Keyboards are an essential tool in our daily lives, whether we use them for work, gaming, or casual browsing. While many people may take them for granted, understanding the anatomy and layout of a keyboard can greatly enhance our typing experience. In this article, we will delve into the various components of a keyboard and explore different layouts to help you make an informed decision when choosing the right keyboard for your needs.

The Anatomy of a Keyboard:

Function Row

At the top of most keyboards, you’ll find a row of keys known as the function row or F-row. This row typically consists of twelve function keys labeled F1 to F12. These keys have various functions depending on the software or operating system you’re using. They can be customized to perform specific tasks, such as adjusting volume, controlling media playback, or launching applications.


The alpha keys, also known as the main keys or letter keys, are the heart of any keyboard. They include all the letters of the alphabet, numbers, and punctuation marks. The arrangement of these keys follows the QWERTY layout, which is the most common keyboard layout in use today. The QWERTY layout was designed to reduce typewriter jams by separating frequently used letters.


Modifiers are keys that modify the input of other keys when pressed in combination. The most common modifier keys are Shift, Control (Ctrl), Alt, and the Windows/Command key. Holding down the Shift key, for example, allows you to type capital letters or access additional characters on certain keys. Modifier keys are essential for keyboard shortcuts and can significantly increase your productivity.

Navigation and Arrow Keys

Navigation keys are used to move the cursor or navigate through documents and web pages. They typically include the arrow keys (up, down, left, and right), the Home, End, Page Up, and Page Down keys. These keys are especially useful when editing text or navigating spreadsheets. The arrow keys allow precise movement within a document or webpage, while the Home key takes you to the beginning of a line or document, and the End key takes you to the end. The Page Up and Page Down keys allow you to scroll through content quickly.


The numpad is a separate set of keys located on the right side of many full-sized keyboards. It consists of numbers, arithmetic operators, and additional function keys. The numpad is commonly used by accountants, data entry personnel, and anyone who frequently performs numerical calculations. It provides a convenient and efficient way to input numbers and perform calculations without relying solely on the number row at the top of the keyboard. However, not all keyboard layouts include a numpad, as smaller form factor keyboards often sacrifice it for compactness.

Common Keyboard Layouts:


The 100% layout is the standard full-sized keyboard layout that includes all the keys mentioned above. It offers a comprehensive set of keys, including the numpad, and is suitable for those who require a complete set of inputs for their work or gaming activities. The 100% layout is commonly found in office settings and is a versatile option for general computer use.

96% or 1800

The 96% or 1800 layout is a slightly more compact version of the 100% layout. It removes the rightmost column of keys, including the numpad, to reduce the overall size while maintaining most of the functionality. This layout is a popular choice for those who want a more streamlined keyboard without sacrificing too many keys. The 96% or 1800 layout is often preferred by individuals who need a dedicated arrow cluster but can work without a numpad.

TKL (Tenkeyless)

The TKL layout is even more compact, removing the entire numpad and the corresponding navigation keys. This results in a smaller footprint, making it ideal for those with limited desk space or for those who prefer to have more room for mouse movement. TKL keyboards are commonly favored by gamers as they provide ample space for mouse maneuverability. The absence of the numpad can also contribute to a more ergonomic typing position, allowing the mouse to be positioned closer to the keyboard.

75% (Expanded and Compact)

The 75% layout strikes a balance between compactness and functionality. It retains the main alphanumeric keys and the arrow keys but removes the rightmost column and the numpad. The compact version further reduces the size by integrating the function row into the number row, requiring the use of modifier keys to access the function keys. These layouts are popular among both gamers and typists who desire a smaller footprint without sacrificing essential keys.


The 65% layout is another compact option that retains the arrow keys and some additional keys while sacrificing the function row and the navigation cluster. This layout often includes dedicated arrow keys on the right side or integrates them with other keys using modifier combinations. The 65% layout strikes a balance between size and functionality, catering to users who require arrow keys but still want a smaller form factor.


The 60% layout is one of the most compact options available. It removes the function row, the navigation cluster, and the rightmost column of keys. The arrow keys are typically accessed through a secondary function layer. The 60% layout is favored by minimalist enthusiasts and those who value portability and desk space. This compact layout is often paired with custom keycaps and programmable layers, allowing users to customize their keyboard experience further.


The 40% layout takes compactness to the extreme, often eliminating the number row and requiring the use of multiple layers to access all characters. These keyboards are highly customizable and popular among keyboard enthusiasts who prioritize efficiency and customization over traditional layouts. Due to their small size, they can be carried easily and are a great option for those who are always on the go or have limited desk space.

Unconventional layouts: endless possibilities

In addition to the common keyboard layouts mentioned above, there are unconventional layouts that offer unique alternatives for those seeking a different typing experience. Two such layouts are ortholinear (ortho) and split keyboards.

Ortho layouts, short for ortholinear layouts, arrange the keys in a grid-like pattern rather than the staggered arrangement of traditional keyboards. This means that the keys are aligned vertically and horizontally, creating a more uniform layout. Ortho keyboards promote a more ergonomic typing posture by reducing finger movement and minimizing hand strain. They can help improve typing accuracy and speed over time, as the keys are positioned in a more logical and consistent manner.

Split keyboards take ergonomics a step further by physically separating the keyboard into two halves. The two halves can be positioned to match the natural angle of the user’s hands and shoulders, reducing strain and promoting a more comfortable typing position. Split keyboards are particularly beneficial for individuals who experience wrist or hand discomfort, such as those with repetitive strain injuries (RSIs). These keyboards often come with customizable layouts and tenting options, allowing users to adjust the angle and position to suit their individual needs.

Both ortho and split keyboards offer unconventional layouts that may require an adjustment period for users accustomed to traditional keyboards. However, they provide ergonomic benefits and the potential for increased comfort and efficiency once users become familiar with the new layout. These layouts are popular among keyboard enthusiasts, programmers, and individuals seeking a more personalized and ergonomic typing experience.

What Keyboard Layout is Right for You?

Choosing the right keyboard layout depends on your personal preferences and specific requirements. If you frequently work with numbers, a full-sized or 96% layout with a numpad may be beneficial. Gamers often prefer TKL or smaller layouts to optimize their gaming experience. Typists who value a compact and minimalist setup may opt for 65%, 60%, or even 40% layouts.

Consider factors such as your desk space, typing habits, need for specific keys, and portability requirements when selecting a keyboard layout. Additionally, it’s worth trying out different layouts before making a purchase to ensure your comfort and productivity. Keep in mind that customizing your keyboard layout, using programmable layers or remapping keys, can also provide a tailored experience based on your preferences.


Understanding the anatomy and various keyboard layouts can greatly enhance your typing experience. Whether you’re a professional, a gamer, or simply a computer enthusiast, choosing the right keyboard layout is crucial. Take into account your specific needs, preferences, and ergonomic considerations when selecting a keyboard layout. With the right keyboard, you can enhance your productivity, reduce discomfort, and truly enjoy the art of typing. So, explore the options, try different layouts, and find the keyboard that best suits your style and requirements. Happy typing!