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PC Keyboard on a Mac

The movie quote that best describes my current mood is "I may be evil, but I feel good...". As you may be aware, one of the Mac Mini's features is BYODKM ("Bring your own Display Keyboard and Mouse"). While I have two mice around the house, I only have one keyboard, which I'll give to my Mom to keep with the G4. So, today I went out to buy a USB keyboard.

My new MS Comfort Curve KeyboardI checked out a few and finally settled on the Microsoft Comfort Curve 2000. It had all the keys, was USB and not PS/2, had a wavy "ergonomic" shape and was very low-cost. It even boasted Mac compatibility! Yeah ... I still feel a little dirty, but the other keyboards were either cheap no-name products or butt-ugly beige things with turkish blue accents ... This is a Mini, not an Amiga 500 special edition.

I tried it out on the G4, and the experience was surprisingly good. You plug it in and OS X starts an assistant that prompts you to type a particular key on the keyboard. It then asks you whether it's European (ISO), US (ANSI) or Japanese (JIS), and then you can use it. The Command key is mapped to the Windows key (or "start" as this keyboard labels it), Option is Alt. Even three of the special keys (the ones for volume control) work right out of the box.

If you have a little Google-fu, you can download the Mac OS X driver software "IntelliPoint" from Microsoft's web site (though it seems there's no Intel version of that yet). Besides activating all the other keys (which includes a play/pause key that can control iTunes and forward/back keys for use in a web browser), it also lets you configure all of these keys any way you like. For example, I changed the "program key" which is hard-wired to command-tab to be Ctrl-F2 (which activates full keyboard access to the menu bar), and the "calculator" button launches Dashboard.

It also contains options for the geeks among us: You can swap Alt and Windows (the Alt key on Windows keyboards is where the Command Key would physically be on a Mac, and the Windows key is where the option key would be) so you don't type Command-Q when you want Option-Q. It also has every Unix-geek's dream: Swapping Control and Caps Lock.

There are a few downsides, though: IntelliPoint doesn't ask you whether your keyboard is US (ANSI), European (ISO) or Japanese (JIS) as the OS X assistant did, and thus you have to remember to go in there and set up the keyboard type on the second pane if you don't want the "<" and "^" keys to be swapped on your keyboard. Also, the defaults for the forward/back buttons are the US keyboard shortcuts for Safari, even when the system is on the German localisation, which means they beep until you fix them.

The wording of the setup utility is very Windows-esque, as well. E.g. there are two menu items: "Open Item" (the German translation is "Open Element", which is even more confusing) and "Open Special". "Open Element" lets you pick a file to launch (e.g. Calculator.app or whatever) while "Open Special" contains various pre-sets (like opening the default e-mail app). Why they didn't just name that "launch" or "open" and then put two groups in there, I have no idea.

Similarly, they have keyboard shortcut and power key and keystroke menu items, where keystroke simulates a keypress (e.g. Cmd-Q), while "Power Key" is the "power" button (i.e. on/off - and translated as "Kurzbefehl", which is German for "keyboard accelerator" and thus completely wrong). "keyboard shortcut" is a menu where you can pick some common menu item shortcuts, which, again, I would've thrown in with "keystroke".

So, the software is like Windows: Basically does everything you need, but the UI is a little backwards. The localisation into German might have been done by a first-year student that doesn't know common computing terms. But the hardware is a pretty nice piece of engineering.

BTW - When I bought this keyboard I realised why the Mini has 4 USB ports now. It's because it's intended for PC switchers: The typical Mac USB keyboard is a hub, i.e. it uses one USB port but provides two new ones. With today's Macs with 2 USB ports that means that, after you plug in the keyboard and mouse, you still have 2 USB ports left. A PC keyboard isn't a hub. So you use up the two USB ports for keyboard and mouse, and need two more to be even with the typical Mac, which by the calculations of the typical PC buyer should be measured as having two front USB ports and two in back.

Update: I just found out that Apple's "Keyboard and Mouse" system preference pane does the basics of what IntelliPoint does. Well, it doesn't turn on the web keys, but it lets you swap the Windows and Alt keys so their order is the same as for Command and Option, and it even lets you turn off shift lock.

