Glossary

  • 1.25x, 1.5x, etc: Refers to the width of keys. 1.25x is the standard for bottom-row modifiers (Ctrl, Alt, Win, Menu) on contemporary keyboards, whereas 1.5x was the standard on 101-key keyboards before the mid 1990s. “x” means the width of one regular alphanumeric key.
  • 60%: Form factor that includes only the alphanumeric portion of a keyboard. The term 60 percent refers to the number of keys. Most keyboards with this form factor have approximately 60 keys, or 60% of a full-size 104-key keyboard. Read more here.
  • 75%: Form factor that includes alphanumerics plus arrow keys and function keys, in the most compact layout possible. The term 75 percent refers to the number of keys. Most keyboards with this form factor have approximately 75% the number of keys on a full size 104-key keyboard. Read more here.
  • 80%: A term sometimes used to refer to tenkeyless/TKL boards, although this usage is not as common.
  • /r/mechanicalkeyboards: A very large and active subreddit dedicated to mechanical keyboards. http://www.reddit.com/r/mechanicalkeyboards
  • 104-Key (Full Size): Form factor that includes alphanumerics, navigation cluster, and tenkeypad, with modern Windows keys and a menu key. Most common keyboards in production today are 104-key; it’s probably what you’re using right now. 101-key was most common prior to the mid-1990s. “Full size” can also refer to 101-key, 103-key, etc. The term is used loosely. Read more here.
  • 6KRO: 6 key rollover. A keyboard with 6KRO can recognize up to 6 keys pressed simultaneously without experiencing key blocking or ghosting. 6 is the common limit for USB keyboards. Compare to NKRO. Some keyboards have other limits, such as 2KRO.
  • ABS: Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene. The most common keycap material. Read more here.
  • Actuation Force: The amount of force necessary to depress a key to the actuation point. Sometimes also used to refer to the force at the top of the keypress (the initial actuation force), or the amount of force at the bottom of the keypress (bottom-out force).
  • Actuation Point: The physical point in a keypress that makes contact and sends a signal to the connected computer.
  • ADB: Apple Desktop Bus. Contrast with USB or PS/2. Used on many Apple keyboards produced in the 1980s and 1990s. ADB keyboards can be used with modern computers with the help of USB adapters such as the Griffin iMate.
  • ALPS: The family of mechanical switches produced by Alps Electric. Often used to refer to non-genuine copies as well. Read more here.
  • Alt Gr: Commonly found on ISO keyboards in place of the right Alt key. Used to type out-of-locale characters.
  • ANSI: Refers to the standard English-language keyboard layout. Compare with ISO, which has different-shaped enter and extra keys. Read more here.
  • Anti-Ghosting: On some keyboards with limited key rollover, unintended characters are registered when the limit is reached. This is known as ghosting. Anti-ghosting is a catchall term for any engineering that helps avoid this problem.
  • AT/XT: AT and XT are legacy keyboard interfaces. AT keyboards can be adapted for use on modern machines using AT –> PS2 and PS2 –> USB adapters, while XT keyboards must be converted using a Soarer’s converter. Some keyboards have an AT/XT DIP switch.
  • AutoHotKey: Open source key remapping software for Windows. http://www.autohotkey.com/
  • Backlighting: LEDs installed in switches to provide illumination. Usually paired with keycaps that have translucent legends, so legends are illuminated as well.
  • Backplate: A metal plate sandwiched between a keyboard’s switches and PCB to strengthen the keyboard, protect the PCB, and improve the typing experience. A keyboard with a backplate is said to be plate mounted. A keyboard with no plate between the switches and PCB is said to be PCB-mounted.
  • Big-Ass Enter Key: A large, backwards-L-shaped enter key. Common on older keyboards, no longer considered standard.
  • Blue Cube: A cheap, common active PS2 –> USB converter. Often sold under the Ziotek brand name, but can be found with various branding. Very good compatibility. http://www.amazon.com/dp/B000BSJFJS/
  • Bolt Mod: A mod done to IBM Model M keyboards to replace old, cracked plastic rivets with nuts and bolts. When done properly, significantly tightens up keyboard and improves typing feel.
  • Bottom Out: Pressing a key all the way to the bottom of the stroke. Usually used in the context of typing. Some believe that bottoming out is bad, and promotes injury. Tactile and/or clicky switches allow one to develop a typing style that avoids bottoming out.
