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Every Keyboard Size and Layout Explained (with Pictures)

A set of pink, white, and blue keycaps.

Every Keyboard Size and Layout Explained (with Pictures)

Key Points

  • Keyboards come in different sizes and layouts, each offering unique benefits.
  • Full-size keyboards have 104 or more keys, while 40% keyboards are the smallest without losing alphabet keys.
  • Keyboard layouts vary based on the manufacturing country and intended country for sale, such as ANSI, ISO, and JIS layouts.
  • Legend layouts, like AZERTY and QWERTZ, offer alternative key arrangements for different languages.
  • Layouts like Dvorak, COLEMAK, and WORKMAN prioritize typing efficiency and reduce finger movement.

Keyboards are not one-size-fits-all! They come in many different sizes and layouts that each offer unique benefits. However, choosing a keyboard size and layout is a personal journey and requires knowing the options. Let’s examine the different keyboard sizes and layouts available on the market.

Keyboard Sizes

Before considering layout, you’ll need to consider your keyboard’s size. Full-sized keyboards are the largest, while 40% are the smallest ones you can get without losing the alphabet keys. There are also Number Pads and macro pads for adding keys to a smaller layout traditionally built without them.

You can separate your keyboard into six main clusters of keys. These clusters are the alphabet keys, number keys (top row), arrow keys, home cluster, function row, and ten-key number pad. As keyboards get smaller, you’ll see fewer clusters on your keyboard. So, keep that in mind when choosing a keyboard size.

The ANSI keyboard layout with differing colors to indicate what key clusters are included on different form factors.
Keyboards range in size from full-sized keyboards with 104 or more keys to 40% keyboards that don’t even include a number row.

Full-Size

Full-size keyboards have 104 or more keys depending on how many macro keys the keyboard has, if any. They include all clusters and come in various physical sizes determined by the size of the keycaps and frame. In this format, the alphabet keys and number row are separated from the home cluster and the arrow keys, and the numpad is typically on the far right of the keyboard.

1800 Compact/96%

96%, or 1800 Compact, keyboards are the smallest keyboards you can get with a numpad. They have 103–104 keys in total. This layout saves space by removing the frame space that separates the home cluster, arrow keys, and numpad.

Tenkeyless/TKL/80%

TKL keyboards are the first layout where you’ll start to see clusters removed. These keyboards lack a numpad, as the name implies. For people who don’t use the ten-key pad, this layout is an ideal keyboard size since it saves space on the desk without sacrificing any clusters they use. Additionally, number pads are actually quite large in comparison to the overall keyboard size. So, removing them makes the keyboard significantly smaller.

75% 

75% keyboards are unique and uncommon. You won’t find many of them on the market because there’s less interest in them compared to TKLs. This layout is similar to the tenkeyless layout, but it aligns the home cluster vertically to save a little extra space.

65% 

65% keyboards remove the function row and home cluster to make the keyboards smaller. This layout is the smallest one that still includes arrow keys and has two different versions. You can get this layout with all the keys compactly fitted together or with a bit of frame space between the alphanumeric keys and the arrow keys/home cluster.

60%

These keyboards drop the arrow keys and home cluster, narrowing the keyboard to just the alphanumeric clusters. This layout is relatively popular, though not as popular as TKL or full-sized ones. It is one of the most popular layouts for people looking to build their own keyboards as you can reduce the material cost for building. There are also many barebones keyboard kits in this size, making it excellent for aspiring builders.

40%

This layout is the smallest you can type on. It contains only the alphabet cluster, removing all other clusters, including the top number row and punctuation keys. These keyboards are exceptionally compact. However, they’re not very popular because many people find them too small to be comfortable. Typing numbers and punctuation is achieved with combinations of the Function key and alphabet keys.

Physical Keyboard Layouts

A graphic showing the six physical keyboard layouts.
The most common physical keyboard layouts in the modern day are ANSI, ISO, and JIS.

Once you’ve decided on a keyboard size, you must decide what layout you want. The keyboard layout will change based on the manufacturing country and intended country for sale. Most U.S.-intended keyboards will use an ANSI QWERTY layout, while many European-intended keyboards use an ISO QWERTY layout, for instance. Let’s examine the different physical layouts.

ANSI

ANSI layouts are the standard layouts for many English-speaking countries. Aside from the United States, from which the layout originates, this layout is standard in Australia, India, Anglophone Canada, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Malaysia, South Africa, the Phillippines, Singapore, and Indonesia.

It has one key not found on other layouts, located above the Enter key. Additionally, the enter key on this layout is a thin, straight bar.

ISO 

The ISO/IEC 9995 layout is most commonly used in the U.K. and Ireland. It has two keys not found on other layouts: one located to the right of the Enter key, which is much larger than the ANSI Enter key, and one located to the left of the left Shift key, which is smaller than the ANSI left Shift.

JIS

The JIS keyboard layout is standard for Japanese keyboards as it provides the additional keys necessary to type using the Japanese alphabets. It has six keys not found on other layouts: one to the right of the backspace key, which is smaller than other layouts, one to the left of the Enter key, one to the left of the right Shift key, and two to the right of the spacebar, and one to the left of the spacebar. The spacebar is shorter on this layout to accommodate the extra keys to its sides.

101/104 Variant

This lesser-known keyboard layout uses a large Enter key. It takes the basic structure of the ANSI layout but places the additional key to the left of the Backspace key, which is smaller than the Backspace key in most other layouts. This layout doesn’t see much use in the modern day.

KS

The KS layout doesn’t get used much in favor of ANSI, ISO, or JIS keyboards. It has three keys not found on other keyboard layouts: one next to the backspace key, and one on either side of the spacebar. Both the backspace and spacebar are smaller than other layouts.

