down and purchase one of the limited-run 25th Anniversary ThinkPads from 2017.
Back when Apple’s keyboards were mushy, I discovered and purchased the Matias Tactile Pro, with Alps mechanical key switches, which used to be in keyboards everywhere back in the 80s and 90s.
Most mechanical keyboards are a bit (or a lot) noisier than modern keyboards, so they might not be the best choice for an office with lots of people. But mechanical keyboards have a great advantage in that they have greater travel, tactile feel, and auditory response. For most, this translates into faster and more accurate typing. If you find yourself making a lot more typos on modern keyboards, it’s probably not your fault. Low-travel chiclet keyboards cause more errors for most people.
At some point over a decade ago, I spilled coffee or a soft drink on my Matias Tactile Pro, and I set it aside thinking I’d one day see if I could get it working again. I’m not actually sure what happened to it. Perhaps it got thrown out at some point. I went back to Apple’s keyboards, which at least were not mushy anymore.
But in Apple’s obsession with thinness, they have continued to try to create thinner and thinner keyboards with very low travel. Their most controversial keyboard design began in 2015 with what they call “butterfly” switches, their term for a scissor-mechanism key switch. They introduced these on the MacBook in 2015 and now butterfly switches are in all of Apple’s keyboards--both their laptop lines and the external Magic keyboards. They have improved them in the last four years, but they are still very polarizing with users. In my opinion the current external (“Magic”) keyboards are the best implementation of the butterfly switches because they don’t have to be quite as thin as the keyboards on the MacBook, MacBook Air, and MacBook Pro. I’ve used them for a while, but I’ve never been crazy about them.
Looking for something better, I spent the last few months researching mechanical keyboards. Just search for them on the internet, and you’ll find a ton of information. Third-party mechanical keyboards were few and far between when I bought my Matias Tactile Pro around 2004 or so. Now there is a lot of selection, including a much wider diversity in key switch options.
Most of my day is spent in an office in my home. Since I don’t have to worry about disturbing anyone with the noise, I bought a Das Keyboard 4 Professional for Mac with “cherry blue" key switches. I initially ordered two keyboards--both variants of blue and brown key switches (this is not in reference to the color of the keys on the keyboard, but rather the mechanism style underneath the keys). I wasn’t sure whether I’d want a blue or brown, so I ordered both on Amazon with the intention to send one back. It took me only a few seconds of comparison to determine I wanted the blue key switches. I had read that writers prefer these, but since keyboard use can be very subjective, I wanted to experience both for myself.
If you do a lot of writing, coding, gaming, or if you just find yourself making a lot more errors than you used to on modern keyboards, I’d encourage you to look into the myriad of options for mechanical keyboards out there today.
Here’s an overhead shot of my new keyboard--