  • BSP: A Danish keycap company. Has Cherry profile molds and is sometimes commissioned to make PBT keycaps for group buys.
  • Buckling Spring: The type of switch found in IBM Model M keyboards. Read more here.
  • Cherry: Manufacturer of the popular Cherry MX switch.
  • Cherry MX: Cherry Corp’s most popular switch, and the most popular switch in contemporary mechanical keyboards, period. Read more here.
  • Cherry Profile: A keycap profile developed by Cherry Corp. Currently, Cherry, GMK, and BSP have Cherry-profile molds. Read more here.
  • Cherry Stabilizer: Compare to Costar stabilizer. A style of stabilizer used to stabilize long keys on Cherry MX keyboards. Some say Cherry stabilizers are mushier than Costar stabilizers, but they are generally easier to manage when changing keycaps.
  • Chording: The act of pressing two or more keys with a single hand. Frequently used in the context of discussing ergonomics.
  • Clicky: A switch or keyboard that makes an audible click. Many, but not all mechanical keyboards are clicky, and many but not all clicky keyboards are mechanical. Read more here.
  • Colemak: A layout alternative to QWERTY and Dvorak. Developed in 2006. http://colemak.com/
  • Colorway: A fancy word for “color scheme,” used in reference to keycaps.
  • Compact Layout: Any layout smaller than the standard 104-key layout. Read more here.
  • Cooler Master: A PC peripheral manufacturer that has released several popular mechanical keyboards, including the QuickFire Rapid and the soon-to-be-released Novatouch.
  • Costar: An OEM that manufactures the QuickFire Rapid and Majestouch 2, among other keyboards. Has a reputation for quality.
  • Costar Stabilizer: Compare to Cherry stabilizer. A style of stabilizer used to stabilize long keys on Cherry MX keyboards. Used in keyboards produced by Costar, among others. Some say Costar stabilizers have a less mushy feel than Cherry stabilizers, but Costar stabilizers are somewhat more difficult to manage when replacing keycaps.
  • DCS: One of Signature Plastics’ profiles. Close to OEM profile, and closest to a “normal” profile you’d expect to see on an average rubber dome keyboard. Compare to SA and DSA profiles, among others. Read more here.
  • Dental Bands: A thinner alternative to o-rings. Can be placed on Cherry keycap stems to dampen typing noises. Also commonly used to silence Topre switches, a task for which o-rings are usually too thick.
  • DIP Switch: A switch or bank of switches often found on the rear or bottom of keyboards, to change certain keys’ functions and so on. In other words, switches that can be used to reprogram keyboards for slightly different configurations. For example, a keyboard might have a DIP switch to reverse Caps Lock and left Ctrl.
  • Double Tap: Two quick, successive presses of the same key. Usually in gaming context.
  • Doubleshot: A method of producing ABS keycaps, wherein the legends are integral to the keycap. Read more here.
  • DSA: One of Signature Plastics’ profiles. All keys in all rows are the same height and have flat, slightly concave tops. Useful for Colemak/Dvorak users in particular, because keys can be freely rearranged without causing profile problems. Very popular keycap choice for the ErgoDox. Read more here.
  • Ducky: A Taiwanese keyboard manufacturer. Enjoys a reputation for good quality. Many of Ducky’s keyboards feature backlighting; some have very advanced backlighting features.
  • Dvorak: One of the oldest alternatives to the QWERTY layout. Contentiously claimed to reduce likelihood of injury, or to increase typing speed.
  • Dye Sublimation: A process used to permanently dye legends on PBT keycaps. Cannot be worn off, but cannot be used to dye ABS or to dye a light color onto a dark plastic. Read more here.
  • EliteKeyboards.com: A California-based keyboard retailer. Carries HHKB, Leopold, KUL, Realforce. http://elitekeyboards.com/
  • Ergo-Clear: A Cherry MX Clear switch whose spring has been swapped for a lighter replacement. Usually in 62-68g range. Ergo Clears are usually lubed with a Krytox mixture.
  • ErgoDox: A community-designed ergonomic keyboard. Most often sold as a DIY kit on Massdrop. Read more in the Buyer’s Guide.
