Introduction to keyboards

Logical keyboard layout

The logical keyboard layout assigns meaning to the keys through the logical arrangement of graphic characters into groups and levels and is handled by the operating system. Users normally choose a layout matching the engravings on the physical keytops. The layout is normally associated with a locale (language and region/country). However, any layout can be used on any keyboard, regardless of what is engraved on the keyboard and the physical layout of the keyboard.

In Windows, the keyboard is defined by the Input Locale, and can be set using Regional and Language Options. Multiple input locales can be installed, and you can switch between them at any time. In Linux, the keyboard is defined in the X configuration (XF86Config). In Java, the keyboard is defined as part of the AWT and therefore uses the platform keyboard support. This means that to change keyboards in Java you must use the operating system support. It also means that the function varies based on platform.

The most common logical keyboard layout for Latin languages is known as QWERTY, taken from the letters on the six keys in the top left alphabetic row that are labeled from left to right: Q, W, E, R, T, Y. This layout was selected to slow down typists in the days of mechanical typewriters. Not all keyboards are laid out in this way. In France, the most common layout is AZERTY (as seen in Figure 2). In Germany and some other countries the Z and Y are reversed giving the QWERTZ layout.

Logical keyboard layouts by language for countries and regions around the world are available in the Logical keyboard layout registry index page. These global keyboard layouts are graphical schematics of keyboards used around the world. Each entry provides details of a logical keyboard layout including:
- the graphic characters that can be accessed at different group and shift levels
- each character's IBM GCGID
- character name
- corresponding Unicode code point
- dead key attributes
- and technical notes where applicable.