32

I'm a programmer, and a touch-typist, and so type best when the keys I use are where I expect them to be. Perhaps because I'm American, and do most of my work on Apple computers, I expect the keyboard to have a bar-shaped Enter key, a backslash/pipe key immediately above the enter key, and a bar-shaped backspace key:

Dell keyboard with bar-shaped return key:

Dell keyboard with bar-shaped return key

Unfortunately, when I order new (non-Apple) equipment I often receive keyboards with a completely different L-shaped return key, the backslash/pipe key placed in the top row, and a teenie backspace key:

Gateway keyboard with L-shaped return key:

Gateway keyboard with L-shaped return key

Keyboards like this drive me nuts, and I'd like to avoid them as much as possible. However, here's the problem: I don't know what to call the keyboard layout that I prefer, so I can't read a computer's specs and know whether it includes a "good" keyboard.

Without a specific term for this type of keyboard, I'm reduced to examining any image I can see of the keyboard, looking for the shape of the return key. Even then, I'll sometimes see a "good" keyboard in the marketing material, but when my order actually arrives it will include a "bad" keyboard. (BTW, I'm sure there are those who love L-shaped return keys, and I mean no disrespect by calling such keyboards "bad", but when evaluated in the light of my personal needs that is what they are.)

They're all QWERTY keyboards, but is there a keyboard layout name which specifies what I want?

  • Keyboards are cheap and interchangeable (except for laptops, obviously); buy one that you know you like and throw away the one that came with the computer. – Roger Lipscombe Nov 8 '14 at 12:15
  • 11
    I don't see how this has anything to do with the keyboards being "non-Apple"; more like being from the 1970s. I haven't seen a tiny backspace key like that in decades. – Lightness Races in Orbit Nov 8 '14 at 19:42
  • I overcome this kind of problems by making sure to see the product's appearance before the purchase for product types where it matters (basically, everything outside the system unit). – ivan_pozdeev Nov 8 '14 at 19:59
  • 3
    Wow! One of the old programmable Gateway2000 keyboards! Those things were GREAT! You can probably get a ton of money for this on Ebay! – Bob Jarvis Nov 9 '14 at 3:58
  • 1
    Bar-shaped Enter key? I'd call it a great place to have a drink! – Daniel R Hicks Nov 9 '14 at 14:44
10

The Gateway keyboard in your image is definitely not the British/UK keyboard layout (as mentioned in the other answer), which doesn't only have different symbol positions but also different key shapes. Its Enter ↵ key is a mirrored L shape like the symbol instead of a 180°-rotated one like on the ISO, UK and German keyboards. It has the Backwards-L layout and the bar-shaped version has the ANSI layout

All Enter key shapes

Backwards L-shaped

A "backwards-L shaped" (or just "L-shaped") Return key is the union of the ISO and ANSI Return keys. The key is often called Big-ass Enter because of its size, or Asian enter because it is found on many East Asian keyboards.

There have been studies that have shown it to be easier to hit accurately than the ISO and ANSI Return keys.

However, with the backwards-L shaped Return key, the \ key has to be relocated, often at the expense of having a smaller backspace or right shift key.

Many many people call it the J-shaped enter key as well. Here is the real US keyboard with that layout

Backwards-L enter with smaller shift

compared to the British one with completely different keys for the symbols

UK keyboard

When you see the single-row Enter key, that is the US-ANSI layout. IBM suffered terribly when it added an extra key between Left-Shift and Z on the Selectric III, so when it came to designing the Extended Layout with which most of us are now familiar, someone recognised the folly of the Selectric III and suggested cutting the large enter key in half to accommodate the \ key.

On ISO keyboards, the Enter key is usually still the size of the ANSI Enter plus the \ key and, prior to MS messing up the bottom row with the Windows keys, the \ was often placed in the single space position between Ctrl and Alt. Since the introduction of Windows keys, the placement of \ on ISO keyboards has wandered. Sometimes, the Enter key is narrowed at the bottom so that \ can sit beside . Sometimes the Backspace key is halved so that \ sits beside =. The last and least desired placement is back in that increasingly annoying position of between Left-Shift and Z.

