Microsoft splits the space bar with its new Win8 keyboard

Geeks may prefer old-school clicky keyboards, but there are plenty of folks out there who feel more comfortable with ergonomic models. Microsoft’s latest introduction ought to please the latter crowd. Behold the Sculpt Comfort Keyboard, the latest device from Microsoft’s hardware division tailored for Windows 8. It’s even got the new logo and everything:

The Sculpt Comfort Keyboard has a contoured, arched design with a detachable palm rest and low-profile keys. Microsoft has kept the layout relatively sensible, though purists will probably scoff at the oversized delete key and the scrunched-up F-keys. Those F-keys, incidentally, double as "hot keys" for Windows 8-specific features. Some of them bring up charms from the Windows 8 charms bar, while others map to the new operating system’s multitasking and app management shortcuts.

Those aren’t the most unusual features, though. This newfangled ergo keyboard is also Microsoft’s first to feature a split space bar doubling as an extra backspace key. I’ll let the company explain:

Internal research at Microsoft shows that more than 90 percent of people hit the spacebar with their right thumb, leaving the left side virtually untouched. (Go ahead, look at your keyboard – you’ll probably notice a shiny spot on the right-hand side where your thumb strikes.) That’s a lot of wasted real estate.
At the same time, the backspace key is the third-most used on the keyboard – perhaps a comment on our collective typing skills – trailing only the spacebar itself and the letter ‘e.’ These statistics led Microsoft to split the spacebar and add optional backspace functionality into the left-hand side. The result aims to improve both ergonomics and typing efficiency.

Sounds nifty… except for, ya know, those of us who hit the space bar mostly with their left thumb. (Hi!) Good thing Microsoft makes the split mode optional.

The Sculpt Comfort Keyboard carries a $59.95 price tag and will be available from the Microsoft Store "soon." In the meantime, you can check out the Windows Experience Blog for more pictures and details.

Comments closed
    • rrr
    • 7 years ago

    LMAO, have to create keyboards specifically to deal with OS’s clunkiness.

    Epic fail.

    • ludi
    • 7 years ago

    Lizzy Borden used Emacs,
    and gave her backspace forty whacks.
    When she saw what she had done,
    she gave her spacebar forty-one.

    Sorry. It came to mind.

    • RealPjotr
    • 7 years ago

    NEVER will I buy a keyboard that doesn’t follow the standard key layout, this keyboard has removed the Insert key for some odd reason. So no thanks.

    And please remove the Windows logo keys, I don’t want the extra licensing cost on the keyboards and they’re in the way and only perform the Ctrl-ESC and Shift-F10 keypresses.My only keyboards today have a switch to turn off these two keys.

    • shank15217
    • 7 years ago

    god left handers really screw up the party… why cant they just train their right hand instead of complaining..

    • SnowboardingTobi
    • 7 years ago

    I am the 10%

      • oldog
      • 7 years ago

      Ah… but are you the 47%?

      • Farting Bob
      • 7 years ago

      I hit it with my right thumb, but i hit it in the middle of the bar, which would need some getting used to with this keyboard as i would end up hitting backspace every now and then.

      I really dont see the point. Backspace isn’t hard to hit and i fail to see how halving the space bar is an improvement.

    • Noigel
    • 7 years ago

    What if Shift + Space = Extra Backspace function?

    • sschaem
    • 7 years ago

    I hit the space bar with either thumb, so my split spacebar (I have the same zboard for over 7 years)
    it shinny in the middle of both space key. noway I can reprogram my brain to use delete with my left thumb.

    This was a loaner, almost 8 years ago.. I cant believe its been perfect all that time.
    And I bang on that thing 10 hours a day, pretty much every day.

    Neat thing is that because its really designed to be a gamer keyboard, the keyset layer folds out.
    Making it a breeze to clean. It still look like new beside the shinny key

    Also got great USB port placement (to plug usb drive & mouse), but for me its actually the best ergonomic design. (angle & height of the table)

    I even have a keyset for Guildwars & generic FPS that I never used…

    I’m glad they still make them.

    • Mightyflapjack
    • 7 years ago

    Leia: Quick! Find the controls that extend the bridge.

    Luke: Crap, its one of those split space bar keyboards… um… <click>

    <Move ahead to scene of Death Star Exploding>
    <Roll Credits>

      • Shouefref
      • 7 years ago

      Why do jokes like that always end with an explosion?

