ANSI vs ISO Layout: Everything Explained

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If you have ever bought a new gaming keyboard, especially a mechanical keyboard, you may have been surprised that not everything is in the same position as the previous keyboard, this is due to the ANSI vs ISO layout issue. Unfortunately, this is another result of the relentless creation of new so-called standards, which end up confusing the general population and making cross-compatibility more difficult. With the ever-increasing number of PS5 games supporting mouse and keyboard, this issue continues to confuse more and more people. Even Xbox has games that also support keyboard and mouse, which makes this confusion even more annoying.

ANSI Layout vs ISO Layout: What Does It Mean?

So what is the difference between ANSI and ISO? First you have to dig a little deeper. ANSI stands for American National Institute of Standards and ISO means International Organization for Standardization. These excitingly named institutions govern many different aspects of technology and products, of course the existence of both types makes their purpose a bit redundant, but that’s a conversation for another time.

In terms of keyboards, the ANSI layout versus the ISO layout defines the position and shape of certain keys on a computer keyboard. This is known to cause a lot of confusion among PC users, as many types of mechanical gaming keyboards are only available in one of these configurations. Anyone who has researched specific keycaps, whether PBT or ABS, will be well aware of these irritating issues. Especially those based in Britain, Russia or France, as those places use the less common ISO layout.

There are several ways to tell the difference between ANSI and ISO layouts, but the quickest and easiest way is to simply look at the return/enter key. If it’s a wide rectangle, you’re using an ANSI layout, if it’s a big upside-down L shape, you’re using an ISO layout. Also, a full size ANSI keyboard has 104 keys, while ISO has 105.

This diagram illustrates the easiest way to determine which keyboard layout you are using.

These layouts have both pros and cons, but won’t make too much of a difference to gameplay or the normal user experience on PC. We at WePC have many maps of both layouts and can say with relative certainty that it really doesn’t make much difference, however, there are a few things you need to consider when deciding between an ISO layout and an ANSI layout.

Other differences between ANSI and ISO

Although the Enter key is the easiest and fastest way to tell the two apart, there are a few other differences that might influence your decision to use ANSI or ISO. We have highlighted the key keys for your convenience.

ANSI vs ISO alt and large backslash

The Alt Gr key

Those of you on the North American continent are probably unfamiliar with this key, but it is invaluable for Europe, especially continental Europe. Alt Gr or ‘Alt Graph’ allows easy implementation of accents on various letters, mainly vowels. Technically these are known as diacritics and change the sound of the letter in question, for example, ‘e’ can be changed to ‘é’.

The backslash key

On an ISO map, the position of the backslash is across the lower row of letters from the slash. While this may initially seem inconsequential for the majority of use cases, it can be a deal breaker if you like programming, as ANSI keyboards position the backslash key closer to the slash. This can be invaluable for people developing websites or writing code. This is a difference to consider if you are one of those people.

Left shift key

Now that could be a real dealbreaker, especially for gamers. ANSI cards have a much wider left offset, as wide as the right offset, while ISO cards have a left crap key that is about half the width of the right offset.

Which is best for gaming? ANSI or ISO?

Those of you who have used both will probably already have a preference between ANSI and ISO for gaming. It’s usually the one you used the most growing up, because muscle memory can be very hard to unlearn. But if you’ve found yourself on this page wondering ‘ANSI vs ISO – which is better for gaming?’, we have an answer for you. It won’t be unequivocal, but we’re sure it could sway the opinion of many of you.

We chose the ANSI layout to be better for gaming because the left offset is wider, making it easier to locate without looking. Shift Left is a key used in almost every PC game we can think of, and for this reason, we’ve decided that ANSI is best for gaming.

ANSI vs. ISO: Final Word

Like most things in life, ultimately it’s your choice. For the majority of people, it won’t make any difference, and many might not even notice the differences between the two. However, we highly recommend an ANSI layout keyboard if you’re a PC gamer or programmer, as the combination of key size and location makes it considerably more ergonomic for both of these applications. I hope this page has helped you clarify which side you are on in terms of ANSI vs ISO.