8

In a dimly lit room, I find it challenging to find some commonly used computer keyboard keys, such as F1, F5, -, and *.

As such, I was considering purchasing some adhesive stickers with little dots/nipples on them:

adhesive keyboard key locator dots

The problem with such products are:

  1. They tend to fall off with use (leaving a sticky residue on the keyboard keys).
  2. They tend to be "dirt magnets" along their edges.
  3. They are typically ridiculously expensive for what you get (2 small packs of adhesive dots cost more than what an entire keyboard costs!).

What alternatives are possible to achieve the same goal?

1
  • 1
    What keyboard? On mine I can easily find those keys by feel: the Fn keys are in groups of 4, and the * and - keys are the two right hand keys of the keypad top row. Feb 15, 2023 at 18:20

9 Answers 9

11

Most ordinary (cheap or expensive) keyboards have a little bump on the home keys. A lot of keys can be found by dead reckoning from there, and the function keys, Esc, etc. on a full sized keyboard can be found based on groupings (you examples of F1 and F5 are the leftmost in the left 2 groups of 4 F-keys, * and - on the number pad are easier than on the number row). Laptops can be harder, as can compact keyboards

What I mainly propose though is a drop of glue on the relevant keys. It needs very little indeed to feel the dot. What glue should you use?

  • Superglue (cyanoacrylate) will go hard on a surface but not as quickly as in a join - don't be too eager to test the feel.
  • Nail polish isn't technically a glue, but one drop of clear on each home key will be a good tactile marker. Use white if you want a visual cue too. Removal takes acetone, which might damage the plastic of the key caps.
  • PVA (craft glue/wood glue) will dry into a nearly clear film, but will peal or scrape of plastic if you change your mind.

In some darkened (laser) labs I've been known to arrange the keyboard and monitor so that the monitor illuminates the keys. However this isn't very ergonomic, and is only suitable where use is going to be intermittent.

2
  • 1
    I've used a small square of "Scotch" tape instead of glue.
    – D Duck
    Feb 17, 2023 at 17:52
  • @DDuck that might not leave a residue and be replaceable without mess
    – Chris H
    Feb 17, 2023 at 18:17
8

Sometimes, a good hack is a proper solution. Just buy a keyboard with lit keys. You can find plenty of them even at very low prices.

If the keyboard is a laptop keyboard (you did not mention) then one of the better solutions is to use an inexpensive USB lamp.

When I did not have a lit keyboard and I was playing 3D video games, I used a normal desk lamp with one of the weakest light bulbs available, positioned to light mostly away from the keyboard and screen - it gave me enough light to see the keyboard, and it was low enough to allow me to play the dark areas of the game.

6

Glow-in-the-dark paint, such as this, just above or below a key (or if the keys are indented, in the grooves of the letters) might help orient you. Of course the paint needs to be "charged" in light before use, but some paints stay visible for many hours.

3

There’s always the cheap way: Memorize the layout and learn to infer location from context.

Most good keyboards designed for touch-typists have ridges on specific keys. On a standard English QWERTY layout these are usually either F/J or D/K. These are where either your index fingers or your middle fingers would land when putting your hands in a ‘normal’ typing position, with the intent being that you can thus ensure that your fingers are in the right place.

By using this and then simply remembering where things are relative to each other (like you should be doing anyway, touch-typing is a huge performance improvement), not being able to see the keys becomes a non-issue unless you’re using a layout you’re not used to.

So, you just ensure all your keyboards have the same layout, and then practice.

All my keyboards have the same layout for this reason. I don’t need to look to know that 8 is two rows up and roughly four fifths of a key-width to the left of K and that I need to hold Shift when I hit it to get a *. It’s no different from how I know that AltGr + W will give me an å with the modified US-International keyboard layout that I use regularly, or that Ω on a Greek keyboard layout is in the same place as V on an English layout. This is all stuff that I use regularly, so I don’t need to think about it.

And that’s really the trick. By forcing yourself to use this stuff regularly, you can memorize it to the point that you literally don’t need to think about it, and don’t need to invest in any special tools.

1

My hack is to obtain a USB powered LED lamp.
Available for less than the cost of a keyboard.
Here is a set of 5 flexible lamps for £1 each.

enter image description here Image from Amazon

1

You can use a well-positioned mirror to reflect the monitor light on the keyboard.

It all depends on how your monitor and keyboard are positioned. You can try adjusting the tilt of the keyboard or whatever for the mirror to work if you feel comfortable with the tilt, or just pick the mirror up, adjust it until the angle and height work, and then put it on top of a box or some other platform with the right height.

If needed, you can use a magnifying glass or even a shiny enough spoon (as a concave mirror).

2
  • This is a very interesting idea. Thanks. I've been playing with the angles a little, and haven't come up with anything I like so far. Would you mind adding an illustration demonstrating the angles you have in mind? Feb 18, 2023 at 11:52
  • Added a bit more detail to my answer (no definite angles though).
    – Nautilus
    Feb 20, 2023 at 8:01
0

Wouldn't just a piece of tape (e.g. duct tape) work to make a key feel different enough than its neighbours? On most keyboards, the F and J keys have a small underline/bump at the bottom and my index fingers can find those easily.

Otherwise, I'm blessed with back-lit keyboards on my Macs, so I don't feel the urge to try ...

1
  • 3
    Duct tape has the same problem as the nipples-on-stickers: the glue will stop being a glue, and become a goo instead.
    – virolino
    Feb 16, 2023 at 6:11
0

As a "truer" hack: use some sandpaper on those keys (preferably on the corners, so you do not remove the symbol). The key will be more difficult to clean, but it will not be mistakable.

Quite idiotic solution: run some short, small screws vertically through the keys - being careful to not destroy whatever is under the key. There is no glue involved, long life guaranteed.

2
  • as a slightly less extreme version of the screws: pulling the key caps off and drilling small holes in them might work
    – 9072997
    Feb 18, 2023 at 19:56
  • I do not know if a hole would give enough tactile information, that is why I proposed getting something in those holes. Of course, this is a matter of trying and adapting :)
    – virolino
    Feb 20, 2023 at 12:45
0

The old (musicians know it well) practice, practice and practice some more.

I hardly ever look at my keyboard, not even those special keys, as I use them often enough. It does help to have the hands in touch-typing standard position, (I have learned to have my index fingers to the left and right of the G and H,) and always use the same keyboard.

When getting a new computer/keyboard you may need a few days to adjust but if you need the keys often enough you will learn fast.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.