      Leia: Quick! Find the controls that extend the bridge.

      Luke: Crap, its one of those split space bar keyboards… um… <click>

      ObiWan: That’s the control of my ricketeer! Aaargggghhh……………..

      <Roll Credits>

    • Meadows
    • 7 years ago

    I exclusively press the spacebar with my left hand not only because I’m a lefty, but also because I developed my typing skills most while playing World of Warcraft. (I detest voice communication, and I had to learn to keep up somehow.)

    A videogaming environment inherently places focus on your WASD hand and that’s why I physically can’t imagine, under any circumstances, pressing the spacebar with my right hand. Impossible.

      • sweatshopking
      • 7 years ago

      [quote<] because I'm a lefty, but also because I developed my typing skills most while playing World of Warcraft. [/quote<] you're ACTUALLY like 14.

        • Meadows
        • 7 years ago

        I never “needed” touch-typing prior to that. (I was never a hunt&peck type, but I wasn’t fast either. There seemed no need to be.)

    • no51
    • 7 years ago

    So, does this mean “jump” will have to be bound to backspace?

      • Meadows
      • 7 years ago

      Purists jump with MOUSE2.

    • puppetworx
    • 7 years ago

    It makes sense to put the backspace button which is so commonly used next to the corresponding space button. It’s a lot closer the the main keys too, generally I find I lift my hand and hit the backspace button with my ring finger and then I have to return my hand to the touch type position. I’d be willing to bet this configuration saves time once learned.

    There’s not a whole lot rational about the current keyboard layout, this is a step in the right direction.

    • ronch
    • 7 years ago

    Someone splits the space bar and it becomes a headline. Haha.

      • no51
      • 7 years ago

      would you prefer rumours about rumours or announcements about announcements?

        • ronch
        • 7 years ago

        Sure I get your point, but a split space bar?

    • just brew it!
    • 7 years ago

    My keyboard does indeed have a much larger shiny spot under my right thumb. But there’s a shiny spot under the left thumb too. I could probably get used to the split space/backspace thing, but I think it would drive me nuts unless I replaced both my home and work keyboards so that I didn’t have to switch back and forth. I suspect other people will have this issue too, and it will end up being a barrier to broad adoption.

    Not that I’m particularly likely to give it a try anyway, unless they come out with a version with mechanical switches…

      • travbrad
      • 7 years ago

      Yep that’s the biggest problem with this. Unless every single keyboard is like this then it’ll just frustrate people. Frustrating people seems to be Microsoft’s main goal lately though, so at least they’re consistent. The square wheel, NEW from Microsoft!

      I think I also use the space bar more with my right thumb when typing, but I do use my left thumb as well, so I’d probably spend weeks accidentally hitting backspace while adjusting to it. So much for saving time and making typing more efficient..

      It would be somewhat annoying for gaming too, but you can always just change your jump key to backspace I suppose.

    • yogibbear
    • 7 years ago

    Canyouconfigureitsothatyoudon’tenduptypinglikethis?i.e.canweswitchthesidesaround?Backspaceontherightplease?

      • rxc6
      • 7 years ago

      Shouldn’t it be:
      “Cayoconfiguristhayodon’enutypinlikthisi.ecawswitcthsidearoundBackspacothrighplease”

      Sure, it loses your message, but you know what I mean.

        • yogibbear
        • 7 years ago

        Nah I double space. :/ It’s how I roll.

          • Meadows
          • 7 years ago

          In that case, it’s cyconfthydonetypilith?
          Cswittsidarou?
          Backspatrigplea?

            • cynan
            • 7 years ago

            Yup. OP fail 😉

    • Chrispy_
    • 7 years ago

    I must be really wrong; I have two distinctively shiny spots, one each side! 😐

    I think I’m going to have to buy one of these new keyboards though, since [url=http://www.microsoftstore.com/store/msstore/en_US/pd/Natural-Keyboard-Elite-Black/productID.216533300<]they don't make this anymore.[/url<] and the look of that tickles my fancy.

    • eh?
    • 7 years ago

    I like the centered lettering on the keys. Looks very, dare I say, Metro.

      • Meadows
      • 7 years ago

      Centered lettering breaks an important standard.

