This is a follow-up question based on Why are keyboard keys staggered?. The accepted answer explained how this staggered design originates to earliest typewriter. My question is, why do they stagger in this way?

Take home row as the horizontal axis, then in the alphanum area you canʼt find two keys aligned horizontally. It might be explained by my observation that for old typewriters, each keyʼs lever must take a unique horizontal position.
I'm just wondering whether itʼs that later industrial designers never changed this, or that there are other reasons beyond path dependence?

  • The answer to that question can be found in the very article you are referring to. Quote: "After that, it was what industry was tooled up to make, and what people were used to. And there hasn't been a big enough change to typing to get most people to change over to a matrix (non staggered) layout since. Just like most people still use a qwerty layout even though there are other better layouts around." (By JohnGB) Commented Jul 9, 2015 at 8:50

2 Answers 2


A guess on my part…

When I put my hands on the home keys on a standard keyboard my hands are at an angle:

picture of hands on a keyboard

So the minimal movements to reach keys above/below the home row are also going to be at an angle. So having the rows slightly offset reduces the amount I have to move my hands to type.

The keyboards that I've seen that do have vertically aligned rows, and are intended to extended typing, have all been split in some way so that the keys are placed at an angle to closer match the "natural" position of the hands

an ergonomic keyboard

  • An example of the contrary is typematrix.com Commented Jul 9, 2015 at 8:54
  • During editing this question I first typed “asymmetrical.” If I place my hands on keyboard at an angle, why would my left hand and right hand have different angle? That doesnʼt make sense to me. The picture you posted showed exactly symmetrical angles for left hand and right hand. Commented Jul 9, 2015 at 9:35
  • @Virgil Ming: That's the way my hands are when typing, almost exactly symmetrical angles.
    – jamesqf
    Commented Jul 9, 2015 at 21:39

This wikipedia article show a picture labelled "Keys are arranged on diagonal columns, to give space for the levers."


  • The beginning of this article also suggest that change has not occurred due to 'inertia'. The standard key layout is a familiar and ubiquitous pattern so no-one has changed it for a more unfamiliar one. Commented Jul 9, 2015 at 8:53
  • That does not answer the question. The topic starter is aware of the origin in typewriters. Commented Jul 9, 2015 at 8:53
  • @BartGijssens, the topic starter only suggests that in their observation this might be the case - I was offering a little confirmation of their suggestion. Commented Jul 9, 2015 at 8:55

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