Differences between British and US Apple Keyboards

This article is a re-post of an old article I wrote about the Apple Ultra thin British edition keyboard from January 2008. There are subtle differences between the British and American editions you may not have ever considered like where is the hash key? I have updated the article to included some images so you can see the difference in the key layouts.

Apple has updated its range of keyboards to match the aluminium finish of its latest range of computers. The keyboard is available as a wired full size keyboard or a compact wireless keyboard. When it became necessary to replace my white Apple wireless keyboard I decided to go back to a wired keyboard. My reasons being that one my keyboard spends most of its time sat in front of my monitor and secondly I would miss the numeric keypad and direction keys missing from the new compact wireless keyboard. The wireless keyboard is well designed if you want to use it sat in front of your TV and want something easier to handle when sat on your lap. Using a keyboard for design work or programming you tend to become accustomed to the extra keys. A side benefit is I would not have to keep buying batteries for the keyboard. Battery life was actually very good however not as good as a wired keyboard that never requires the batteries to be changed.

The ultra thin design is very aesthetically pleasing. The keys are flat much like those found on laptop computers and take a little getting used to if you have been using a normal ‘fat’ keyboard for many years. The face plate of the keyboard is made from brushed aluminium to match the casing of the new Mac line up.

The keyboard layout on the UK version differs slightly from its US counterpart. Many of the keys on the UK keyboard are identified by symbols rather than text as on the US version. The ‘Return Key’ is in a vertical position rather than the horizontal orientation found on US keyboards. Having the ‘Return Key’ in a vertical position does not allow for a full size key with the design layout. The UK layout seems more of a compromise than I would have expected from Apple and its design based philosophy.

American Apple Keyboard
British Apple Keyboard

The above shows the US and British versions of the English keyboard. Notice the shape and location of the return key as the main difference.

Apple has dropped the Apple symbol that has appeared on the command key since the introduction of the Apple II computer. The Apple symbol has been replaced with the word ‘command’ or ‘cmd’ on the UK version. The omission seems sensible on Apples behalf with the ability to use Windows on the new Intel Macs the timing is right to drop the symbol for the more generic ‘command’ term. The odd four leaf clover like symbol that represents the ‘command’ key was reportedly designed by Apple to be used on the keyboard instead of over using the Apple logo. This remains on the new keyboard along with its text description. While the US keyboard replaces may symbols with text the symbols remain on the UK version in most cases. Shift for instance is an upwards arrow on the UK keyboard and ‘shift’ on the US version.

On their website Apple say “Yes, we did think of everything” but I am not sure that’s quite true. You see what Apple seem to have forgotten is to include a hash key (#) on the UK version yet again. On US keyboards the hash key (#) appears above the three (3) key and therefore when shift + 3 is pressed a hash is drawn. In the UK the pound sign (£) appears above the three (3) key. All other UK keyboards place the hash key (#) next to the return. Apple seem to think that we can live without the hash (#) in the UK but this makes things difficult when you are programming and need to use the hash (#) key regularly. The good news it you can get the hash (#) symbol on a UK Apple Keyboard by pressing Option + 3. Providing you remember this it’s not such a big issue.

This article was posted on 30 January 2009 in Apple

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