Lately, I've written about the ergonomics of the "6" key and given the vast popularity of that post, I decided to compare the ANSI and ISO keyboard layouts in the same manner from an ergonomics standpoint. Let's start with ANSI.

ANSI ergonomics

As you can see, the keys of the home row on which our fingers reside in touch typing position are filled with red. There's a thick red line in between to show the center of the keyboard for measurement purposes. I also painted Left Shift and Enter in green and Backslash in blue because these keys differ on ANSI vs ISO.

Now let's take a look at ISO.

ISO ergonomics

(Please note that we won't provide a full-blown ISO layout, but a half-ISO layout featuring the extra ISO key and a bar-shaped Enter key.)

Now we have an extra ISO key painted in yellow, but Left Shift and Enter got farther from the center of the keyboard which is a bummer given their frequent use. How much farther, exactly?

Enter distanceLeft Shift distanceBackslash distance
ANSI64.56.75
ISO6.755.54.5

Based on the above, it's hard to argue that ISO is more ergonomical. Enter and Left Shift is pressed at least hundreds, if not thousands of times per day and they're about 1 unit (20 millimeters = 0.8 inch) farther from the center on the ISO layout. Backslash is closer by 1 unit and there's an extra ISO key but they aren't that frequently used so it's not a great tradeoff.

Regardless of ergonomics, many of you have made it clear that the ISO key is a necessity for you and some of you are too used to the L-shaped Enter and aren't willing to unlearn your muscle memory. I get it, we're creatures of habbits.

On the other hand, it's also interesting to see that a fair number of people use the opposite standard that they should be using based on their home country. For example, I as a Hungarian should use ISO but using ANSI. On the Hungarian layout the ISO key translates to "í" which is a Hungarian accented character, but I write Hungarian text almost solely with US characters, without accents. Also, as a developer, I strongly dislike that my native layout unnecessarily remaps dozens of characters like !, @, # compared to the standard US layout.

How about you in this respect? Let us know in the following poll until it's open!

ANSI vs ISO poll result