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Hardware
Input Devices
Keyboards and mice made significant strides in the past year.


Whether you're talking keyboard, mouse, trackball or tablet, the computer-input device is the main interface between you and your data. If you're not satisfied with the standard-fare keyboard and mouse that came with your PC, you can choose something that fits your style a little more closely. The market is flooded with products that offer integrated functionality, ergonomic design or enhanced feature sets.

Current keyboard styles sharply diverge from the 101-key units of old. The arrival of Windows 95 brought the 104-key design that added two Windows keys and a right-click key. The Windows keys access the Win95 Start menu and the right-click key opens the right-mouse-click menus--without the mouse.

The changes don't end there. You can now buy a keyboard with a built-in touchpad, trackball or scanner--even built-in speakers. In addition to reducing the costs of buying separate peripherals or pointing devices, these keyboards clear up desktop clutter.

Wrist-sparing designs let you work in comfort for hours on end. Manufacturers such as Microsoft and Acer offer split-keyboard designs that allow you to place your wrists in the more natural and comfortable sideways positions. Mice makers seek ways to fit the mouse comfortably in your hand so you can control it without the tight gripping that can cause carpal tunnel syndrome.

Regardless of its design, the mouse remains the favorite pointing device among PC users. The mouse, however, is more than just a hardware peripheral. Software increasingly plays a prominent role in expanding functionality and enhancing design. Late last year, Microsoft debuted its IntelliMouse 2.0 software that allows a centralized wheel in its IntelliMouse to AutoScroll (scroll using the wheel rather than using arrows or taskbars) through Microsoft Word 97 and Internet Explorer 3.0 documents.

AND THE WINNERS ARE ...

Input Devices: The Winners




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