  • Filco: A manufacturer that is known for making some of the highest quality mechanical keyboards on the market.
  • Filco Layout: Synonymous with standard ANSI layout. Read more here.
  • Filco Profile: Same as OEM profile. Read more here.
  • Form Factor: 60%, 75%, TKL, full size, etc. Read more here.
  • Function Key: A key that, when held, enables a keyboard’s function layer, wherein some or all keys have a different output. Function layers are often important on compact boards, and contain keys that are not physically on the keyboard, such as arrows, navigation cluster, tenkeypad, etc. Notably, most Fn keys do not send scan codes to the computer, and cannot be remapped with software.
  • Function Layer: See “Function Key.”
  • GeekHack.org: One of the biggest and oldest online keyboard communities. Comprises a forum and a wiki; the latter is very incomplete. http://geekhack.org/index.php
  • GH: See GeekHack.org.
  • Ghetto Switch: A Cherry MX switch that, through modification, attempts to emulate another production Cherry MX switch. For example, Cherry MX Blues with heavier springs swapped in are sometimes called “Ghetto Greens.”
  • GMK: A Germany keycap manufacturer. Owns original Cherry molds and equipment, and exclusively produces doubleshot ABS keycaps. Widely considered to be the highest quality ABS keycaps available.
  • Group Buy: A community-led, one-time group purchase. Done to meet minimum order quantities or to get better pricing on a certain item. Very popular in the mechanical keyboard world to obtain items that are not normally stocked by retailers.
  • Hall Effect: A vintage switch that employs magnetism to register keypresses. Yeah, Mr. White! SCIENCE!
  • Happy Hacking Keyboard (HHKB): A popular 60% Topre keyboard. The current model is the Happy Hacking Keyboard Professional 2.
  • Hysteresis: The gap between the actuation and reset point of a switch. If a switch has hysteresis, it means that the switch must be released to a point higher than its actuation point to reset, which can make it difficult to execute quick double-taps.
  • Home row: The ASDFGHJKL;’ row, where your fingers normally rest on a keyboard.
  • iOne: An OEM that makes the QuickFire Ultimate and Razer BlackWidow Ultimate, among other keyboards. Generally does not enjoy the same reputation for good quality that Costar does.
  • ISO: Compare with ANSI. The most common layout for European-language keyboards. Has a different shaped enter key and additional keys compared to an ANSI board. Read more here.
  • Kailh: A company that has recently started producing Cherry MX copy switches. Used in newer Keycools and Razers. Not much data are yet available on the longevity of Kailh switches.
  • Key Blocking: In addition to key ghosting, another problem that can occur when a keyboard’s rollover is maxed out. Whereas ghosting produces unintended keystrokes, blocking means the keyboard simply refuses to interpret any further keypresses.
  • Key Bounce: Many mechanical switches, when pressed, actually register multiple times (“bounce”) over a period of milliseconds. If there is no properly calibrated hardware or software in place to counteract this effect, the result can be undesired repeated keystrokes. Same as key chatter.
  • Key Chatter: This website, aka people talking about keyboards! Also a synonym for key bounce. Also can describe the sound of typing.
  • Key Ghosting: On some keyboards with limited key rollover, unintended characters are registered when the limit is reached. This is known as ghosting. Also see anti-ghosting.
  • Key Puller: A tool designed to help remove keycaps from a keyboard.
  • Key Rollover: The maximum number of keys that can be simultaneously pressed on a keyboard. 6KRO is common for USB keyboards, meaning that the 7th and additional keys will not be registered, or may cause ghosting or blocking. NKRO means there is no limit.
  • Keycaps: The plastic “buttons” that one types on. Can easily be removed on most mechanical keyboards. Read more here.
  • KeyRemap4MacBook (Karabiner): Free key remapping software for Mac OSX. Used to be called KeyRemap4MacBook; now called Karabiner.
  • KUL: Keyed-Up Labs. A manufacturer that opened its doors in 2014 with the release of the KUL ES-87 TKL. Emphasizes build quality, and reception has been very favorable.
  • Laser Engraving: A method of marking legends on a keycap. Read more here.
  • Laser Etching: A method of marking legends on a keycap. Read more here.
  • Layout: Describes the physical arrangement of keys on a keyboard, such as ANSI vs. ISO, winkey or winkeyless, etc. Read more here.
