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by Ray DeCosta

Q. I'm in the market for a new keyboard. What should I be looking for?

A. Buying a new keyboard can be a very confusing experience because there are many different styles and manufacturers from which to choose. The first suggestion is to go to a local office supply or big-box store and see what they have on display for you to investigate. All modern keyboards use a USB interface, so technology-wise the replacement of a keyboard is a very simple procedure - the problem is that of choosing which one to buy.

By now, you probably have a good handle on how you use a keyboard and perhaps what you would like to see in a new one. But in all likelihood, you won't be aware of all the new features currently available. Look at all the keyboards on display with an open mind. Some will have features you know you will never use as well as other features that might be of limited usefulness to you.

For instance, you will find keyboards that claim to be "Internet" or "Media Player" compatible or optimized. Often all this means is that they have extra buttons (at an additional price) which you may never actually use or might do nothing more than confuse you. As an example, if you really want a dedicated key that will take you to your Home page whenever you press it, then that's probably the keyboard for you. Others might very well find this "feature" useless to them and would shy away from such a frill.

As another example, some people prefer the tactile and audio feedback provided by the old-style "click-and-clack" keyboards while others want a quiet and softer membrane-type keyboard. Also some people prefer black-on-white keys which may make the keyboard easier to read but if you're a touch typist, that distinction is immaterial.

If you don't see anything that looks and feels right for you, go to another store and see what they have to offer. There is such a large number of available choices that no store can have a full inventory of keyboards for you to inspect.

Published: Courier 1/13/13 - Page 4C