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Gabriel Montenegro
Gabriel Montenegro

Qwertyui: A Keyboard Layout for the Future


QWERTYUI is a keyboard layout for Latin-script alphabets that is commonly used in most computers, laptops, smartphones, and other devices. The name comes from the order of the first eight keys on the top left letter row of the keyboard (Q W E R T Y U I). The QWERTYUI design is based on a layout created for the Sholes and Glidden typewriter and sold to E. Remington and Sons in 1873. It became popular with the success of the Remington No. 2 of 1878, and remains in ubiquitous use today.

But why is QWERTYUI so widely used? What are its advantages and disadvantages? Are there any alternatives to QWERTYUI that might suit your needs better? In this article, we will explore these questions and help you choose the best keyboard layout for you.


The origin of QWERTYUI

The first typewriter keyboard

The QWERTYUI layout was devised and created in the early 1870s by Christopher Latham Sholes, a newspaper editor and printer who lived in Kenosha, Wisconsin. In October 1867, Sholes filed a patent application for his early writing machine he developed with the assistance of his friends Carlos Glidden and Samuel W. Soulé. [^1] The first model constructed by Sholes used a piano-like keyboard with two rows of characters arranged alphabetically as shown below:

- 3 5 7 9 N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z 2 4 6 8 . A B C D E F G H I J K L M

Sholes struggled for the next five years to perfect his invention, making many trial-and-error rearrangements of the original machine's alphabetical key arrangement. The study of bigram (letter-pair) frequency by educator Amos Densmore, brother of the financial backer James Densmore, is believed to have influenced the array of letters, but the contribution was later called into question. [^2] :\u200A170 Others suggest instead that the letter groupings evolved from telegraph operators' feedback. [^2] :\u200A163 In November 1868 he changed the arrangement of the latter half of the alphabet, O to Z, right-to-left. [^3] :\u200A1220 In April 1870 he arrived at a four-row, upper case keyboard approaching the modern QWERTYUI standard, moving six vowel letters, A, E, I, O, U, and Y, to the upper row as follows: [^3] :\u200A2425

2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 - , Q W E . R T Y I U O P Z S D F G H J K L M A X & C V B N ? ; R

By 1873, Sholes had finalized the QWERTYUI layout as we know it today, with a few minor changes. He sold the patent rights to his typewriter to E. Remington and Sons, a firearms manufacturer who diversified into making typewriters.

The evolution of QWERTYUI

The QWERTYUI layout was not immediately successful. The first typewriters using it were clumsy and unreliable, and many customers were dissatisfied with the product. However, in 1878, Remington introduced the Remington No. 2, which was the first typewriter to include both upper and lower case letters, using a shift key. The Remington No. 2 was a huge success, and established QWERTYUI as the standard keyboard layout for typewriters.

One of the reasons why QWERTYUI became popular was that it reduced the frequency of typebar clashes. Typebar clashes occurred when two adjacent typebars were pressed in quick succession, causing them to jam together and block the paper. By placing commonly used letter pairs (such as "th" or "st") farther apart on the keyboard, QWERTYUI minimized this problem. Another reason was that QWERTYUI facilitated telegraphy, since Morse code operators could easily translate between the two systems.

QWERTYUI remained the dominant keyboard layout for typewriters throughout the 20th century, and was adopted by other devices such as computers, laptops, smartphones, and tablets. Today, QWERTYUI is the most widely used keyboard layout in the world, and is supported by most operating systems, applications, and websites.

The advantages and disadvantages of QWERTYUI

The benefits of QWERTYUI

QWERTYUI has several advantages that make it a convenient and efficient keyboard layout for many users. Some of these are:


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  • Familiarity: QWERTYUI is familiar to most people who have learned to type on a computer or a device. It is easy to find on any keyboard, and does not require any special software or settings to use.

  • Efficiency: QWERTYUI is designed to optimize typing speed and accuracy by placing the most frequently used letters in the home row (the middle row of keys). According to a study by Norman and Rumelhart (1982), about 70% of keystrokes in English text are made from the home row.

  • Compatibility: QWERTYUI is compatible with most devices and languages that use Latin-script alphabets. It can accommodate various symbols, numbers, punctuation marks, and diacritical marks (such as accents or umlauts) by using modifier keys such as shift, alt, or ctrl. It can also be adapted to other languages by adding or changing some keys, such as Ñ for Spanish or Ç for French.

The drawbacks of QWERTYUI

QWERTYUI also has some disadvantages that make it less than ideal for some users. Some of these are:

  • Ergonomics: QWERTYUI is not ergonomic, meaning that it does not minimize physical strain or discomfort for the typist. It forces the fingers to move across rows and reach for keys that are not in the natural position of the hand. It also creates an imbalance between the left and right hand, since the left hand has to type more keys than the right hand (about 57% versus 43%). This can lead to fatigue, pain, or even injury such as carpal tunnel syndrome.

  • Optimality: QWERTYUI is not optimal, meaning that it does not maximize typing speed or accuracy for the typist. It places some common letter pairs (such as "er" or "ed") on the same finger, which slows down typing and increases errors. It also places some rare letters (such as "J" or "K") in the home row, which wastes space and reduces efficiency.

that use Latin-script alphabets. It does not accommodate some letters or sounds that are common in other languages, such as ß for German or ð for Icelandic. It also does not support some scripts that are not based on Latin letters, such as Cyrillic, Arabic, or Chinese. For these languages, different keyboard layouts are needed.

The alternatives to QWERTYUI

The Dvorak keyboard

One of the most well-known alternatives to QWERTYUI is the Dvorak keyboard, which was patented in 1936 by August Dvorak and William Dealey. The Dvorak layout is designed to reduce finger movement and increase typing speed by placing the most frequently used letters in the home row, and the least frequently used letters on the bottom row. The Dvorak layout also balances the workload between the left and right hand, and avoids placing common letter pairs on the same finger. The Dvorak layout for English is shown below:

- , . P Y F G C R L / = A O E U I D H T N S - ; Q J K X B M W V Z

The Dvorak keyboard has been shown to have some advantages over QWERTYUI in terms of ergonomics, optimality, and universality. Some studies have found that Dvorak typists can type faster, more accurately, and with less fatigue than QWERTYUI typists. The Dvorak keyboard also has variants for other languages, such as Spanish, French, or German, as well as for left-handed or right-handed users.

The Colemak keyboard

Another alternative to QWERTYUI is the Colemak keyboard, which was created in 2006 by Shai Coleman. The Colemak layout is similar to QWERTYUI, but with some key changes to improve comfort and accuracy. The Colemak layout moves only 17 keys from their QWERTYUI positions, making it easier to learn and switch from QWERTYUI. The Colemak layout also places the most frequently used letters in the home row, and minimizes awkward finger motions such as stretching or jumping over the home row. The Colemak layout for English is shown below:

- Q W F P G J L U Y ; = A R S T D H N E I O ' Z X C V B K M , . /

The Colemak keyboard has been shown to have some advantages over QWERTYUI in terms of ergonomics and optimality. Some studies have found that Colemak typists can type faster, more accurately, and with less effort than QWERTYUI typists. The Colemak keyboard also has variants for other languages, such as Turkish, Norwegian, or Esperanto, as well as for different devices, such as tablets or smartphones.

Other keyboard layouts

Besides QWERTYUI, Dvorak, and Colemak, there are many other keyboard layouts that are designed for different languages, scripts, and purposes. Some examples are:






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