ANSI vs ISO Keyboard Layout

ANSI and ISO are the most widely used keyboards layouts; however, many users are often confused about their differences, benefits, downsides, and ergonomics.

For this reason, many people often buy the wrong type of keyboard, unspecific to their needs which makes them perform less than they should. 

Today, we’ll discuss in detail the two most commonly used keyboard layouts: ISO and ANSI. 

We will explain their differences, similarities, pros, cons, and provide answers to all the different questions you might have regarding the ANSI and ISO keyboard layout.

The Features of the ANSI and ISO Keyboard Layout

ANSI layout on top vs ISO layout on bottom

The ANSI keyboard layout is the standard US keyboard layout and is a full keyboard layout of 104 keys.

The alphanumeric collection, navigational, and number keypads are separated horizontally with the F key rows at its top.

There are other layouts like a tenkyeless layout and a 75% keyboard layout. It is referred to as a 75% keyboard, which means it is a portable layout across 70% to 75% width size, making it super compact and comfortable.

On the other hand, the ISO keyboard layout is used in every part of Europe except in the Netherlands because the ANSI keyboard layout reigns predominantly there. 

The ISO keyboard layout is suitable for full-sized keyboards and comes with 105 keys. 

The difference between the ANSI keyboard layout and the ISO keyboard layout ranges from the size, shape, and arrangement of some of their keys. 

Below are the differences between the ANSI keyboard layout and the ISO keyboard layout. 

  • The enter key in the ANSI keyboard layout is rectangular, while the enter key in the ISO keyboard is L-shaped.
  • ANSI keyboard layout’s backslash key is above the enter key, while the backslash key on the ISO keyboard layout is at the left of the center key.
  • In the ANSI keyboard layout, the left shift key is the same size as the right shift key, while the left shift key is about 50% of the shift key’s size, the same as the Ctrl key. 
  • In the ANSI keyboard layout, the left and right ALT keys are similar, while the right ALT keys are replaced with an ALT GR key in the ISO keyboard layout. 
  • The ANSI keyboard layout comprises 104 keys (87 for tenkeyless), while the ISO keyboard is made up of 105 keys (88 for tenkeyless).

Which Keyboard Layout Is More Ergonomic?

The ANSI keyboard layout is considered more ergonomic. 

This is because it has frequently used keys such as the enter key and the left shift key near users, so they don’t have to stretch over to reach them.

Advantages of the ISO Layout

Using the ISO keyboard layout comes with its benefits; below are the advantages of using the ISO keyboard layout.

Backslash Key Placement

If you use the backslash key often, then you might find it more comfortable using the ISO keyboard layout.

The backslash key is placed just at the left of the center key, which makes it easy for you to reach.

Language Functionality

The ISO keyboard layout has an extra key, which enables you to fit it into your language. 

This means you won’t have to worry about typing in your local language, as the ISO keyboard layout has an extra key that lets you do that perfectly. This extra key allows you to access more symbols which are commonly used in other languages.

Disadvantages of the ISO Layout

Among these benefits, the ISO keyboard layout also comes with its downsides. Below are the disadvantages of using the ISO keyboard layout. 

Left Shift Key Placement

The ISO keyboard layout has an extra key which makes it 105 keys in total. 

Although this is an advantage, it also poses a disadvantage because it draws the left shift key farther from its original position. 

The left shift key is split into two keys due to the extra key, thereby drawing the shift key about one inch from its ideal position.

Therefore, people who are used to typing with the left shift key closer to them would tend to press the extra key often instead of the left shift key, which might slow down their speed when typing with the ISO keyboard layout. 

Enter Key Placement

When using the ISO keyboard layout, your pinky finger has to go over two other keys to reach the enter key. 

This makes typing more difficult, as you will have to stretch over to reach one of the prominent keys you use when typing. This is because, for every attempt to start a new paragraph when typing, you would have to jump over two keys. 

Cost

ISO keypads are difficult to find anywhere. Most keypads are mainly available in ANSI keyboard layout than in the ISO keyboard layout, making the few keypads available in the ISO keyboard layout expensive to buy.

Advantages of the ANSI Keyboard Layout 

Using the ANSI keyboard layout comes with a host of benefits. Below are the advantages of using the ANSI keyboard layout.

Enter Key Placement

On the ANSI keyboard layout, the enter key is closer to your right pinky finger, which makes it easier to reach.

With the ANSI keyboard layout, you won’t have to stretch over two keys to reach the enter key, which makes typing not just easier, but faster.

Left Shift Key Placement

On the ANSI keyboard layout, the left shift key is closer to your left pinky finger, making it easier to reach. 

Unlike the ISO keyboard layout, where you have to make a conscious effort to jump over the extra key, you can conveniently reach the left shift key with minimum effort.

Availability

Keyboards with the ANSI layout are more common than the ISO keyboard layout keypads, making them more available for users to acquire easily. 

Disadvantages of the ANSI Keyboard Layout

The ANSI keyboard layout comes with its downsides; below are the disadvantages of using the ANSI keyboard layout.

Backslash Key Placement

If you use the backslash key often, using the ANSI keyboard layout might be a bit difficult.

This is because the backslash key is located above the enter key, so you would have to stretch farther to reach it, unlike on the ISO keyboard layout. 

Restrictive Functionality

The ANSI keyboard layout has no extra key that allows you to fit another key which could be another language or an extra symbol, unlike the ISO keyboard layout with an extra key. 

However, you can purchase an ANSI keyboard layout and reprogram it to accommodate the keys needed to type in your language. 

Which Is Better: ANSI or ISO? 

The question of which layout is better is based on your preference and what works for you. 

If you use the backslash often, you might prefer the ISO keyboard layout. If you would also like an extra key for more versatile language usage, you might prefer the ISO keyboard. 

However, if you want an ergonomic keyboard, then you might prefer the ANSI keyboard layout as the frequently used keys are much closer to you when typing. 

It all comes down to what you want, the keys you use more often, and what works best for you. Overtime though, you may find that these slight differences are minimal and can adjust to the different keyboard layout.

Can I Still Use an ANSI Keyboard Even If My Language Uses an ISO layout?

Using the ANSI keyboard layout with other languages that require different types of symbols is achievable. 

You can switch to other layouts on Windows 10 by using the Alt+shift key, after which you will reach the key with the symbol you want.

There are shortcuts on Mac OS X, but you’ll have to enable those. You could change the language for your keyboard input and switch in the top nav bar as well.

Where Can I Find Places that Sell ISO Keycap Sets? 

Although ISO keycap sets are not as common as the ANSI keycap set,  there are notable places to purchase them. 

Candykeys has a variety of keycap sets in many colors, so you have a variety of options to choose from. 

More so, KBD fans has eight sets of keycaps that are suitable for the ISO layout. 

There are dye-sublimated cherry profile keyboard types; blank keycaps are available for 65% to 60% keyboards cherry profile keycaps and an extra key if you intend to replace specific keys on your keyboard.

If you are going for the ISO layout, you could just purchase an ANSI keycap set, then look for ISO modified keys that replace the few differences.

Where Can I Find the ANSI Keycap Set?

It’s easy to find the ANSI keycaps anywhere. Because it is the default US layout, most keycap sets will be in the ANSI layout.

Final Thoughts

The choice of the right keyboard layout to use between the ISO keyboard layout and the ANSI keyboard layout is based on your preference as a user. However, it’s important to know their features, differences, advantages, and disadvantages to decide which is best for you. Type on!

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