A few weeks ago I was doing some editing, working from a manuscript in a three-ring binder. After laboring for about an hour with the binder parked off to the left on my desk, I found myself with a disaster-scale crick in my shoulder that lasted for days. Unfortunately, this editing episode took place before I received my sample unit of a very handy office device, the Microdesk.
Venturing into No Man’s Land
Take a look at the space between your keyboard and your monitor. If you work on a single-surface desk, as I do, that space is likely just big enough to feel wasted, but small enough to be pretty much useless. If you have a keyboard tray you may have more space to work with, but find yourself straining to reach it. In either case, I bet you’ve felt the temptation to push your monitor back in order to clear more territory and make No Man’s Land a more useful piece of real estate.
The Microdesk may be thought of as a sort of “bridge” across this neglected and generally useless area. Soaring high above the cables, trash, and coffee puddle stains below, it presents you with a firm, stable platform large enough to hold an open three-ring binder, a notepad, or a priceless 19th Century history book you’re using in research for your novel.
Sizes and configurations
There are two main versions of the Microdesk: a full-size unit that can hold an open three-ring binder, and a compact model intended for use with laptops. The Good Use Company supplied me with both, but I only had the opportunity to test the full-size model. The compact model, shown in a stock photo at right, is the same as the regular in every respect but size.
Formed from sturdy acrylic, the Microdesk comes in three main pieces: the top, and two sides which press-fit into it. The height of these sides can be further adjusted with four screw-in feet at the corners. The final component is a plastic “lip,” which snaps into the lower edge of the top to keep your work from sliding off.
To accommodate both regular desks and keyboard tray configurations, the Microdesk has two alternate sets of sides: slanted and straight. Both are intended to provide a tilted work surface, somewhat like a copy holder. The straight version does this by bridging down from your desk to your keyboard tray. I don’t have a tray, so I started with the slanted kit. However, it quickly became apparent that this wasn’t ideal. The back of the Microdesk was simply raised up too high, which caused it to obstruct the lowest part of my monitor. Add a fat notebook or two on top, and much of my working screen area could disappear.
Since the slanted side pieces weren’t working out, I decided to try the flat version – the one intended for keyboard trays. As it turns out, you can lift this to a respectable angle simply by screwing out the longer set of adjustment feet on the back. This allows a flatter angle, and worked much better for my monitor height.
Fine, but will it fit?
How well the Microdesk will fit into your setup depends mostly on where you like your screen. If your monitor sweet spot is three feet away, you should have little trouble. But if you prefer the display up close and personal, you may encounter more of a challenge. I like to be able to touch my monitor with my fist (not like you’re thinking). As you can see from the picture below, I managed to fit everything in while only moving the screen back a couple of inches. The main problem was with my mouse movement, which I found slightly restricted by the corner of the Microdesk.
If you’re wondering how the Microdesk will fit with your own situation, here’s a handy tip: Its dimensions are the same as those of an open three-ring binder. So, you can use one of those to roughly estimate how much room the Microdesk will require – without actually ordering one.
Toting the Microdesk
The full-size Microdesk is not meant to be mobile; it’s simply too big. The compact version, however, aspires to some degree of portability. I could possibly see stuffing it in a large laptop bag for mobile use. The main problem, in my view, would be repeatedly dismantling the unit. The press-fit acrylic legs can be very difficult to remove, particularly if you’re not blessed with village-blacksmith hands. Perhaps a bit of petroleum jelly would improve the situation for those who want to use the Microdesk on the go.
Microdesk: Handy if you need it
In my view, the Microdesk is not one of those accessories that every computer user should possess. If you don’t work much with papers or binders, you may conclude that it isn’t worth the footprint. But if you ever find yourself doing the twist with a computer and a stack of notebooks, the Microdesk could save your neck. Literally.
Disclosure: This review was made with a complimentary sample from the Good Use Company, which I gave to another person after finishing the review.