You may not realise that the humble keyboard that we all type on every day has a history and isn't the same for everyone. Keyboard layouts are designed to make it easier and more efficient for the computer user to input their text and prompts. This efficiency is based on the language that they are typing. But with so many different languages worldwide, computer keyboards had to adapt too.

IT for beginners is essential because it allows you to learn about the differences between technology and for you to know the things that you need to learn. For example, the keyboard that you are using if you have a keyboard that has been made in the UK is called a QWERTY keyboard. Don't worry I won't ask you to repeat it, but it is something that you should learn to recognise.

You should also know that there are many different keyboard layouts around the world. Of which QWERTY is just one. While QWERTY is one of the most popular layouts, there are also popular layouts such as:

  • AZERTY: The most distinctive difference the number keys appear on the letter keys and are activated with the shift key. Used commonly in French-speaking countries.
  • QWERTZ: The most distinctive difference is some keys have been replaced by characters such as  Ä, Ö, ß. Used commonly in some part of eastern Europe Like Switzerland and Germany
  • QÜERTY: The most distinctive difference is W is not on the keyboard at and letters are moved around. Used commonly in countries like Iran and Turkey
  • ÄWERTY: The most distinctive difference is C, Q, V, and X  are not available on the keyboard. Used commonly in countries like Turkmenistan and central Asia

These layouts are all quite similar to QWERTY with minor changes such as changes in key positions, added special characters and of course some missing keys. However, when you are used to your layout, these minor changes can cause a big headache.

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How To Recognise A QWERTY Keyboard

If you look at the top left of your keyboard, under the function key row and under the numbers row. You will see the letters QWERTY when typing from Left to right. If you are on a computer, laptop, tablet or phone, you will see those magic little letters that tell you that you are using a QWERTY keyboard.

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Why Does The Keyboard Layout Matter?

It may seem like it doesn't matter too much what kind of keyboard you are using. But I assure you once you start to improve your typing and learn the keyboard layout and shortcuts, a change in keyboard can really blindside you.

This is because when you use a different computer keyboard layout all of the special characters will be in a different place, the letter keys will be in a different place, the symbols will be different, you may have additional letters and letter with accents. On some keyboards like those from countries that don't use the Roman alphabet like China, you may have no letters at all.

When I type, I don't always look at the keys so even the slightest change in layout can have me typing words that have no meaning. Imagine detaching all of the keys on your keyboard, throwing them up in the air and using them as they land back on the keyboard plate. Can you imagine? How hard it would be to find the letters just to write what you are thinking.

Indeed this is the importance of knowing which keyboard you are using. I learnt this the hard way while travelling and going into internet cafes before I carried a laptop with me. Every time I sat down, it took me ages to type what I wanted to say, every time I got into a flow I had to stop to find the full stop key. How frustrating!

Let's take a look at what you can do if your keyboard is not based on the layout setting that you are used to.

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The Reason QWERTY Was Invented?

The design of the QWERTY layout was invented in 1873 by Christopher Latham Sholes. Wikipedia tells us that Christopher was an American inventor who collaborated with some other inventors to create the first typewriter.

It was from this typewriter project that the interest in optimising the keys came about. Christopher realised that laying out the keys from A to Z didn't work as there are many letter combinations which became complicated to type with that design. The hammers of the typewriter would get stuck together and slow down the writing process.

By inventing the QWERTY keyboard, Christopher managed to separate the keys that were used most,  which allowed for a better flow on the typewriter. As the typewriter became the computer keyboard, we still use QWERTY today.

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Computer keyboards had to adapt
The UK layout is called a QWERTY keyboard. Photo Source: Unsplash

How To Switch Your Keyboard To QWERTY In Windows?

While computers are amazing, they still get bugs, crash and do odd things at times. If you turn on your PC one day and find the keyboard isn't typing the keys correctly. It could be that your computer has updated something incorrectly.

I remember once when prompted to do an update, my PC changed its language to German. The PC for beginners and Experts alike can be really frustrating when this happens, but the good thing is that there is normally a logical answer and a simple fix.

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When you are using a windows computer and find this anomaly, don't despair there is a fast and easy fix for the problem. In windows, the keyboard layout is linked to the language that you are using. To make English and the QWERTY you preferred layout follow these steps:

  1. Go to the start menu. The key to open this menu is at the bottom left of your keyboard and looks like a window.
  2. Click on settings (Control Panel)
  3. Now select ‘Time & language.
  4. Next, Go to ‘Region & language.’
  5. click English in the list of languages to open its menu.
  6. You should see the option to add a keyboard here. Make sure you click it and check that it is installed.
  7. Exiting this area, click the language again and this time activate the ‘set as default’ option.
  8. The last step is to restart your machine, and your keyboard layout should be back to QWERTY.

* Please note that this was for windows 10 OS, The name or placements of things may be slightly different depending on the version of your software.

How To Switch Your Keyboard To QWERTY On MAC?

  1. Click on the Apple icon. Located in the top left of the screen
  2. Scroll to and click system preferences in the menu list.
  3. When the box opens, go to the keyboard option
  4. You will now see 4 options; keyboard, text, shortcuts and input sources
  5. Go to Input sources
  6. Click the + button and add the keyboard layout that you want.
  7. QWERTY will be the keyboard for the UK.
  8. Close the box, and your Keyboard layout should have appropriately updated.
Keyboard Layout On An Iphone And Ipad
Changing the layout on an Apple device. Photo Source: Unsplash

How To Switch Your Keyboard Layout  To QWERTY On A Smart Phone?

In the past, it didn't matter much about what layouts you had on your phone. But as technology gets smarter, and tech gets smaller. It is now essential to have a good keyboard for your phone and tablet devices.

This allows you to work on the go, reply to emails even edit reports. The portability of the smartphone means that you don't just want to optimise your pc for the keyboard layout, but you want to optimise your phone as well.

Keyboard Layout On An Iphone And Ipad

Changing the layout on an Apple device is relatively easy, keep in mind that the operating system version of your device may change the way that this is done. Follow these steps:

  1. Go to your setting app. (Black and grey bike wheel  icon)
  2. Scroll down and go to the general tab.
  3. Now scroll down to reach the ‘keyboard’ section.
  4. Now tap the keyboard menu item
  5. You will see the list of installed Keyboards on your device.
  6. Click your current setting which shows as a language. In this case, it should be English.
  7. Click on to the language to open up your keyboard options.
  8. You will now see some keyboard layouts
  9. Select QWERTY
  10. Exit and your keyboard will be updated

Keyboard Layout On Android

On Android there are many different versions available from kit kat to Oreo, each has a slightly different approach to changing your keyboard, but these steps should be similar enough for you to find your way.

  1. Go to  the settings area (gear icon)
  2. Scroll down to the systems area (icon of a circle with an ‘i’ inside).
  3. Go to the Languages and input area. (The icon is a circle with horizontal and vertical lines going through it. )
  4. Now the second entry is keyboards, click virtual keyboard.
  5. You will see the active keyboards
  6. You can click one of the options, and you will be able to select QWERTY from there
  7. You can also click the + symbol and activate a new keyboard.

Writing on digital devices is only made possible because of keyboards, having them set up correctly and optimised for your use will make your life much more comfortable and help to you achieve whatever outputs you have in mind. If you found this useful, why not check out our blog on Learning to use your PC.


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