Understanding Different Physical Layouts For Keyboards: ANSI Vs ISO Vs JIS

Mechanical Keyboards come in different layouts and we need to understand them pretty well in order to make our purchase decisions easier. No, we are not talking about form factors (65%, 75%, TKL, Full-Sized, and more), we have already covered different form factors for keyboards all around that you can check out here. Today, we are going to discuss physical keyboard layouts like ANSI, ISO, JIS, and more. These are different than the logical QWERTY, Dvorak layouts. Understanding a keyboard layout helps us in understanding the arrangements of keys on our keyboard better. So let’s start with today’s blog without wasting any more time.

What is Keyboard Layout?

A keyboard layout refers to the arrangement of the keys and legends. Physical Layout refers to the actual positioning of the keys on the keyboard. Each layout will have something slightly different from the other, the primary difference is with the Enter Key, Left Shift Key, Right Alt Key, and a few more keys. Each layout has a different size, shape, and position of a few keys. ANSI, ISO, and JIS are the three most widely used Keyboard Layouts. You might find the ANSI layout to be available worldwide while JIS and ISO are specific to only a few locations. These three actually stand for three different standard organizations. ANSI is short for American National Standards Institute, ISO is short for International Organisation for Standardisation, and JIS stands for the Japanese Industrial Standard. Most keyboards worldwide use the ANSI layout, ISO is found in some European countries, and JIS is usually found in the Japanese regions. Let’s dive into the world of these physical layouts for Keyboards.


What is ANSI Keyboard Layout?

As stated earlier, ANSI stands for the American National Standards Institute. ANSI Keyboards are used worldwide. They have our traditional layout with 87-keys in the TKL Layout, and 104 keys in the full-sized layout. Check out a reference image of the ANSI layout below.

ANSI Keyboards

As you can see ANSI Layouts have a regular-sized Rectangular Enter key. The backslash key is placed right above the enter key, Left and Right shift keys have the same rectangular form. In an ANSI layout, the left and right Alt keys are also the same. The best benefit of using ANSI keyboards is that since it is widely used, we get plenty of options for replacing the Keycaps. In other layouts(ISO and JIS) this number gets very limited and we don’t get many options to choose from.

What is ISO Keyboard Layout?

ISO refers to Internation Organisation for Standardisations. Commonly used in some European countries, ISO Keyboards bring a few physical changes to the table. Primary differences include an L-shaped Enter key, a Shorter left Shift key, a changed Backslash location, and a few more changes. Have a look at the reference image for ISO layouts below.

ISO Keyboards

As depicted in the image above, the Backslash key is taken from above the Enter key and it is placed right next to the Enter key. The right Alt key is also replaced with an Alt Gr key. ISO Keyboards get an additional key right next to the Left Shift Key. In programmable keyboards, we can actually use this key to assign different functions here. With this additional key, an ISO keyboard has 88-keys in a TKL form factor and 105-keys in full-sized keyboards. Since the ISO layout is common only in some European countries, Keycaps are limited and rare to come for ISO layouts. Just because of this reason, Keyboard enthusiasts in European countries also prefer to have ANSI keyboards.

What is JIS Keyboard Layout?

Designed further on the ISO Layout, JIS(Japanese Industrial Standard) layout has got a shorter spacebar. This is done to add additional keys to use while typing in the native Japanese Language. JIS Keyboard Layout is only found in Japanese regions. JIS layout typically has the Roman letters in the English QWERTY layout with numbers above them. They even have many non-alphanumeric symbols the same as other layouts. Have a look at the reference layout for JIS keyboards below.

JIS Keyboard

As you can see in the reference image above, JIS Layout is quite identical to the ISO layout with an L-shaped enter key. The primary change here is the shortened spacebar. The space bar has been shortened here to add two more keys alongside it. It has got two small keys that will be used while typing the Japanese language. A typical JIS keyboard will have a 109-key full-sized layout, it has four more keys compared to the ISO layout and five more keys than the ANSI layout. JIS Layout is very limited. It is common only in Japanese regions, so Keycaps and models are extremely limited for JIS.

JIS Keyboard-1

So with all the definitions above, one thing is clear to us, ANSI and ISO are the widely used physical layouts for keyboards. Now let’s see how both of them compare with each other.

ANSI Vs ISO: Primary Differences:-

ANSI and ISO refer to the physical layout of the keys on a keyboard as we have mentioned earlier. So what are the primary differences in both layouts? Let’s discuss them.

Enter Key:-

The first thing you will notice the change in is with the Enter Key. The enter key on the ANSI Keyboard has a long rectangular form factor while on ISO Keyboard we get an L-shaped Enter key that is slightly on the bigger side.

Backslash Key:-

In ANSI layouts, we get the backslash key placed at top of the Enter Key. But here on ISO layout, we have given that place to the Enter Key that is now L-shaped. So the Backslash key gets replaced from the Top of the enter key to the side. This brings the Backslash key closer to your finger while typing.

Left Shift Key:-

In ANSI keyboards, the left and right Shift keys have the same rectangular form factor. But in ISO layouts the left shift key is shortened. It is usually the same size as the Ctrl key on the left side. This is done to add an extra key right next to the Left Shift Key.

An Additional Key:-

With the Left Shift Key shortened, we have got an additional key on the left side. This key has <> functions, in programmable keyboards, this key can be programmed to different functions as well. This is the additional key that increases the number of keys in the ISO layout.

Right Alt Key Replaced with Alt Gr Key:- 

In ISO layout, the right Alt key is replaced with an Alt Gr key. The Alt Gr key is used to provide additional functions with the keys. It can be used to provide a third and fourth grapheme for most keys.

Availability Of Keycaps:-

Since ANSI Keyboards are widely used in many countries compared to the ISO layout. Keycaps for ANSI keyboards are easily available worldwide. ISO keycaps are also available but they are limited and have fewer options. Same can be said for the full-kit keyboards as well, ANSI has got many options, while for ISO layout we have fewer options.

ISO Keyboards-1

How Do these differ from JIS Layout?

JIS Layout, as we stated earlier is similar to ISO Layout in terms of their physical presentation. They have just shortened the Spacebar and added two keys on both sides of it for Japanese typing. It has also got two more small keys placed near the Enter key, they also help in Japanese language typing.

So Which Layout Will Suit You?

Well, All three of these physical layouts cater to the users based at different locations. JIS is specific for people residing in the Japanese regions as it will help them in typing the Japanese language on screen. ANSI layout is widely available and the best part is you can completely customize ANSI keyboards with different designer keycaps or easily replace their keycaps. So if you are a Keyboard enthusiast or DIY creator who wants to personalize your keyboard, ANSI will bring you many options to do so. You can check out our collection of premium mechanical keyboards, we have brought you a huge collection at our store at Mechkeys.com.

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