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ANSI Vs ISO Keycaps: Key Differences (2022)

Computer keyboards come with a variety of layouts, of which the two most common physical keyboard layouts are ANSI and ISO. While they both have the same purpose, they differ in their design.

Both have their pros and cons, so which one should you use? Here is a comparison of ANSI and ISO keyboard layouts to help you decide.

The ANSI layout is more common in the United States and the Netherlands, while the ISO layout is more common in Europe.

ISO keyboards have one extra key as compared to the ANSI layout keyboards. ANSI keyboard layout includes 104 keys in its full-sized keyboards, which is 105 keys in the case of Full-sized ISO keyboards. 

The ANSI layout ones have 87 keys for compact-sized keyboards, whereas the ISO layout keyboards have 88 keys.

ANSI layout has a smaller Enter key, while the ISO layout has a larger one. Additionally, some other minor differences include the placement of the backslash key. 

Mechanical Keyboard with ANSI layout

Why Should you Trust Me? Hi, I am Anirban Saha, an Engineer with a Specialization in Electronics and Communication Engineering. I have experience in Smart TVs, Electronics circuits, and Computer peripherals.

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ANSI vs ISO Comparison Table

 ANSIISO
Full FormAmerican National Standards InstituteInternational Organization for Standardization
Enter Key Rectangle-shaped Enter keyInverted L-shaped Enter key
Backslash KeyThe backslash key is above the Enter key.The backslash key is to the left of the Enter key.
Left Shift KeyThe left shift key is the same size as the Right shift key.The left shift key is about 50% smaller than the right shift key
Alt KeyLeft and Right Alt keys are the sameThe right Alt key is replaced with an Alt Gr key (Alt Graph Key).
Number of Keys for Full Size104 keys 105 keys 
Number of Keys for Tenkeyless87 keys88 keys
Number of Keys for 60% layout68 keys69 keys
AdvantagesBetter Placement of keys for normal usage is better ergonomicsBetter support for extended symbols and the European language.

The below image shows the ANSI and the ISO Keyboard layout side by side.

Image comparing ANSI and ISO number of keys
ANSI and ISO Layout Diagram, Credits: Brilliantwiki2CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Here are the differences between ANSI and ISO as below:

#1. Enter Key Shape is Different

Enter Key Shape of ANSI and ISO

The most obvious is that the ANSI layout has a smaller Enter key or the Return Key, while the ISO layout has a larger one.

Additionally, the shape of the Enter key is also different for these layouts.

The ANSI keyboard layout has a  smaller rectangular-shaped Enter key. On the other hand, the ISO Enter key looks Inverted L-shaped.

The ANSI Enter key is more easily usable and reachable using the pinky finger than the ISO enter key.

#2. Left Shift Key Size is a Difference

Left Shift Key of ANSI and ISO

Another difference between these layouts is in the Left Shift Key size. In the case of the ANSI layout, the Left and the Right Shift keys are of the same size.

However, in the case of the ISO layout, the Left Shift key is significantly smaller by 50% than the right Shift key.

Now the size comes close to the Ctrl key on the keyboard. If you shift from ANSI to ISO, you will accidentally click the key next to the shift key, the tilde key.

#3. Backslash Key Position is Different 

Backslash key of ANSI and ISO

The ANSI layout has the Backslash Key(“\”) in the middle of the Enter Key and the Backspace Key, while the ISO layout has it in the lower left-hand corner of the Enter Key and below the Curly or Box Braces Key(“{ or ]”).

#4. Backtick Key or Tilde Key Position is Different

Backtick or Tilde Key of ANSI and ISO

The Tilde or Backtick key (` or ~ symbol key) is present at different positions in the case of the ANSI and ISO layouts.

In ISO layout keyboards, this key is present on the top left of the keyboard and lies just on the Left of the Numeric 1 key.

However, in the case of the ISO layout keyboards, the Backtick key or the tilde key is present on the bottom left and is situated on the right of the left shift key.

It is the additional key present in the ISO layout beside the Shift key.

#5. Right Alt Key Changes to Alt GR

Right ALT key of ANSI and ISO

In the case of the ANSI Layout, there are Alt keys on both Left and right sides of the Spacebar of the same size.

However, in the case of ISO layout keyboards, the right Alt key is replaced by another key known as the Alt Gr Key (Alt Graph Key).

Alt Gr key is present in the ISO layout to support more characters, which is not normal English alphabets or numbers.

Alt Graph Key acts as a modifier key that gives input to foreign currency symbols, accent letters, and more characters like typographic marks from your mechanical keyboard.

E.g., To type Euro Symbol(€) using the keyboard, we can use Alt Gr+E.

#6. The total Number of Keys is Different

In the case of ISO layout, there is an additional key present compared to the total count of keys in ANSI layout keyboards.

Here is the comparison with respect to the Total number of keys of ANSI and ISO below:

Full-Sized KeyboardCompact Keyboard Tenkeyless60% Keyboard Layout
Total Number of Keys in ANSI layout104 keys87 keys68 keys
Total Number of Keys in ISO layout105 keys88 keys69 keys

What is ANSI Layout?

