Updated: 04/09/2024 by Computer Hope
Some keyboard types: 101-key with Nepali, RGB (red, green, and blue), Apple Magic, Left-handed one-hand, Kinesis Freestyle Ergonomic, on-screen.

A keyboard is one of the primary input devices used with a computer. Like an electric typewriter, a keyboard is composed of buttons to create letters, numbers, and symbols, and perform additional functions. The following sections provide more in-depth information and answers to frequently asked questions about the keyboard.

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

What are the keyboard rows?

The horizontal rows of character keys in the typing area have specific names. For example, when placing your hands on the keyboard, they should be positioned over the home row keys. The keys below the home row are called the bottom row keys, and above the home row keys are the top row keys.

QWERTY keyboard layout

Below is a close-up image of a QWERTY computer keyboard with each of the keys selectable. You may hover your mouse cursor over any keys to see a description. Clicking any of the keys opens a new page with full details.

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


See our QWERTY definition for why the keyboard keys are positioned the way they are.

Keyboard ports and interfaces

USB cable and port

Today, most computer keyboards connect to the computer using USB or Bluetooth for wireless communication. Before USB, a computer used PS/2, serial port, or AT (advanced technology) (Din5) as a keyboard interface.

Types of keyboards

Today, most keyboards are similar but may be missing one or more of the sections mentioned earlier (e.g., the keypad). Where keyboards begin to differ the most is in their construction and design. Some keyboards are mechanical, while others use membrane keys. Some keyboards utilize a standard design, like the Saitek keyboard pictured above, and others are split down the middle, utilizing an ergonomic design. Some keyboards are rigid and always the same shape, while others are flexible and can fold in half or roll up.

Most keyboards use the QWERTY layout, but there are still designs that utilize the Dvorak layout.

What else can a keyboard do?

A computer keyboard has many more functions than typing. Below are additional tasks you can perform using a keyboard.

Apple keyboards

The following section contains information on Apple keyboards and how they differ from their PC equivalents.

What does an Apple keyboard look like?

The following image shows the standard layout for an Apple keyboard with a numeric keypad.

Apple Magic Keyboard.

How are Apple keyboards different than Windows keyboards?

The keyboards used with Apple desktop computers have a nearly identical layout to those used with Windows computers. However, they have a few different keys on both sides of the keyboard's characters section near the bottom: Command and Option.

Command, Option, and Control keys on an Apple keyboard.

Laptop keyboards

A laptop keyboard is arranged differently than a desktop keyboard to accommodate the laptop's narrower footprint. Most laptop keyboards are made smaller by placing the keys closer and including an Fn key. The Fn key is used to give other keys more than one function. For example, pressing the Fn key and the up or down arrow on the keyboard may increase or decrease screen brightness (shown below). Also, many laptop keyboards generally omit the numeric keypad to save space.

Laptop Fn function keyboard key

Smartphone and tablet keyboards

Apple iPhone keyboard

Today's smartphones and tablets do not have a physical keyboard, although one 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 is an example of the Apple iPhone on-screen keyboard, used on all Apple touch-based devices.

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 from it. As you type on the keyboard, you input information into the computer.

Does a computer need a keyboard?

Many users are surprised to learn that a keyboard is considered a peripheral and that a computer can function without one. If you have a USB keyboard, you can disconnect it now, and you see that the computer continues to work without it. Many servers, like the Computer Hope web server, run their entire life without a keyboard and are administered by a remotely-connected user.

What are multimedia keys?

Multimedia keys are those keys that 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 for music. For further information on these keys, see our special key page.

What keys appear twice on a keyboard?

On a typical U.S. PC keyboard, three keys appear twice. They are the Alt keys, Ctrl keys, and Shift keys. Almost all the keys on the numeric keypad are duplicated. These keys include the divide (/), times (*), subtract (-), plus (+), period (.), numbers 0 through 9, and the Enter key. The only key on the numeric keypad that does not appear twice is the Num lock key.


The three keys that appear twice on Apple keyboards are the Command keys, Control keys, and Shift keys. For Apple keyboards with a numeric keypad, there are seventeen duplicate keys. These keys include the equal (=), divide (/), times (*), subtract (-), plus (+), period (.), numbers 0 through 9, and the Enter key.

AFK, Alphabet, Alt, Caps lock, Ctrl, Delete, Enter, Function keys, Hardware terms, Home row keys, Keyboard terms, Keycaps, Layout, Natural keyboard, Numeric keypad, Num lock, OSK, Peripheral, Shift, Spacebar, Tab, Typewriter, Typing, Virtual keyboard, Windows key