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Before making a purchase, it is necessary to have a solid understanding of the distinctions between ANSI and ISO keyboards. Both of them are going to be compared in this article.

When it comes to ergonomics and convenience of use, the layout of a keyboard is one of the most significant factors to consider. This is particularly true for those who use keyboards often, such as typists, programmers, and gamers.

You may have heard of ANSI and ISO if you’ve been looking for a new keyboard and have came across any of those acronyms. These are the two most prevalent keyboard layouts, particularly in Western nations; they generate a great deal of difficulty for many individuals when they are attempting to choose a new keyboard.

In this post, the distinctions between the ANSI and ISO layouts will be discussed so that you may choose which one is most appropriate for you to use.

ANSI vs. ISO: What Are They?


The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) are two of the organisations that work to establish agreed standards for goods. The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) are responsible for the creation of the two primary physical layouts for keyboards that are now in use.

The size of the keys and where they are located are determined by the physical arrangement. Both ANSI and ISO keyboards are quite comparable, varying in just a few aspects that will be discussed in the following paragraphs. Both ANSI and ISO do not make any changes to the visual layout, which is what decides the order of the numerical and alphabetical keys.

QWERTY and Dvorak are both examples of visual layouts; however, the arrangement of the keys on both layouts may vary significantly depending on the language or programme being used. When using Windows, you have the ability to quickly switch between several graphic layouts.

The ANSI keyboard layout is the one that is used the most often, notably in the United States. On the other hand, the ISO keyboard is more often used in European countries.

ANSI vs. ISO: 5 Key Differences

The ANSI keyboard layout and the ISO keyboard layout each have five distinct deviations from one another. The enter key, the left Shift key, the backslash key, the right Alt key, and the Alt Graph (AltGr) key are arranged differently and have different shapes on the QWERTY keyboard.

1. Enter Key

On the ANSI layout, the enter key is broad and rectangular, while on the ISO layout, the enter key is considerably wider and taller, shaped like an upside-down L. This difference is due to the fact that the ANSI layout was developed before the ISO layout.

2. Left Shift Key

The left and right shift keys on an ANSI keyboard are the same size, and they are both long and rectangular in shape. The key for the left shift on the ISO layout is about one-half as large as the key for the right shift (at about the same size as the left Ctrl key).

3. Backslash Key

The backslash key is located on the ANSI keyboard layout just above the enter key and is the same size as the right Ctrl key. It is the key that is immediately to the left of the enter key on an ISO keyboard.

4. Right Alt Key

On an ANSI keyboard, the right Alt key and the left Alt key behave exactly the same way. On an ISO keyboard, the Alt Graph key is located in the position formerly occupied by the right Alt key.

5. The Number of Keys

When it is at its full size, an ANSI keyboard has 104 keys, but when it is in its compact version, it only has 87 keys. In its full size configuration, an ISO keyboard has 105 keys, while in its compact version, it has 88 keys (one extra). The image that follows demonstrates the layout for a small (tenkeyless) keyboard that conforms to both ANSI and ISO standards.

Advantages of the ISO Layout

1. The Alt Graph Key

Because it has the Alt Graph key, which is often referred to as the AltGr key, the ISO layout is quite common in Europe and other parts of the world. Users will have an easier time typing characters that feature diacritics as a result of this key. A letter may have its sound altered by the addition of a minuscule sign known as a diacritic. An example of this would be the acute accent (รก).

When a character has more than two different diacritics that may be applied to it, the Alt Graph key is used to access the third and fourth potential variations. If you do not have access to the Alt Graph key, it is still feasible to use these symbols; however, you will need to use a different workaround, which may slow down your typing pace. Remapping your keys is one of the remedies available to you.

2. A Closer Backslash Key

It is considerably simpler to access the backslash key now that it has been moved to the position just to the left of the enter key. This may be of great use to software engineers as well as other individuals who want access to it on a much more regular basis than is typical. Outside of the realm of computer programming, the backslash key is not a frequently used key.

Disadvantages of the ISO Layout

1. The Enter Key Is Further Away

Because the enter key is reduced on an ISO layout in order to accommodate the backslash key, it is located farther to the right. Due to the fact that it is one of the most often used keys, this presents a significant challenge in terms of ergonomics.

Because the enter key is utilised in normal usage far more often than the backslash key, the ANSI layout has this benefit, which is an advantage over other keyboard layouts. Therefore, for the vast majority of users, it will be far more necessary to have access to the enter key than it will be to have access to the backslash key.

2. Far Away Left Shift Key

On an ISO keyboard layout, the left shift key is reduced so that space may be made for a backslash key or a greater/less key. The left shift key is often used far more frequently than the backslash key or the greater/less key. As a result, the reduction in size of the left shift key is bad news not just for ergonomics but also for overall usability.

3. Cost and Availability

Since keyboards with an ISO layout are used far less often than those with an ANSI layout, it may be difficult to locate one. Because of this, ISO keyboards are often more costly and come with a reduced number of customization choices. Finding keycap sets that are ISO compliant might also be challenging.

A Quick Word on the The JIS Layout

The JIS (Japanese Industrial Standard) layout is the third most prevalent standardised keyboard layout. JIS stands for Japanese Industrial Standard. The total number of keys on this layout is 109, and it is the standard one in Japan. For Japanese characters, you need the five additional keys on your keyboard. In order to make room for some of these extra keys, the space bar in this JIS layout has been shrunk somewhat.

Which Keyboard Layout Should You Choose?

In general, the ANSI keyboard layout is the one that most people use since it is more ergonomic. The substantially improved user experience may be attributed to the longer left shift and enter keys. Because it is manufactured on a much larger scale, you have a far wider variety of options to choose from when it comes to the brands and keycap sets.

Nevertheless, the ISO format is significant for a number of nations. This is due to the fact that the Alt Graph (AltGr) key provides access to characters that are often used in certain languages. However, if you have a keyboard that is completely programmable, you won’t have to worry about this issue. It is feasible to programme extra keys so that they can accommodate all of the characters that are necessary for your language.

It’s Your Choice!

It is a question of personal taste, as well as usability and ergonomics, to choose either the ANSI or the ISO layout. Ergonomics are of utmost importance for the many users whose professions or hobbies need them to spend extended periods of time typing on a keyboard. If you are familiar with the distinctions between these two standard layouts, you will be able to choose the one that is most suited to your needs.

Unless there is no other choice available to you, we strongly suggest opting with the ANSI keyboard. Nevertheless, the option that is most suited to meet your requirements should be the one you go with.

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