      The top left corner of the key should display what you get when you hold Shift while pressing the key.
      The bottom left corner shows what you get when you simply press the key. (Edit: does not apply to the numpad.)
      Finally, the right side corner shows what you get when you hold right Alt (or AltGr) while pressing the key.

      Focusing on letters and centering them renders the keyboard unable to display tons of valuable signs and symbols, and essentially makes the product an international failure, even if it manages to find a few uses within the US.

    • dashbarron
    • 7 years ago

    This gerbil moment of self-reflection was brought to you by Tech Report: [i<]the more you know.[/i<]

    • Convert
    • 7 years ago

    Great, now every time I see the letter ‘e’ it sticks out like a sore thumb.

    • Ricardo Dawkins
    • 7 years ago

    [quote<]Sounds nifty... except for, ya know, those of us who hit the space bar mostly with their left thumb. (Hi!) Good thing Microsoft makes the split mode optional.[/quote<] it is an optional feature and you are doing it wrong (ha!)

    • Arag0n
    • 7 years ago

    I smell so much hate and suspicious… i believe that if that kind of research and proposition was delivered by any one else most of you would agree. It comes from microsoft… it should be fake or just plain stupid….

    • Umbragen
    • 7 years ago

    After using a SteelSeries 6Gv1 for that last half-decade (damn thing wont break), all that extra backspace real estate looks really nice. At half the asking price, I’d probably jump.

    • l33t-g4m3r
    • 7 years ago

    Even if you’re right handed, you’re going to use your left hand to hit the spacebar when you play games.

      • superjawes
      • 7 years ago

      That, and I was thinking that even if you’re left handed, you could still end up using the spacebar more with your right hand because the most used letters are all on the left hand (on a QWERTY, at least).

      I could be wrong about the space bar, but the keyboard is pretty dominated by the left hand, even for righties.

      • BiffStroganoffsky
      • 7 years ago

      The shiny spot is on the left even at my work keyboard and I don’t game on that one. The only gaming I do there is with my mouse. However, my right thumb has worn off the ink on the back button on my mouse.

    • Madman
    • 7 years ago

    Actually, space/backspace combo might be pretty neat while typing.

    My right hand was constantly aching while I was learning to touch-type. I was/am constantly doing a lot of mistakes and moving to backspace and repositioning is really bad when typing. I can’t do it for long because it’s literally, not figuratively, painful.

    • cheesyking
    • 7 years ago

    A split spacebar & backspace combo is not exactly a new idea. I remember finding a whole pile of 15+ year old compaq keyboards that had it and they were probably not the first.

    The thing about counting the number of presses each key gets is that you’ve got to take into account is that presses on the backspace tend to come in in batches where you delete a whole word or words at a time so the penalty of reaching out to the edge of the keyboard isn’t that big.

    Plus it’s annoying enough using keyboards with rarely used keys in different places (like using a US layout when you’re used to UK or vice versa). Moving something like delete would be really painful and probably explains way all those compaq keyboards I found with this feature had stayed unloved in a box!

      • FuturePastNow
      • 7 years ago

      [quote<]A split spacebar & backspace combo is not exactly a new idea. I remember finding a whole pile of 15+ year old compaq keyboards that had it and they were probably not the first.[/quote<] I wonder if that's patented. I wonder if Microsoft has licensed that patent.

        • just brew it!
        • 7 years ago

        If the idea is pantented, and was already being used 15+ years ago, the patent may be expired (or nearly so) by now.

          • BobbinThreadbare
          • 7 years ago

          I thought rectangles with rounded corners were used 15+ years ago too.

          Also, patents are first to file now.

      • sydbot
      • 7 years ago

      Typing this out on one of those Compaq keyboards; a friend had one sitting around when I needed one and I’ve never bothered to replace it. Helps that it is still clicky and nothing (not even WASD!) has worn off after 10+ years of me using it. I never seem to remember that the left side is a backspace, at least until I’ve accidentally hit it. Probably because every other keyboard I use it “normal”.

      • sjl
      • 7 years ago

      Yeah, I remember having that keyboard at my first full time job, back in 1998. This is [i<]not[/i<] a new idea, and my experience with it is not what I would describe as "sterling". Rather, I found the damn thing to be a right royal pain in the backside; it didn't take long for me to go out and buy a replacement keyboard (ironically, an MS Natural, which went nicely with the Logitech Trackman Marble - my colleagues would come over to show me something, take one look at my setup, and say, "You drive.") Leave that backspace where it belongs, on the top right corner of the main block of keys, and we'll get along just fine. Try to make my life "easier" by changing half the spacebar into something it isn't, and I will do my damnedest to find out where you live, so I can come over and kill you, slowly, intricately, and very painfully.

    • Deanjo
    • 7 years ago

    I’m surprised MS didn’t deem the space bar as obsolete and started telling people to use a Metro “spacebar” app.

      • pedro
      • 7 years ago

      Me too.

      • kvndoom
      • 7 years ago

      You spoke the “M” word. Do not speak the “M” word.

    • Shouefref
    • 7 years ago

    The best way to improve keyboards is to put 14 fingers on each hand.

    • Shouefref
    • 7 years ago

    [quote<]Internal research at Microsoft shows that more than 90 percent of people hit the spacebar with their right thumb, leaving the left side virtually untouched. (Go ahead, look at your keyboard – you'll probably notice a shiny spot on the right-hand side where your thumb strikes.) That's a lot of wasted real estate.[/quote<] Stupid reasoning. People who can type hit the space bar with BOTH thumbs, although one of them hits the bar harder than the other, according to whether they're lefthanded or righthanded. That's the whole problem with keyboard designs since more than 25 years: they're made for people who can't type. That's why we have an island of extra keys at the right hand side nowadays. Which means your mouse and keyboard are always on the wrong place: too far to the left, or too far to the right. It's like printing books for people who can't read. Or for people who aren't good at maths - and that's no joke: there is an idea amongst editors that each mathematical formula in a book costs you half your readership. So they edit out all formula's, making some books on scientific or technical subjects uninteresting, and lots of books even ununderstanble. Well, I guess this keyboard suits W8 very well...

      • MadManOriginal
      • 7 years ago

      It’s much longer than 25 years. The QWERTY layout was designed specifically to slow typing speed on mechanical typewriters.

        • Shouefref
        • 7 years ago

        I think the order of the keys had originally good reasons, but become obsolete later on.
        There was an idea to group often used keys.
        In the beginning typewriters were very clumsy to use, high typing speeds were not really possible.
        Later on high speeds meant typing arms blocked each other, but in the meantime the order of the keys was already standardized.
        However, the order of the keys isn’t really important.
        But that stupid insula at the right…. Not only doesn’t take into account people who can type, but it’s also cumbersome for lefthanded people.
        And yes, they DO exist.

        But what really annoys me about the reasoning behind the Sculpt Comfort Keyboard, is the short sightedness of the developpers. They only look at their own keyboards.

        • derFunkenstein
        • 7 years ago

        It wasn’t meant to slow anything down – it was meant to keep letter arms that are usually used together separated (so they didn’t clank on top of one another), and it’s still the best typing layout that I can think of because so little is typed with one hand. The frequently-used letters are pretty well spaced out along home row. But no, it was not meant to slow anything down.

          • MadManOriginal
          • 7 years ago

          It was meant to slow down the mechanical bits from clanking on top of one another then :p or not interfere with each other. In any case, it is slower than other layouts which have more common letters on a home row.

      • Shouefref
      • 7 years ago

      Probably demoted by somebody who can’t type.

      • Flatland_Spider
      • 7 years ago

      The Happy Hacker Professional 2 is what you’re looking for. (http://www.elitekeyboards.com/products.php?sub=pfu_keyboards,hhkbpro2&pid=pdkb400w) There are even models that come without printing

      Then there are the tenkeyless keyboards that still have the arrow keys and navigation block. (http://www.elitekeyboards.com/products.php?sub=leopold,tenkeyless&pid=fc200rtab)

      I think I’ve read some of those books for a couple Math classes I’ve taken.

        • tay
        • 7 years ago

        I have a tenkeyless CM Storm that I really like. It’s similar to the Elite Keyboards tenkeyless kbs with MX brown switches.

      • TheBulletMagnet
      • 7 years ago

      People who can type hit the space bar with BOTH thumbs, although one of them hits the bar harder than the other, according to whether they’re lefthanded or righthanded. And you’re basing this statement on what? Your personal assumptions? Versus research? And MS is stupid in this case? As I was reading the article I did look down at my keyboard and yup, big shiny spot on the right side of the space bar.

