Ortholinear VS Staggered Keyboard – Which One is Better?

If you never heard of ortholinear keyboards, it’s because they were not very popular. Since the dawn of computing, people have been using the staggered keyboard layout.

The staggered keyboard layout was adopted from typewriters because it was easier for people to adapt to the same layout they were using before.

So, as everyone has always been learning to work on the same layout, no one even thought if it needed fixing or if it could be improved.

Ortholinear keyboards, just like the name, have a straight aligned pattern of keys. All of the keys are equally sized and are arranged in perfect rows and columns.

At first glance, they might appear weird to you, and also difficult to use but that is not the case. That said, have a look at the Ortholinear vs Staggered Keyboard differences here:

Ortholinear vs Staggered Keyboard in 2022: The Ultimate Comparison

Staggered Keyboard

staggered keyboardAs I mentioned above, a staggered keyboard layout was adopted from typewriters. If you have ever seen a typewriter, you will suddenly notice that having an ortholinear layout on them was not possible.

Hence, the staggered layout was not a choice but rather a compromise to make it work.

Typewriters didn’t allow any room for mistakes, as you couldn’t erase a word by pressing backspace. Hence, the layout stuck and was later continued in keyboards.

Based on a technical necessity, the layout became common practice which is followed even today in the keyboards. Staggered keyboards are not bad, but no one thought if they could be improved.

Problems Faced by Staggered Keyboard Users

The most common problems faced by staggered keyboard users are difficulty in grasping the location of keys while fast typing and improving typing speed.

Furthermore, staggered keyboards are very large in size, which means you will need large space for them while traveling.

Also, the distance between the keys can cause finger fatigue and inflammation after long hours of typing.

Due to the staggered arrangement of keys, there are limited customization options in the staggered layout. You cannot simply remap keys and replace them in other places.

Moreover, remapping the NUMPAD in smaller form factors won’t have a uniform vertical alignment which can cause errors in data entry.

Ortholinear Keyboard – How it Differs from Staggered Keyboard?

ortholinear keyboardThe ortholinear word is taken from dentistry, and the concept is also similar. Just like an orthodontist arranges your teeth in perfect uniform alignment, the keyboard has a uniform linear and vertical layout.

These keyboards are not a new invention. They have existed for a long time, but because of their fondness for staggered keyboards, no one ever paid attention to them.

As technology advanced, so did the need for fast typing and data entry. Typing problems like finger fatigue, inflammation, and various other diseases were discovered that were caused by typing.

Hence, the ortholinear keyboard layout was re-introduced as an alternative to the staggered keyboard layout.

What is Ortholinear Keyboard Layout?

The ortholinear keyboard layout is a perfect alignment of all the keyboard keys in rows and columns. You can imagine it by observing the NUMPAD on your current keyboard. The whole keyboard will be arranged like your NUMPAD.

The layout, first of all, reduces the size of the keyboard and is available in a smaller form factor. However, you can also go for bigger form factors if you want.

Since the keys are vertically aligned, the space between the keys reduces significantly. Every key is perfectly placed beneath or beside another key.

The keys like backspace, spacebar, shift, and enter are reduced in size to meet the size of other keys so a uniform pattern could be achieved.

When looking at the ortholinear keyboard for the first time, you might think of them as weird, but in actuality, they have a lot of benefits.

Benefits of Ortholinear Keyboard

There are a lot of benefits of shifting from a staggered keyboard to an ortholinear keyboard layout. Let’s discuss them one by one.

  • Comfort and Convenience: Ortholinear keyboard layout has little or no spacing between the keys. All the keys are perfectly aligned above one another. Hence, you will have maximum comfort and minimum finger fatigue.
  • Fewer Chances of Mistakes: After a bit of practice, your mind will form a perfect map of every key. Since the keys are vertically aligned the chances of error are much lower as compared to a staggered keyboard.
  • Faster Typing: Your typing speed will be significantly boosted with fewer errors. Once you develop a habit of typing on an ortholinear keyboard layout, your typing speed will be much faster than before.
  • Easy Keymapping and Customization: Uniformity in key size and layout increases your customization options. You can make alternations in any way you want and relocate the keys to a personalized key-mapped layout.
  • Smaller Form Factor: Ortholinear keyboards are available in smaller form factors. Hence, they can be easily stored in your laptop bag. You can purchase them in 40% or higher form factors.
  • NUMPAD: You can easily customize the layer of keymap to add NumPad on the ortholinear keyboard. Hence, you will have perfect NUMPAD even in a small form factor, unlike a staggered keyboard where you don’t have vertical alignment.
  • Reduces Risks of Wrist Pain and Finger Inflammation: When using the ortholinear keyboard with a wrist rest, you will be able to use it for long hours and increase your work efficiency without the risk of any pain.

Is Ortholinear Keyboard Better than Staggered Keyboard?

Despite the above-mentioned benefits of ortholinear keyboards, a lot of people still prefer staggered keyboards. The main reason behind this choice is the fear of change.

The biggest drawback of an ortholinear keyboard is the change in layout. People will have difficulty in beginning adopting to the newer layout, and hence they prefer not to change.

Believe it or not, once you have gotten a bit of practice on an ortholinear keyboard, typing will be much easier and faster for you. You will be able to work longer, faster, and more efficiently.

Although, for gamers, the staggered layout is still a favored choice. Gamers like their keymap staggered because they have adapted to them and they also do not want to drop their game to learn a new layout.

Another reason why people prefer a staggered keyboard is because of available options. The market is not diverse in terms of designs and brands when it comes to ortholinear keyboards.

However, when you go for purchasing a staggered keyboard, you will have plenty of options. They are available in multiple designs, customizations, and pro-gamming tweaks.

Although ortholinear keyboards have a lot of potentials, it will take some time for them to achieve the same level of diversity and saturation in the market.

We recommend that the benefits outweigh the change. Although you will have a bit of difficulty when first using the Ortholinear keyboard, in the longer run, they will benefit you a lot.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are ortholinear keyboards faster?

Yes, ortholinear keyboards are much faster when it comes to typing and data entry. Although, you will have a bit of difficulty, in the beginning, adapting to the newer layout. However, once you get used to it,

Do keycaps fit all switches in staggered keyboards?

No, in staggered keyboards, keycaps have different sizes and are also different shaped. So, not all keycaps can fit all switches. However, you can change the location of limited keycaps on the main keyboard.

Do keycaps fit all switches in ortholinear keyboards?

Yes, in an ortholinear keyboard, all the keycaps have similar sizes and shapes. Hence, you can easily relocate them based on your personal preferences and alterations. You will have to create a new layer of keymapping for them to work.

Why are ortholinear keyboards smaller?

Ortholinear keyboards have a uniform alignment of keys in perfect rows and columns. Hence, they are available in smaller form factors. You can buy them in different available form factors.

Wrapping Up!

To sum it all up, the shift from staggered keyboard to ortholinear keyboard layout will be a bit hectic. It will take some time for a new user to get used to the ortholinear layout. However, once you get into the practice, the ortholinear keyboards are much better.

They have a lot of benefits that outweigh the change. Also, ortholinear keyboards will significantly increase your typing speed, convenience, and comfort.

Stay tuned for more guides!

Brandon S. Lee

Hi, My name Brandon S.Lee and I am a professional Gamer, I also worked with the keyboard making company called Logitech. I was the quality check manager of the Logitech keyboard department. Here we have a team of people who researched on the keyboards, talked with keyboard users and analyzes the user reviews and then write the product reviews.

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