Most keyboards have a rectangular Return (often labeled Enter) key. Above it they have the \ key and above that is a rectangular Backspace key.

Some keyboards, however, have a weird shaped Return key that covers the usual position for the \ key above it, as seen below.

Return key extends upwards into the \ key

To place the \ key elsewhere, they take up space from the Backspace key. It doesn't seem like it would be an easier place to hit the button in its upward extension. Furthermore, backspace is one of the most commonly used keys on a keyboard and shortening the button makes it even harder to reach.

Why are some keyboards commonly designed with this extended Return key?

  • 3
    In the old Europe, that's kind of the standard (with our wéírd ñ and ç). Commented Jun 6, 2014 at 3:25
  • 4
    Look up ISO vs ANSI keyboard layout. This explains part of the difference.
    – William
    Commented Aug 18, 2018 at 3:46

5 Answers 5


The "big ass enter" as it's referred to in some keyboard enthusiast groups, is actually a relic from the PC AT era. The original IBM Model F AT has a layout like this with a 1U backspace and backslash key, with a 2U tall backwards L shaped enter key. Why some manufacturers produce boards in this nonstandard layout is beyond me however, as this layout does not follow the ANSI, ISO, or JIS standard.

Keep in mind, this layout is also not to be confused with the ISO and JIS layouts which also use 2U tall enter keys, as those are slimmer at the bottom than they are on top, and ISO and JIS layouts also retain a 2U wide backspace key,


Answer by a European who has grown up entirely with keyboards that had a tall Return key: (hence read with full awareness that all of this may be based on what I'm used to)

In a regular 10-fingers typing position on the middle row (asdf and so on), when I extend my right little finger to the right in order to hit the Return key, its tip is naturally positioned on the row above the middle row. Thus, I only comfortably hit the Return key exactly because it extends upwards. Conversely, any time I use a keyboard with a low Return key, I frequently unintentionally add a backslash or whatever character is mapped to the key above the low Return key when I'm actually trying to add a linebreak or close a dialog box.

Therefore, my subjective impression of how things are is: It is much easier to hit a tall Return key, although keyboards for some languages continue being produced with the unergonomic single-line Return keys, maybe for reasons such as tradition.

  • as an Asian with short fingers my pinky always reach the left or middle part of the Enter key so personally I don't care what shape the Enter key is, but I do care about the backslash and right shift which many manufacturers move around and can't be pressed properly while touch typing
    – phuclv
    Commented Sep 12, 2018 at 5:32

I think it's a regional pattern.

A USA keyboard typically has a smaller return key whereas a European keyboard will have a larger return key.

On a European keyboard the backslash is typically moved to another location.

On my current UK keyboard it's beside the left shift key. However on the my UK iMac keyboard it's above the right shift key in the gap normally taken by the rectangular return key.

Short Answer: Different locations have different keyboard layouts regardless of language. What the thought process behind this choice is i'm unsure.

  • I am still wondering why the return key is extended, as I can't see any point to the upper part.
    – Keavon
    Commented Jun 6, 2014 at 18:27

In the same way that you think it's reasonable to have a big backspace key.. same applies to the return key in my mind. That leads to put the backslash next to the left shift as in the UK ISO layout. For me, that's the best option compared with making the backspace or return keys smaller. The mindset i think that comes from the several evolutionary branches coming from the original typewriter (same with the qwerty layout). Originally it was a necessity to have a big shift key (that key raised all the metal piece where the "printing" keys were). At the same time a lot of them didn't have a return key because you a had a dedicated lever for that. Each region took a different approach making different compromises. Anyway, this is just my guess.


There are two reasons to consider.

  1. Most computer companies still follow this design pattern, because there are 5 most pressed keys on the keyboard in no particular order.

    a. Spacebar, b. Enter, c. Shift, d. Backspace, e. Tab

These keys are most times made to be extended in length, for ease of clicking, amongst other UX reasons.

  1. For the ENTER, it doesn't stop at just the extended length but a brief right-aligned notch resulting in its connection with the Backslash. this is mostly to emphasize the traditional return symbol.
  • also because people tend to press Enter / Return with enlarged strength (decisively); Space(bar) key used to be damaged often because stabilizer bars were not as good as nowadays; Tab is the least used key from those five, I guess
    – ivan866
    Commented Jan 8 at 10:39
  • @ivan866 tab was huge before mice, and still is with the shrinking group of people who still do a lot of navigation by keyboard.
    – j__m
    Commented Apr 17 at 22:09

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.