As Web-based applications go, Google’s Gmail has been a big support of keyboard shortcuts for common actions—however, many of those shortcuts are far from intuitive or easy to learn, and many Gmail users have gone (and continue to go!) years without even knowing they exist. Wouldn’t it be cool if there was a keypad just for Gmail, that enables users to quickly and intuitively access common Gmail functions? That was the idea California’s Charlie Mason had one day, giving rise to the Gboard: a 19-key USB keypad just for Gmail.
The Gboard features 19 colorful keys for accessing Gmail functions, and connects to a computer via USB: no special drives or software are required to use the Gboard, although users will need to active Gmail’s keyboard shortcuts by visiting the General tab in Gmail’s Settings. The Gboard has dedicated buttons for common commands like replying, forwarding, deleting, starring, and archiving messages; buttons also enable users to navigate by message or discussion, select messages, search, and flag messages as spam. One curious omission: there’s no dedicated key to send a message—apparently the Gboard folks thought that would make it too easy to send messages by mistake, so they recommend folks send messages using their main computer keyboard. (From the Compose field, press
There is some irony to making a hardware device dedicated to using a “cloud computing” service—Gmail is supposed to be ubiquitous, so who is going to cart around hardware to use it? But while some users will snicker at the idea of a dedicated Gmail keypad—especially one that doesn’t include all of Gmail’s keyboard shortcuts and that (apparently) can’t be customized—there’s no doubt that some people simply think using something like Gmail is easier if they have dedicated controls.
The Gboard is available now for $19.99.