What is an Ortholinear Keyboard?

ortholinear keyboard

An ortholinear keyboard offers a compact yet comprehensive typing solution, featuring evenly spaced keys arranged in a grid pattern. These keyboards cater to writers, programmers, gamers, and enthusiasts seeking a fresh typing experience. Advocates claim that using such keyboards can enhance comfort, typing speed, and accuracy, although some remain skeptical about these purported advantages. This comprehensive guide aims to provide all the necessary information about ortho-linear keyboards to assist you in determining whether they are worth exploring.

Ortholinear Keyboards Combine Compactness with Full Functionality

Ortholinear keyboards are generally more compact compared to traditional ones, often coming in sizes of 40% and 60%, which exclude certain keys like function keys. Here’s what sets ortho-linear keyboards apart.


Gridded, Non-Staggered Layouts

Traditional keyboards have keys arranged in a staggered manner, a design inherited from typewriters to prevent jamming of underlying arms. This layout persisted due to typists’ familiarity with it. In contrast, ortho-linear keyboards feature a non-staggered layout where keys are aligned in a grid with uniform rows and columns, typically 4 rows by 12 columns. The term “ortho” means “straight,” and “linear” denotes “arranged in a straight line,” hence “ortho-linear” implies keys in a straight line. These keyboards offer two main layout options: grid and MIT. In the grid layout, the spacebar is the same size as other keys, while in the MIT layout, it spans multiple key spaces. Additionally, split ortho-linear keyboards are available, dividing the keyboard into two separate pads for ergonomic benefits. Ortholinear keyboards usually lack a visible border around the keypad, giving the impression of floating keys on the board.

Fewer Keys, Same Capabilities

Ortholinear keyboards typically feature 40 to 50 keys, a significant reduction from the 100-plus keys on full-size keyboards. Notably, they often exclude number pads, function keys, and number rows. Despite these omissions, ortho-linear keyboards maintain full functionality through the use of layers:

  • Each key is programmed to register multiple inputs, such as numbers, letters, and special characters.
  • Different inputs are assigned to separate layers.
  • Users can switch between layers by pressing designated layer keys to access the desired input.

This layering system is akin to using the Fn key on traditional keyboards but with the capacity for three to six inputs per key. For instance, the “E” key on an ortho-linear keyboard may have various layers:

  • Base Key: E
  • Layer Up: 3
  • Layer Down: #

By employing this approach, ortho-linear keyboards can replicate the functionality of standard keyboards while occupying approximately half the space.


Programmable and Customizable


Ortholinear keyboards offer various options for customization through open and adaptable programming methods. Certain models are compatible with keymapping software like QMK, enabling users to create custom macros and select preferred key layouts such as QWERTY, Dvorak, or Colemak. Moreover, many ortho-linear keyboards allow users to personalize keycaps and switches, utilizing high-performance components like Cherry MX switches, preferred keycap profiles, and RGB backlighting. These keyboards are available in both pre-built and DIY kit forms, with pre-built options offering convenience and DIY kits enabling tailored builds to suit individual preferences.


Benefits of Ortholinear Keyboard

Ortholinear keyboard users often highlight the following advantages:

  1. Reduced Fatigue: Designed with equally sized keys and grid layouts, ortho-linear keyboards minimize finger travel distance, keeping fingers within close proximity to the home row. This design aims to alleviate fatigue by eliminating the need for unnatural finger curling during extended typing or gaming sessions.
  2. Increased Speed and Accuracy: The compact, straight-lined design of ortho-linear keyboards can potentially enhance typing speed and accuracy, as users become accustomed to the layout. With keys arranged in a straight line, users may find it easier to locate keys without looking at the keyboard, thereby improving typing accuracy.
  3. Comfort and Ergonomics: Some users find ortho-linear keyboards more comfortable and ergonomic than standard keyboards, though this perception can vary. While some appreciate the layout’s comfort, others feel it forces their fingers into uncomfortable positions.
  4. Portability: Ortholinear keyboards’ compact size makes them ideal for travel, with some models being pocket-sized. This portability makes them convenient for use during vacations or commuting between work and home.
  5. Aesthetics: Ortholinear keyboards’ smaller footprint lends a clean and attractive appearance to work and gaming setups. Customization options such as key colors, keycap profiles, and RGB backlighting allow users to personalize their keyboards according to their preferences.

Disadvantages of Ortholinear Keyboard

Before committing to an ortho-linear keyboard, it’s essential to consider potential drawbacks:

  1. Learning Curve: Transitioning from a traditional keyboard with staggered keys to an ortho-linear keyboard requires time and patience. Users must retrain their muscle memory, leading to an initial period of adjustment and an increase in typing errors.
  2. Limited Research Supporting Benefits: While proponents highlight the purported benefits of ortho-linear keyboards, there is limited scientific research to validate claims of reduced fatigue or enhanced speed and accuracy. Some users may find them less ergonomic than standard keyboards. While anecdotal evidence exists, further research is necessary to substantiate these claims.
  3. Limited Availability and Higher Costs: Ortholinear keyboards occupy a niche market within the computer peripheral industry, resulting in fewer options compared to standard layouts or full-size mechanical keyboards. Moreover, they are often priced as specialty products, with pre-built ortho-linear keyboards exceeding $200 in some cases. Building one from a kit can be even more expensive due to limited supply. While this cost may be justifiable for enthusiasts, it could deter those uncertain about the benefits of ortho-linear keyboards.

Determining if an ortho-linear keyboard suits you involves testing one out firsthand to gauge its comfort and efficiency before making a purchase.

Determining if an ortho-linear keyboard is a good fit for you involves trying one out firsthand. Borrowing from a friend or testing a used model at a local store for a while can help you gauge whether you find the layout comfortable and efficient. Since investing in a keyboard can be costly, it’s essential to ensure it meets your needs and preferences. While ortho-linear keyboards offer compact, fully functional designs with non-staggered layouts, individual comfort and typing preferences vary. Testing one out allows you to assess if it aligns with your typing style and ergonomic requirements. If not, there are always other options, such as traditional mechanical keyboards, to explore.



DURGOD Official Facebook

For more knowledge of mechanical keyboards, visit DURGOD.

Related Posts