_                    _ _  __ _   _                _       
   / \   _ __ ___  _ __ | (_)/ _(_) | |__   ___  __ _| |_ ___ 
  / _ \ | '_ ` _ \| '_ \| | | |_| | | '_ \ / _ \/ _` | __/ __|
 / ___ \| | | | | | |_) | | |  _| | | |_) |  __/ (_| | |_\__ \
/_/   \_\_| |_| |_| .__/|_|_|_| |_| |_.__/ \___|\__,_|\__|___/

Keyboard Layouts - An introduction

Let's steal a paragraph from wikipedia:

A keyboard layout is any specific physical, visual or functional arrangement of the keys, legends, or key-meaning associations (respectively) of a computer keyboard, mobile phone, or other computer-controlled typographic keyboard.

Keyboards are really cool! There are computer ones, software ones, and music ones. But I'll be writing about computer ones, and a bit of software too.

How do keyboards work?

(this is a very high-level idea of how they work)

When a key is pressed or actuated, it sends a scancode to your operating system. This details the key's row and column, not the character. The OS will convert this scancode into a binary character, using a conversion table (aka keyboard mapping). This allows you to totally change what is typed on a page, without physically changing the keyboard keys.

Key types

(care is taken to include major OS specific keys)

  • Character keys - letters, numbers, (most) punctuation, and space
  • Modifier keys - Super/Windows, Shift, Ctrl/Cmd, Alt/Cmd, Alt Gr (alternative graphic)/Option
  • Dead keys - ` (type ` and then "a", which will give you à)
  • System keys - PrtSc, Break (Ctrl+C in unix-like), Esc, Enter, Shift, Super/Windows
  • Layouts


    QWERTY layouts and variants

    Made when typewriters were made, designed to be slow to prevent the keys jamming, all the common keys are as far away from each other as possible. Though that won't stop me type at ~112 wpm

    This is the most common layout, the most common variant being the ISO (UK) as apposed to ANSI (US)


    French layout

    French/Belgian layout


    German T2 layout

    Central European "kezboard" layout, this exists because of two very important reasons:

  • T & Z often appear together in German, typewriters could jam, so placing them further apart would reduce the risk
  • Z & U appear together (zu meaning "to" auf Deutsch) so it's easier to write.
  • Then there are umlauted characters


    no image reference availabe

    Italian layout for typewriters, although computer keyboards mostly use QWERTY:

  • Z & W are swapped
  • M is moved from the right of N to L. Like AZERTY
  • Sizing and stuff

    examples of 100,80 and 60% keyboard layouts


    Dvorak layout

    named after it's author, August Dvorak. the most common keys are found in the home row


    Colemak US

    basically Dvorak and QWERTY's love child, makes it easier to learn for the uninitiated without sacrificing efficiency


    Neo layer 1

    The positions of the letters are not only optimised for German letter frequency, but also for typical groups of two or three letters. English is considered a major target as well.

    Neo layer 3

    the layers appear to allow many different character sets, although I haven't a clue


    hexagonal layout

    The honeycomb layout has hexagon keys and was invented by Typewise in cooperation with the ETH Zurich

    somewhat honourable mentions

    Maltron 3D


    this article was written on my phone, expect spelling mistakes. I turned off autocorrect in Florisboard (which is an amazing keyboard btw. qwerty ofc)