Update 2: I just found that there is the new version 6.0 of IntelliType available from the MS homepage. It's a Universal Binary and seems to work.

Reader Comments: (RSS Feed)
josh writes:
I just got the same keyboard, however the tab key does not work for me. Did you have the same problem?
Uli Kusterer replies:
Nope, no nonworking keys, and tab worked right from the start. Unless you've misconfigured something in IntelliType (though I'm not sure you even can remap tab), I'd guess you may have an actual defect here. Though, if it worked before, you may also just have gotten dirt in the contacts or so...
Shai writes:
Hello I've got a question. My manager just bought a Mac Mini & basically tossed it to me and said use this ... OK so, I hooked up our Dell Keyboard to this new Mac Mini and followed the configure "prompts" and everything "seemed" fine until I tried using shortcuts. I'm used to using a PC keyboard with a Mac but for some reason none of the shortcuts work for me. I'm a graphic designer ... not a tech geek, so I follow instructions really well but can't always 'geek' my way out of a situation. Help please Thanks Shai
Uli Kusterer replies:
Shai: Well, if they don't work for you, that's tough. Seriously, that's much too vague. Even if I was a hardware guru (and I'm not), I wouldn't know where to start guessing. You can remap and override some keys in IntelliType as well as in the Mouse & Keyboard Prefpane, so check those to make sure you didn't swap anything the wrong way. Unless you pressed the wrong key, I really have no idea beyond that, though.
Uli Kusterer replies:
Shai, Josh: Have you checked the correct type of keyboard (i.e. ANSI, ISO or JIS)? Now that I re-read your comments I suddenly realised that I had a few non-working keys when I accidentally picked ANSI instead of ISO. Maybe something similar happened to you? The setting is a little hidden in the keyboard prefpane, and IIRC IntelliType has a separate setting for that which you may have to change. Does that help you guys?
paper shredder writes:
I don't know if it's possible just to buy the keys and swap them out. Hopefully someone who does know will speak up.
Offsprung writes:
What kind of of statement is: "A PC keyboard isn't a hub." The keyboard YOU bought is not a hub! You can buy a pc (even M$) keyboard with usb hub, just buy the one that does.
Uli Kusterer replies:
@Offsprung: Good point. I guess I should have said 'in general', or 'most aren't'. That said, I have many PC-using friends, and *none* of them owns a keyboard with a built-in hub. Also, I went through at least four different shops back then (I might even have tried a few over in Mannheim, but I'm not 100% certain, it's been a while), and none of them carried any hub-keyboards. I'm not saying that there are no keyboards with integrated hubs for Windows and Linux machines. Rather, I was just trying to bring across that it's not like with the Mac, where every keyboard has the hub built-in, which is something Mac users buying PC keyboards to use with their Mac need to watch out for.
Uli Kusterer replies:
@Shai: Just thought of one more thing: On Mac, there are a 'command' (clover-leaf and Apple icon) and a control key. Command is used for most shortcuts, while ctrl is just used as a general modifier. So, keep that in mind when you try to trigger shortcuts. As Command is mapped to the 'Windows'-key on a PC keyboard, Ctrl-C won't copy like on Windows.
John Howell writes:
I did this the other way around. I have a PC with an MS wireless keyboard and mouse (actuially a laptop with three USB ports already on it an d docking station with a further 6) But I fell in love with a new iMac keyboard when I played with one on in a shop, so I just bought one second hand form someone who had just upgraded their mac but already had a keyboard and mouse they were happy with. I'm using this with KDE Linux, so mapping up the media keys was a simple task of just adding secondary system shortcuts. Only some oddness - the clear key is num-lock, and no insert key, only fn where insert should be. However I love having the 2 USB ports on the keyboard as I can just put my docked laptop right out of the way now and still plugin thumbdrives very easily. Now I have everything I need to move into a mac mini. Maybe for a Christams present for myself. 8)
Soumen Biswas writes:
What is the shortcut key for CD/DVD Eject and push in a USB keyboard in MAC (eMac) ? MY MAC KEYBOARD IS DAMAGED. I am facing a trouble for CD/DVD eject/push please help me.
Uli Kusterer replies:
When a keyboard doesn't have a dedicated eject key, the F12 key is used to eject disks on the Mac. Neat trick I learned recently: If you have two drives, Option-Eject will eject the second drive.
Nen writes:
