What is an ortholinear keyboard and is it better?

To understand what an ortholinear keyboard is, we can start with the word “Ortholinear” itself. “Ortholinear” consists of the words “ortho” and “linear”, “ortho” is a Greek word, it means straight, straight line; “linear” means a line or forming a line, so “ortholinear” means Align in straight lines or a perfect grid. Therefore, an ortholinear keyboard refers to a compact keyboard with a uniform grid layout and the same key size, while there are two types of keyboards in the market: ortholinear and staggered.

The commonly used QWERTY keyboards use ANSI and ISO layouts, both of which are staggered layouts. The staggered layout originated from the old mechanical typewriters. Each key on the typewriter was connected to a physical striker. In order to allow a key to be connected to the striker without interfering with each other, the keys of the typewriter must be staggered. So, an ortholinear keyboard is not a common keyboard layout, but a niche and very unique keyboard layout.

According to users who support the ortholinear keyboard layout, the fully uniform layout of the ortholinear keyboard looks more comfortable, and is also more accurate, fast and comfortable to use. But most people don’t know or touch an ortholinear keyboard, and don’t know if it’s better than a staggered keyboard, and if it’s worth buying or trying. I’m going to detail everything about the ortholinear keyboard in this article to help you decide whether to try it out.

Ortholinear Keyboard Features

1. More compact layout

Ortholinear keyboards are more compact than traditional keyboards, usually it only has 40% or 60% of the keys of a traditional QWERTY full-size keyboard, it removes some function keys and other keys, it is usually 4 rows x 12 columns or 5 Rows x 15 columns.

2. Neat and unified buttons and layout

Every key on an ortholinear keyboard has the same size, whether it’s the Enter, Shift, or Enter keys, they all have the same shape and size. And the keys are completely aligned in the vertical and horizontal directions, which looks very uniform.

Advantages of Ortholinear Keyboards

  1. More in line with aesthetics
    The keys of the ortholinear keyboard are more uniform and more in line with the user’s aesthetics. The keyboard is also very small and compact, which can bring a cleaner desktop. Apart from that, keycap color, keycap profile, light color, etc. can be customized according to user preferences.
  2. Improve typing efficiency
    The unified key layout of the ortholinear keyboard makes it easier for us to find the position of each key, and each key is on the same straight line. The typist can find the specific position of the key without looking at the keyboard, which will improve the accuracy of typing. The compact layout reduces the distance our fingers travel, increases typing speed and efficiency, and reduces finger fatigue.
  3. Easy to carry
    ortholinear keyboards have only 40% or 60% of the layout of regular full-size keyboards and are very compact, which makes them take up less space and will be very convenient to carry on business trips or travel.
  4. More ergonomic
    Like the ortholinear Keyboards ortholinear keyboards are more ergonomic than regular staggered keyboards, and the straight-line design eliminates the need for unnatural finger curls.

Disadvantages of Ortholinear Keyboards

  1. Learn to adapt to the new layout
    Unlike other staggered layouts that accommodate non-QWERTY layouts, such as the Dvorak and Colemak layouts, although they have changed, it is the character position that changes, and the physical layout of the keyboard does not actually change. Ortholinear keyboards, on the other hand, have changed quite a bit in the physical layout, and if you’re used to a staggered layout, you’ll need customer service and retraining muscle memory after changing the ortholinear layout, which will be more difficult than getting used to the new staggered layout.
  2. Limited options
    Because ortholinear keyboards are relatively niche keyboards, ortholinear keyboards have not developed too many styles at present, unlike traditional staggered keyboards, which have a variety of styles to choose from.
  3. Limited research
    Because the users of ortholinear keyboards are far less than the users of traditional interleaved keyboards, developers do not have enough user data to support them in developing and improving the design of ortholinear keyboards.

How do I know if an ortholinear keyboard is right for me?

Depending on the user, an ortholinear keyboard can provide completely different feedback. So the best way to determine if an ortholinear keyboard is right for you is to use it for a while. See if your friend has an ortholinear keyboard and is willing to lend it to you for a while, or buy a second-hand ortholinear keyboard and see if you can get used to it well after using it for a while. If you buy it just because you took someone else’s advice or thought it would work better than a traditional keyboard, you’re probably wasting money.

If your goal is to find a comfortable and efficient keyboard, try these proven high-performance mechanical keyboards.


Are Ortholinear keycaps different?

Yes, the keycaps of an ortholinear keyboard are not the same as those of a traditional keyboard. The space, shift, enter, backspace, ctrl and other keys of traditional keyboards are much larger than other letter keys. On the other hand, the keys of the ortholinear keyboard are almost all the same size, or only the space key in the middle occupies 2 or 3 columns and is different from the other keys.

Are Ortholinear keyboards better? Should I switch Ortholinear keyboard?

For users who use and are accustomed to an ortholinear keyboard, the ortholinear keyboard may be better in experience, but for different users, the same thing may feel diametrically opposite. The most straightforward way to find out if an ortholinear keyboard is better for you is to use an ortholinear keyboard for a while, perhaps borrowing it from a friend, or buying a used ortholinear keyboard.