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ANSI vs ISO Keyboard Layouts Simply Explained & Compared

A computer keyboard is an input device that allows one to enter characters and functions into your computer system by pressing buttons or keys. It is the primary text entry device. A keyboard usually has individual keys for letters, numbers, and special characters, plus keys for specific functions. User comfort and convenience are important when typing and require you to consider keyboard layouts.

There are numerous keyboard arrangements, which can be troubling and confusing to users who are unfamiliar with them.

ANSI and ISO  are abbreviations for two different world standards organizations. They are distinct but widely used keyboard layouts.  ANSI refers to the American National Standards Institute, while ISO represents the International Organization for Standardization.

The arrangement of the keys and legends is known as the keyboard layout. The positioning of the keys on the keypad is referred to as the layout.

Each layout will differ slightly from the other, with the primary difference being the Enter Key, Left Shift Key, Right Alt Key, and a few more keys. Several keys in each layout are different in size, shape, and position.

ANSI vs ISO Keyboard Layouts Explained

ANSI and ISO are the most widely used keyboard layouts; where ANSI is available worldwide, while ISO is specific to only a few locations.

This post will discuss everything you need to know about both keyboard layouts extensively., Stick around to find out which keyboard layout is suited accordingly.

American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Keyboard Layout

International Business Machines (IBM) introduced the ANSI arrangement, which finally became the common layout in the US. Microsoft adjusted a few changes in 1995, adding new keys such as Alternate (Alt) and Control (Ctrl), plus the Windows key, while the other keys stayed unchanged.

If you come across an ANSI layout keyboard that was made before 1995, it contains 101 keys. After the changes, this layout is now composed of 104 keys which include function, punctuation, and alphanumeric.

The task keys are positioned on the top line of the keyboard and are used to execute certain functions. The alphamerical keys, found in the middle row of the keyboard, are for typing numbers and letters, while the punctuation keys, which are situated in the base row, are for typing punctuation marks.

The keyboard is simple to learn and is commonly utilized in the United States. Furthermore, an ANSI layout possesses a standard shape and size, that is simple to locate and utilize the keys. The keyboard layout is also long-lasting and can handle heavy usage.

Pros and Cons of ANSI Layout

the ANSI keyboard layout has several pros and cons, just like many keyboard layouts.


These are the advantages of using the ANSI keyboard layout:

Perfect For English Typists

ANSI stands for American National Standards Institute, which means that this ANSI was created with English typing standards in mind. The overall vital placements and design in the ANSI keyboard layout are ideal for English typists, though they can also be used for other languages. Their key placement is unquestionably an advantage for professional typists, allowing them to type faster and with fewer errors.


These keyboards are commonly used for their comfortability, which improves ergonomics while typing. The keyboard’s keys are uniformly installed, enabling you to write more often and quickly. The placement of the shift key (wide) and Enter key is simpler to access, making you more comfortable when typing continuously.


The ANSI keyboard layout is more generally and widely used than the ISO keypad; thus, it has been made easily available to customers in the market.


Below are the disadvantages of the ANSI keyboard layout:

Functionality Restrictions

The ANSI keyboard layout lacks an extra key that enables you to insert another key, such as another symbol or dialect. However, you can purchase the keyboard layout and reschedule it to adjust the keys needed to type in your desired dialect.

Backslash Key Positioning

Some difficulties may occur if one often uses the backslash key of the ANSI keyboard layout. This is because, in contrast to the ISO keyboard layout, the backslash key is situated over the enter key, demanding you to reach out further to access the key.

International Organization for Standardization (ISO) Keyboard Layout

The ISO keyboard layout was created by The International Organization for Standardization. The layout is mainly used in European countries because its design and structure correspond to their country’s standardization and circumstances. Contrary to the ANSI keyboard layout, this ISO layout has one extra key on the keypad.

For full-size keyboards, the ISO layout physically includes 105 keys. It is found on the QWERTY layout yet includes some extra keys to make typing in worldwide languages easier. Many computer manufacturers use the ISO keyboard layout since it is the automated layout on most computers and laptops.

Several keys on the layout are missing from a traditional standard layout. These include keys for typing in other languages along and accented character keys. ISO layout also has keys for switching the keyboard layout, accessing the software keyboard, and viewing the character map.

Pros and Cons of ISO Layout

The ISO layout has several pros and cons, just like many keyboard layouts.


The advantages of an ISO keyboard layout include the following:

Presence of the Alt Graph Key

ISO keyboard layout uses an Alt Gr key instead of the other alternate key. ISO layout is majorly used in the European Union because they have a tradition of typing symbols more than the United States. In this case, the Alt Gr key functions as a typographic meta key that generates a third symbol when you click on it

The Alt Graph allows typers to access specific characters by using diacritics, which are symbols that are placed above or below letters to indicate different pronunciations. The grave accent (è) is one example.

Presence of a close Backslash Key

The backslash key is located next to Enter key on the left in the layout, which can be useful for most users when typing. This Backslash key placement is beneficial to programmers and developers since the key is frequently used when typing program source code.

The use of the Backslash key in typing daily is minimal, if not non-existent. However, from the perspective of a programmer, the key will be extremely useful because of coding purposes.


The drawbacks of an ISO keyboard layout include the following:

The Enter Key is situated far away

The ISO keypad has an L-shaped Enter key that is adjacent to the back slant key, making it far away located to the center row of the keyboard. This distance is challenging for the user since Enter key is commonly used when typing.

The Shift Key is situated far away

The shift key on the left is divided into two keys; it is half the size in the ISO layout. This is considered a major disadvantage since the left shift key is half the normal size. Therefore, users who frequently use the shift key on the left when typing might accidentally hit the key that is located next to it. The likelihood of mistakes is higher.


The keyboard is typically more expensive than the ANSI keyboard for several reasons. ISO keyboards are in short supply due to their low demand, making the prices increase. Also, they are not widely accessible in the market.

Key Differences Between ANSI and ISO Keyboard Layout

1. The Number of Keys

On the ANSI keyboard layout, a full-sized keyboard has 104 keys, while a compact keyboard is made up of 87 keys. ISO has one extra key making it 105 keys on full-sized keyboards and 88 on compact keyboards.

That extra button on fully programmable ISO keyboards initiates what a user instructs. It simply allows you to insert another key. It could be another language, a symbol, or something else.

2. Shift Key on the Left

The shift key on the left is one of the most effective and important keys on the keypad as it plays an important part in the keyboard, making it efficient and user-friendly when typing.

Both Shift keys on the left and right side,  in ANSI Layout, are wide and parallelly located, implying that they are identical. On the other hand, for the ISO keypad layout, the Shift keys are slightly different in size and location, with the Shift key on the left side nearly half the size of the Shift key on the right.

In the ISO keypad layout, the shift key at the left is identical to the Control key that is set up underneath it. This causes some issues for users, mostly when typing. One might inadvertently hit the key next to the shift key, contrary to the key needed by the user.

3. The Enter Key

At first glance, the difference in the enter key is evident since this is a well-known feature that differentiates both keypad layouts.

The  Enter key in the ANSI keypad layout has a rectangular shape and is wider in size, approximately the same size as the CapsLock button, which is situated to the left, while in the ISO keypad, the Enter Key is L-shaped therefore, it takes up less horizontal space and more vertical space than in the ANSI keyboard layout.

The placement of the Enter key in both ANSI and ISO keypad layouts is the same. But, if the user mostly uses the Enter key while typing, then the ANSI keyboard layout is better since it is easier to access.

4. The Alt key on the right

In the ANSI keyboard layout, the alternate keys on both sides are exactly the same in size, and they take up the same space on the keypad. In the ISO keypad layout, the Alt key on the right is substituted with an Alt Gr key; the Alt Gr key is used to perform extra functions with the keys.

5. The backslash key

In both keyboard layouts, the backslash key is situated differently.

For the ANSI keypad layout, the backslash key is located just above the Enter key, and when it comes to size, the key is identical to the right Ctrl key. Whereas, In the ISO keypad layout, the key is positioned to the left just next to the Enter key.

Despite the fact that the location of the Backslash key has a minor impact since it is used less when typing, it can be considered when deciding between ANSI and ISO keyboard layouts.

ANSI vs ISO Keyboard Layouts: Conclusion

Although the two layouts have differences in many aspects, utilizing an ISO keyboard layout has proven to be more difficult than using an ANSI layout keyboard. However, some languages, typically in European countries, cannot be used without the ISO keyboard layout.

Except for the Enter, Shift, and Backslash keys, the two keyboards are similar regarding where the keys are placed. The ANSI keyboard layout has a modest advantage over the ISO  because it offers superior ergonomics for wrist position and seamless finger motion across the keypad.


Which Keyboard Layout Is Better for Gaming?

ANSI keyboards are considered more comfortable for gaming due to the larger size of the enter and shift keys, However, some gamers may prefer the ISO layout because it has a shorter shift key and a separate alt graph key. Finally, the user must decide which layout is best for their gaming needs; the keyboard difference will not make a significant difference in the end.

What Is the JIS Layout?

The JIS layout is the Japanese Standard layout for their keys. This layout uses an upside-down L-shaped Enter key, divides the backspace key into two keys, divides the right shift key into two keys, and includes three additional keys within the spacebar space. In total, the JIS layout has 5 more keys than the ANSI keyboard layout, for a total of 109 keys. These additional keys are required for Japanese characters.

Is It Difficult To Switch From ISO to ANSI?

It is easier to transition from ISO to ANSI than the other way around. In ANSI, for example, the shift key on the left is longer. However, if you are an ISO layout user and press I in the same location, you will still hit the shift. The opposite is much more difficult (adapting to a shorter shift).

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