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JimB's Inverse-T for PowerBooks

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Inverse-T Layout
About 15 years ago, I came up with the human factors reasons that the "Inverse T" was the best arrangement for the arrow keys on a keyboard. (See the accompanying page for the story.) DEC adopted it as our new layout for the LK201, and soon IBM and then Apple copied us, and the inverse-T became the industry standard. Because of that, it always irked me that my PowerBook's arrow keys were arranged in a straight line (not unlike the DEC keyboards before we designed the LK201).


Presenting JimB's Inverse-T for PowerBooks!

Apple's Key Layout
JimB's Inverse-T for PowerBooks is a Macintosh keyboard layout based on the standard US keyboard layout altered so that on a PowerBook the arrow keys are arranged in approximately an inverse-T pattern. Six key positions have been changed in the inverse-T layout resource: the four arrow keys, the Enter key and the Question Mark/Slash key. The table to the right shows the standard Apple key layout.

Inverse-T for PowerBook
The Question Mark key is moved down to where the Enter key used to be, next to the Space Bar. The Up arrow key replaces the Question Mark key above the other three arrow keys. The Right and Down arrow keys are swapped, and the Enter key is moved to the far right edge, where the Up arrow key used to be. This puts the arrows in an almost perfect inverse-T and positions the Enter key at the lower right most corner of the keyboard, a position analogous to its placement on the numeric keypad.

An enhancement to this basic scheme was suggested by my friend and colleague, Mark Granoff. If you hold down the shift key and press the Up arrow key, you'll still get a question mark, since the habit of using the key next to the shift key for question mark is quite hard to unlearn, especially if you use different keyboards from day to day.

Installing the Inverse-T layout

Installing the Inverse-T for PowerBooks comes in two parts:
  1. Installing the software
  2. Rearranging or labeling the keys themselves
Installing the software is extremely simple. Moving the actual keys can be very easy or a real pain depending on the model of PowerBook you have. I found it very simple on my Duo 280, a little harder on my 5300, and still not too bad on my original 170. Perhaps the best way to start is to use bits of tape to relabel the keys temporarily while you try out the layout and if you decide to use it permanently, call 1-800-SOS-APPL and ask how to pop the keys on your model. they were quite happy to tell me how to do it on my Duo.

Installing the software

Download the kit

Downloading the kit is easy enough, since this is the Web page it's distribute from. Either click on the icon to the left or the following URL, or use Fetch or Anarchy to get it from </~brons/NerdCorner/kits//Inverse-T.sea.hqx>.

The kit comes as a BinHex'd StuffIt self-extracting archive. On most Macs, the browser will unpack it automatically into a folder named "Inverse-T". If yours doesn't, then you should either have a file named "Inverse-T.sea.hqx" or one named "Inverse-T.sea". If you have a file like the one to the right named "Inverse-T.sea", just double click on it and it will expand to a folder. If the file is still named "Inverse-T.sea.hqx", then you will need to drag the file to a copy of Stuffit Expander, or to some other program that understands BinHex.

Drag the layout onto your system

Once you have the folder on your PowerBook, open it. You should find a file named "Inverse-T for PowerBooks", with an icon like the one at the left. All you have to do to install it is drag it onto your System Folder. Doing so should cause a dialog to appear that informs you that keyboard layouts have to be installed in your System File, and asking if the Finder should put it there, OK the dialog and you're done.

Open the Keyboard Control Panel

Now there's only one thing left to do: turn on the keypad layout. You do this with Apple's Keypad Control Panel, shown to the right. The Keypad Control Panel should be in your Control Panels folder, and accessible from the Apple menu. It is installed by default as part of the Mac OS. If you can't find it, you may have disabled it with the Extension Manager or a similar utility. Look in your "Control Panels (Disabled)" folder in your System Folder. If you still can't find it, you should be able to get it from your Mac OS installation kit.

Open the control panel and select "Inverse-T for PowerBook". Close the control panel. If you are using Mac OS 7.*, your keys should now have their new meanings. If you are using Mac OS 8.*, a new icon should have appeared at the right end of the menu bar next to the Application menu. It should be the flag of the nation associated with the language you use on the Mac. Select the Inverse-T for PowerBooks icon to enable the layout.

If you have any questions, send mail to me at


Updated: Tuesday, July 15, 2008
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