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bLiss

macrumors member
Original poster
Jun 14, 2005
95
1
usa
This is less of a Mac question than it is a cultural / technology history question.

Does anyone know why there seems to be a standard of having a skinny L-shaped return key in most European keyboard layouts?

Same for the US bar-style return key, and the relatively big Japanese enter key? Just curious as to how these key shapes originated.
 

iJohnHenry

macrumors P6
Mar 22, 2008
16,530
28
On tenterhooks
I do know that the Enter key right beside the apostrophe key has vexed me for years.

I'd like to turn that into a Tab key or kill it, and use the Enter one on my expanded keyboard number pad.

Not as fast for a touch typist such as myself, but safer. ;)
 

bLiss

macrumors member
Original poster
Jun 14, 2005
95
1
usa
I had read through much of that Wiki article before. Unfortunately it doesn't really get at why the return keys are different shapes in other parts of the world.

The best hint I've found is that perhaps older machines were built with the idea that the Pipe/Backslash key took less priority than a huge Return key you couldn't miss with your pinky. However, US keyboards have now evolved to a one-row rectangular Return key almost exclusively.

Why the Japanese have an enormous Return key you could smash with your fist - and the French have a teeny weeny skinny one - I'm still trying to find out.
 
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wordoflife

macrumors 604
Jul 6, 2009
7,564
35
Between the top* (European) and [mainly] North American** standard keyboard, the European keyboard has 1 extra key (check the orange) which I believe causes the difference.

mac_keyboard_differences.jpg


what I've always wondered is why the use pictures to describe the key in the european ones, but actually write "shift, delete, return, tab" in the north american ones.

*The top has as a similar layout with Belgian, British, Danish, Dutch, French, French Canadian, German, International English, Italian, Norwegian, Portuguese, Spanish, Swedish, and Swiss Multilingua keyboards.

**The bottom keyboard has the same layout in United States, Australia, Canada(English), China, Hong Kong, Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, and Thailand.
 
Last edited:

iJohnHenry

macrumors P6
Mar 22, 2008
16,530
28
On tenterhooks
What I've always wondered is why the use pictures to describe the key in the European ones, but actually write "shift, delete, return, tab" in the North American ones.

Too cheap to pay for translations. ;)

Seriously, only one keyboard is need for all them widdle nothing countries.
 

borisiii

macrumors 6502
Jul 4, 2010
358
0
This; cmd will be processed as 'command' by an English speaker, 'commander' by a French speaker, 'comando' by an Italian/Spanish/Portuguese speaker etc, without the need to make multiple keyboard designs.

It's the same reason all the buttons in american cars usually have text on them, while European ones use symbols which can be understood by speakers of any language.
 

iJohnHenry

macrumors P6
Mar 22, 2008
16,530
28
On tenterhooks
It's the same reason all the buttons in American cars usually have text on them, while European ones use symbols which can be understood by speakers of any language.

I think you just slurred American abilities, but I'll have to study the symbols first in order to make a final determination.

:D
 

bLiss

macrumors member
Original poster
Jun 14, 2005
95
1
usa
Between the top* (European) and [mainly] North American** standard keyboard, the European keyboard has 1 extra key (check the orange) which I believe causes the difference.

Image

Interesting, but it appears the small left Shift key in the European keyboard makes up for that difference because it accommodates the ~ key. The Return key could just as easily be rectangular on that keyboard, but it is squished by the | \ being on the home row.

I'm beginning to think maybe someone just designed the skinny return key arbitrarily. I actually think it looks cool but I imagine most people would be bothered by it if they're used to an American keyboard.

And yes I think the symbols are because there are so many languages in Europe, it would be a mistake to put words on the keys instead.
 

wordoflife

macrumors 604
Jul 6, 2009
7,564
35
This; cmd will be processed as 'command' by an English speaker, 'commander' by a French speaker, 'comando' by an Italian/Spanish/Portuguese speaker etc, without the need to make multiple keyboard designs.

