ANSI vs ISO: Which keyboard layout is best? 


If you are looking for a new keyboard, choosing the perfect keyboard layout can be a daunting task, with different formats like ANSI and ISO to consider. Did you know these layouts differ in aspects like key numbers and placement? This article breaks down the nitty-gritty of ANSI vs ISO, equipping you with essential insights for making your choice.

Dive in to discover which layout suits you best!

ANSI vs ISO Layout: Key Differences in the Keyboard Layout

The ANSI and ISO layouts differ in the number of keys, placement of the enter key, left shift key size, location of the backslash key, and the presence of an Alt Graph key on ISO keyboards.

Number Of Keys

The number of keys differs between ANSI and ISO keyboard layouts. This difference is due to the inclusion of extra keys in the ISO layout, which caters to the requirements of different languages and regions. As a result, full-sized ANSI keyboards generally have 104 keys, while their ISO counterparts host 105 keys. Similarly, tenkeyless ANSI keyboards have 87 keys, as opposed to the 88 keys present in ISO keyboards.

Keyboard Layout Full-Size Keyboards Tenkeyless Keyboards
ANSI 104 Keys 87 Keys
ISO 105 Keys 88 Keys

This table provides a clear comparison of the number of keys in both ANSI and ISO keyboards, illustrating the slight increase in key quantity in the ISO layout.

Enter Key

The difference in the form and shape of the “Enter” key is a major distinguishing factor between ANSI and ISO keyboard layouts. In the ANSI layout, the key is a wide rectangle, whereas in the ISO layout, it takes an upside-down L-shape.


Keyboard Layout Enter Key Description
ANSI The enter key on ANSI keyboards is a wide rectangle, situated next to the quotation mark key and below the backslash key.
ISO The enter key on ISO keyboards resembles an upside-down L-shape, situated beneath the quotation mark key and to the right of the backslash key.


This variance in design impacts the location of other keys around it, specifically the backslash key. Each layout caters to different user preferences and offers a unique typing experience.

Left Shift Key

The left shift key is a primary distinguishing element between ANSI and ISO keyboard layouts. This key demonstrates significant differences in size, shape, and function that contribute to the overall user experience.


Keyboard Layout Left Shift Key Size Description Remarks
ANSI Same size as right shift key The key is long and rectangular, providing better ergonomics. The larger key size on ANSI keyboards is often preferred by users for its easier accessibility.
ISO About half the size of the right shift key Divided into two keys to accommodate the backslash or greater/less key, this key is more square in shape. Although smaller, the left shift key on ISO keyboards can be more challenging to use, especially for those accustomed to the larger ANSI key.


This difference in the left shift key is fundamental to the layouts, impacting the typing speed, comfort, and adaptability of the user. Regardless of the keyboard layout, user preference ultimately determines the choice between ANSI and ISO.

Backslash Key

The placement of the backslash key is one of the notable differences between ANSI and ISO keyboard layouts. In ANSI layouts, the backslash key is located above the enter key, which can require some finger stretching to reach it comfortably. On the other hand, in ISO layouts, the backslash key is positioned to the left of the enter key, reducing the need for stretching. Another difference lies in their sizes – on ANSI keyboards, the backslash key is about one and a half letter keys in size, while on ISO keyboards it tends to be smaller. These variations in positioning and size are important considerations when choosing between ANSI and ISO layouts.

Right Alt Key

The right Alt key plays a significant role in differentiating the ANSI and ISO keyboard layouts. On ANSI keyboards, this key is uniform on both sides, while on ISO keyboards, it is replaced with an Alt Graph key. The Alt Graph key allows users to easily access characters with diacritics, such as symbols placed above or below letters for pronunciations in various languages. Although the ANSI layout lacks an Alt Graph key, users can still customize their keyboards or use keyboard shortcuts to type symbols from different languages. The placement and functionality of this right Alt key make it one of the notable variances between ANSI and ISO layouts.

