The keyboard has been the most essential input device used with computers since its invention. It is used to communicate with your computer, give commands to your computer and use fantastic shortcuts to get your work done faster. It has proved its importance over the decades. They have undergone many changes and innovations over the years, from simple keyboards to mechanical multimedia and gaming keyboards, multilingual keyboards, and wireless keyboards.
Do you know they come in different sizes and hence different layouts? You must have seen keyboards with number pads and the ones without num pad keys. In this article, we will give you a detailed overview of different types of keyboards. The most popular sequence of keys in a keyboard is derived from typewriters, which is popularly known as QWERTY, the first 6 alphabets in the top row from the left. However, there are other less popular keyboard layouts like Dvorak, COLEMAK, etc. Keyboards have keys for individual alphabets, numbers, and special symbols, along with modifier keys, navigation keys, and keys for particular tasks and functions (F1, F2, etc.).
The most common one is the keyboard with 104 keys. You must have definitely seen and used this keyboard in your office or home. The other less common keyboards are 96%, TKL, 75%, 60%, etc., which are reduced in size to address the need of people who wish for more space on their computer desk. With reducing size, of course, the number of keys gets reduced, but they are combined with other keys as dual-layer or triple layer operations. Many repetitive keys are also removed in smaller keyboards. We discuss each one of these in much detail in the following sections.
Types of Keyboard
Besides the size, there are various factors to differentiate between different types of keyboards. Here are some of the famous keyboard types:
All-purpose Keyboard: The keyboards that we generally use in our home and office are capable enough to be used for any purpose ranging from typing, data entry, programming, gaming, entertainment, etc.
Gaming Keyboard: These keyboards have unique keys and characteristics that give you a rich gaming experience and make it convenient to make the swift moves required while playing games. The size and layout of the keys are s bit extended for gaming purposes.
Mechanical Keyboard: The keyboards we usually use are membrane-based, where a rubber membrane is placed below the keys, which are connected to an IC which sends the signal to the CPU. In a mechanical keyboard, there is a spring-based switch below the key to sending a signal to the CPU instead of a membrane. The reason why mechanical keyboards are gaining popularity is they are more smooth, durable and the key returns to its original position faster and hence aids in faster typing. Besides better feedback as well as quicker and more accurate response, the other striking feature of these keyboards is that the keys are swappable. Hence you can customize them according to your preference.
Ergonomic Keyboard: As obvious from its name, these keyboards are designed to minimize physical stress on the user’s body and provide a comfortable work experience. It has an extended wrist-rest and sometimes slightly curved design to suit the natural movement of wrists. The keys are designed and placed in a way that your typing experience is more comforting for your fingers. They have height/angle adjustability options as well.
Multimedia Keyboard: It has additional keyboards to control media players, like mute, volume up and down, play, pause, stop, next and previous buttons. Some of the keys are double-layered with multimedia buttons in more compact keyboards instead of providing dedicated multimedia controls.
Flexible Keyboard: These are portable keyboards made of rubber. It can be easily rolled like paper and can be easily carried in a bag.
Foldable Keyboards: As obvious from its name, these keyboards can be bi-folded or tri-folded so that they can be easily carried into a bag.
Keyboard with touchpad: In these types of keyboards, a touchpad is integrated similar to the laptop.
Wireless Keyboards: These keyboards are not connected to the CPU or laptop using a wire, instead it uses Bluetooth connectivity or in some keyboards 2.5 GHz wireless connectivity option is provided. Some of the Bluetooth keyboards can be connected simultaneously to more than 1 device.
Split Keyboard: Yes, you heard it right. There are keyboards that are separated or split from the center so that you can keep both the palms and wrists at the desired position. It is more ergonomic and personalized. This option is available in some mechanical keyboards.
Keyboard Size Comparison Table:
Keyboard Size and Layouts
After getting an overview of different types of keyboards let’s have a look at different keyboard sizes.