ABNT

The ABNT layout isn’t used much in the modern day. It has three additional keys not found on other keyboard layouts: one next to the Enter key, which is much larger than the other layouts, one to the left of the left Shift key, and one to the right of the right Shift key, which is smaller than other layouts.

Legend Layouts

Diagram of the U.S. QWERTY keyboard layout.
QWERTY keyboards can come in any physical layout, but the ANSI layout is the most common.

Legend layouts are a unique choice. While most aftermarket keycaps will have a legend layout for U.S. QWERTY or U.K. QWERTY, you can find some keycaps with alternate layouts, such as Japanese QWERTY. However, these are not the only options for legends. Options like Dvorak or Colemak can improve your typing efficiency but require you to re-learn how to touch type since the layout of the keys changes.

If you’re using a keycap profile with non-sculpted keycaps, you can rearrange the alphabet keys to get a different layout. However, if you re-arrange the alphabet keys, sculpted keycaps such as OEM or Cherry profile ones will be the wrong height.

If you prefer sculpted keycaps or simply can’t find keycaps for your desired layout, you can always use legend stickers, which you stick on top of the keycaps to change what the legend says. Legend stickers can be used with every keyboard size and layout. However, if you like shine-through legends, you won’t be able to use these with legend stickers since the stickers have to be opaque to cover the original legends.

AZERTY

A diagram of the Belgian AZERTY keyboard layout.
French and Belgian keyboards use variations of the AZERTY keyboard layout.

France and Belgium use a variation of the QWERTY keyboard where the first six letters to appear in the top row are A, Z, E, R, T, and Y, rather than the standard for QWERTY. French speakers in Quebec use a modified QWERTY keyboard rather than AZERTY keyboards.

QWERTZ

A diagram of a German QWERTZ keyboard layout.
QWERTZ keyboards are sometimes called “kezboards” because the Y and Z keys are reversed.

This layout is similar to the QWERTY layout, but the first six letters on the top row are Q, W, E, R, T, and Z. The QWERTZ layout is primarily used in Central Europe and is sometimes referred to as a “kezboard” since the defining difference is the swapping of the positions of the Y and Z keys.

Dvorak

A diagram of the Dvorak keyboard layout.
The Dvorak keyboard was designed to reduce finger movement and optimize typing.

The Dvorak layout was designed by August Dvorak in the 1930s to minimize finger movement and maximize typing efficiency. It moves common keys into the home row and places most-used key combinations like “th” and “ed” close together to make them easier to type.

Additionally, the Dvorak layout targets using strong fingers like the index and middle fingers, rather than relying on weaker fingers, like the ring and pinky for typing. The Dvorak layout statistically increases typing efficiency. However, it does take time to learn since the keys are in all new places.

COLEMAK

A diagram of the COLEMAK keyboard layout.
The COLEMAK keyboard layout comes pre-installed on all macOS and Linux devices.

Like the Dvorak layout, the COLEMAK keyboard is designed to make typing more efficient by moving commonly used keys into the home row. It also places the most used letters, such as A and E, under the strongest fingers.

Since the COLEMAK keyboard minimizes finger movement, it’s ideal for people with repetitive strain injuries since using it is less likely to aggravate their injuries.

WORKMAN

A diagram of the WORKMAN keyboard layout.
WORKMAN is an alternative layout to the standard QWERTY.

The WORKMAN layout came about in 2010. Unlike Dvorak and COLEMAK, which solely focus on improving typing efficiency and reducing movement, WORKMAN prioritizes ease of learning. It places the most used keys in the home row, under strong fingers, and the least used keys are in the bottom row.

NORMAN

A diagram of the NORMAN keyboard layout.
The NORMAN keyboard layout is a relatively new layout designed for typing ease.

Developed in 2013, the NORMAN layout moves the most used keys into the home row and common bigrams into the top row to be as efficient as possible. It claims to be 46% more efficient than QWERTY, according to its informational website.

CARPALX

The CARPALX Project is a keyboard layout optimization tool that allows you to choose from their collection of layouts. The project goal is to provide quantitative data on the efficiency of different keyboard layouts.

Wrap-Up

Although most users have never used anything beyond the most common keyboards for their specific regions, there are many variations. Keyboards may be full-sized, 1800 Compact/96%, 80%, 75%, 65%, 60%, or 40%. Layouts can be ANSI, ISO, JIS, 101/104 Variant, KS, or ABNT. There are a number of legend layouts prioritized for different languages and uses. Now that you know the options, you can choose the keyboard that makes the best sense for you.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the possible keyboard sizes?

Keyboards can be full-sized, 1800 Compact/96%, 80%, 75%, 65%, 60%, or 40%.

What are the possible physical keyboard layouts?

The physical layout of your keyboard can be ANSI, ISO, JIS, 101/104 Variant, KS, or ABNT layouts.

What are the possible legend layouts?

With keyboard remapping tools, you can really have any layout you want. However, standard pre-set layouts are QWERTY, Dvorak, COLEMAK, WORKMAN, and NORMAN.

How do I change my keyboard layout?

You can’t change your keyboard’s physical layout; there won’t be room for the keys. However, regarding key mapping, you can change this using proprietary software for your keyboard or a tool like Windows Keyboard Manager.

What is the best keyboard layout?

Everyone is going to have a different opinion on this. Most keyboard users have never used anything beyond their regional-specific most common keyboard, QWERTY, AZERTY, or QWERTZ. British and Irish users might be used to an ISO physical layout, while others will typically default to an ANSI layout.
Statistically speaking, Dvorak and COLEMAK keyboards show efficiency improvement over QWERTY keyboards but are harder to find. Users will typically have to rely on legend stickers while learning the keyboard layout since touch typing is different on these layouts.

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