ANSI vs ISO: Advantages Of ISO Keyboard Layout over ANSI Layout

  • ISO keyboard layouts have a backslash key that is easier to reach, making it more convenient for programmers and coders.
  • The larger enter key on ISO keyboards allows for faster typing and reduces the chances of hitting the wrong key.
  • ISO layouts have an Alt Graph key that provides quick access to characters with diacritics, making it ideal for users who frequently need to type in different languages.
  • With more keys available, ISO keyboards offer better compatibility for languages that require additional characters and symbols.
  • The layout of ISO keyboards can be more ergonomic, reducing strain on the wrists and promoting a more comfortable typing experience.

ANSI vs ISO: Disadvantages Of ISO Keyboard Layout over ANSI Keyboard Layout

ISO layouts come with a few drawbacks that users should consider. Here are some disadvantages of the ISO layout:

  • Sacrifices ergonomics: The ISO layout sacrifices ergonomics by fitting in an extra key needed for certain languages. This can result in a less comfortable typing experience for some users.
  • Placement of enter and shift keys: ISO keyboards have a further placed enter and shift key due to their shortened widths. This can be a disadvantage for those who are used to the placement of these keys on ANSI keyboards, as it may take time to adjust to the new positions.
  • Cost implications: ISO keyboards are often considered more costly compared to ANSI keyboards due to their lower availability. Additionally, ISO keycap sets tend to be more expensive compared to ANSI keycap sets. This can make it more challenging and expensive for users looking to customize their keyboard.
  • Limited availability: Group buys for ISO layouts often struggle to meet the minimum funding needed for manufacturing and distribution. As a result, finding the desired ISO layout keyboard or keycap set may require more effort or be subject to longer waiting times.

ANSI vs ISO: Which Is Better?

When comparing ANSI and ISO keyboard layouts, it ultimately comes down to personal preference and the specific needs of the user. Both layouts have their own advantages and disadvantages.

One advantage of the ANSI layout is that it is more commonly used in North America, making it easier to find compatible keyboards and keycaps. Additionally, some people find the narrower left shift key on ISO keyboards less comfortable to use than the larger one on ANSI keyboards.

On the other hand, ISO layouts offer a few advantages as well. The larger enter key shape on ISO keyboards can be advantageous for touch typists, as it provides a visual cue for finger placement.

Furthermore, if you frequently type in languages with accented characters, such as French or German, an ISO layout may offer better accessibility due to its additional keys.

Ultimately, choosing between ANSI and ISO depends on your typing preferences and requirements. Consider factors such as language usage, comfort level with different key sizes/shapes, and availability of compatible accessories when making your decision.

Differences between ANSI, ISO, and JIS Keyboard Layout

The ANSI and ISO layouts differ significantly from the JIS layout, which is specific to Japanese keyboards. One major difference is the inclusion of additional keys on the JIS layout for Japanese character inputs.

These extra keys allow users to type in Japanese seamlessly without relying on complex keyboard shortcuts or software settings. Another notable distinction is the size of the spacebar. In JIS layouts, the spacebar tends to be smaller compared to both ANSI and ISO layouts.

This difference in size can impact typing comfort and accuracy for those accustomed to larger spacebars. Overall, while ANSI and ISO layouts are more widely used internationally, the JIS layout caters specifically to meet the needs of Japanese language compatibility with its unique key placement and additional characters available at a user’s fingertips.

ANSI vs ISO: Is ANSI Better For Gaming?

When it comes to gaming, the question of whether ANSI or ISO layout is better largely depends on personal preferences. ANSI keyboards tend to be favored by gamers for a few reasons. Firstly, the larger size of the enter and shift keys on ANSI layouts can provide a more comfortable gaming experience.

This is especially beneficial during intense gameplay when quick reflexes are crucial.

However, some gamers may find the ISO layout more suitable for their needs. The shorter shift key found in ISO layouts allows for easier access to other keys, which can be advantageous in certain games that require complex key combinations.

Additionally, the separate Alt Graph key on ISO layouts can also be beneficial as it allows for customizable shortcuts and commands.

Ultimately, choosing between ANSI and ISO layouts for gaming boils down to finding what is most comfortable and convenient for you as an individual player. It’s important to consider your own gaming preferences, comfort level with different keyboard designs, and whether having a specific key layout will enhance your overall gaming experience.

