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ANSI vs ISO keyboard layout: 5 key differences

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The keyboard is your computer’s primary input device. Without one, you’d just sit staring at the screen. Modern user interfaces rely heavily on the mouse and touch-based interactions, but the keyboard has always been and will remain the primary input for just about any application.

However, there are different types of keyboards, not just in construction and key type but also in layouts. In this article, we compare the ANSI and ISO keyboard layouts and list the major differences to know which one’s right for you. 

What are ANSI and ISO?

ANSI and ISO are just two different standards organisations. They stand for the following:

  • ANSI: American National Standards Institute
  • ISO: International Organisation for Standardisation

They’re essentially keyboard layouts that dictate the size and position of keys, specifically, the size and orientation of the Enter, Backslash and Left Shift keys. 

ANSI vs ISO keyboard layout: 5 key differences
A comparison of the ANSI and ISO layouts. | Source: Wikimedia commons

Do remember that ANSI and ISO differ from logical keyboard layouts such as QWERTY, Colemak and Dvorak, among others. 

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ANSI vs ISO: 5 key differences

As mentioned before, the main difference between the two layouts is in terms of the size and position of the keys. Here are five main differences between the two.


The ANSI layout gets the wider and rectangular Enter key, while the ISO layout features a much larger Enter key shaped like an upside-down L. 

Left Shift

ANSI keyboards have the same shaped left and right Shift keys. On ISO, however, the left Shift is about half the size of the right Shift, in most cases being just as big as the left Ctrl key. 


The ANSI layout has the backslash key directly above the Enter key. On ISO keyboards, the backslash is moved directly to the left of the Enter key. The upside-down L shape of the Enter key helps accommodate the Backslash key in its new position. 

Right Alt

ANSI keyboards have identical left and right alt keys. On ISO, however, the right Alt key is replaced with the Alt Graph (also called AltGr) key, one of the biggest reasons why people use ISO keyboards. 

What are Modifier Keys and why does your keyboard have two of them?
Modifiers can be different according to the OS or region

Total number of keys

ANSI keyboards have 104 keys in the full format and 87 in the tenkeyless format. For ISO keyboards, since they add an extra key, the count is 105 and 88 respectively. 


Here’s a quick rundown of the differences between the two keyboards.

Enter keyRectangular shapedUpside-down L shaped
Backlash keyLocated above the Enter keyLocated to the left of the Enter key
Shift keysLeft and Right Shift keys are the same sizeLeft Shift is approximately 50% smaller than Right Shift.
Alt keysLeft and Right Alt keys are the sameRight Alt key is replaced with AltGr (Alt Graph) key
Number of keys on full-size keyboards104105
Number of keys on tenkeyless keyboards8788
Number of keys on 60% keyboards6869
PopularityPopular with English typistsPopular in European regions,

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Pros and cons: ANSI vs ISO

Both keyboard layouts have some pros and cons. 

Keyboard layoutProsCons
ANSIKeys better placed for typing English
Better ergonomics
More popular
Easily available
Typing diacritics is difficult
ISOBetter support for European languages
AltGr key
Backslash key is easier to reach
Enter key is further away
Left Shift key can be difficult to reach
More expensive
Fewer options

Which one should you pick?

The layout you pick depends completely on your personal preferences and the language you use on your device.

ISO keyboards are more popular in European countries as the AltGr key helps in typing specific words that use diacritics and the keyboard is overall better suited to the region’s languages. On the other hand, ANSI is the more popular ergonomic choice for users who type in English. 

Another common keyboard layout is the JIS or the Japanese Industrial Standard layout which features a total of 109 keys, the five extra keys thrown in for Japanese characters. The JIS keyboard fits these keys by shrinking the spacebar. 

Also read: Keyboard typing backwards: 5 Fixes

Yadullah Abidi

Yadullah Abidi

Yadullah is a Computer Science graduate who writes/edits/shoots/codes all things cybersecurity, gaming, and tech hardware. When he's not, he streams himself racing virtual cars. He's been writing and reporting on tech and cybersecurity with websites like Candid.Technology and MakeUseOf since 2018. You can contact him here: