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.
Do remember that ANSI and ISO differ from logical keyboard layouts such as QWERTY, Colemak and Dvorak, among others.
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.
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.
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.
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.
ANSI vs ISO
Here’s a quick rundown of the differences between the two keyboards.
|Enter key||Rectangular shaped||Upside-down L shaped|
|Backlash key||Located above the Enter key||Located to the left of the Enter key|
|Shift keys||Left and Right Shift keys are the same size||Left Shift is approximately 50% smaller than Right Shift.|
|Alt keys||Left and Right Alt keys are the same||Right Alt key is replaced with AltGr (Alt Graph) key|
|Number of keys on full-size keyboards||104||105|
|Number of keys on tenkeyless keyboards||87||88|
|Number of keys on 60% keyboards||68||69|
|Popularity||Popular with English typists||Popular in European regions,|
Pros and cons: ANSI vs ISO
Both keyboard layouts have some pros and cons.
|ANSI||Keys better placed for typing English|
|Typing diacritics is difficult|
|ISO||Better support for European languages|
Backslash key is easier to reach
|Enter key is further away|
Left Shift key can be difficult to reach
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