When purchasing a keyboard, it’s essential to choose one that aligns with your preferences, needs, and the specific tasks you’ll be using it for. The ANSI and ISO layouts are the most widely used keyboard configurations, and understanding their differences, benefits, and drawbacks is crucial to making an informed decision.
However, many users often find themselves confused about these layouts, leading to purchases that may not fully meet their needs or optimize their performance. This confusion can be especially pronounced when considering the ergonomic implications of each layout, the specific key differences, and the availability of keycaps for each layout.
In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the intricacies of the two most commonly used keyboard layouts: ISO and ANSI. We’ll explore their differences, similarities, advantages, disadvantages, and more.
Our goal is to equip you with all the information you need to make the best choice for your keyboard layout. Let’s dive in!
What are ANSI and ISO?
ANSI and ISO are acronyms that represent two of the most prominent organizations responsible for setting consensus standards for products, including keyboards. ANSI stands for the American National Standards Institute, while ISO represents the International Organization for Standardization. These organizations provide the two most common physical layouts for keyboards, particularly in Western countries.
The ANSI layout is the most prevalent, especially in the United States. It features a wide, horizontal Enter key and a long Left Shift key, among other characteristics. The Backslash key is located above the Enter key, and the layout typically includes 104 keys for a full-sized keyboard and 87 keys for a compact or tenkeyless layout.
On the other hand, the ISO layout is primarily found in Europe, including the UK, and other parts of the world. It features a larger, vertical Enter key shaped like an upside-down L, and a shorter Left Shift key to accommodate an additional key. The Backslash key is located to the left of the Enter key, and the layout generally includes 105 keys for a full-sized keyboard and 88 keys for a compact layout.
It’s important to note that both ANSI and ISO refer to the physical layout of the keyboard, determining the size and placement of keys. They do not alter the visual layout, which determines the order of alphabetical or numerical keys, such as QWERTY or Dvorak.
Understanding the differences between these two layouts, as well as their geographical prevalence, is crucial when choosing a keyboard, as it can significantly impact your typing experience, speed, and comfort.
ANSI vs ISO: The Differences
Let’s delve into the key differences between the ANSI and ISO keyboard layouts. These differences primarily revolve around the placement and shape of certain keys, which can significantly impact your typing experience.
In the ANSI layout, the Enter key is wide and rectangular. This shape allows for easy access and quick typing. Conversely, the ISO layout features an Enter key that is larger and taller, shaped like an upside-down L. This design can take some getting used to, but it also provides a unique tactile experience.
The placement of the Backslash key is another notable difference between the two layouts. In the ANSI layout, the Backslash key is located directly above the Enter key, making it easily accessible. However, in the ISO layout, the Backslash key is positioned to the left of the Enter key. This placement can be beneficial for certain tasks, such as coding, where the Backslash key is used more frequently.
Left Shift Key
The ANSI layout features a Left Shift key that is the same size as the Right Shift key, providing a symmetrical design. On the other hand, the ISO layout’s Left Shift key is about half the size of the Right Shift key, roughly the same size as the Left Ctrl key. This design can affect the typing rhythm for some users.
In the ANSI layout, the Left and Right Alt keys are identical, providing a consistent user experience. However, in the ISO layout, the Right Alt key is replaced by the Alt Graph (AltGr) key. This key enables users to easily type characters that have diacritics, which can be particularly useful for typing in certain languages.
Number of Keys
The ANSI layout features 104 keys in its full-sized version and 87 keys in its compact or tenkeyless form. The ISO layout, on the other hand, includes one extra key, with 105 keys for the full-sized version and 88 keys for the compact form.
Understanding these differences is crucial when choosing between an ANSI and ISO layout, as they can significantly impact your typing comfort, speed, and overall experience.
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 Proximity
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.
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. The inclusion of the Alt Graph key in the ISO layout makes it an important choice for certain countries, as it provides access to characters commonly used in some languages. This versatility makes the ISO layout a suitable choice for multilingual users.
Alt Graph Key
The ISO layout includes the Alt Graph (also known as AltGr) key. This key enables users to easily type characters that have diacritics, which are symbols placed above or below letters to show different pronunciations. This can be particularly useful if you often type characters with diacritics, making the ISO layout a versatile choice for multilingual typing.
