More desk space, improved ergonomic possibilities, and other reasons to make the switch
You don’t have to be familiar with Moore’s Law to know that computers have gotten smaller over the years. They’ve required less and less physical space to perform more and more intricate tasks. And yet typing, one of the most fundamental parts of using a computer, still hinges upon an unyieldingly large piece of plastic and metal that dominates the desk. It’s no surprise that alternatives to the “full-sized” typing experience, such as tenkeyless or TKL keyboards, have grown in popularity.
For those looking to save space, or who simply don’t see the need for a dedicated number pad, the TKL layout strikes an ideal balance between compactness and versatility — and it just makes a lot of sense. Here are the five biggest benefits of making the switch to tenkeyless.
Find the perfect keyboard size for your desktop or on-the-go setup with our guide to everything from full-size to 20% boards.
What is a tenkeyless or TKL keyboard?
A TKL keyboard is one that typically features all of the standard alphanumeric keys, function keys, and navigation keys found on a full-size keyboard, with the exception of the number pad (more commonly referred to as the “numpad”). They’re “tenkeyless” because they don’t feature those 10 extra keys from 0 to 9, nor the mathematical operator and “Num Lock” keys that appear alongside them.
Since the numpad is typically placed next to the right-hand edge on a full size keyboard, a TKL layout saves a substantial amount of space while leaving the layout otherwise identical. This makes the transition to a TKL keyboard easy even for experienced touch typists who rely on the muscle memory they built up on full-sized boards — though they may find themselves reaching over to empty air the next few times they dive into their calculator or spreadsheet apps. TKL keyboards are about 80% as large as a full-size board, which is why you may also see them referred to as 80% keyboards.
Did You Know?:Finding a more ergonomic setup doesn’t just mean changing the shape of the board — sometimes it helps to swap keys around too. Here’s why the CTRL key found a new home in the HHKB layout.
The 5 biggest benefits of a TKL layout
Now that you know what sets a tenkeyless keyboard apart from other boards, here are five of the biggest reasons you may want to add one to your setup.
More desk space
Simply enough, the lack of a numpad means the keyboard doesn’t occupy as much horizontal space. While the numpad is relatively small next to the full set of alphanumeric keys, full-size keyboards also typically feature a certain amount of blank space between each cluster of keys to make them easier to find and operate — so you save on that room, too. Ultimately, opting for a TKL layout can save a surprising amount of surface area on your desk. This is especially important for PC gamers, who often need more space to operate their mice for precise control in competitive games.
The standard full-size keyboard layout was created before computer mice were commonly used as input devices, and it shows. While everyone’s body is different, for many people, using both a full-sized board and a mouse at the same time may result in an uncomfortable alignment of the chest and shoulders. By freeing up more room on the side of the keyboard, the board hand and mouse hand can be brought closer together for more comfortable operation.
Arrow and navigation keys
So far, we’ve talked about the advantages tenkeyless boards have over larger boards. But they can also draw favorable comparisons to smaller boards, such as in TKL vs 60% keyboard deliberations. Depending on how small you go, keyboards often integrate the arrow and navigation cluster keys (that’s Insert, Delete, Home, End, PgUp, and PgDn) more closely with the rest of their layout, or may even drop them entirely. If you regularly use these keys for functions such as word processing, coding, or even just scrolling web pages, you’ll need to take some time to adapt. TKL keyboards keep these keys right where you’d expect them to be.
Did You Know?:The HHKB Professional HYBRID Type-S is the latest version of an intelligently revised take on the modern typing experience. Find out more about making the switch to HHKB.
Ease of use
Further to the point above, many smaller keyboards also drop dedicated key placements for the function keys (F1, F2, and so on) as well as the navigation, arrow, and numpad clusters. Some lesser-used keys may not be supported at all, while others may be accessible via an extra “layer” accessed by holding down certain keys in combination. This focus on centering the most-used keys and setting the rest aside can be great for power users, but 80% keyboards are ideal for users who prefer the instant accessibility of a keyboard where each button does just one thing (except for typing capital letters and symbols).
If something is going to adorn your desk long-term, you ought to like the look of it. The TKL layout serves as a nice middle ground between that classic keyboard design and a more modern and compact feel. It’s also one of the most common types of keyboards, which means you have near-endless options for how you’d like your board to look depending on which model you prefer — and, if you pick up a mechanical keyboard, what kind of wild keycap styles you can customize your board with.