bitguru blog

a guru of bits, or just a bit player?

ANSI vs. ISO keyboards

Posted by bitguru on May 23, 2008

ISO (top) and ANSI (bottom) keyboardsNorth America mostly uses ANSI keyboards. Europe mostly uses ISO keyboards. The layouts are similar, but ISO has a few extra keys. An ANSI keyboard usually has two keys between L and Return, while ISO usually has three. Also, ANSI places Z adjacent to the left Shift key, but ISO has an intervening key. To allow for this, ANSI has a wider left Shift key than ISO.

I own a couple of ISO keyboards. I bought them on eBay in early 2006 because they were the cheapest USB keyboards I could find at the time. I can’t really type on them, though, because my left pinky consistently hits the intervening key when it is hunting for the Shift key. (My right pinky also has some trouble with Return, but not to the same extent.)

The image to the right shows an ISO keyboard on top and an ANSI keyboard on the bottom. The ISO model is a Silicon Graphics SK-2502U. The ANSI model is an Inland “Windows 107-Key USB Keyboard” (which, at $4.99, just may be the cheapest keyboard for Mac Mini). Note the width of the left Shift keys and the relative location of the Z keys.

Now take a look at the European Dell Vostro 1310 keyboard shown below. Dell has inadvertently created a hybrid ANSI/ISO layout. This is no good because they have shifted all the letters on the bottom row one slot rightward from where a touch-typist would expect them to be!

Dell Vostro 1310 keyboardThe Z should be below A and S (in both ANSI and ISO) but on this laptop the Z is below S and D. Oops.

Dell admits its blunder and will provide replacement keyboards.

The Vostro keyboard error has received a lot of press on the web, but to my knowledge noone has mentioned the ANSI vs. ISO issue. It would seem to explain how this astounding error could have been made when the North American Vostro keyboard was adapted for European release.

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