The Quest for the Perfect Hacking Keyboard is indeed an eternal one. Over the years, I had great many keyboards and most of them went the way of the dodo. Recently, despite not having other Apple products, I tried the (wired) thin Apple aluminum keyboard. As I prefer very thin keyboard over thick ones, and laptop-style keys to the big M Type keys; it was a very good match. However, after a while, I got unnerved by the extra, useless keypad. In short, the keyboard is too long: as I am right handed, it’s always somehow in the way of the mouse so I started looking for a better keyboard. Again.
So I got the Apple aluminium keyboard, wireless version.
Another compact keyboard that I liked a lot, despite its being very thick (compared to the Apple keyboard) is the Happy Hacking Keyboard. The layout is incredibly compact, yet retains all the functionalities of a large 105+ keys keyboard. One thing that is clearly missing is the set of arrow keys (well, they are only accessible through key combinations). While this doesn’t pose much of a problem in EMACS or VI.
So I decided to get the Apple wireless version, the much shorter version of the aluminium keyboard. It is as thin, and this feature-rich keyboard is what the happy hacking keyboard should have been all along: compact, yet sporting all necessary keys, including the arrows, plus an extra row of function keys that lets you navigate your desktop quite efficiently. Although I am not using OS/X but Linux, I find the function keys quite convenient.
Well, you might say that it’s missing the insert toggle, the forward delete, page up, page down, home, end, but it’s not.
Combination Result fn+← home fn+↓ page down fn+↑ page up fn+→ end fn+delete "forward" delete delete backspace insert <not available>
Configuring your keyboard locale so that caps lock, the useless key, becomes an extra control key, you’re set for much happy hacking. You could also map insert, if you so need it, to one of the unused keys, like the F5 key (which per default isn’t the F5 key until you press the combination fn+F5).
The Linux Bluetooth support for the keyboard is complete, except for the battery charge status. I have looked at the device itself using hcitool, but I have yet to find a way to get to the power status.
Apple claims a ludicrous 9 months on the same batteries for the “typical user”. Well, no. With my use pattern—apparently I type a lot—it’s more like 4 or 5 days on top-of-the-line rechargeable batteries. I do not know if there is some mismatch in configuration from Linux that prevents the keyboard from going into sleep mode; all I could ascertain is that the keyboard does stop transmitting after a while.
So, whatever the reasons of this, be prepared have have a few spare sets. That’s what I do: I run on a set and put the other on charge, minimizing downtime down to merely switching batteries. Also keep in mind that rechargeables are rated for 1.2V, they rarely charge more than 1.4V, so they won’t last nearly as long as fully charged normal batteries, which are rated at 1.5V. The keyboard stops working when any one of the batteries hits 1.0V or so.
But I got quickly tired of the frequent battery swapping ballet, so I got the wired version that came out two days ago (at the time of writing). The wired version offers two USB 2.0 ports and the exact same efficient layout of the compact thin keyboard. Moreover, it’s considerably less expensive than the wireless version. You may prefer the USB version—I do, I got a refund for the wireless version.
(added jan 11, 2012)
Apple seems to have discontinued the wired version of the keyboard. Why? There are possible replacements, like the (inexpensive) Mini Slim that you can get from Amazon. Turns out they also distribute variants of the happy hacking keyboard, including the HHK lite (although they seem rather expensive?).