I came here after plugging a Logitech ClassiC keyboard 200 - the cheapest - to my G4 notebook. I wonder if I can make ALT behave like the Command Key, etc. I cannot copy, paste select all, the basic functions in a Mac. Hope ypu can help!!!
Nen writes:
I found the answer to my own question, The WINDOWS key on the Classic keyboard 200 from Logitech acts like the Command key. Now I can copy, paste and select all. Neat! I am eager to learn what else can I do with this plug and play keyboard that sells for $15 at Staples. ALT delete will delete forward and so on... I bought an LG monitor for my G4 and that is why I needed this keyB.
zee writes:
what do you know about amiga, snobbish macoid :P
DWebb writes:
Please have patience with me for a real 'novice' question. I'm thinking of switching from pc to Mac Mini. I do a lot of writing, so I don't want to lose any of the functions that one gets with a pc keyboard - such as being able to delete forwards as well as backwards, block in paragraphs and pages using Control and so on. A friend told me that Macs don't do this. Will these keys and functions still work if I use my old keyboard with a Mac Mini? Thanks
Uli Kusterer replies:
@DWebb Your friend was following outdated information. Back in the System 6 days, many apps didn't support forward delete, but these days every Mac application works as expected there. As to the other operations, I think they're all available (if I understand correctly), but some of them may be on different keys, or require different modifier keys etc. Maybe someone with more experience on Windows can go into more detail about this (it's been ages for me...).
Kishore Sherchand writes:
Hi, My MAC G5 is almost dead due to MAC keyboard is not functioning. I tried to connect my the other PC keyboard to the MAC still not. IOs there a way how can I activate MAC with PC Keyboard.
masqueradebeauty writes:
I am not sure how old this conversation is about this keyboard, but it totally saved me from frustrations because I just hooked my Classic Keyboard 200 to my MacBook Pro and I always use the select short cut for typing and the information here totally saved me from headaches! Thanks!
Barbara Hageter writes:
My keyboard with my eMac was recently zapped by a storm and even though the computer seems fine, the keyboard is dead. I am currently using a QWERTY cheap keyboard borrowed from work which suits my purposes for the time right now except I cannot get the number lock key to work. My old keyboard did not have a number lock button but I never had any problem. My problem now is I cannot access my work site as it will not accept my password which contains numbers. I went through the steps as prompted to introduce the new keyboard but just cannot get this one function to work.
Uli Kusterer replies:
I have no idea what kind of keyboard you would have. All keyboards I had so far have numbers across the top. Since Num Lock is only needed for the number block on the right, it should just work. Do you maybe have the wrong keyboard layout set? E.g. while a US keyboard has the numbers without Shift, French keyboards need Shift to display numbers. Most keyboards are physically the same. The only difference is what is printed on the keys (and maybe the size of a few key caps). The computer can not distinguish them, and needs to be told what language keyboard you have. So if you had a US keyboard, but accidentally had the keyboard layout (i.e. the "keyboard language") set to French in "System Preferences" under "Language and Text", pressing a number key would give you the wrong character. Have you tried to find out what language your new keyboard is and how it differs from the old one, and made sure System Preferences matches that?
vamputer writes:
whaa, u replaced calculator key with dashboard?? u dont compute?
Uli Kusterer replies:
@vamputer Dashboard *contains* a calculator widget. Also, I can just type stuff into the Spotlight search field to have it calculated.
Joe writes:
For me it worked by using alt+C instead of ctrl+C.
Ian Hill writes:
Soo i like to do alot of aplications in full screen but when they freeze im screwed and i know im not supposed to do it but i pull the plug :( i need to know the shortcut to force quit :D Thank You Ian Hill
Hibi writes:
Please let me know the apple + s key combination is equivalent to which keys in ANSI keyboard
Uli Kusterer replies:
Hibi, see my blog posting on the Mac keyboard: http://orangejuiceliberationfront.com/all-you-need-to-know-about-mac-keyboard/
Do I need one? writes:
What is the Control key on a windows Keyboard for mac??? I'm confused..
Or E-Mail Uli privately.

Created: 2006-03-02 @857 Last change: 2018-01-18 @843 | Home | Admin | Edit
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