      For other people I suggest moving your backspace key to caps lock. I don’t use caps that often and having backspace there so its less of a reach feels real nice. It took me two weeks to get used to it but now my right wrist doesn’t hurt as much.

    • kvndoom
    • 7 years ago

    The last good MS keyboard was the Natural Keyboard Pro.

      • Shouefref
      • 7 years ago

      I like the MS Comfort Curve Keyboard very much. Except of course for that peninsula of keys at the right side.

        • [+Duracell-]
        • 7 years ago

        I have the Comfort Curve Keyboard 2000…love it so much I bought one for work. The 3000’s keys are way too mushy, though.

          • Shouefref
          • 7 years ago

          Yes, it’s the 2000 I meant.

      • derFunkenstein
      • 7 years ago

      The Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000 good. I have one that I like pretty well. Took a little getting used to. Same layout as the NKP.

        • kvndoom
        • 7 years ago

        Minus the buttons up top that I actually used on a regular basis. Most importantly, the media buttons. Moving from {play/pause, stop, next track, previous track} to {play/pause} was totally unacceptable. I use those buttons all the time when listening to music. I did buy a 4000 when they first came out, and didn’t use it very long. It was a huge disappointment for me.

        I’ve been mostly satisfied with my Logitech K350. Not perfect, but it’s the happiest I’ve been since I retired the NKP.

          • derFunkenstein
          • 7 years ago

          The five “favorites” can be linked to anything, including forward/back/stop.

      • eofpi
      • 7 years ago

      You can have my Natural Keyboard Pro when you pry it from my cold dead hands.

      Or when the domes fail. Whichever.

        • kvndoom
        • 7 years ago

        I still have mine! I just wanted something new after having used the same keyboard for over a decade. The Logitech K350 is decent, but the vertical “home row” buttons take getting used to, as does the lack of the “right-click” button beside right-ALT.

        • Starfalcon
        • 7 years ago

        Yeah, same here, been rocking the same natural keyboard pro since 99, and fortunately I have a second one I can scrounge for parts…just in case anything fails, which fortunately nothing has so far. If MS made another run of these, I would buy it in a heartbeat.

      • puppetworx
      • 7 years ago

      I have the Arc keyboard and it’s the balls, maybe not for you keyboard ‘purists’ though…

      • albundy
      • 7 years ago

      I’m happy with my curved ms keyboard 6000 bluetooth which came right after my natural keyboard became obsolete (no ps2 on my mobo). its curved enough, super light to be portable, and easy to type on as the keys are large.

    • Sahrin
    • 7 years ago

    [quote<]Internal research at Microsoft shows that more than 90 percent of people hit the spacebar with their right thumb, leaving the left side virtually untouched.[/quote<] Yeah, fuck you lefties!

      • chuckula
      • 7 years ago

      Or they could… you know.. reprogram the keys in reverse for lefties… which they probably have already done…

      • dmjifn
      • 7 years ago

      I’m left handed and my Das Keyboard’s space bar only shows wear on the right… I’m ashamed to be a traitor to my kind!

        • atryus28
        • 7 years ago

        I’m right handed and my shiny spot is on the left side. I’m not a true typist either but I do type faster then a lot of people who claim they know how to type.

      • mcnabney
      • 7 years ago

      I had to type something to check. When I am writing sentences I use my right hand (I am left handed), but obviously when I game I use my left. (because I use my right hand to mouse even though I am left handed).

        • Arag0n
        • 7 years ago

        As the article says… you can disable it whenever you want. Disable it for playing, or just keep it disable most of time and enable it for long-typing sessions. Why people hates the possibility to do something extra with their keyboards if they feel it improves their typing?

      • Thatguy
      • 7 years ago

      I never thought about which hand i use on the space bar, being left handed, it’s always the left. Always.

        • yogibbear
        • 7 years ago

        What if you have the mouse in your left hand?

    • fellix
    • 7 years ago

    [i<]*peers at his keyboard's space bar*[/i<] Hmm yeah, probably they are right...

      • Delphis
      • 7 years ago

      For me the shiny spot is on the center biased to the left .. so F.U. Microsoft.

    • sweatshopking
    • 7 years ago

    Neat idea, I think there is tons of stuff that could be innovated on the keyboard front. Cyril go to bed.

    First, dorks

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