Full-Sized Keyboard (100%)
Here is a typical full-size keyboard layout:
It is the standard size and most popular size of keyboards widely used in offices and homes. It is very convenient to use as the key size and the layout is well elaborated and allow free movement of fingers with minimum errors and have dedicated navigation cluster/arrow and numeric keys as well. There are a few other special keys like Insert, Delete, Page Up, Page Down, Home, and End (combinedly known as navigation cluster). The keyboard is divided into various sections, with sufficient gaps in between these sections. These sections are:
- Top Row – Function keys section (F1, F2, etc)
- Alphabet and special symbol keys section
- Numeric keypad – a compact keypad towards the right, with all numbers within easy reach
- Navigation cluster – A set of 6 keys between alphabet keys and the number pad. Includes Insert, Delete Home, End, Page Up and Page Down.
- Arrow key cluster – 4 keys for direction
The most widely used keys like the Enter key, Space key, and Backspace are also larger than other keys in these keyboards, as there are no space constraints with the full-sized keyboard. The number keypad is very useful for accountants and data entry operators who need to enter numbers very frequently. The key size generally found in full-sized keyboards is 15.5mmx15mm with 3.3 mm gap between the keys.
- It is the most popular size of the keyboard and is the largest selling across the categories.
- As it has no space constraint, there are many options for additional keys like multimedia keys, gaming keys, extra ports, etc varying from manufacturer to manufacturer
- It is available in a wide variety of designs and themes
- Most feature-rich, as mentioned earlier due to no space constraints.
- The full-sized keyboards have rich multimedia controls
- It is considered the first choice for beginner level computer and typing learners
- Also best for those who use numbers while typing extensively
- Allow for free wrist and finger movement with accuracy, as there is a sufficient gap between the keys and an even wider gap between the sections
It has all the same keys as a 100% keyboard, but the navigation cluster sections are combined with the number pad section of keys. Hence it is a bit compact in overall size than a full-sized keyboard. They are not very popular, hence you will not find many of these in the market. Other than that, it is no different than a full-sized keyboard.
The 96% Keyboard
It has most of the keys that 100% keyboard has. The only significant difference is that the gaps between the sections have been removed, and the keyboard is made compact. The only dedicated keys removed from the keyboards are the navigation keys of Home, End, Page Up, Page Down, and Insert. The layout is almost similar to the full-size keyboard, but they are not very widely used. As the gap between the sections is removed, the compact design obviously affects the typing accuracy.
- It has the same number of keys as a full-sized keyboard
- The gap between the sections is removed, hence it is compact in size
- Not much-added advantage – hence less popular
TKL stands for Tenkeyless, as the right-hand side number pad (keys 0-9) are removed and has only about 87 keys. It is also known as an 80% keyboard. The gaps between the sections are also squeezed out, but what’s amazing about it is that the key size and the gaps between the keys are still good enough, for better typing accuracy. This keyboard is considered good for people who rarely use numeric keys or are comfortable with the numeric keys provided at the top row. The TKL keyboard is compact and saves space on your desk without reducing the typing speed and accuracy.
Tenkeyless (TKL) keyboard is very popular due to its convenience and comfort, and most laptop’s keyboards are based on the concept of a Tenkeyless layout. It is also considered the most ergonomically sized keyboard, as it offers the perfect width between the elbows while using it. If you prefer a minimalist and simplistic keyboard with all the keys, then this is the keyboard you should choose for your work desk.
- The TKL keyboard retains the dedicated Fn keys row at the top (F1, F2, F3, etc.)
- The navigation cluster is provided
- A TKL keyboard offers the perfect balance of comfort, compatibility, and usability
- Offers superior ergonomic position
All the gaps between the sections are eliminated, and there is only a minimal gap between the keys. Of course, the number pad is completely removed like the TKL, the arrow keys are provided towards the right bottom, and the navigation keys cluster (Home, End, PgUp, PgDn) is placed in the extreme right column in a straight line. Unlike full-sized keyboards, the right shift key and enter key are typically smaller in size. Some keyboards provide the option to use function keys as multimedia keys, and there are windows or Mac OS compatible keyboards also available in this size. It is a popular sized keyboard among gamers, especially mechanical keyboards version.
