If you look at the US keyboard layout and compare to many other layouts(except UK English) the symbols are often in a different order.

What is the historical reason for this?

It would seem to me that if they are going to copy the QWERTY keyboard layout like most countries did then they would also copy the symbol locations?

I am ignoring the fact that some have different symbols entirely. For example looking at the Spanish keyboard, it's like somebody just put the symbols in random places.

Spanish enter image description here French enter image description here German

enter image description here

  • 3
    Can you show screenshots of keyboards in other countries/languages to highlight the differences that you are talking about? I think it would help provide a reference point to answer the question. Thanks.
    – Michael Lai
    Aug 19, 2018 at 9:36
  • 2
    You also should add an image of keyboard with US layout because not everyone know what it is like. Dec 3, 2018 at 5:45
  • Symbols on UK/US keyboards are also different (though not as drastically different as some of those you've shown).
    – TripeHound
    Dec 3, 2018 at 16:17
  • +1 for showing US layout, as it has different shape of enter key, which is not shown above...
    – tymik
    Mar 11, 2019 at 12:37

1 Answer 1


The QWERTY keyboard layout was established in 1874 by Sholes & Glidden typewriters. Every language has certain keys that are used more often, like in English the letter W is one of the most used letters in our alphabet. However in Spain it is a very rare letter to use, and if used it's many times because of anglicised words. Same goes for the german languages, the Y is rarely used, so to place it in the centre of the keyboard or "kezboard" as the german QWERTZ layout is nicknamed, wouldn't really make much sense. Instead the Z is used much more often. These small variations have few documentation so we can't be completely sure to the actual reason, but it seems to be pure comfort of certain language users. The QWERTZ layout is not only used in Germany though, also throughout the Balkans, Austria and to some extent even Eastern European countries like Poland, Czech Republic, Romania... As to the different symbols, it's purely based on usage of native writers. In France and Spain you will have a lot more accent symbols and in Germany there are more Diaeresis or Umlaut characters.

Fun fact, in Spain we have 4 different languages which means we have keyboard variations in our own country. In Catalonia we speak Catalan so we have keys like ç or · which on the Spanish keyboard are not available as they don't use those symbols.

  • 1
    This question was solely about symbols. Citations are recommended. [] are incredibly uncommon in about every language yet in Spanish they are on the home row.
    – William
    Sep 3, 2018 at 15:01
  • On my spanish keyboard those keys are pressed with ctrl + alt
    – Philip RH
    Sep 4, 2018 at 7:46
  • @PhilipRH - concerning Poland and QWERTZ - back in the days the largest stream of typewriters came from Germany, thus it became the "official" layout (diacritic characters like ą, ę, ś, ć, ż, etc. where placed on the keys between standard characters and Enter key). When the computers started to appear, the geeks used US layout and the diacritic characters were obtained by pressing AltGr with certain letter. This resulted in two Polish layouts - "typist's" (QWERTZ) and "programmer" (QWERTY). Shift to XXI century - the "typist's" layout is in basically extinct.
    – Mike
    Dec 3, 2018 at 16:11

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