  • Legends: Letters, numbers, and symbols marked on keycaps.
  • Linear: Describes a switch that has no tactile bump or aural feedback — just a smooth downward action.
  • Logical Layout: QWERTY, Dvorak, etc. A keyboard can have almost any logical layout regardless of its layout and form factor. Read more here.
  • Macro Keys: Keys that can be programmed to automatically execute a longer string of pre-determined keystrokes. Popular among gamers. Some keyboards support on-board macro programming, whereas others must be used in conjunction with desktop software.
  • Massdrop.com: A retailer that sells mechanical keyboards among other things. Uses group purchasing power to get better prices for buyers. https://www.massdrop.com/home
  • Matias: A Canadian company; the only manufacturer of high-quality contemporary ALPS switches and keyboards. Headed by Edgar Matias. http://www.matias.ca/
  • Mechanical Keyboard: A keyboard using high quality mechanical switches. Read more here.
  • MechanicalKeyboards.com: A Fairview, TN – based mechanical keyboard retailer. One of the biggest resellers in the country. http://mechanicalkeyboards.com/
  • Membrane: The contact sheet found under the domes in a rubber dome keyboard. Sometimes used for keyboards without rubber domes, e.g., microwave keypads.
  • Micro USB: A more durable connector than Mini USB, but sitll not very popular on mechanical keyboards. Most mechanical keyboards use the older Mini USB standard instead.
  • Mini USB: The most common type of USB port found on mechanical keyboards, even though it is a less durable connector than Micro USB.
  • Moogle kit: A set of keys to allow the use of many vintage keycap sets on modern keyboards. Fills in the blanks. Moogle kits contain a 6.25x spacebar, 1.25 modifiers, and frequently a center-stemmed capslock and 2.75x right shift — the keys most often missing when applying old Cherry/WYSE/etc sets to modern keyboards. Compare with Tsangan kit.
  • NKRO: Describes a keyboard that can recognize an unlimited number of simultaneous keypresses. Also see key rollover and 6KRO.
  • O-Rings: Rubber rings sometimes placed over keycap stems to dampen the sound of bottoming out and slightly cushion the bottom of the keypress.
  • OEM: A company that assmbles keyboards on behalf of a brand-name manufacturer. For example, Costar is the OEM that produces the QuickFire Rapid for CM Storm.
  • OEM Profile / Layout: “OEM layout” refers to the standard ANSI layout. See ANSI. “OEM profile” refers to a keycap profile that is found on Filco’s and other manufacturers’ keycaps. Sometimes called Filco profile. Read more here.
  • Otaku: Describes blank keycaps with no marked legends.
  • Pad Printing: A method of marking legends on a keycap. Read more here.
  • PBT: Polybutylene terephthalate. More expensive and more difficult to mold than ABS, but more resistant to shine. Often has dye-sublimated legends, and often molded very thick. There is a significant cadre of keyboardists who prefer PBT, dye-sublimated keys to others due to its durability. Read more here.
  • PCB: Printed circuit board. The part of the keyboard that the switches and controller are soldered into.
  • PCB-Mounted: Describes a keyboard that does not have a backplate sandwiched between the PCB and switches. Compare to plate-mounted.
  • Ping: Describes a reverberating sound that is prevalent in some keyboards such as Filcos and the WASD CODE. The exact cause can vary, but pinging is often due to the reverberation of spring sounds on a keyboard’s backplate. Pinging can sometimes be reduced or eliminated by lining a keyboard’s case with drawer liner or another sound-dampening material.
  • Plate-Mounted: Describes a keyboard that does have a backplate sandwiched between the PCB and switches. Compare to PCB-mounted.
  • POM: Polyoxymethylene. A relatively rare keycap material. Often said to feel “greasy” or “slick.” Often said to deepen typing noises even more than thick PBT.
  • POS: A point-of-sale keyboard. Often has an integrated credit card reader mechanism.
  • Profile: Can refer to the sculpting (height/angle/etc) of an indiviudal keycap, a keycap row, or an entire keyset as a whole. Read more here.
  • PS/2: A peripheral interface commonly used before USB. Still relevant, because PS/2 accomodates NKRO much better than USB. Many newer keyboards come with a USB –> PS2 adapter to change 6KRO to NKRO.
