There are many different keyboard layouts, which can confuse users unfamiliar with them. However, ANSI and ISO are acronyms for two different but popular keyboard layouts. They stand for two of the organizations which set consensus standards for products. ANSI stands for the American National Standards Institute, and ISO, the International Organization for Standardization.

If you’re looking for the key differences between ANSI vs ISO keyboards or looking for which one is right for your use, read on below.

ANSI vs ISO Keyboards: Side-by-Side Comparison

Parameter of ComparisonANSIISO
Number of keys/Form factor101-key (pre-1995); full-size 104-key (with the Windows and context menu keys added), and 87 keys (Tenkeyless)Full-Size 105-key, and 88 keys (Tenkeyless) for PCs
AvailabilityMore commonLess common
Shift key (left)Bigger and closerSmall and far
Enter keyWide rectangular shapeL-shape upside-down
ALT key (right)Same left and right ALT keysThe right ALT key absent
Backslash keyDirectly above the enter key at the same size as the right Ctrl keyDirectly to the left of the enter key
Number of Tenkeyless keys87 keys88 keys
ANSI vs ISO keyboards
The layout of the ANSI vs ISO Keyboards, showing the differences.

ANSI vs ISO Keyboards: 8 Need to Know Facts

ANSI Keyboard

  • The ANSI keyboard is the most common layout overall, especially in the US.
  • ANSI standard keyboard has 101 keys (pre-1995) and full-size 104 keys including alphanumeric keys, punctuation keys, and function keys.
  • The layout does not have a spare key that allows you to fit another key, which could be another language or an additional symbol.
  • ANSI standard keyboard has a standard size and shape, making it easy to find and use the keys.

ISO keyboard

  • The layout is ideal for international users who do not speak English.
  • The ISO keyboard is primarily found in Europe.
  • ISO keyboard physical layout comes equipped with up to 105 keys for full-size keyboards and 88 keys (Tenkeyless) for PCs.
  • ISO keyboards are generally more expensive and have fewer options.

ANSI vs ISO: What’s the Difference?

Now that we’ve seen the two compared side-by-side, let’s take a look at the distinguishing features of both keyboards.

ANSI Keyboard: The Complete History

The ANSI standard keyboard is a computer keyboard that uses the ANSI standard layout. The ANSI layout was introduced by IBM and eventually became the standard US layout which is based on the QWERTY layout.

In 1995, Microsoft made some modifications with new keys like the Ctrl and Alt, Windows key, and the rest of the keys remained the same.

ANSI standard keyboard has 101 keys (pre-1995) and full-size 104 keys including alphanumeric keys, punctuation keys, and function keys.

The function keys are located in the top row of the keyboard and perform specific tasks. The alphanumeric keys are located in the keyboard’s middle row and are used to type letters and numbers. The punctuation keys are located in the bottom row of the keyboard and are used to type punctuation marks.

ANSI keyboard is widely used in the United States because it is easy to learn and use. Also, ANSI standard keyboard has a standard size and shape, making it easy to find and use the keys. ANSI keyboard is also durable and can withstand heavy use.

However, the ANSI keyboard has some functionality restrictions: unlike the ISO keyboard layout, which has an extra key, the ANSI layout does not have a spare key that allows you to fit another key, which could be another language or an additional symbol. You can, however, buy an ANSI keyboard layout and reprogram it to accommodate the keys required to type in your language.

Moreover, if you frequently use the backslash key, using the ANSI keyboard layout may be difficult. This is because the backslash key is located above the enter key, requiring you to stretch further to reach it, as opposed to the ISO keyboard layout.

ANSI vs ISO keyboards
The ANSI layout is the most common, especially in the USA.

ISO Keyboard: The Complete Overview

The ISO standard keyboard is a keyboard layout that the International Organization for Standardization created. The layout is widely used in Europe except in the Netherlands, where ANSI is the norm. ISO keyboard physical layout comes equipped with up to 105 keys for full-size keyboards and retains 87% of components as opposed to the TKL, which retains less.

It is based on the QWERTY layout but has some additional keys designed to make it easier to type in international languages. The ISO standard keyboard layout is used by many computer manufacturers and is the default layout on many laptops and desktop computers.

The layout includes a number of keys that are not found on a traditional QWERTY keyboard. These include keys for accented characters and keys for typing in other languages. The layout also has several special function keys, such as a key for changing the keyboard layout, a key for opening the character map, and an on-screen keyboard.

The ISO keyboard layout is ideal for international users who do not speak English. Let us now look at the benefits of ISO keyboard layout. The ISO layout has more symbol support than the ANSI layout.

For example, you can type the Dollar symbol “$” using the (Shift + 4) keys and the Pound symbol “€” using the (4+ Alt Gr) keys. (Alt Gr denotes the right Alt button)

Cost and Typing Difficulties

One of the cons of the ISO keyboard is that when using it, your pinky finger must cross two other keys before reaching the enter key. Typing becomes more difficult due to stretching over to catch one of the primary keys you use when typing. Every time you try to start a new paragraph while typing, you have to jump over two keys.

Another challenge is cost. ISO layout keyboards are less standard than ANSI layout keyboards. For that reason, they can be challenging to find. As a result, ISO keyboards are generally more expensive and have fewer options. It can also be challenging to locate ISO keycap sets.

ANSI vs ISO: Which One Is Better? Which One Should You Use?

The answer boils down to preference. As we can see from the above, using an ISO layout keyboard might be more challenging than using the ANSI layout keyboard. However, there are some languages that cannot be used without an ISO keyboard, typically in certain European countries. Also, ISO keyboards make sacrifices in ergonomics to fit in an extra key that would be needed for that language.

In fully programmable keyboards, getting an ANSI keyboard and then reprogramming it to fit all the keys needed for your language would be the most optimal.

ISO vs ANSI Keyboards: What Are The Differences? Which Is Better? FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Which is better ISO or ANSI keyboard?

Some people prefer the ANSI layout as it offers a more traditional typing experience, while others prefer the ISO layout to provide a more compact typing experience. Ultimately, it is up to the individual to decide which keyboard layout is best for them.

What's the difference between ANSI and ISO?

The ISO physical layout differs from the ANSI physical layout in the shape and arrangement of some keys, notably the enter key, left shift key, backspace, right alt key, compatibility of keycaps, number of keys, and sizes of some keys.

Who uses an ISO keyboard?

The ISO standard keyboard is used in most European countries, while the ANSI standard keyboard is used in the United States.

Is ANSI better for gaming?

The ANSI layout seems to be better for gaming as the left shift is wider, which makes it easier to locate without looking. The left shift is a key used in almost every PC game we can think of, and for this reason, we have decided that ANSI is best for gaming.

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