Good point. Where I got my reasoning when I posted that was : In Europe, the stop signs (example) are generally posted "STOP" in English so I thought the same would apply to keyboards where there wouldn't be a translation. But I can still agree with you as it might say "commander" in the software side of OSx when using french

Interesting, but it appears the small left Shift key in the European keyboard makes up for that difference because it accommodates the ~ key. The Return key could just as easily be rectangular on that keyboard, but it is squished by the | \ being on the home row.

I just noticed that one keyboard has the arrow keys while the other does so it might be a bad example. Will try to look for more and figure out why they are different.

*EDIT* ... yes as you mentioned about the small shift key ... the only difference is that the |\ key is switched into different places in the european and american keyboard. We may never know why, but that's all to it. If you're using american, imagine putting the |\ key next to the " key and making the enter key taller.

I'm beginning to think maybe someone just designed the skinny return key arbitrarily. I actually think it looks cool but I imagine most people would be bothered by it if they're used to an American keyboard.

Yes, at first switching between them is annoying because you'll probably miss the enter key if you're using to an american keyboard. (and vica versa) but it's only a slight adjustment you need to mind. Though some characters are moved around and need to be payed closer attention (for example here as german)
dscf0002.jpg
despite having the same layout as the english UK keyboard
 

awillighagen

macrumors newbie
May 3, 2012
8
0
Yes, at first switching between them is annoying because you'll probably miss the enter key if you're using to an american keyboard. (and vica versa) but it's only a slight adjustment you need to mind. Though some characters are moved around and need to be payed closer attention (for example here as german)
dscf0002.jpg
despite having the same layout as the english UK keyboard

U get used to it in a couple off days :)
I know from experience!
 

Comeagain?

macrumors 68020
Feb 17, 2011
2,190
46
Spokane, WA
And sometimes you don't. I hate going from one keyboard to another. I almost bought myself another Apple wired keyboard for an old windows computer I just started using again, because I couldn't type on the dang keyboard. It's so much better (to me) then the others.

As far as why, I think you answered that. Because of the different keys that need to be there somewhere. And the enter/return key can change size easily without throwing the entire keyboard off.

And as far as writing words out versus symbols, I think space also had something to do with it. There is lots of room on some buttons, but for example "command" barely fits on it's key cap. (US keyboard)
 

koobcamuk

macrumors 68040
Oct 23, 2006
3,190
9
**The bottom keyboard has the same layout in United States, Australia, Canada(English), China, Hong Kong, Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, and Thailand.

Actually, in Asia, things are very, very different.

e.g. here in Japan...

hiragana-keyboard.jpg
 

APlotdevice

macrumors 68040
Sep 3, 2011
3,120
3,790
Why the Japanese have an enormous Return key you could smash with your fist - and the French have a teeny weeny skinny one - I'm still trying to find out.

The enter/return key is critical for inputting Kanji in Japanese.
 

APlotdevice

macrumors 68040
Sep 3, 2011
3,120
3,790
No worries :)



You're right, but there's no reason for it to be so huge, nor for the weird placement of the caps lock, IMO.

Well personally I've never particularly liked the placement of the caps lock key on English keyboards. It's far too prominent for what many of us find to be a rather useless and often quite annoying key.

BTW, If you look at English computer keyboards from the seventies and early eighties, or typewriters before that, you will see that the caps lock (or shift lock) key actually used to be commonly placed where it still resides in on Japanese keyboards. The reason it was moved up was because the programming languages of the time needed to be written in ALL CAPS.
 
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koobcamuk

macrumors 68040
Oct 23, 2006
3,190
9
Well personally I've never particularly liked the placement of the caps lock key on English keyboards. It's far too prominent for what many of us find to be a rather useless and often quite annoying key.

BTW, If you look at English computer keyboards from the seventies and early eighties, or typewriters before that, you will see that the caps lock (or shift lock) key actually used to be commonly placed where it still resides in on Japanese keyboards. The reason it was moved up was because the programming languages of the time needed to be written in ALL CAPS.

Fascinating bit of trivia! Thank you :)
 
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