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[ The PC Guide | Systems and Components Reference Guide | Keyboards | Keyboard Layouts | Standard Keyboard Layouts ]

104-Key "Windows" Keyboard Layout

Despite being a software company, Microsoft has always manufactured and sold input device hardware (for reasons that I don't fully comprehend). Regardless of the rationale, Microsoft has been in these markets for some time. As Windows became the predominant operating system in the PC market, Microsoft realized that many common Windows functions had no simple keyboard short-cuts to activating them. Seizing their leadership position, they created a specification for a new variant of the 101-key keyboard that includes special keys to activate common Windows functions.

Closeup photo of a black 104-key Windows keyboard. Though not as common, some very
much prefer the aesthetics of the black case. This layout is identical to the 101-key Enhanced
layout with the exception of the additional three keys: one Windows key on either side of
the <Space Bar>, and a "right-click" (context menu) key to the right of the <Space Bar>.
(Thanks to Staples for letting me take the original of this photo, in one of their stores.)

These so-called "Windows keyboards" are in fact almost identical to the regular 101-key Enhanced design. They simply add three additional "Windows" keys, making room for them by stealing real estate from the <Alt>, <Ctrl> and <Space Bar> keys along the bottom of the keyboard. The operation of these keys is described in detail on a separate page.

Since the Windows keyboard offers some flexibility that the regular Enhanced layout does not, and its cost of production is virtually unchanged, it quickly replaced the Enhanced layout as the de-facto standard on most PCs. Most keyboards today, whether they are included with new PCs or sold separately, are some variation of the 104-key Windows keyboard layout.

Next: Non-Standard Keyboard Layouts

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