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[ The PC Guide | Systems and Components Reference Guide | Keyboards | Keyboard Layouts ]

Alphanumeric Key Layouts

Before looking at the different "overall" keyboard layouts--which describe the locations and positioning of all the keys on the keyboard--it makes sense to look first at the alphanumeric keys: letters, numbers and symbols. These are the most used keys on the keyboard, which makes them worthy of our attention. More importantly, however, different alphanumeric layouts can be used within different "larger scale" keyboard layouts. So it makes sense to consider alphanumeric key layout issues independently of regular layout concerns.

Another reason why the alphanumeric keys are so important is that when typists use these keys, they generally don't look at them; this is so-called touch typing, and is fundamental to fast data entry. Successfully typing at high speed with accuracy requires intimate familiarity with the exact locations of the alphanumeric keys, as well as considerable practice. It also means that touch typists don't tend to like changes in the layouts of the alphanumeric keys very much! :^)

In this section I first talk about the ubiquitous "QWERTY" design that is found on most keyboards. I then introduce the Dvorak-Dealey keyboard, which is an alternative to the nearly-universal standard. Then, I describe specialty Dvorak keyboards designed for one-handed use, and also briefly mention foreign-language keyboards.

Next: QWERTY Alphanumeric Layout

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