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Definitive Guide to Keyboard Layouts

guide to keyboard layouts

The keyboard is an essential component of a PC. Although it is global, it has different layouts, just as we do when we speak other languages. The QWERTY layout is the most common. Still, other English layouts, as well as international layouts of multiple languages, are also used.

Below is a guide to identifying your keyboard form factors and layouts to make it easy for you to understand.

Form Factors

The form factor of a keyboard relates to its overall size and shape, such as full size, 60 percent, or 80 percent. A form factor’s layout might be winkeyless or Winkey, ANSI or ISO. Another type of layout that is referred to as “logical layout” comprises QWERTY, Dvorak, QWERTZ, and so on.

Full Size

Full size is the most popular keyboard form factor. If you’re using a PC keyboard right now, it’s probably something like this:
full size keyboard
The following are the primary characteristics of a full-size keyboard:

  • The primary alphabetic cluster
  • Above alphanumerics + Function Keys + Print Screen/Scroll Lock/Pause
  • Standard navigation cluster with arrow keys, plus PgUp/PgDn, and so on.
  • To the right of the navigation cluster, there is a numeric pad.
  • Most current full-size keyboards (like the Filco seen above) feature a conventional layout, with a rectangular alphanumeric cluster, a 6.25x spacebar, and 1.25x bottom-row Winkey modifiers (Ctrl, Alt, Win, Menu), and key placement/size as shown above.


Full-size keyboards without a Numpad are known as tenkeyless keyboards. “Tenkey” refers to digits 0 through 9.

The tenkeyless design has numerous potential benefits:

  • It takes up less space on your desk.
  • This enables you to properly orient your keyboard to your body.
  • Allows you to position your mouse closer to your body (which many people prefer).
  • It is more transportable.
  • It is more suited to the minimalist aesthetic.
  • The standard function key row is retained.

75% Keyboard

The majority of laptops come with a 75 percent keyboard layout. These keyboards are extremely small, with no spaces among the keys. The keyboard lacks number keys as well as several navigational keys. Because of their small size, these keyboards are extremely portable. Replacing keycaps for such keyboards is difficult to come by.
75 keyboard

60% (compact/mini)

This is the keyboard for you if you want a customized keyboard. The 60 percent keyboard layout is smaller than the 65 percent keyboard layout. These keyboards do not have any underutilized keys and just have alphanumeric keys and a few control keys. They are excellent for typing and give an excellent typing experience.
60 keyboard

40% Keyboard

This is the smallest workable keyboard layout. Because this is the smallest keyboard, it lacks numeric keys, function keys, navigation keys, and the number row of alpha keys. It simply contains letters and widely used controls.
40 keyboard

Keyboard Layouts

After forms and factors, now, we discuss keyboard layouts.

QWERTY keyboard layout

In the United States, the QWERTY keyboard layout is widely used for laptops and computers. Christopher Latham Sholes, a newspaper editor and printer invented it in the early 1870s.

If the initial letters on the top-left corner row are Q, W, E, R, T, and Y, you have a QWERTY keyboard. This configuration is intended to improve typing speed by adjusting the gap between the hands on the keyboard. According to research, this style generates the most typing strokes and is the most efficient when compared to several other layouts.
qwerty mac

QWERTY Layout on Windows

qwerty windows

Dvorak Keyboard Layout

Dr. August Dvorak developed the Dvorak layout throughout the 1930s. Dr. Dvorak positioned the most popular vowels and consonants on the home line, except for the letter U:

  • A (3rd)
  • O (4th)
  • E (1st)
  • U (13th)
  • H (8th)
  • T (2nd)
  • N (6th)
  • S (7th)


As can be seen, the Dvorak layout also places the most frequently used characters in the English, E (1st) and T (2nd), on the largest digits, the middle finger. Most frequent punctuation is indeed located right just above left hand’s home row, which is being found to benefit typists who use this keyboard layout.

Because the Dvorak layout is not commonly used, the sample size of typists using it is too small to determine if the layout is innately quicker than the QWERTY layout. However, early research suggests that Dvorak (and Colemak) typists are more accurate.

Standard Keyboard Layout

Now that you understand the fundamental keyboard layout, we may move on to the various keyboard standards and forms for those layouts. ANSI, which stands for American Standard, is now the most popular (and normal) keyboard layout as well as style. Also, there are ISO and JIS standards and forms that are Japanese and European, respectively.

These two alien layouts radically affect the look and action of the keyboard. We’ll concentrate on ANSI and ISO standards since they’re widely utilized in Europe and the US.

The two layouts differ substantially in two ways. The enter key on the ANSI keyboard is a huge rectangle, whereas the ISO keyboard is an upside-down L-shape. Thus, the backslash button is located just above the enter key on ANSI keyboards. However, on ISO keyboards, it is located towards the left of the enter key.

Language layouts

The language layout (also known as virtual layout or logical layout) is the final step in the chain of keyboard properties:

  • Form factor
  • Layout
  • Language layout

It is simply how the operating system determines which character to display on the screen when you hit a key. However, mechanical keyboards may be supplied in a variety of languages. All of this implies that the keyboard comes pre-installed with keycaps that correspond to the language.

An ISO Nordic keyboard is just an ISO layout keyboard with a Nordic keycap set. You may still change the language of the operating system to anything you want.

To demonstrate it properly, here’s a comparison image of the ISO Finnish layout and language (1st image) and the ISO Estonian layout and language (2nd image):
estonian keyboard layout

estonian keyboard layout 2

MAC Keyboard Layout

Both hardware and software on the Mac enable multi-language input.


When you order Apple Macintosh hardware, you have the option of selecting a keyboard layout. This has an impact on how the keys on your keyboard are configured. Apple Knowledge Base HT2841 includes information on 32 various keyboard layouts.

The US keyboard is based on the ANSI standard:
us keyboard ansi layout
The International English and Dutch keyboards are based on the ISO 9995 standard:
international english keyboard layout


The keyboard layout software converts a key press into an on-screen character. There are 139 software keyboard layouts available in Mac OS X.

Here are three examples: US, US International, and ABC-Extended (previously: US Extended).

The US keyboard and the US International keyboard are very identical. The US International version converts the tick (‘) and single quote (‘) keys into modifier keys (for grave accent and acute accent). The alt key on the US keyboard is the only one that accomplishes this. This is something that US International does all the time.

The distinction between the US keyboard and the expanded keyboard is more pronounced. The enlarged keyboard enables for much more modifier keys to be used to construct ligatures.


We hope you found this guide useful. If you are used to an ANSI or ISO keyboard, you should keep with that physical layout when purchasing or building a mechanical keyboard.

Learning one of the alternatives will take time and may not be worth it even after months of practice if you’re used to typing in the QWERTY layout.

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