  • Reset Point: The point at which a switch resets and can be pressed again. Some switches have the same actuation and release point, whereas others have hysteresis, and must be released above the original actuation point to be reset. Switches with hysteresis can cause problems with rapid double tapping.
  • Retr0bright: A chemical process that effectively reverses age/sun-yellowed plastics. http://retr0bright.wikispaces.com/
  • Rubber Dome: Used to refer to a rubber dome over membrane keyboard. Most mass produced keyboards are rubber domes. Often used pejoratively.
  • SA: One of Signature Plastics’ profiles. Tall and spherical. Much thicker than DCS or DSA caps. Read more here.
  • Scissor Switch: The type of dome over membrane switch found in many newer laptops and thin keyboards. Read more here.
  • Shine: Refers to the shininess that can develop on keycaps with frequent use. ABS is more easily affected by shine than PBT or POM.
  • Signature Plastics: A keycap manufacturer. Makes ABS and PBT keycaps. Has its own profiles: DCA, SA, and DSA. Sells product and facilitates group buys through PimpMyKeyboard.com.
  • Slider: Refers to the stem of a mechanical switch. Often used to describe the stem of an ALPS switch.
  • Soarer’s Converter: A Teensy-based controller that converts AT, XT, and terminal keyboards to USB.
  • Soldering: Process by which electrical components are connected and connections bridged, by melting and applying solder. A fundamental technique for all electronics production. A necessary skill to learn to perform many keyboard mods.
  • Sprue / Keycap Sprues: A tiny bump, usually found on the rear-facing side of a keycap, where the molten plastic was injected into the mold.
  • SSK: IBM’s Space-Saving Model M Keyboard.
  • Stabilizer: A wire and clip assembly used to stabilize long keys on a keyboard. Allows long keys to be pressed off-center without binding.
  • Standard Layout: See ANSI. Refers to the standard 104-key arrangement, specifically, with a 6.25x spacebar, 1.25x modifiers, an ANSI enter, and so on. Read more here.
  • Stem: Can refer to a switch stem (the part a keycap is inserted onto) or a keycap stem (the part inserted over a switch stem).
  • Strg: Found in place of the Ctrl key on some ISO boards.
  • Switch Tester: A small unit with several different switches mounted on it, designed to allow customers to try different types of mechanical switches before purchasing a keyboard. Switch testers are available for sale from several different companies. Some have more types of switches than others. Usually sell for $10-20. Consult the Buyer’s Guide for more information on where to buy switch testers.
  • Tactile: A switch that has a tactile bump, but no audible click.
  • Tao Bao: The Chinese equivalent of eBay. Has a lot of mechanical keyboard related merchandise. Buyers in USA have to go through a proxy such as Qtan to order from Tao Bao. http://www.taobao.com/market/global/index_new.php
  • Tenkeyless (TKL): A keyboard without a number pad, but with alphanumerics, function keys, and a navigation cluster. Usually has 87 keys. Read more here.
  • Topre: A capacitive rubber dome switch. Read more here.
  • Topre Fart: A whoosing noise sometimes heard when typing on Topre keyboards. Occurs due to pneumatic action of air escaping from under domes.
  • Travel Distance: The distance a key travels from its resting point to bottoming out. Usually measured in mm.
  • Tsangan: The opposite of a Moogle kit — keys needed to use modern keysets on vintage keyboards. Tsangan kits contain a 7x spacebar, 1.5x modifiers, and sometimes an off-center stemmed caps lock and 1.75x right shift.
  • USB: Universal Serial Bus. The standard used to connect most contemporary keyboards to computers, as well as countless other computer peripherals.
  • UV Printed: A method of marking legends on a keycap. Read more here.
  • WASD Keyboards: A keyboard and keycap manufacturer. The only manufacturer that allows each buyer to fully customize his/her keycaps. http://www.wasdkeyboards.com/
  • Winkey: Refers to keyboards which have Windows keys on the bottom modifier row. Most keyboards made after the mid-1990s are winkey keyboards. Compare to winkeyless. Read more here.
  • Winkeyless: Refers to keyboards that do not have Windows keys on the bottom modifier row. Most keyboards made prior to the mid-1990s are winkeyless. Compare to winkey. Read more here.