Updated: 04/01/2018 by Computer Hope

A computer keyboard is one of the primary input devices used with a computer that looks similar to those found on electric typewriters, but with some additional keys. Keyboards allow you to input letters, numbers, and other symbols into a computer that can serve as commands or be used to type text.

Keyboard overview

The following image shows a 104-key Saitek keyboard with arrows pointing to each section including the control keys, function keys, LED indicators, wrist pad, arrow keys, and keypad.

Computer keyboard overview

QWERTY keyboard layout

Below is a close up image of a QWERTY computer keyboard with each of the keys selectable. Hover over any of the keys below to see a description of the key and click any of the keys to open a new page with full details about the key.

Keyboard keys Escape (Esc) Key Function Keys Print Screen (Prt Scrn) Key Scroll Lock Key Pause and Break Key Tilde and Back Quote Key 1 and Exclamation Key 2 and At Key 3 and Hash Key 4 and Dollar Sign Key 5 and Percent Key 6 and Caret Key 7 and Ampersand Key 8 and Asterisk Key 9 and Open Parenthesis Key 0 and Close Parenthesis Key Dash and Underscore Key Equals and Plus Key Backspace Key Insert (Ins) Key Home Key Page Up (Pg Up) Key Num Lock Key Divide Key Times Key Subtract Key Tab Key Top Row Keys Open Bracket and Open Brace Close Bracket and Close Brace Enter or Return Key Delete (Del) Key End Key Page Down (Pg Dn) Key Numeric Keypad Plus Key Caps Lock Keys Home Row Keys Semicolon Key and Colon Key Single Quote Key and Quote Key Backslash Key and Pipe Key Left Shift Key Bottom Row Keys Comma Key and Less Than Key Period Key and Greater Than Key Forward Slash Key and Question Mark Key Right Shift Key Arrow Keys Enter Key Left Ctrl Key Left Windows Key Left Alt Key Spacebar Right Alt Key Right Windows Key Menu Key Right Ctrl Key Period key Caps Lock, Scroll Lock, and Num Lock LED lights

Keyboard ports and interfaces

USB cable and portToday, most desktop computer keyboards connect to the computer using either USB or Bluetooth for wireless communication. Before USB, a computer may have used PS/2, serial port, or AT (Din5) as a keyboard interface.

Types of keyboards

Today, most keyboards are similar to each other, but may be missing one or more of the sections mentioned earlier (e.g., the keypad). Where keyboards begin to differ the most is with the keyboard layout. While most keyboards use the QWERTY layout, there are still people who use the DVORAK layout.

Laptop keyboards

A laptop keyboard is different from a desktop keyboard to help reduce the size and the overall weight of the laptop. Most laptop keyboards are made smaller by placing the keys closer to each other and not always including control keys or a keypad. For a laptop to have all the same functions as a desktop keyboard, laptop keyboards use an Fn key that is used in conjunction with other keys to perform special functions. For example, pressing the Fn key and the up or down arrow on the keyboard shown below, increases and decreases the brightness of the screen.

Laptop Fn function keyboard key

Another difference with a laptop keyboard is the type of switch beneath each key or how the keys feel when pressed down. Some users may even experience more typing errors when typing on a laptop because of how easy it can be to press another key next to the key you intended to press.

Smartphone and tablet keyboards

Apple iPhone keyboardToday's smartphones and tablets do not come with a physical keyboard, although it may be purchased as an optional peripheral add-on. These devices utilize a thumb keyboard or on-screen keyboard to type messages and enter text into various fields. The image to the right shows an example of the Apple iPhone on-screen keyboard, used on all of Apple's touch-based device.

Why is the keyboard an input device?

A computer keyboard is considered an input device because it only sends data to a computer and does not receive any information back.

What are multimedia keys?

Multimedia keys are those keys which allow the user to control music on their computer keyboard. These keys add functionality such as play, pause, stop, rewind, fast-forward, skip track, eject, shuffle, and repeat.

AFK, Alt, Ctrl, Delete, Enter, Hardware terms, Home row keys, Keyboard terms, Natural keyboard, Numeric keypad, OSK, Shift, Spacebar, Tab, Typewriter, Windows key