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Differences Between the US and UK Computer Keyboard Posted by on Jan 21, 2012 in Culture, English Language

Yesterday Erin took you through the signs and symbols that you will find on your computer keyboard.  She even explained the name for each symbol. Another element she mentioned is that there are different keyboards for different countries.

If you have ever sat down at a computer whilst in the United Kingdom and tried to type an email, you probably ran into a few frustrations. That’s because the UK keyboard, while very similar to the American one, has a few differences.

The United Kingdom and Ireland use a keyboard layout based on the 48-key version defined in British Standard BS 4822. I’ve included the American keyboard and the UK keyboard below, so you can take a look at the differences. To be honest, the differences are so few and minor that identifying them might feel a bit like some of those “spot 5 differences” images you may have completed as a kid.

United States Keyboard

United States Keyboard

United Kingdom Keyboard

United Kingdom Keyboard

I’ve included a list of the main differences below for you but one of the first differences you might have seen is that the UK enter key is a little bit bigger. You might have also noticed that some of our symbols are in different places. The one people notice the most are the “@” symbol, which is to the left of the enter key. While the quotation mark makes it way over to above the number 2.

The pound symbol, which we actually call a hash rather than pound, is also moved closer to the enter key giving us a space for the currency symbol of the British Pound.

Main differences between a US and UK keyboard:

  • an AltGr key is added to the right of the space bar
  • the # symbol is replaced by the £ symbol and a 102nd key is added next to the Enter key to accommodate the displaced #
  • @ and ” are swapped
  • the ~ is moved to the # key, and is replaced by a ¬ symbol on the backquote (`) key
  • the \ key is moved to the left of the Z key
  • the Enter key spans two rows, and is narrower to accommodate the # key
  • on laptop computers, the | and \ key is often placed next to the space bar
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  1. paradiso:

    its help full for me thanks

  2. James Beattie:

    I used to have an american keyboard,now have UK one. The keyboards are different but the computer does not seem to know this ;for example, to write @ in my address above I used Shift 2,but, to write @ in other places I have to use Shift apostrophe.
    I am told I need to change the setting on my computer.WHY? HOW?
    The keyboard does not give out what aUK keyboard says.
    In other circumstances it is OK

  3. Dave Raybould:

    I have an HP DV5-2045dx (US Model) which has a US keyboard. I have put some stickers on the keys and set the layout to UK but I do not have a Backslash key? It is normally to the left of the Z as you advised but I do not have it on my keyboard.

    Any advice would be welcomed


  4. kemis kurio:

    @James Beattie you can only change the keyboard when the computer is being reprogrammed. It asked which keyboard layout during that process.

  5. Ryan Stewart:

    @Kemis kurio
    Completely incorrect. You can change the keyboard layout at any time in the control panel under language and input.

  6. Phil:

    Love It!! “If you have ever sat down at a computer whilst in the United Kingdom and tried to type an email, you probably ran into a few frustrations”
    I’m in the UK so my frustrations are when someone has their keyboard set to US . . . hahaha

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