Commonality Of ANSI And ISO Layouts

Both ANSI and ISO layouts are widely used physical keyboard layouts, with a few key differences. Despite these differences, there are also several commonalities between the two. Both layouts feature a standard key arrangement and placement, ensuring that most keys are in the same position regardless of whether you’re using an ANSI or ISO keyboard.

Additionally, both layouts maintain the same key size and positioning for commonly used keys like enter and shift. While there may be variations in the shape or placement of certain keys (such as the backslash key), overall, ANSI and ISO keyboards share many similarities in their design.

Where to Purchase ANSI and ISO Keycap Sets?

You can purchase them from:

  • Candykeys
  • Amazon
  • Drop
  • KRepublic

Conclusion: ANSI vs ISO – which is better?

In conclusion, the choice between ANSI and ISO keyboard layouts ultimately comes down to personal preference and individual needs. While ANSI keyboards are more popular and ergonomic, offering a better user experience with longer left shift and enter keys, ISO keyboards have their advantages too, such as the Alt Graph key for typing diacritic characters easily.

Regardless of your choice, both layouts adhere to industry standards set by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), ensuring quality and compatibility.


1. What is the difference between ANSI and ISO standards?

ANSI (American National Standards Institute) is a nonprofit organization that develops and promotes voluntary consensus standards for various industries in the United States. ISO (International Organization for Standardization) is an international standard-setting body composed of representatives from national standardization organizations worldwide.

2. Are ANSI and ISO standards interchangeable?

While there may be similarities between ANSI and ISO standards, they are not necessarily interchangeable. ANSI standards are typically used in the US market, while ISO standards are recognized globally. It’s important to understand which specific standard is applicable to your industry or region.

3. How do I determine whether to follow ANSI or ISO standards?

The decision to follow either ANSI or ISO standards depends on factors such as geographic location, industry requirements, customer demands, and regulatory compliance obligations. Consulting with industry experts or regulatory agencies can help determine which set of standards should be followed.

4. Can my business benefit from adopting both ANSI and ISO standards?

Yes, depending on your business operations and target markets, adopting both ANSI and ISO standards can offer several benefits. This allows you to comply with domestic regulations (ANSI) while also meeting global requirements (ISO), thus enhancing product quality, improving market access opportunities, ensuring safety practices, and demonstrating commitment to best practices internationally.

5. What is ANSI and ISO?

ANSI stands for the American National Standards Institute while ISO stands for International Organization for Standardization. They are both organizations that create standards for products and services to ensure quality and consistency.

6. What is the difference between ANSI and ISO keyboard layouts?

The main difference is the shape and size of the enter key. The ANSI layout has a small enter key and a backslash key above it, while the ISO layout has a larger enter key and a backslash key next to the left shift key. The ANSI layout also has a wider left shift key compared to the ISO layout.

7. Which layout is best, ANSI or ISO?

It depends on personal preference and which layout you are used to. The ANSI layout is the most widely used keyboard layout in North America, while the ISO layout is more common in Europe and other parts of the world.

8. What are the key differences between ANSI and ISO keyboards?

The main differences between the two are the size and shape of the enter key, the position of the backslash key, the size of the left shift key, and the keycaps. ANSI keyboards also typically have 104 keys while ISO keyboards have 105 keys.

9. What is the JIS keyboard layout?

The JIS (Japanese Industrial Standards) keyboard layout is used in Japan and has a slightly different key arrangement compared to ANSI and ISO layouts.

10. Which layout will suit a mechanical keyboard?

Both ANSI and ISO layouts can be used for mechanical keyboards. However, some keycap sets are designed for specific layouts, so it’s important to choose the right layout for your keycaps.

11. What are ANSI and ISO keycap sets?

ANSI keycaps and ISO keycap sets are designed to fit specific keyboard layouts. ANSI keycap sets have a smaller enter key and a wider left shift key, while ISO keycap sets have a larger enter key and a backslash key next to the left shift key.​

I am a computer engineer holding a bachelor's degree in Computer Science, complemented by a Master's in Business Administration from University of Strathclyde, Scotland. I currently work as a Senior IT Consultant in Melbourne, Australia. With over 15 years of...