What exactly is wrong with the white Apple Pro Keyboard?

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Macintosh
October 17th, 2006 • 2:26 pm

I am afraid I have to write my first negative post about my brand new Mac Pro. Fortunately, it is “only” about… the keyboard that came with it.

“What?,” you might say, “Not again?” Yup, again.

Regular Betalogue readers might remember that I bought a brand new G5 Quad last year and one of the first problems that I had with it was… its keyboard. The keyboard that came with the G5 Quad was a white Apple Pro Keyboard—the model with all the function keys squashed together so that you can get an extra “F16” one.

After determining that the spurious double keystrokes that I was experiencing on my G5 Quad were most definitely due to the keyboard itself, I ended up sending the keyboard back in and asking for a replacement.

And, much to my surprise, the replacement keyboard that Apple sent me back then was not the same model. It was not a white Apple Pro Keyboard with the F16 key. It was an older model with spaces between the function keys (in groups of four) and “only” fifteen function keys. It was also a white keyboard, but it was not the same.

To my great relief, that replacement keyboard did not suffer from the same problem with double keystrokes, so I didn’t complain and kept the replacement and everything was fine. Yet it didn’t answer the nagging question of whether the double keystrokes on the Apple Pro Keyboard were just a one-off or a more general problem with that particular model of keyboard.

Fast-forward to October 2006. Partly because of on-going problems—of a much more serious nature—with the G5 Quad, I ended up getting a brand new Mac Pro last week. And, as I wrote on Sunday, everything about the new machine is great (especially the noise levels!).

I even thought, initially, that the keyboard that came with it, although it looked identical to the one that I had got with my G5 Quad the year before, did not suffer from the double keystrokes syndrome.

I am afraid I have to correct this today. The new keyboard—the same white Apple Pro Keyboard model—has exactly the same problem. In various applications, when I press the Delete key only once, sometimes Mac OS X deletes two characters instead of one. When I press the Down key once, sometimes Mac OS X goes down two lines instead of one. Etc.

Given that I am a fast typist who relies heavily on keyboard shortcuts for editing text (many of which involve the Delete key and the cursor keys), this is a pretty significant problem for me. Far too often because of these spurious double keystrokes I end up deleting stuff that I didn’t mean to delete, or jumping too far up or down in my document. Most of the time, I notice it and manage to correct, but it’s a waste of time and energy—and then there are times when I don’t notice it and end up having documents with editing errors! I proof-read my documents, of course, and manage to catch most of these errors later on, but this problem still ends up generating a fair amount of additional errors that are frustrating and potentially destructive for me in my work.

What exactly is wrong with this particular model of keyboard?

Since I have not exactly noticed a major public outcry in the Mac-using community about these keyboards, I can only conclude that there is something in my particular brand of typing that does not agree with this keyboard. I might be a fast typist, but I was never formally trained, and I only use some of my fingers. Maybe that has something to do with it. But it still seems abnormal to me.

I definitely am not accidentally pressing the key twice in quick succession. It’s only a single keystroke, yet somehow Mac OS X manages to register it as a double keystroke. I have also fiddled with all the keyboard-related settings in System Preferences, to no avail.

It also seems abnormal to me that the problem only appears to occur in some applications, like Mail and Word 2004 (but not BBEdit or TextEdit or Pages, so far).

At this stage, I suspect that it’s a combination of factors that is causing the problem, namely: this particular keyboard model; some Mac OS X applications; and my typing style. Eliminate one of the factors, and the problem does not happen.

Unfortunately, since there is little I can do about my typing style, and I cannot really avoid the Mac OS X applications where the problem occurs, the only solution is to change the keyboard. So I phoned AppleCare again yesterday, and they are sending me a replacement keyboard again.

Is it going to be the same model? We’ll see. If it is, then I strongly suspect that it won’t fix the problem, and that I’ll be back on the phone, and that it will be a long battle. Given how much a keyboard is worth these days, I am not sure it’s a battle that I particularly want to fight. I might just give up and use another keyboard. (I want to keep the other keyboard for the G5 Quad, obviously, although I will definitely keep the best keyboard for the machine on which I do most of my typing. I am not a masochist.)

Still, I find it somewhat intriguing that this particular problem is not discussed more widely. Surely I am not the only Mac user with no formal training in typing who is experiencing this problem. I have seen discussions on Apple’s forums about similar-sounding problems, but some people appear to be getting double keystrokes all over the place. I don’t. I mostly get them with the Delete key and the cursor keys—which is bad enough.

I suspect that most people simply have better things to do with their time, and just give up on Apple’s keyboard and use something else. Still, you’d think that by now the problem would have “trickled up” and reached the decision-makers at Apple and prompted them to design a new keyboard model that is not prone to such issues.

(My situation is not helped by the fact that I need a keyboard with a Canadian CSA layout. There obviously are many more options for keyboards with a U.S. layout.)

2 Responses to “What exactly is wrong with the white Apple Pro Keyboard?”

  1. henryn says:


    Sorry to hear about your keyboard issue.

    By coincidence, I just declared an Apple keyboard dead, based on a single dead key (left “control”) that I couldn’t revive with electronic cleaner fluid. It has given me very good service for something like six years, so I can’t complain.

    As I have actually implemented a keyboard+pointing device to work on a Mac, I might have some special knowledge…though that occurred in the days when Macs used ADB.

    First, I’ll let you know that there is a huge amount of program logic between the actual receipt of characters at the input port of the Mac –USB or ADB– and the time the corresponding key shows up on the screen. I found implementing the keyboard side very easy because Apple does so much work on the Mac side

    Second, there’s a computer inside each keyboard. The firmware inside handles collecting keystrokes, some translation tasks, and transmitting the characters to the Mac. (On USB keyboards, there may be an additional chip that does the transmission.) These are simply not very difficult tasks and the methods for handling them are completely known.

    Still, it is conceivable that something has gone wrong along the way…

    Difficult to believe that your “special” typing style could be an issue.

    It is REALLY strange that the problem occurs in some apps and not in others. Apps are really far downstream in the processing of keystrokes.

    I would be tempted to try many, many apps… including resurrecting the old keyboard control panel (?) that accumulates characters that we had in OS 9. Do you have Classic installed?

    Another idea is to swap keyboards, if possible, for an identical or very similar one and see what happens.

    Did you know you can connect multiple keyboards without any problem? If one fails, try another at the same time.

    Well, if you’ve already returned the one keyboard, you can’t do these, but …


  2. Pierre Igot says:

    Henry, I have tried with other keyboards, and the problem never occurs with other models of keyboards, but always occurs with this model of keyboard, regardless of which unit I am using.

    See this new post on the topic.

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