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Mechanical Keyboard Articles

The layout of the keyboard

  • The meaning of the layout

     Why do I think that layout is the most important thing to know before entering the keyboard? This starts with the meaning of layout. Layout refers to the assembly sequence of keyboard keys, or more generally, the arrangement design of keyboard keys. Different layouts not only determine the key functions that the keyboard can achieve but also greatly impact the keyboard's size.

     In fact, many people did not consider these two issues when buying a keyboard:

     How many key functions do I need? Does the size of the keyboard matter to me (desktop or portable), does it fit?

     The layout is the essence of this problem. Finding out the layout will not only allow you to choose a keyboard that is more suitable for you but also gets a satisfactory and easy-to-hand productivity tool. Because of the appropriate layout, you can realize all the function buttons you want and can meet your specific space (carrying) needs, or meet your special aesthetic needs.

     Generally speaking, there are two classification quantifiers describing the concept of arranging.

     One is the XX key, which is classified according to the number of keys on the keyboard, such as the most common 87 keys and 104 keys.


     There is also a percentage form of XX%, which is classified according to the percentage of the keyboard that can realize the key function (corresponding to 100% of the 108-key full keyboard), such as 60% layout, 80% layout, generally 60% layout contains 60 keys, 61 keys, 64 keys.


  • Classification of layout

     Let's start with the most common and comprehensive introduction of 104 keys, which is our common full-size American layout keyboard. Mainly divided into a primary key area, function keypad, edit keypad, and Numpad.


     The keyboard with more keys such as 108 keys is based on 104 keys, adding a few function keys or custom programming keys, such as K95 of Corsair Gaming and G810 of Logitech, there are many multimedia keys and custom keys on it. Buttons even include a scroll wheel for quick and easy volume control.


     Since the keys can be added, can the keys be reduced to make the keyboard smaller, more compact, and more comfortable (the tighter the keyboard, the more comfortable it is of course)? The answer is yes, a long time ago, Cherry launched a very "strange" 100-key keyboard, which should be called 1808.


     And this layout was well successor by Leopold and named FC980M. It was officially launched in 2016, and for a long time after that, the 98-key patent was exclusively owned by Leopold. However, in 2020, it seems that Leopold's 98-key patent expired, and various manufacturers began to launch their own 98-key products.

     So, can it be more compact? Of course, below 98, there are 96 keys. The 96 keys cancel the division of the keypad and become more compact. Among them, iQUNIX's F96 and AKKO's 3096 are the most famous.

     Here is a small episode, if you count the number of keycaps on them, you will find that there are actually 100 keys. Why does the keyboard called 96 have 100 keys? It is because the real 96 keys only retain the three function keys PrtSc, ScrLk, and Pause, and then cut off the three columns of function keys including the arrow keys, and combine the main key area and the number area. But many people are not used to it and don't like it (I guess), and it was gradually eliminated by the market. The layout of the current 100-key and the previous 96-key is very similar, so the name is kept.

     All of the above can be called 100% keyboards, because they all contain four partitions (although some are partially castrated) However, not everyone has the need to quickly input numbers with a numpad, and keyboards without a small keypad may have more audiences. The common one is 87 keys (80%), and there are too many representatives. Just take FKBN87M/EB2 of Filco and G80 of Cherry as representatives.

     Although 87 keys are small enough, dissatisfied human beings still hope to have a more compact one while retaining the main keys, so a more streamlined and more compact 84-key/86-key (75%) keyboard appeared, although not too popular, but with the corporate of Fn keys, (84 keys) can also satisfy all the functions of 87 keys. Among them, not many mass-produced keyboards prefer to adopt this layout, and the representative ones are AKKO 3084 and NIZ plum 84.

     It can be said that the 84/86 keys are the most compact keyboards under the premise of meeting the needs of normal people. But human beings are still not satisfied, so there are keyboards with only 60% of the main key area left, of which 60 keys and 68 keys are the most mainstream, there are too many keyboards, such as ikbc poker, IQUNIX F60, HHKB Professional Classic, Leopold FC660M, Varmilo MA68, Filco MINILA and so on are the representatives.

     It can actually end here, but you will certainly not be satisfied, like those who have not been. Therefore, there is an even more exaggerated 40% layout that cancels the number of keys. At present, the new brand Vortexgear, the king of special layouts for mass-produced keyboards, has released the CORE.

     This is 45% keyboard produced by the Chinese keyboard manufacturer KeyChron.This keyboard is mainly changed by VIA software.

     Going a little deeper, it already belongs to the field of customization, so we won’t discuss it in depth.

  • Applicable people for each keyboard layout


     Keyboards with 104 keys or above are very convenient for key input, but the disadvantage is that they take up a lot of space on the desktop. It is recommended to start with friends who can quickly input numbers and have enough space on the desktop.

     As for the 96 and 98 keys, although several function keys have been canceled, the basic functions can still be satisfied. It is recommended for friends who can quickly input numbers and do not have enough desktop space to start. After getting used to it, you can adapt to this layout.

     In addition, let me mention again that although the 96-key is more compact than the 98-key, it sacrifices the partition between the keypads, and it is very easy to accidentally touch it. It is difficult for ordinary people to get used to it, so choose carefully.

     75% & 80%

     Generally speaking, the 87-key keyboard is the first choice of most people. It takes up less space and has enough key functions, especially suitable for gamers who need to use the arrow keys frequently.

     The 84-key is more like a mini version of the 87-key, which is more compact while retaining the keys and is more suitable for non-gamers who need to use the arrow keys.

     87-key keyboards are also relatively common, so it’s better to choose according to your own budget.


     Finally, there are 60% keyboards. This type of keyboard was not popular in the past. There are mainly no arrow keys (some keyboards) and F function keys. It needs to be used by combining keys, but it seems to have become popular recently. , like the 60 keys of the ultimate point, and the 64/66/68 keys with arrow keys, this kind of keyboard is small and cute, easy to carry and use at any time. It is recommended for friends who often use the keyboard and can use the combination keys proficiently to start.

     40% and custom keyboard

     This type of keyboard is suitable for those who have a special preference for the keyboard.


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