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Looking at different standalone or notebook keyboards, you'll notice a difference in key sizes and orientation. For some it's not so critical, while for others, like the Enter (Return) key, it is. Some versions are narrow (vertical) and others wide (horizontal).

Does anybody know of any research or papers about why some manufacturers are so set in their key size decisions?

For example, I prefer the wide variant and because of that, I'll probably never buy a Toshiba notebook (they almost always use the narrow version).

Personally I find it an interesting question because when offering such an expensive device, they lose me just because they're stuck on such a tiny characteristic.

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i really thought this was gonna be a cryptoanalysis question. that'll teach me to read the tags, huh? – quack quixote Oct 19 '09 at 8:32
~quack: same here. I just couldn't make sense of "orientation" in that context ... and then he talked about the Enter key :-) – Joey Oct 19 '09 at 8:39
So why don't you edit the question and add the word "keyboard" somewhere in the title? – innaM Oct 19 '09 at 9:00
@manni: cause the tags handle the ambiguity, if i remember to look. title's already long enough, and it's accurate for the question. – quack quixote Oct 19 '09 at 10:03
up vote 3 down vote accepted

There are several aspects involved with designing a keyboard:

alt text

  • The overall size of the keys is also related to the amount of words typed per minute, according to this 'old' study from 1992 (pdf). The larger the keys, the more words per minute.
  • Error rate will most likely also have some importance, there will be an optimal key size (and layout) where 'Average Joe' will make the least errors while typing
  • Tradition, the keyboards have always been made a certain way and they just keep doing it, since nobody complains (loud enough). But also because some legacy keyboards needed Enter or Backspace more (or less), so they changed the key size to the importance of the key.
  • Manufacturing, changing your keyboard layout means you have to make new molds and everything. Which off course is a costly matter, so they probably prefer sticking with what they have.

Too bad you can't download most of the journals, unless you're at a university with access to them. Though I hope this already explains it a bit ;-)

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