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While the ONE Smart Keyboard Pro doesn’t have a sweet demo tune nor can it play barking dog Jingle Bells without some help, it can teach you or your kids how to play piano. The elegant keyboard has 88 weighted keys that simulate a true mechanical piano and connects to your phone so you can learn to play at your own pace.
The Keyboard Pro costs $799 and is essentially a compact teaching keyboard. It can connect to your iOS or Android devices via an oddly shaped USB B cable and once it’s paired with the app you can run through simple songs – think Greensleeves – and more complex sheet music. This keyboard is weighted but not progressively which means that each key offers the same resistance, a consideration that might be important to some more experienced players. Further, you can connect a USB cable and connect the keyboard to your computer to use it as a MIDI controller.
Again, this is a very austere keyboard. It doesn’t do much aside from teach you how to play which, in the end, is what most of us need. Because it doesn’t have the expansive bells and whistles of a Casio and because most of the smarts are in the app itself, it’s a bit of a hard sell for most people. However, if you’re looking to learn, the ONE works.
This larger and more complete version of the One Smart Keyboard offers quality workmanship and design. The entire system is surprisingly sparse with nothing but a power button and volume on the front of the keyboard. There is an input for a sustain pedal as well as a few output jacks for headphones and that’s about it. Don’t expect to pick out instruments or pitch shift with this keyboard. Once you fire up the app you have access to teaching exercises and games that let you follow along on the LED-lit keyboard as you run through songs and scales. Finally, you can buy sheet music for $3.99 or so that you can learn to play on the ONE. There is also free sheet music available for those who want to play a little classical.
I found the entire system to be quite usable and my kids, once they figured out how to slow down the music, jumped right in learning little songs. Nothing can quite teach you how to play piano like a human teacher – there aren’t enough smarts in this app to make adjustments based on your skill – but it’s the electronic equivalent of buying a Teach Yourself Piano book and sitting down in front of grandma’s old upright. I’m especially pleased with the quality of the keyboard. I’ve already had a few MIDI keyboards over the years including models from Casio and Yamaha and this one is on par with those. The teaching feature is the main draw here, as I noted before, because there is little else you can do with this keyboard right out of the box. However, if that’s what you’re looking for in a keyboard and you don’t want to sample bodily noises so you can play Farting Clair De Lune at the school talent show, this might be the model for you.
The explosive popularity of emoji means that you have more ways than ever to express yourself over text. Aside from faces, you’ll find emoji for animals, food, flags, and more. But what good are emoji if you can’t easily access and send them?
It’s super easy to add the emoji keyboard to your iPhone or iPad so you can add some flair to your messages.
How to Enable the iPhone Emoji Keyboard
Every iPhone and iPad can access emoji. But you’ll need to turn the keyboard on first. To do this, just follow these steps:
- Go to Settings > General > Keyboard.
- Select Keyboards, then Add New Keyboard.
- Scroll through the list and look for Emoji, then tap it to select.
- When you tap on it, the Emoji keyboard joins your list of usable keyboards.
- You can repeat this process for any other language or even third-party keyboard you want. Your third-party options from installed apps appear at the top of the list.
Now that you’ve enabled it, how do you access the emoji keyboard? It’s simple, and you can use it in any app where you enter text.
- Tap on the text input field in any app. A good place to test out emojis is through the Messages app.
- On the default keyboard, there’s a key between the 123 and Dictation keys that has a smiley face on it. This will appear as a globe if you have more than three keyboard installed. Tap on it to switch to the Emoji keyboard, or long-press it for more keyboard options.
- Look for the emoji you want to insert in your text. They’re organized by category, such as Smileys & People, Animals & Nature, Food & Drink, and similar. Find the emoji you want, then tap it to insert in your message.
Replacing and Predicting Emoji
When you’re typing in Messages, if you switch to the Emoji keyboard, you’ll see certain words become highlighted. This means there’s an emoji available to represent that word, and you can just tap the word to change it to an emoji.
If you also use predictive text, it can detect when you type a word that has an emoji available. The emoji appears in the predictive text bar, so you can easily tap on the emoji to insert it.
Alternative Emoji Keyboards for iPhones and iPads
While Apple provides an emoji keyboard, it’s pretty basic. Fortunately, there are plenty of third-party keyboards designed to focus on giving your text some personality with unique emojis, or just make finding the right ones easier.
Please note that for third-party keyboards to work on iOS, they require full access. This could lead to privacy concerns, so only grant this permission to keyboards you trust.
You may know the basics of emoji, but what if you want to step your game up? You can with Emoji>.
Emoji> is one of the most popular emoji keyboards on iOS, and for good reason. It’s one of the only emoji keyboards that has its own set of exclusive in-text emojis. They’re not stickers, so they look and work like the native emojis on iOS.
Of course, Emoji> also has the default emojis included, which are searchable by category. You can add favorites for quick access to your frequently used emoji, and even send animated stickers too.
