Posted in: Keyboards

ANSI vs ISO Layout: Which Better for You?

Last Updated on December 2, 2023

Recently, I’ve observed that some individuals are requesting ANSI vs ISO keyboards on a few mechanical keyboard forums. We conducted some study, and in this piece, we’ll tell you what we discovered. What variations exist between the ANSI and ISO keyboard layouts?

Two different global standards bodies are represented by the initials ANSI and ISO. The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) are two acronyms for the same organization. Both of these keyboard layouts specify the size and placement of the keys. The logical layouts like QWERTY, Colemak, Dvorak, etc. are different from these. The Enter key, Backslash, and Left Shift keys are different in size and orientation between ANSI and ISO keyboards.

Many people who use mechanical keyboards claim that the layout actually depends on the user, yet both layouts have pros and downsides.

The Importance of Keyboard Layouts

Because they can affect your comfort, productivity, and health, keyboard layouts are important. You should look into some of the alternative keyboard layouts if you don’t feel comfortable using the ANSI or ISO layout. You might be amazed at how much faster and more accessible typing in a different layout is.

What Are ANSI and ISO, Exactly?

Organizations that create international standards for a variety of goods and services are referred to as ANSI and ISO. Various standards aid in ensuring the high caliber and customer safety of these goods and services.

A private, non-profit organization known as ANSI, or the American National Standards Institute, creates voluntary standards for goods and services in the US. Companies are not compelled to adhere to ANSI standards because they are voluntary. However, many businesses opt to do this in order to guarantee that their goods reach a specific standard of quality.

A similar body that creates global standards is the International Organization for Standardization, or ISO. ISO standards are mandatory, unlike ANSI standards. Businesses must adhere to ISO standards if they want to conduct business with other ISO member nations.

How Are ANSI and ISO Used?

Both ANSI and ISO provide specifications for goods and services. Various standards aid in ensuring the high caliber and customer safety of these goods and services.

In the US, ANSI creates standards for goods and services. Because compliance with these requirements is optional, businesses are not obligated to do so. However, many businesses opt to do this in order to guarantee that their goods reach a specific standard of quality.

International standards are created by ISO. ISO standards are mandatory, unlike ANSI standards. Businesses must adhere to ISO standards if they want to conduct business with other ISO member nations.

ANSI vs ISO Layout Comparison

Enter keyA large rectangle is the enter key. In American keyboards, this is a common sight.The enter key is shaped like an upside-down L.
Backslash keyReaching the Backslash key, which is located above Enter, requires extending the fingers.Because the Backslash key is next to the Enter key, there is less reach required.
Left Shift keyThe Left and Right shift keys are the same size.The left shift key is the same size as the Ctrl key and is roughly half the size of the right shift key.
Right Alt keythe same Left and Right Alt keysThe Alt Gr key is used in place of the right Alt key.
Number of KeysFull-size keyboards have 104 keys, while ordinary tenkeyless layouts have 87 keys.88 keys for a TKL keyboard and 105 keys for a full-sized keyboard.
Commonality of keycap setsKeycaps are frequently used in ANSI layout.Less people in countries with ISO layouts purchase an ANSI keyboard just for the keycap sets, making ISO keycap sets less frequent.
ANSI vs ISO Layout Comparison

What is ANSI Layout?

A computer keyboard that adheres to the ANSI standard layout is known as an ANSI keyboard. Widely utilized in the United States, the ANSI layout is based on the QWERTY pattern. There are 101 keys on the ANSI standard keyboard, including alphabetic, punctuation, and function keys.

The function keys, which are found in the top row of the keyboard, carry out particular functions. To enter letters and numbers, use the alphanumeric keys, which are in the middle row of the keyboard. To type punctuation, press one of the punctuation keys on the bottom row of the keyboard.

