I have a problem with my MacBook’s poorly designed keyboard, one I know Apple isn’t going to solve for me. On older MacBook keyboards, the arrow keys were identical in size, with two empty spaces to the left and right of the top arrow key that provided a tactile reference point and clear delineator between full-size keys and the half-size arrow keys. On the newest MacBooks, the left and right arrow keys are full-size keys, and get rid of that handy empty space.
Image credit: Marcin Wichary/Flickr
That change has made it harder than ever to hit my laptop’s arrow keys without inadvertently hitting the wrong button first. So I’ve taken it upon myself to fix the problem and retrain my brain for the future, a future with form-over-function keyboards. I put a zit on my laptop’s keyboard.
At work I use a Touchbar-equipped MacBook Pro, but try my best to stay away from its keyboard, due to Apple’s bad redesign of the arrow keys. So I bought a bump. Specifically, I purchased a confusingly named tactile marking pen, a small bottle filled with a thick, plastic liquid that hardens in a few hours and leaves a, well, bump on whatever you marked.
The beauty of adding a reference point to your keyboard lies in the reduction of errors during typing. If you’re a touch typist, look at your keyboard right now. More likely than not you have at least two bumps on the home row, bumps that help you reorient yourself seamlessly if you overextend yourself or lose your place.
On Apple’s keyboards there is a tactile bump on the F and J keys. While the rest of the keyboard was smooth, a common reference point when dealing with the arrow keys on the previous MacBook was the shape of the left and right arrow keys and the gap left between the two, exposing the aluminium chassis.
My tactile bump on my MacBook’s left arrow key.
On the new MacBook Pro keys, the four arrow keys occupy the space of three full-size keys, blending in with the right Command and Option keys. That means the space used to orient my right hand when moving around text or a web page is gone, so now I just hit Option a lot and get frustrated.
While I already tested the bump (to great success) on my PC’s gaming keyboard, I can already imagine the possibilities of adding reference bumps to a variety of my gadgets, from my touch-friendly television that has no physical buttons to my USB-A cables that seem to change orientation whenever I look at them funny.
You can purchase tactile bumps that stick to whatever surface you’d like, but a lot of them are too large to fit within the impossibly thin space between keyboard and laptop screen. A tool such as a tactile pen lets you spread the bumpy love around, making it just flat enough for it to slide under the radar.