Download: Emoji> (Free)
You’ve probably heard of SwiftKey, a popular Android keyboard app. When Apple began allowing third-party keyboards in iOS 8, Swiftkey quickly rose to the top, as it was a highly anticipated addition to the App Store.
While Swiftkey is certainly a great keyboard for daily use, what if you want something solely for emojis? Say hello to Swiftmoji.
What sets Swiftmoji apart from other emoji keyboards is the prediction feature. With this, Swiftmoji presents emojis based on what you’ve just typed. It’s a fast and fun way to liven up your text messages, social updates, or whatever else. It also shows you all the appropriate emojis for the situation, so you don’t need to go searching through hundreds of emoji.
Can’t decide on a predictive emoji? Long-press on the prediction icon to unleash an emoji storm on your friends. This throws all the predicted emojis into your message. Just make sure you use this sparingly.
Swiftmoji still lets users look for emojis the old fashioned way (through categories), and you can see your frequent picks too.
Download: Swiftmoji (Free)
If you’re a frequent user of Snapchat (our beginner’s guide), then you may already be familiar with Bitmoji. These started with Bitstrips, a site that allowed users to create customized comic strips with cartoon versions of themselves.
Snapchat acquired Bitstrips in 2016, which led to Bitmoji: custom avatars you create to represent you as a cartoon. Once you create your Bitmoji, you can then insert them directly into supported apps like Facebook and Messenger, Gmail, Slack, and Snapchat.
With the Bitmoji keyboard, your Bitmoji avatar can go with you anywhere. Just switch to the Bitmoji keyboard, find a sticker you want to use, and tap it. That Bitmoji sticker gets copied to your clipboard, and you can paste it anywhere you want.
Bitmoji may not be exactly the same as emoji, but they’re a fun and more personalized way to convey your feelings through chat. You may want to review Bitmoji’s privacy implications, though.
Download: Bitmoji (Free)
Disney Emoji Blitz
If you’re a Disney fan, then you probably wish you could send Disney emojis and stickers to your friends and family. While there are a few different Disney-related sticker packs for iMessage (how to install and delete sticker packs), they aren’t free. Fortunately, there’s also Disney Emoji Blitz.
The app is actually a match-three puzzle game. Your goal is to score as many points as possible in a one-minute time frame. Each Disney emoji that serves as your avatar has its own unique abilities. As you play and complete goals, you’ll unlock new Disney emoji.
But what does the game have to do with sending emoji? As it turns out, the emoji that you unlock by playing the game become usable in the Emoji Blitz keyboard. When you enable the keyboard, you can send Disney emojis to your friends. However, they’re more like stickers since you copy and paste them into your text.
You start out with just Mickey and generic Disney items like ears, Mickey hands, and others. But more become available as you progress in the game. You can get your favorite Disney characters, and even special emojis that are only available during in-game events, which happen on a regular basis.
Disney Emoji Blitz is a great way to add some Disney magic to your messages, and it’s also a fun game to pass the time.
Download: Disney Emoji Blitz (Free)
Spice Up Your Messages With Emoji
Even though many see emojis as something for young kids to liven up Snapchat snaps, everyone can use them! I wasn’t a fan of emojis at first, but now I’m using them constantly. They help me convey how I feel, and make it easier to visualize topics like food plans.
You may or may not have known how to unlock and use the default iOS emoji keyboard. But we’ve also provided some fun alternatives to up your emoji game.
Now that you’re using emoji, don’t forget to make sure you know the meaning of an emoji before you send it, as the wrong one could lead to some embarrassing explanations. Our Emoji-to-English dictionary should help you out.
Computers aren’t perfect. Parts can—and do—break. And when something goes awry, it’s a frustrating experience.
But even more common than both those issues is a malfunctioning keyboard. It’s also a more exasperating problem.
With a broken battery, you can run off external power. If your trackpad isn’t working, you can use a physical mouse. But if your keyboard breaks? It’s off to your local computer store to buy a Bluetooth device.
Or is it? Don’t grab the car keys just yet. You might be able to fix it. Keep reading to find out more.
The Butterfly Mechanism in MacBook Keyboards
Back in 2015, Apple reinvented the keyboard. Or at least, that’s what the company claimed.
In practice, it didn’t come up with a revolutionary new keyboard layout or a different way of typing; it just altered the physical mechanism under the key. As is the logic behind so many Apple design decisions, the change was made to save space. It allowed Apple to make its MacBook thinner than ever.
The new design is known as the “butterfly” mechanism. Theoretically, it reduced each key’s travel distance and paved the way for a more stable, less error-strewn typing experience. In practice, it’s prone to jamming up and not functioning.
You can see the difference between Apple’s butterfly approach and the more conventional “scissor” approach in the image below:
The Problem With Butterfly Keyboards
So, what’s the problem? Why are the MacBook keyboards so prone to jamming?
In a word: dust.
Unlike scissor keyboards, Apple has designed its butterfly keyboards to be exceptionally good at preventing dust from getting under the keys. Again, in theory, that’s a good idea.
But dust being dust, it can get into the tiniest spaces imaginable. No matter how good the design is, it’s an inevitability that gunk will eventually work its way under the keys.
On a scissor keyboard, that’s not an issue. A good blast of air will clear it out again. On the MacBook, less so. The space between the key and the laptop chassis is so small, all the blowing in the world won’t budge it.
The number of times I need to clean a tiny little bit of junk from under a macbook pro butterfly key is starting to get bothersome. Currently my spacebar is registering 50% of the time. I can't buy another one with these switches.
— Tyler Weir (@tylerweir) December 28, 2017
The problem is especially apparent on the space bar. If you’ve got a steady hand and good eyesight, you might be able to pop off the other keys, clean them out, and replace the button. However, users have found that the space bar is particularly fragile.
It’s incredibly difficult—if not impossible—to remove the space bar and replace it again without damaging either the butterfly mechanism or the key itself.
As a result, people have started taking their machine into an Apple Store. If the technicians can’t fix it, they’ll send it away and replace the entire top part of your laptop, including the whole keyboard.
If you’re not covered by AppleCare, the replacement will set you back an eye-watering $700.
How to Fix a Jammed MacBook Key
Warning: All MacBook keys are fragile; proceed with extreme caution.
If you don’t fancy handing over $700 to Apple for something that’s not your fault, there’s a remedy you can try at home.
As you might expect, it involves a focused blast of air. While you might not be able to produce the necessary air gust using your mouth, you can with a can of compressed air. Sounds simple, but it’s the Apple-approved method.
Before you start using the compressed air, there are a couple of notes to keep in mind:
- Always use the supplied straw so you can control air flow.
- Keep the end of the straw at least half an inch away from your machine.
- Never turn the can of air upside down.
- Spray the first bit of air away from your machine in case there’s liquid in the nozzle.
- Try to maintain a steady airflow throughout the process.
Ready? Great. Now follow the step-by-step instructions below:
- Pick up your laptop and hold the keyboard at a 75-degree angle.
- Move the straw over your keyboard in a steady left-to-right motion.
- Rotate your keyboard to the left so it’s vertical.
- Again, hold it at 75 degrees.
- Steadily blow the air in a left-to-right motion.
- Lastly, rotate your keyboard to the right.
- Blow the air left-to-right.
Other Common MacBook Keyboard Fixes
If jammed keys aren’t your problem, there are a few other fixes you can try.
If you have a wired or wireless keyboard, we’ve covered the most common Apple keyboard fixes in great detail. But if the problem is with your built-in keyboard, you can try some of these six solutions.
1. Create a New User on Your MacBook
You need to establish whether the problem is isolated to one user or computer-wide. To make that test, you’ll need to create a new user.
Here’s how to make a new user on your MacBook:
- Go to Apple > System Preferences.
- Click on Users & Groups.
- Click the Plus (+) icon below the list of users.
- Select the type of account you want to create.
- Enter the name and password.
- Click on Create User.
Now log in to your computer as the new user and see if the problem has gone away.
2. Reset the PRAM and SMC
Resetting a Mac’s PRAM (parameter random access memory) and SMC (system management controller) is a common troubleshooting technique when something isn’t working as it should.
It’s easy to reset them both, but the exact approach varies depending on the Mac model you own. Luckily, we’ve got you covered. Check out our guide to resetting your PRAM and SMC for more information.
3. Make Sure Slow Keys Is Disabled
Slow Keys is a Mac accessibility feature. It’s designed to help people who struggle with repetitive keystrokes, as it changes the delay between when you press a key and when it’s activated.
If you’ve enabled it by accident, you might think your keyboard is unresponsive.
To check Slow Keys’ status, navigate to Apple > System Preferences > Accessibility > Keyboard > Slow Keys and make sure the Off checkbox is highlighted.
4. Ensure Mouse Keys Isn’t Turned On
Mouse Keys lets you control your on-screen pointer using your keyboard. It’s useful if your trackpad is malfunctioning or when you don’t have a mouse handy.
To make sure it’s not turned on, go to Apple > System Preferences > Accessibility > Mouse & Trackpad.
5. Disable Speak Selected Text
As the name suggests, you can make your Mac read any selected text aloud by pressing a user-specified key. You might have accidentally enabled the feature so that it overrides a key’s primary function.
To make sure it’s not turned on, you’ll once again need to head to the accessibility settings. Go to Apple > System Preferences > Accessibility > Speech and unmark the checkbox next to Speak selected text when the key is pressed.
6. Boot in Safe Mode
MacBooks let you boot your computer in safe mode. Doing so will prevent most drivers and caches from loading at startup.
Put your MacBook into safe mode by rebooting your machine and holding Shift until you see the login screen. If your keyboard starts working, you will need to re-enable each driver individually until you find the guilty party.
And If All Else Fails…
If you can’t resolve your MacBook keyboard issues using some of the tips we’ve outlined, it might be time to seek professional help.
Thankfully, Apple offers excellent customer support. Check out our advice on how to contact Apple’s technical support team.
Image Credit: Bill Burris/Flickr
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