Because it is simple to learn and operate, the ANSI keyboard is extensively utilized in the United States. The keys are simple to locate and use on an ANSI standard keyboard because of their uniform size and design. The ANSI keyboard is robust and able to sustain constant use.

What is ISO Layout?

What is ISO Layout?
What is ISO Layout?

The International Organization for Standardization designed the keyboard layout known as the ISO standard keyboard. It is based on the QWERTY layout but has a few extra keys that make it simpler to type in other languages. Many computer manufacturers utilize the ISO standard keyboard layout, which is also the default layout on many laptops and desktops.

Several keys on the ISO standard keyboard layout are absent from a conventional QWERTY keyboard. There are also keys for typing in different languages and keys for accented characters. The layout also includes a number of unique function keys, including an on-screen keyboard, a key for changing the keyboard layout, and a key for displaying the character map.

Disadvantages of an ISO Layout

The Enter Key is a Long Way Off

The backslash is closer on an ISO layout, however this has drawbacks like the Enter key being farther from the home row. Usually, your hands are on the front row. In ANSI, pressing Enter just requires one keystroke over another when your pinky is on the ; key. Your pinky has to jump over two keys on the ISO layout. Given that this is a key that is regularly used, this is an ergonomics issue.

Is the Backslash Really That Important?

The backslash is now closer, although that key is still infrequently used every day. I’ve only ever entered file paths in the Command Prompt or terminal window while programming.

Every time we begin a new line of text in a document, we frequently press the Enter key. Or we swiftly push the Enter key while putting something into the search bar on Google or YouTube.

The Left Shift is a Long Way Off

The Left Shift key is divided into two keys, which causes it to be roughly 1″ away from its usual location. Depending on the language, the additional key might be greater/less than symbols or a backslash. These keys are not typical ones. I push the right side while I type while holding down the left shift key. I would frequently press the additional key by accident if I were using an ISO keyboard.

Because they frequently press the backslash key by accident while trying to press another key, many people who are from nations that utilize an ISO keyboard layout use an ANSI one instead.

ANSI vs ISO Keyboard Layouts: Differences

An ISO standard keyboard has 105 keys, compared to 104 on an ANSI standard keyboard. The key positioning to the left of the Enter key is the primary distinction between the two standards.

While the ISO standard keyboard includes two keys to the left of the Enter key, the ANSI standard keyboard only has one key there. The ISO key is the additional key on the ISO keyboard. It is possible to switch the keyboard layout with the ISO key.

The ISO key is present on the ISO standard keyboard but is absent from the ANSI standard keyboard.

The majority of European nations use the ISO standard keyboard, while Americans use the ANSI standard keyboard.

ANSI and ISO: Why Are They Important?

Because they contribute to ensuring that goods and services are of a high caliber and secure for consumers, ANSI and ISO are crucial. Although adherence to ANSI standards is optional, many businesses do so to guarantee a particular caliber of their products. Companies that want to conduct business with other ISO member nations must adhere to ISO standards, which are not optional.

Keycaps for ANSI & ISO keyboards

ANSI and ISO are the two primary categories of keyboard keycaps. While ISO keycaps are more prevalent in Europe, ANSI keycaps are the most frequent kind there.

The layout of ANSI keycaps differs significantly from ISO keycaps, with the size of the Enter key being the most obvious change. Additionally, ISO keycaps lack a little lip on the bottom edge, but ANSI keycaps do.

Since they are frequently made of thicker, better-quality plastic, ISO keycaps are typically thought to be of greater quality than ANSI keycaps. The texture and color of ISO keycaps are frequently more uniform and smooth.

Which Keyboard Layout is Better: ANSI or ISO?

There is no conclusive solution to this topic as it depends on personal preferences. While some favor the ISO pattern because it offers a more condensed typing experience, some individuals prefer the ANSI layout because it delivers a more traditional typing experience. The choice of the ideal keyboard layout is ultimately with the user.

Physical Layout of the Keyboard: What Is Most Important?

