A Brief Review of the GBoard

I recently discovered the GBoard, a custom keyboard for Gmail. You'll have seen, I'm sure, the various custom keyboards for Final Cut Pro and Aperture. Well, this is one hard-wired with the Gmail keyboard shortcuts.

It's not a full keyboard, but rather about the size of one of those external number keypads for laptops that you see in overpriced airport electronics stores the world over.


The keys are (l-r, top-bottom):

  • Search (/)
  • Results (u)
  • Stars (g+s)
  • Esc
  • Reply (r)
  • Reply All (a)
  • Forward (f)
  • Compose (c)
  • Star (s)
  • Archve (e)
  • Trash (#)
  • Spam (!)
  • Next Thread (k)
  • Next Message (p)
  • Select (x)
  • Previous Thread (j)
  • Previous Message (n)
  • Inbox (g+i)
  • Open/Close (enter)

The Gboard is an exceptionally nerdy thing, and I seriously doubt that I get enough email to justify owning it. However, it's a little curiosity, a conversation starter and, well, I wasn't sure that they were going to be around forever so I bought one.

The GBoard is made from fairly light plastic and has no real heft to it, so it's easily bumped around on your desk. It has a flip-out foot at the rear to raise the profile of the pad to match the keyboard.

What's it like in use? Well, I get the sense that it was designed for people who are focused on one of two things:

  • Trashing things from their Inbox
  • Reading each thread in detail

One thing I do a lot is skim mail subjects then select, mark as read and archive. For this, the Gboard doesn't work so well for me as it lacks a key for "mark as read" (shift+i).

The Gboard does work pretty well for inbox triage, though. Using the next/previous buttons you can run through the inbox selecting items and then, with a flamboyant tap of a gloriously dangerous-looking red button, trash the lot. Not even FileMaker can send me Bento spam fast enough to keep up with my high-performance mail trashing now.

Compatibility-wise, there's no problem. It's just a USB keyboard sending standard ASCII key codes which happen to mean something in Gmail.

Is the Gboard worth it? Well, at the end of the day, it's only $20. I'm not that much of an email junkie that I really need it.