New app: Apple Extended Keyboard II Overlay Generator

2008-05-06 23:46:27 UTC

Last week, John Gruber and Dan Benjamin released episode 20 of their podcast, The Talk Show. It was devoted to the Apple Extended Keyboard (the Saratoga) and Apple Extended Keyboard II (the Nimitz). This renewed my interest in bringing my own Nimitz back into service using a Griffin iMate.

The Nimitz is the greatest keyboard ever made for the Macintosh. It has the best keys, the best height adjustment, the best Caps Lock key (it physically locks down!)—everything.

One of its distinctive features is a couple of pegs near the top of the keyboard—one near the Escape key, and another near the Power key.

The Saratoga had, printed under the F1 through F4 keys, the words “undo”, “cut”, “copy”, and “paste”. Because these definitions were useless (not to say confusing) to most Mac users, the Nimitz moved these labels to a plastic overlay that came with the keyboard. Those who actually needed it could put it on, which they did by hanging it on those two pegs, and everyone else could simply leave it in the box.

This is a photo by Flickr user penmachine (Derek K. Miller) of an Apple Extended Keyboard II with Apple's overlay, cropped to show the corner of the overlay hanging around the Power key.

That overlay is even more useless today. But I think the idea of an overlay defining the function keys is a good one, especially as Mac OS X has made the function keys actually useful.

So I decided to make a new overlay.

This one does not have the seldom-useful F1–F4 labels. What is <em>does</em> have is labels under F9–F12, listing their default Mac OS X actions (the three kinds of Exposé, plus Eject).” src=”” /></a></p>
<p>My original plan was to distribute the EPS file for this overlay, and provide instructions on how to customize it.</p>
<p>After writing that it’s easy to edit the file, followed by an entire page of instructions on how to do that properly, I decided it would be better to write an application to do it for you. I call this application the <a href=Apple Extended Keyboard II Overlay Generator.

I’ve included with the application two ready-made overlays: a replica of the classic Apple overlay; and my Mac OS X overlay. You also have the option of editing them or creating your own from scratch.

Assembly instructions (among other information) and the download are on the webpage.

10 Responses to “New app: Apple Extended Keyboard II Overlay Generator”

  1. ssp Says:

    Fantastic idea. I don’t have a ruler in the office, but what’s the chance of fitting the printout (diagonally?) on a sheet of A3? Would reduce the possibility of ‘Fail’.

  2. ssp Says:

    BTW, what kind of printer are you using? I think some HP models have Univers built-in. (At least some TeX Readmes back from 1994 mention that they now provide metrics for the Univers in LaserJet 4 printers…)

  3. Peter Hosey Says:

    I don’t have a ruler in the office, but what’s the chance of fitting the printout (diagonally?) on a sheet of A3? Would reduce the possibility of ‘Fail’.

    I just tried it in Lineform. It fits diagonally, but just barely. You’ll need a printer capable of borderless printing, as well as a vector editor (such as Lineform or VectorDesigner) in which to stitch two copies of the PDF output together and rotate the result. As an example, here’s the A3 PDF of the Mac OS X overlay that I made in Lineform.

    BTW, what kind of printer are you using? I think some HP models have Univers built-in.

    It’s a Samsung. It doesn’t matter, though: it even works if I simply save the EPS or PDF file and open it in Preview, without ever sending it to the printer.

    That’s how I took the two screenshots of the word “eject” that you can see on the webpage: I made an EPS file of it, then used pstopdf to convert it to PDF, then used image to scale by 400% and convert to PNG. Here’s the EPS file in case you want to try it for yourself.

  4. Jesper Says:

    “NewApplication Help”.

  5. Peter Hosey Says:

    Jesper: Thanks. Fixed in 1.0.1, which is now up.

  6. ssp Says:

    I’m not sure our printer can print without margins. Perhaps I’ll investigate printing it anyway and just cutting along the shape of the original plastic thingy…

    Are you sure you don’t have a copy of Univers sitting _somewhere_ (X.5 is rather good at finding fonts in remote locations and using them). I can’t reproduce the behaviour here.

  7. Peter Hosey Says:

    I’m on Tiger, and I’m quite sure. Like I said, locate doesn’t find it, and locate searches everywhere (including /System, /Library, and $HOME).

    The command line I tried: locate Univers | grep -vF Universal.

  8. Peter Hosey Says:

    Also, I can’t use the font in applications, such as TextEdit (or the Generator—the form for the labels is in Arial Narrow, even when the output is in Univers). I can only use it in a PostScript program.

  9. ssp Says:

    Two points (previously destroyed by your clever spam protection, I guess…):

    1. With old PostScript font names, you may be looking for slightly crippled file names – ‘UnivCondIta’ or whatnot.

    2. Taking another look at the graphic you posted suggests that the font is _not_ Univers – which has an angled top of the t as well as a slightly less round look. Instead I’d guess that font replacement just uses a (fake) narrow Helvetica there. And, indeed feeding your app with easily recognisable Helvetica chars (G, R) confirms that guess.

  10. Peter Hosey Says:

    ssp: You’re right. I just tried the Linotype website and, sure enough, Univers does have the same slanted t as Arial. Wow.

    When I’m back on my main machine in a week, I’ll correct the webpage. Thanks.

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