Our total productivity can be significantly impacted by the way we type. The physical arrangement of the keyboard is crucial for this reason. There are several different physical keyboard layouts available, but not all of them are equal. Some are more effective for particular activities, while others are more all-purpose.

Following are the most typical physical keyboard layouts:

  • QWERTY: You’re presumably using the most common keyboard layout, known as QWERTY, right now. The first six letters on the top row of keys serve as its namesake.
  • Dvorak: A less popular keyboard layout called Dvorak was created to be more ergonomic. It is intended that this arrangement of the letters will be gentler on your hands and wrists.
  • Colemak: Similar to Dvmechanorak, Colemak is intended to be a more balanced alternative. Although some of the less common letters are moved to the home row, the QWERTY letter arrangement is retained.
  • Workman: Another ergonomic keyboard design is Workman. It is made to eliminate hand movement as little as possible, which might ease tiredness.

Which physical keyboard layout is therefore the best?

Depending on your individual demands. If you type a lot, you might want to think about using an ergonomic layout like the Dvorak or Workman.

If you touch type, a layout like Colemak that maintains the QWERTY letter arrangement might be more appealing to you. And QWERTY is definitely your best option if all you’re after is a layout that can be used by everyone.

The most crucial factor is that you feel at ease using the actual keyboard layout you chose. The design that works best for you is ultimately the best design.


Is an English keyboard ISO or ANSI?

UK keyboards are typically ISO. Although some keyboards sold as “UK” keyboards are actually ANSI. Therefore, it’s imperative to confirm the layout of the keyboard.

Which keyboard is better for gaming, ANSI or ISO?

The differences between ANSI and ISO keyboards for gaming are minimal. However, while some individuals favor the ANSI keyboard’s conventional layout, others prefer the smaller size of the ISO keyboard. Which keyboard is best for a certain gamer ultimately depends on them.

What layout does JIS use?

The Japanese Standard layout for its keys is known as the JIS layout. The JIS layout employs the Enter key, which is an upside-down L shape, divides the right shift key into two keys, divides the backspace key into two keys, and adds three extra keys to the spacebar area. In total, the JIS layout contains 5 more keys than the ANSI layout, for a total of 109 keys. Japanese character input requires the use of these additional keys.

Even though my language has an ISO layout, can I still use an ANSI keyboard?

The programmability of mechanical keyboards makes it possible to utilize an ANSI keyboard with languages that require the additional symbols and keys. The frequently used keys and symbols are better positioned on the ANSI keyboard. You can enter other layouts by pressing the key that corresponds to the desired symbol while holding down Alt and Shift.

Where can I purchase sets of ISO keycaps?

CandyKeys is a reliable source for ISO keycap purchases. They provide a wide variety of sets in various hues. Compared to the enormous diversity of ANSI keycaps, it’s not much, but it’s a nice place to start.

Drop occasionally offers ISO keycaps for group purchases. They used to have them, but none are available right now.

The ISO layout is currently supported by some sets of keycaps from KBDFans. The extra keys are available as a minor stand-alone purchase if you purchase ANSI keycap kits and then only replace those particular keys, and they also provide dye-sublimated Cherry profile keycaps, blank keycaps for a 65% and 60% keyboard, and Cherry profile keycaps.

Where can I get sets of ANSI keycaps?

Keycaps that are ANSI-compliant are widely available. When looking for these keycaps, you don’t need to type ANSI; simply searching for keycaps will return these results by default. Keycaps can be purchased through Kono, Candykeys, KBDFans, and, among other places.

ANSI vs ISO: Which Better?

Given that both the ANSI and ISO keyboard layouts have advantages and disadvantages, there is no universal agreement on which is superior. But although some people favor the ISO pattern because it allows for a more symmetrical design, others prefer the ANSI layout because it offers a dedicated key for the backspace function. The choice of the ideal keyboard layout is ultimately with the user.

Back to Top