The Active Network

Product: Microsoft Natural Keyboard Pro
Company: Microsoft
Estimated Street Price: $74.95
Review By: C. Scot Giles

Part 2 and Overall Mark

Table Of Contents
1: Introduction
2: Part 2 & Conclusion

However, the big change Microsoft made to this keyboard is the row of 19 round blue buttons that arch across the top of the keyboard. These special keys give you unprecedented control of several Windows functions.

The 8 buttons at the left side of the keyboard control your Internet browser and email programs. They duplicate the common buttons you will find on the "Standard Toolbar" of your browser: Back, Forward, Stop, Refresh, Search, Favorites, Web/Home, and Mail. Each of these functions exactly as you would expect if the browser is running, except the hitting "Web/Home" will summon your browser and log onto your Home Page if you press it when not on line. Similarly, the "Mail" key will load your email program. In my case, as I use Outlook 2000, pressing this button will load that program with it opening to the view I have specified as my default. I use Microsoft's own Internet Explorer as my browser, so I do not know if these keys will work with Netscape or similar programs. However, the documentation in the help file that comes with the keyboard says that it will.

The 8 buttons to the right of the Internet controls are media buttons. If you have a multimedia program running that the software recognizes (there is a list in the help file) these keys will allow you to mute, control the volume, play/pause, stop and skip tracks on the media you are running. There is also a "Media" button that summons a menu of specific media programs such as your default CD player, Windows Media Player, RealPlayer, etc. The programs on this list are not adjustable by the user. The software automatically includes them if the media programs on disk are recognized. For example, the "CD Player Deluxe" that comes with Microsoft Windows Plus! Is recognized, while the CD Player from the Gizmos98 suite is not.

Finally at the far right side of the keyboard are three buttons that are somewhat user configurable. One is labeled "My Computer" and can be configured to bring up the "My Computer" window, the File Explorer, or to load any custom program the user selects. Another button is labeled "Calculator" and can be configured to load the Windows calculator, or run any other program the user selects. These keys work like a charm and are very handy to have.

The final button is labeled "Sleep." It your computer has a "Stand-By" option and you hit this button, it will cause your machine to go into Stand-By mode. If you do not have this option, the software will allow you to configure this button to either log off Windows or to run your screensaver. The software needs a bit of work on this point. My machine does have a "Stand-By" mode and so the software would not allow me to configure this button to do anything else. That seems unnecessary and Microsoft should allow the user to select all options. I do not use the "Stand-By" mode on my machine and would have liked to make my own selection as to what this button would do. Fortunately, I discovered that if I disable the "Stand-By" mode in my machine's CMOS setup routine; the button will then load my designated screen saver. But I shouldn't have to do this. The software should give me the option to decide without my having to muck about with CMOS settings.

How It Grades
Installation: 91%
Manual: N/A
Performance: 91%
Software: 80%
Look: 89%
Feel: 91%
Help Files: 90%
Price: N/A
Overall: 90%

On the whole this keyboard is a winner. It is comfortable and works well, and the special buttons are very nice to have. The software needs to be tweaked a bit in the next version, and eventually an Elite version of the keyboard with a smaller footprint would be nice. But even as is, this keyboard is a joy to use. After you load the software, be sure to read the help files that are accessible from keyboard utility in the Windows Control Panel. The help files give you a lot of information on how to maximize your use of this need computing tool.


Overall Score 90%
Version Reviewed Microsoft Natural Keyboard Pro Version 1
Release Date Out Now
In The Box? 1 Microsoft Natural Keyboard Pro
1 USB Cord
Setup Manual
The Good Points USB Hub Built In
Easy To Install
Excellent Feel
Looks Good
Good Shortcuts
The Bad Points Patchy Software
Reviewers PC Setup Pentium II 450
Windows 98 Second Edition
128 Meg SD-Ram
Voodoo 2 - 8mb
DirectX 7 Gold
SoundBlaster Live! Value
17" LG Electronics Monitor
Matrox G400 32MB AGP Graphics Card
Microsoft Force Feedback Pro
Microsoft Game Pad Pro (USB)
Microsoft Digital Sound System 80

DVD Setup: Toshiba SD-1202 DVD-ROM - 32x
DVD TV Player - Samsung 807

PC Required To use with IntelliType software and the hot keys, users need the following:
  • A 486 or Pentium computer
  • The Microsoft Windows 95 or Windows 98 operating system or later, or the
  • Windows NT Workstation or Server operating system 4.0 with Service Pack 3 or higher
  • 16 MB of RAM
  • 35 MB of available hard disk space
  • A CD-ROM drive

To use Natural Keyboard Pro users need the following:

  • Either a USB or PS/2 connection to a PC. A PS/2 to AT (five-pin DIN) adapter is available as a fulfillment item through Microsoft.

To use the Internet hot keys, users need the following:

  • Microsoft Internet Explorer 3.x, 4.x or 5.x (Internet Explorer software is included and requires 45 MB of available hard disk space), Netscape Navigator 3.x or 4.x, or America Online 4.0
  • Internet access

To use the multimedia hot keys on the Natural Keyboard Pro users need one of the following:

  • A Creative PC-DVD Player
  • Creative CD
  • Creative Labs Soundo'Le
  • Microsoft CD Player
  • Microsoft Media Player
  • Microsoft Deluxe CD Player
  • Nullsoft Winamp
  • Real Networks RealPlayer version 4.0, 5.0 or G2
  • Toshiba DVD Video Player
  • Toshiba Audio CD Player
  • Voyetra AudioStation
  • Yamaha Ystation 32


<-- Introduction & Part 1


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