- More compact than TKL with about 84 keys
- Minimal space between keys
- The enter and shift keys are smaller to make optimum use of the space
- The space between the top Fn row and number row is reduced
- The rest of the layout is identical to a TKL keyboard
- Considered more productive for working professionals
In a 65% keyboard, the top row with function keys is completely removed, instead, the other keys are used for functions as a dual-layer. In spite of the squeezed downsize of the keyboard, the arrow and navigation keys are retained in a 65% keyboard. The keyboard has 5 rows, with about 15 keys in each row. There are various layouts available in a 65% keyboard, especially with the placement of the arrow and navigation keys, in some keyboards they are placed in a 2×2 orientation, while in some keyboards you will find them in a single column at extreme right.
- Function keys are double layered with number keys
- Great to pair it with your laptop due to its compact size
- Provides space for mouse movement
- Most optimally sized
They are the bare minimum keyboards available with the full functionality needed to operate a keyboard. Of course, the benefit of using it is that it occupies lesser space, and is easy to carry in a laptop bag due to its lighter weight and compact size. There are certain keys like number pad, Fn keys, navigation key cluster, and arrow keys that are eliminated from this keyboard and can be found on other keys as a dual-key operation. The mechanical version of the 60% keyboard is the most popular amongst gamers due to its compact size and easy customization with swappable keys. Usually, in a 60% keyboard, WASD is used for arrows, and similarly, other alphabets or special character keys are used for other navigation purposes.
- Function keys are double layered with number keys
- Arrows keys are double layered with alphabet keys (usually WASD)
- Backspace/Delete keys are combined
- The reduced keyboard size provides space for mouse movement
- Very popular among gamers
It has only 4 rows, the top number row is completely eliminated, but guess what, the arrow keys and other navigation keys are retained, which still makes it a very functional keyboard. The dedicated caps lock is also removed along with the semi-colon key, and the space key is also smaller. Some of the keys are triple-layered to provide complete functionality. There are only 47 or 48 keys in a 40% keyboard. Again, the benefit is its compact size, lighter weight, lesser wrist movements while typing, and convenience to carry along.
- Only alphabet keys
- No function keys, number keys, or navigation keys
- Smaller space bar
- Minimum wrist movement while using
There are not many keyboards available in this category, but we would like to specially mention gherkin, which is termed as a DIY 30% mechanical keyboard. It has no other keys apart from alphabet keys, backspace, space, and the 2 function keys, but it is highly customizable. Even we are not sure what purpose does it serve, but for information purpose, we need to include it in the article
External Number Pad
If you have a TKL or smaller keyboard and now want to use a number pad as well, you can look for an external number pad. It has number keys, decimal key, mathematical operator keys (+,-,/,*), Enter key, Num Lock, Delete, and Backspace. Some of the keys are dual-layer operations to combine with functions like page-up,down, home, end, etc.
How to Choose the RIGHT Keyboard Size?
Using a particular keyboard size is purely based on individual preferences, work style, type of usage, available desk space, and any other special needs. But let us suggest some keyboards for popular requirements:
For general office work: If you need it for your general office work, including creating presentations, drafting emails, creating reports, etc., we suggest you go for a TKL keyboard. A TKL keyboard offers a perfect balance of comfort and usability and saves desk space.
For data entry work: If you are into the data entry or typing job, we suggest you go with a full-sized keyboard, or you can use a TKL keyboard with a detachable external number pad keyboard.
For Graphics/Video Editing: For this purpose, you should use a feature-rich full-sized keyboard with multimedia controls, as you will need more shortcut keys while editing the graphics, images, videos, etc.
For Gaming: As we have many gamers reading our articles keenly, we would like to suggest that it depends on what kind of games you like to play, based on the intensity of the respective game. A 60% keyboard is considered best for gamers, as it is compact and leaves a lot of desk space to use the mouse freely, and it has all the essential keys required while playing games. The mechanical versions of 60% keyboard are ideal for intense gaming sessions, but we suggest that you identify your own requirement and choose the most suitable sized keyboards.
There is a lot of variety available in keyboards in terms of type, size, features, and layout. It all boils down to your individual preferences and requirements, based on the nature of your work. The keyboard sizes are all very practical and fulfill their respective objectives. If you use the computer very extensively, you definitely require a good and perfectly suitable keyboard to enhance your performance and safeguard your physical well-being. I hope you loved reading this insightful article and were able to identify which type of keyboard will complement your requirement.
If you decided on the size, these articles might be helpful to you: