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Keyboard-cleaning helper

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Given that it’s the holiday season for many here in the U.S., this seems like a good week to talk about silly-but-somewhat-useful software—those things you don’t really need , but are fun, and even handy, to have around.

Ever wish you could disable your keyboard? For example, so you could clean it without making a mess of whatever it is you’re working on? If you’ve got a desktop Mac, the task is as simple as unplugging the keyboard’s USB cable. But if your Mac is stowed away under a desk, unplugging that cable can be a hassle, and if you’re a notebook user, it’s not an option at all. You could shut down your Mac, but many of us are fans of sleep mode—my Macs are turned off only when I’m out of town.

What I usually do is open a blank TextEdit document and clean away, letting TextEdit “absorb” my key presses (and hoping I don’t accidentally press a keyboard shortcut that does something unexpected). But the folks at recently featured an interesting alternative, Jan Lehnardt’s free Keyboard Cleaner . Launch Keyboard Cleaner and it blacks out your screen and disables your keyboard—all but the Command-Q keyboard shortcut necessary to quit the application. (To remind you that your Mac is actually on, the text Happy Cleaning! Press Command-Q to get out is displayed on the screen.) In other words, you can push, pull, and polish your keyboard’s keys without wreaking havoc on the Great American Novel you’re currently writing.

As an added bonus, Keyboard Cleaner is great for keeping your child—or your pet—from “typing” while you’re away.

Silly? Sure. But useful, too—always a good combination in my book. And I give Jan bonus points for the entertaining mini-FAQ on his Web site:

Q: What the...? Just unplug your keyboard and be done with it, jerk. A: Yeah, I tried that with my trusty 12” PowerBook, but launching Keyboard Cleaner is easier than getting off F2 and F11 and unscrewing those screwy screws. Q: So sad that you can’t turn off you [sic] Mac once in a while. A: Sometimes you are just in the middle of something and don’t have the patience to close all them applications. Still, this nasty [something] needs to get off your keyboard now. Q: My cat walks over my keyboard when I leave the room. Can I use Keyboard Cleaner to secure my work from being juggled randomly without actually cleaning the keyboard? A: Sure thing, Keyboard Cleaner was built with cat-friendlyness in mind. But remember what you could miss.

Keyboard Cleaner works with Mac OS X 10.2 or later and is a Universal binary.

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