The “Copier” Keyboard has finally arrived!

February 21, 2009

Our modern day “Copier” (MFD) is much more of a PC than an old style copier.

It has an Operating System (usually some stripped down Unix variant), a Color Monitor (The Copier’s screen), A larger and larger Hard drive, more and more RAM, and their own applications (usually Java or Web based),and FINALLY, FINALLY a real physical (USB) Keyboard!!!

Canon MFD with Mounted USB Keyboard

Canon MFD with Mounted USB Keyboard

Why is this a big deal? Have you ever had to do a lot of typing on a virtual keyboard (The one on the touch screen)? Let’s just agree that it is not an enjoyable experience. For the longest time the eCopy Scan Station was the only scanning solution that offered a real keyboard. I can’t tell you how many times that this was the deciding factor that pushed one of my customer in the direction of an eCopy solution. It may sound trivial to you but I assure you that if you are the one who has to type on it every day you too would insist on a real keyboard too.

There are times or workflows where you do not want to spend a lot of time at the MFD typing, This is one of the main selling points of Omtool’s AccuRoute product; less time standing at the MFD. But that does require more fore thought to where you want to send your documents, and what you want to do with them once you get it there. Many times people ARE looking for an Ad Hoc way to scan their every day work documents. They want to be able to decide on the spot where to send these documents and what to do with them once they get there. For this workflow a real keyboard makes this job a lot easier.

There real keyboard has arrived, but for right now it is clearly an add on, and after thought to the MFD. They are mounted with add on brackets or they find an open spot on the top panel. I fully expect the next design of the modern MFD to really integrate the keyboard into the design (are you listening Canon, Konica Minolta). I should either mount under the Large touch screens (Like eCopy does it on their Scan Stations) or in a pull out type of tray or draw that could come out under the MFDs panel. These keyboards are currently USB and they need to stay non-proprietary. I hate it whan a MFD manufacturer comes out with a great solution that customers love but then make it so pricey that very few people can justify it. So far both the Canon & the Konica Minolta MFDs that I have worked with do take a standard USB Keyboard (My Hats off to both companies).

The other thing that a real keyboard begins to open up is Active Directory Authentication at the MFD. On a side note the Bio-metric readers make this even easier (see the article on “the next killer app” on this Blog) but even if you have a biomentric reader (read fingerprint reader) that is tied into your Windows Active Directory login that does not preclude the need for a real keyboard. Not only can a real keyboard help you login, but you can also use it when you have to type out a new email address or an email “Subject Line” or text for the body of your email. Wouldn’t it be great if you felt that  it was just as easy to do this at your MFD as your PC? It’s comming, it’s almost there. The other functionality that is becomeing standard is the  “type ahead” feature. Type Ahead is where you set up the device to jump to the address book and show names after you type 2, 3, or 4 letters. Why not just do it on the first letter? You could but if you have a really large address book you could still be a hundred names away from the one you want. In that situation you would want 3 or 4 charectors typed before the Type ahead feature kicks in that will put you right in the area of the name that you want. Both eCopy SSOP, and Canon’s Authorized Send (Asend) have this feature and can use the Canon USB keyboard.

Have you used a real keyboard on an MFD yet? Did you even know that they were available? I welcome your comments or questions.

That’s My $0.02
Vince McHugh



  1. Your partners at eCopy fully agree that a keyboard at the MFP is of tremendous value. This is especially true when scanning documents to document or content management systems where you must enter indexing data. We have been asking our MFP manufacturing partners to add keyboards for years.

    By the way, eCopy supports type ahead with or without the physical keyboard. One other related feature that still requires an eCopy ScanStation is support for a Common Access Card (CAC) reader. CACs are smart cards that the department of defense uses for authentication at the MFP. There are over 10 million CACs in use today by DoD employees. Using CACs or other smart cards at the MFP allows easy active directory authentication and provides better security than user name and ID alone. All you do is swipe your card and enter your password. It speeds ad hoc scanning even more.

  2. Interesting…considering that Konica Minolta has had a fully functional keyboard for their machines for years…

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