ANSI layout keyboard with labeling

ANSI stands for  American National Standards Institute. ANSI layout is a layout or keyboard key arrangement by American National Standards Institute. American National Standards Institute’s operations office is in New York.

This layout is used widely in the United States and the Netherlands. The uniqueness of this layout is mainly the full-size keyboards contain 104 keys, and the Enter key is rectangular.

The above image is a full-size ANSI keyboard layout with 104 keys.

Advantages of ANSI layout 

ANSI is the most common and widely used keyboard layout.

  • The ANSI keyboard has great Ergonomics, and you will have a great typing experience.
  • The key placement is just perfect for typing in English. The position of the keys feels easily reachable without much time and supports faster typing.
  • Better availability of keycaps as the ANSI layout is common for keyboards.
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Disadvantages of ANSI layout 

Though I use the ANSI layout for my keyboard. Still, these are the disadvantages I found:

  • The backslash key is far away from the entry key. This means it will be far away, considering the normal position you hold your keyboard.
  • Enter key is rectangular block-shaped and is less noticeable during fast typing.
  • The ANSI keyboard layout has less support for non-English languages requiring additional symbols. The ISO layout is way better for other international languages.

What is ISO Layout?

ISO layout keyboard with labeling

ISO stands for  International Organisation for Standardisation. This ISO layout is a type of keyboard layout with a different key arrangement convention.

The ISO layout is used widely in European countries. This type of keyboard layout has exceptional support for the different symbols.

The above image is a full-size ISO keyboard layout with 105 keys.

Advantages of ISO Layout 

ISO layout for the keyboards is great for international users not using English. Let’s discuss the advantages of ISO keyboard layout.

  • The ISO layout has more support for symbols than the ANSI layout. For e.g., you can type the Dollar symbol  “$” with (Shift + 4) keys and the Pound symbol “€” with the (4+ Alt Gr) keys. (Alt Gr refers to the right Alt button).
  • The ISO layout has the backslash key near the Enter key. So, if you use the backslash key a lot during typing, this ISO layout would be very helpful.

Disadvantages of an ISO Layout 

 ISO  layout is a less common keyboard layout used for keyboards. The disadvantages are:

  • It isn’t easy to find the keycaps separately for the ISO layout. So, we use ANSI keycaps in that place.
  • The left and right shift keys are of different sizes. You might feel a bit weird if you are moving from an ANSI layout to an ISO layout.
  • Though the Enter key and the backspace keys are closer in ISO, this increases the distance in reaching the Enter key. This is an important factor as, during typing, the Enter key is frequently used.
  • These keyboards are comparatively more expensive than the ANSI layout keyboards. So, the extra cost is a disadvantage.

Which is Better: ANSI or ISO?

The ANSI and ISO are two World Standards Organizations that help to Consensus standards for Products and Services.

Though there are different advantages and disadvantages for these two layouts, there may be a variation in opinions regarding the layout and which one is perfect.

Different countries have made their standards in the keyboard layout which they follow.

The ANSI layout is widely used in the Netherlands and the United States. However, ISO layout keyboards are used in European countries.

The ISO layout has added advantages to support the European language better than the ANSI layout.

Neither layout is inherently better than the other, and both have their advantages and disadvantages.

The different types of keyboard layouts are advantageous to the language you use.

If you use a majorly English language, then the ANSI keyboards are better. However, if you use multiple languages and symbols often, the ISO keyboard layout has better support.

It is ultimately up to the individual user to decide which layout works best.

Frequently Asked Questions on ANSI vs ISO

Q. Is ANSI the same as ISO?

Ans. No, the ANSI and ISO are two different keyboard layouts. ISO and ANSI have differences mainly in Enter, Backspace, and Shift keys.

Q. Can I use ANSI keycaps on an ISO keyboard?

Ans. Using ANSI keycaps set on an ISO keyboard would be fine for most keys, and only the Enter key and the Left Shift key would not be able to replace. ISO layout would also require an additional key that would not be present in the ANSI keycap set.

Q. What is the JIS layout?

Ans. The JIS(Japanese Industrial Standard) layout is a keyboard layout that is based on the Japanese keyboard layout. It is designed to be used with the Japanese language.
They include five extra keys for Japanese characters not found on other keyboard layouts. The JIS layout can be used on computers running Windows, macOS, or Linux operating systems.

Q. Does the US use ANSI or ISO?

Ans. People in the USA commonly use the ANSI keyboard layout. ISO keyboards are also used by a few people in the USA.

Q. Does the UK use ANSI or ISO?

Ans. In the UK, both ANSI and ISO layouts are used. But, the ISO layout is more common.

Conclusion

Here I conclude my post!

While ANSI and ISO layouts have some similarities, they also have key differences. It is important to understand the difference between the two before deciding which to use for your keyboard.

If you are unsure to choose one, you can choose the most commonly used layout ANSI.