No escape

Assuming the leaked images of the new MacBook Pro are to be believed (and there seems to be no reason to think otherwise), tomorrow will bring MacBook Pros with a tiny touch strip display above the number row instead of a set of physical keys. It looks like a more practical version of the much-maligned Lenovo Carbon X1 concept. Yet, like the X1, it’s part of a bigger change that makes for an overall worse keyboard experience – in the case of the leaked MBP images, the physical keys themselves are moving to the slim-but-unloved keys from the MacBook.

The touch strip feels like it would be far more at home on the MacBook, quite honestly – the dynamic aspect will certainly make for a pleasant consumer-level experience. But these changes to the Pro are concerning – the people I know who spend the most time pounding at a keyboard all use MBPs, and the general consensus regarding the MacBook keyboard tends toward ‘not great for long stretches of typing’1. Additionally, many of these MBP users spend so much time on their keyboards because they are coding, and many of these users are heavily invested in Vim and Vi-like modal interfaces. I personally write nearly everything – scripts/programs, HTML/CSS, blog posts, office documents – in Vim, I use Vi-like keybindings in zsh, and I occasionally have to dissect PDF files in bvi. I hit Esc constantly. The MacBook Pro continues to feel less ‘Pro’ and more ‘High-end Consumer’ to me.

  1. I’ve played around with a MacBook and actually didn’t hate its keyboard – and my preferred typing experience is on a Matias mechanical. My speed was definitely not up to normal standards, however, nor was my error rate. I would love to see someone release a laptop with a mechanical keyboard and a small screen – geared toward those of us who write things vs. gamers. ↩︎