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 Distance
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 Distance
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.
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 Accessibility
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 Accessibility
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.
The ANSI keyboard layout’s keypads 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 Accessibility
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.
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.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Is ANSI better for gaming?
The choice between ANSI and ISO for gaming largely depends on personal preference. Some gamers prefer the ANSI layout due to the larger size of the Enter and Shift keys, which can be more comfortable during long gaming sessions. However, others may find the ISO layout more comfortable due to its unique key placement. Ultimately, the best layout for gaming is the one that feels the most comfortable and intuitive for you.
Which Keyboard Layout Is More Ergonomic?
When it comes to ergonomics, the ANSI keyboard layout is often considered superior. The design and placement of keys in the ANSI layout prioritize user comfort and ease of use, particularly for keys that are frequently accessed.
Notably, the Enter key and the Left Shift key are positioned closer to the user in the ANSI layout. This proximity reduces the need for users to stretch their fingers or adjust their hand position significantly to reach these keys, which can help minimize strain during prolonged typing sessions.
However, it’s important to note that ergonomics can be subjective and can vary based on individual typing habits, hand size, and personal comfort. Therefore, while the ANSI layout is generally considered more ergonomic, some users may find the ISO layout more comfortable depending on their specific needs and preferences.
Can I Use ANSI if My Language Uses ISO?
Yes, you can use an ANSI keyboard even if your language typically uses an ISO layout. Modern keyboards and operating systems offer a high degree of customizability, allowing you to remap keys and adjust settings to suit your language and typing preferences.
Where Can I Find ANSI and ISO Keycaps?
ANSI and ISO keycaps can be found at various online retailers and specialty stores. Some popular options include KBDFans, MechanicalKeyboards, Epomaker, Candykeys, Amazon, Drop, and KRepublic. When purchasing keycaps, be sure to check that they are compatible with your keyboard’s layout and switch type.
What is JIS Layout?
The JIS (Japanese Industrial Standard) layout is the standard keyboard layout in Japan. It features 109 keys, with the extra keys being used for Japanese characters. One notable difference with the JIS layout is that the spacebar is significantly smaller to accommodate additional keys.
Which Keyboard Layout Should You Choose?
Choosing between the ANSI and ISO keyboard layouts ultimately comes down to your personal preferences, typing habits, and specific needs.
If you frequently use the backslash key or require an extra key for more versatile usage, you might find the ISO layout more suitable. This layout also includes the Alt Graph key, which can be particularly useful if you often type characters with diacritics.
On the other hand, if ergonomics is a priority for you, the ANSI layout might be the better choice. The ANSI layout positions frequently used keys such as the Enter key and the Left Shift key closer to the user, reducing the need to stretch your fingers or adjust your hand position significantly during typing. This can help minimize strain and enhance comfort during prolonged typing sessions.
Consider the availability of keycaps if you plan to customize your keyboard. ANSI keycaps are generally more readily available and come in a wider variety of styles compared to ISO keycaps. The ANSI layout is also more popular and more ergonomic overall, and it’s more commonly produced, so you have many more choices when it comes to brands and keycap sets.
In the end, the best keyboard layout is the one that feels the most comfortable, intuitive, and efficient for you. We recommend trying out both layouts if possible to determine which one best fits your typing style and requirements.
Choosing between the ANSI and ISO keyboard layouts is a decision that hinges on your individual needs, preferences, and the tasks you’ll be using your keyboard for. Both layouts offer unique advantages and disadvantages, with the ANSI layout often praised for its ergonomic design and availability, while the ISO layout provides an extra key for versatility and a closer Backslash key, albeit with some drawbacks such as the farther placement of the Enter and Left Shift keys and higher cost due to lesser availability.
Ultimately, the best keyboard layout is the one that feels most comfortable and efficient for you. Whether you choose ANSI or ISO, the key is to select a layout that enhances your typing experience and meets your specific needs. This guide aims to equip you with the knowledge to make an informed choice for your keyboard layout, ensuring a happy and productive typing experience.