Why QWERTY Keyboard’s Layout is so Popular and Widely Used?

Why QWERTY Keyboard’s Layout is so Popular and Widely Used?

Before listing various reasons for the QWERTY keyboard’s layout popularity and its worldwide acceptance, it will be fruitful to formally introduce the QWERTY Keyboard’s Layout.

Introduction to QWERTY Keyboard Layout

QWERTY is a keyboard layout (arrangement of keys) for Latin-script alphabets. Interestingly, the name is formed from the top left letters of the alphabetic row of the keyboard. Its design is based on a layout created for the Sholes and Glidden typewriter and sold to E. Remington and Sons in 1873.  If you don’t have a QWERTY keyboard, you may get one here. 

The QWERTY layout generally hosts about 102 keys and arranges them in six rows but this is not a standard, certain keyboards come with 100, 101, 102, and 104.  The detail of each row is as under. 

First row (Function and Special keys)

The first row contains Functional and Special keys which are Esc, F1, F2, F3, F4, F5, F6, F7, F8, F9, F10, F11, F12, Print Screen (PrtScn), Scroll Lock, and Pause (Break). 

They are usually combined with other keys to perform certain actions. For example, in Microsoft Word, Shift + F3 changes the cases of the
selected text.

Second Row (Alphanumeric Keys)

The second-row houses alphanumeric keys which serve two purposes; typing a symbol (sign) and a number. These keys are `(~), 1(!), 2(@), 3(#), 4($), 5(%), 6(^), 7(&), 8(*), 9((), 0()), -(_), and = (+). The names and symbols are given in the table below.

SymbolNameDescription
`Backtick Backtick is also known as backquote, grave, or grave accent. It is primarily used in computer programming. 
~Tilde The tilde is a sign which is mostly used to accent letters or over a vowel in phonetics. In mathematics, the tilde is used before a number to indicate approximation. 
!Exclamation mark The exclamation mark is also referred to as a “bang” or a “shriek”. It is most often used after an interjection or exclamation to indicate a strong feeling 
@at/at sign or address signThe at(@) sign is used to distinguish between the user name and the domain name. For example, someone@typing12.com
#Number signThe number sign is also known as the hash and pound sign. It is used the word number, for example, Shop # (number) 40. On social media platforms, it is used for tagging purposes. 
$Dollar Sign The dollar sign($), also known as the peso sign is made of a capital “S” crossed and one or two vertical strokes over it. Many countries, use it as their official currency.  
%Percent Sign The percent sign, also spelled as per cent is used to show a percentage (fraction of 100). 
^Caret Sign The caret sign is also referred to as circumflex, up-arrow, hat, wedge, chevron, or control character. It has a variety of uses in computing and mathematics. In a computer, the caret sign is used to indicate a superscript.
  In Mathematics, it indicates exponents such as square, cube, quad, and any other exponential power.   
&Ampersand SignThe ampersand sign, also known as the “and” symbol is used as an abbreviation for the word “and” in a list but in very informal writing. For example, I & Mr. Umar will visit you next week.  
*Asterisk sign The asterisk sign resembles a star shape. It is primarily used to show a correction, omission, footnote, or disclaimer. 
( )Brackets signs Brackets symbols are used to acquire additional information or show the contents which are not part of the main topic. They are always written in pairs. 
Hyphen signThe hyphen sign, also known as a dash mark is used to connect words and help to identify the syllabus. 
=Equal signThe equal sign is made of two small parallel horizontal lines and indicates whether the expression on the left side is the same on the right side. 

The Third, Fourth, and Fifth Rows (Alphabet keys and Punctuation keys)

There are total twenty-six (26) keys which are known as alphabet keys ranging from A to Z. These keys help us to type words, sentences, and paragraphs.  

In addition, this portion of the keys also contains punctuation keys. Examples of punctuation keys include the comma, full stop (period), colon, question marks, a hyphen, quotation marks etc. 

The Six Row (Special Keys/ Controls keys)

These are keys that perform special functions and include Tab, Ctrl, Caps lock, Shift, Insert, Print Screen, Alt, Home, Num Lock, Esc, and many others. 

Special keys work according to the type of computer involved. For example, by default, the Tab key defines five spaces in a word processing application. 

Reasons for QWERTY Keyboard’s Layout Popularity

Universal Layout

The QWERTY is in used since it was designed by Christopher Latham Sholes in 1870. It was used all over the world till the invention of the Dvorak keyboard layout.  It remained dominant for 100 years over other keyboard layouts.  

Even today, the QWERTY keyboard layout is common among computer users. People hesitate to switch to other keyboard layouts because the QWERTY keyboard touch typists find it frustrating to search for keys.  You can read more about keyboard layouts in the article “Keyboard Layouts“.  

Typewriter Typists

Before the invention of computers, people used to type with the help of typewriters which had the QWERTY keyboard built in.

Similarly, many computer users were already trained and used to with this keyboard layout. They are performing very well with the QWERTY keyboard’ layout and therefore, don’t bother about any other keyboard layout for efficiency and easiness.  

Unawareness of Other Keyboard Layouts

Many users’ computers are unaware of the fact that there are other keyboard layouts available than just QWERTY such as AZERTY, QWERTZ, Dvorak, and Colemak keyboard layouts. 

They simply start with the QWERTY keyboard and stick with it for the life and never try any other keyboard layouts. If want to read more about it, visit the Keyboard Layouts article. 

It is a fact of the matter, humans don’t look for alternate ways of doing routine tasks in terms of efficiency and ease. I asked many fast typists if they were exposed to or tried any other keyboard layouts. Their answer was a simple “No“.  

When did you become aware of other keyboard layouts, please let us know in the comment section below.   

Conclusion

To summarize, keyboard layout refers to the arrangement of keys on the keyboard. QWERTY is also a keyboard layout and its name is the combination the top six (6) alphabetic keys i.e. Q, W, E, R, T and Y. 

There is no standard for the total of number of keys on QWERTY keyboards that’s why some come with 100, 101, 102, and 104 keys. Anyhow, it is the most popular and widely used keyboard layout all over the world. The main reasons behind its popularity are; 

  1.  It has been a universal layout for about 100 years over other keyboard layouts. 
  2. It has remained the only option for typewriter typists as they were already trained and used to with this keyboard layout. 
  3. Many users’ computers are unaware of other keyboard layouts which further popularize the QWERTY layout among the users. 

Want to become a touch typist with the QWERTY keyboard layout?  Learn Touch Typing in 12 Simple Lessons trains you on QWERTY keyboard layout in 12 simple lessons. Go ahead and become a full keyboard typist. 

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