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The Microsoft Surface Touch and Type Keyboard Covers

Part of the Surface’s attraction comes from its two keyboard covers. Thin and lightweight, they click onto the Surface with magnets. The connectors also let the keyboards draw power from the Surface, so they don’t need batteries.

After you attach the keyboard, you can fold it in different directions to handle different tasks:

  • Fold the keyboard down flat on a table, and you’re ready to type. (Flip your Surface’s kickstand back to keep it upright.)

  • Fold the keyboard up to protect the screen, and you’re ready to travel. (The Surface automatically goes to sleep.)

  • Fold the keyboard around the back of your Surface, and it’s out of the way, letting you control the Surface with your fingers. (The keyboard automatically turns off.)

A sensor embedded in the keyboard lets the Surface know its position so it can behave correctly. When flat on the table, the keyboard turns on, ready for you to type. When folded back behind the screen, the keyboard turns off. And when you close the keyboard, the Surface goes to sleep to preserve battery life.

Both keyboards also include a thin trackpad that lets you control a mouse pointer, clicking, double-clicking, and right-clicking.

The two keyboards both offer the usual typewriter keys, Function keys, and dedicated keys that bring up the Charms bar icons, control the volume, and pause or resume your music and video.

The Surface Touch keyboard cover

Only 3 millimeters thick, the $130 Touch keyboard cover lacks mechanical keys. But its pressure-sensitive keys work surprisingly well. A mere touch won’t trigger the keys, so you can rest your fingers on the keys without typing. But when you start tapping on the keys, the keyboard translates your taps into typing.

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The Touch keyboard feels almost like fabric or cardboard more than a keyboard, and typing on it is an eerie feeling at first. You can start typing on it immediately with good results, but your speed won’t pick up until you’ve used it for a few days.

Don’t try to type too quickly—you’ll need to grow used to typing without feeling anything in response. But after you grow used to it, you’ll find it faster than the onscreen keyboard. And unlike the onscreen keyboard, it doesn’t cover half your screen.

Basically, the Touch keyboard works much like any other keyboard, but these tips will save you some time:

  • The F and J keys have slight indentations on them to help you position your fingers correctly. Always feel for them with your index fingers, and your other fingers will stay aligned more correctly.

  • The Touch keyboard isn’t waterproof enough to toss into the dishwasher, but a damp rag removes most spills.

  • The 12 dedicated keys across the keyboard’s top edge double as Function keys. Although they’re not marked, the Mute key is F1, and the PgDn key is F12. To turn a key into a Function key, hold down the Fn key while pressing it. (The Fn key is to the right of the space bar.)

  • The trackpad’s left- and right-click buttons are just beneath the trackpad, separated by the little vertical line.

  • If the mouse pointer or cursor disappears while you use the scroll pad, detach the keyboard, wait a few seconds, and reattach it. The pointer or cursor should reappear.

  • The Touch keyboard comes in different colors: black, white, red, cyan, and magenta. (Not every country carries every color.)

The Surface Type keyboard cover

The Surface’s Type keyboard cover contains mechanical keys. Designed for people who prefer movable keys, this makes the keyboard two millimeters thicker than the Touch keyboard, a compromise readily accepted by many touch typists.

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The Type keyboard cover weighs less than an ounce more than the Touch cover and costs only ten dollars more. If you feel hesitant about the immobile Touch cover, opt for the Type keyboard.

In addition to its movable keys, the Type keyboard differs from the Touch keyboard in a few other ways:

  • The dedicated keys across the Touch keyboard’s top row also list their Function key number, sparing you from having to count the keys to figure out which one is F5.

  • The trackpad clicks when pressed, making it easier to tell when you right-click or left-click an item.

  • The F and J keys have standard bumps rather than indentations to help you position your fingers.

  • The Type keyboard only comes in black.

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