What's the advantage of a L-shaped "enter" key vs. a regular (one-row high) "enter" key?

IIRC in the past (like 15-20 years ago or more) I've always seen the backwards-L enter key in my country (Vietnam), which uses standard US keyboard layout. On most keyboards the backslash is put on the left of R-Shift key like in the first image, which results in a better typing experience since no keys are too small. On some others it's moved to the left of backspace, resulting in a tiny square backslash key without text label, only a symbol like in the below image. And then when laptops became more common the desktop keyboards began changing to the ANSI rectangular enter key like that.

A little bit of my own history: I remembered around 1995-1997 I went to my uncle's house and while playing some spacecraft shooting game I realized that there are 2 similar keys named (as you can see in the big-ass keyboard above). I tried pressing the upper one (which turns out to be the backspace) to see if it moves left or not and suddenly I got a much stronger weapon and easily passed level 5, which no one could do before

While searching on the internet I also find a strange layout where the backslash is moved to the right of the R-Shift key. I don't think anyone will be a fan of this, since typing a backslash is now too hard

Keyboard with backslash on the right of R-Shift

FYI Apple did produced keyboards in backwards-L layout like that

Apple keyboard with backwards-L layout

Here is a detailed comparison between layouts

layout comparison

A comparison of common mechanical computer keyboard layouts. Keys that are not present in them all are highlighted in pink (alphanumeric) and dark-grey (modifier). Keys that are sometimes omitted are shown with interrupted outlines. Note that the 104th key on the ABNT layout is located in the numpad section and therefore not visible. From left to right, top to bottom:

  • 101 keyboard, common in North America, Asia, Oceania
  • 101 alternate, common in Asia and Russia
  • 102 keyboard, common in Europe, Latin America
  • 103 keyboard, used in South Korea
  • 104 keyboard, used in Brazil
  • 106 keyboard, used in Japan

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keyboard_layout#Mechanical_layouts

The second version is common in Asia and Russia, which explains why I saw them a lot in the past

You can also see various types of Enter ↵ key if you open Microsoft Keyboard Layout Creator

MKLC Enter key

Further reading

  • 1
    Whoa! Nice answer! Thanks! (And good work giving sources for everything.) – Daniel Griscom Oct 20 '18 at 18:45
33

Apparently the 'bar' shaped return key is a US layout and the reverse L-shaped return key is a UK/ISO layout - When specifically requesting a reverse L-shaped return key, you can probably ask for an ISO layout keyboard. The bar-shaped enter key is an ANSI layout (according to the comment by the OP).

In my experience the US layout is much more common on laptops (though, I have a British layout Thinkpad), and most English language desktop keyboards outside the UK seem to have bar-style enter keys.

  • 5
    Ahah! Chasing that reference gives me the answer: the "US layout" is actually an ANSI layout. Bingo! – Daniel Griscom Nov 8 '14 at 4:28
  • 5
    Other keys aside, the "L-shaped" Enter key derives from the IBM Selectric keyboard. Its proper name is therefore "correct." :D – Jamie Hanrahan Nov 8 '14 at 10:18
  • 1
    Considering the intent of the question, I intentionally chose not to mention this little fact ;p. – Journeyman Geek Nov 8 '14 at 10:25
  • 5
    'most common desktop keyboards outside the UK' -- I can state that Croatian keyboards are usually (and preferably to Croats) ISO layout, so I'm not sure the 'outside the UK' statement is accurate, especially given it references to a very, very large portion of the world. – Ivan Vučica Nov 8 '14 at 17:50
  • @IvanVučica It's not accurate. German keyboards have a vertical return key. Perhaps "english language keyboards outside the UK" would be a better expression – Tymric Nov 8 '14 at 18:13

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.