How Does A Computer Keyboard Work

How does a computer keyboard work? Computer beginners should not be intimidated by the keyboard, as it is merely an instrument that can be quickly understood - and mastered.

The following is a brief explanation of the standard computer keyboard. It is not meant to be comprehensive but is designed to give first time keyboard users an overall peek at how the board is designed. Computer beginners should not be intimidated by the keyboard, as it is merely an instrument that can be quickly understood - and mastered.

To begin it should be noted that most keyboards have a two-colour combination. That is designed to assist in visual recognition for ease of operation. First time keyboard users are advised to study the colour ranges very carefully.

Experienced keyboard users will recognise that the main body of the keyboard is designed to conform to the standard "˜QWERTY' layout. That name is derived from the first five letters of the top row of the standard lettered keys.

The key to the extreme left of the top row is the "˜Esc' key. This key has numerous uses, all of which relate to "˜escaping' from a program or "˜situation'. The use of the key depends on the program being used and varies in individual programs. Its specific use in specific programs must be learned but it wise to keep it in mind and to use it when there is a need to escape from a problem.

On the top right hand side of the keyboard are three keys marked "˜Print Screen'. "˜Scroll Lock' and "˜Pause Break'. The uses of these three are obscure and are rarely used. For beginners they can be forgotten.

Along the top of the standard keyboard is a row of "˜F' keys. Like the "˜Esc' key each of these keys have certain functions that vary with different programs. For example, in "˜Word For Windows' the "˜F7' key opens up the "˜Spell Checker'. In the same program the "˜F12' key "˜saves' an open document. "˜F5' opens a function to let you "˜Go to' a location in your document. It almost universal in computer programs for the F1 key to be used to open a help menu.

In addition to individual functions the "˜F' keys are used frequently in conjunction with other keys. For example the "˜Shift' key, the "˜CTRL' (Control) key and the "˜ALT' key are frequently used either on their own or in conjunction with the lettered keys. In "˜Word for Windows' the "˜F7' key (used normally for the spell checker), when used with the "˜Shift' key, opens up a "˜Thesaurus' function. "˜Shift' and F3 when used together will toggle, or change, selected text from upper case to lower case and vice versa.

The keys along the top of the main keyboard have two uses. For example, the key with number "˜4' on it also has a dollar "˜$' sign on it. To type the dollar sign you hold down the "˜Shift' key and hit the number "˜4' key. The "˜Shift' key is used to type all of the symbols on the topside of each key.

The "˜CAPS' lock, when pressed down, makes every letter print as Upper Case. IF YOU PRESS THE CAPS LOCK KEY DOWN ALL THE LETTERS ARE PRINTED IN CAPITALS (UPPER CASE). Pressing down the "˜Caps Lock' a second time returns the key to its normal function. On the Internet typing in upper case is known as "˜shouting' and is frowned on in the computer world because it is more difficult to read than the standard use of UPPER and lower cases.



The "˜Space Bar', the long key in the lower center of the keyboard, is used to put spaces between words and sentences. It is standard practice to put one space between words and two spaces between sentences.

The "˜Tabulation' key is used to "˜push' the typing along the line in specified distances. For example, if you wish to indent the first line of every paragraph then it is wise to use the "˜Tab' key. It is UNWISE to use the space bar for this purpose for two reasons. One is that you may miscount the spaces and secondly, the space bar does not give an even or regular distance from the margin thus making your document look untidy and uneven.

The "˜Enter' key is one of the most important keys on the board. In a word processor it makes another line when you hit it but it has other functions. It has the function of "˜executing' or "˜doing' a command in the same way a mouse click does. Every time the "˜Enter' key is struck a command is "˜executed'.

Slightly to the right of the keyboard, and below the "˜Print Screen' group, is a cluster of six keys.

The "˜Insert' key in this group serves to overwrite or insert keystrokes. For example, if you are typing and you find the existing words are being pushed along in front of the new typing then blame the insert key. Press the key and you will find the new letters print over the old letters. Note that in some programs this function may be disabled but can be restored if required.

The "˜Delete' key located below the "˜Insert' key does exactly that - it deletes any selected text or, if none is selected, the next letter to the right of the flashing cursor. The "˜Back Spacer', to the left of the "˜Insert' key, deletes characters to the left of the flashing cursor.

The "˜Home' key will take you to the beginning of a line in a word processor and when used in conjunction with the "˜Ctrl' key the cursor goes to the beginning of a document.

The "˜End' key - directly below the "˜Home' key acts in reverse by sending the cursor to the end of a line, or, if used in conjunction with the "˜Ctrl' key, to the end of a document.

The "˜Page Up' and "˜Page Down' keys move the screen up or down one screen page. Do not confuse this with "˜document' pages. Pressing the "˜Page Up' key moves the information on the screen "˜Down' a full screen width. Pressing the "˜Page Down' key moves the information on the screen "˜Up' one screen width.

The "˜Arrow' keys, just below the special keys, move the cursor in the direction of the arrow. Try experimenting with these keys to understand their individual function. When used in conjunction with the "˜Ctrl' or "˜Shift' key they perform different functions again. For example if you hold down the "˜Shift' key and press the arrow pointing to the right then the cursor jumps one whole word. Without the shift key the cursor moves one character at a time.

To the extreme right of the keyboard is a cluster of keys known as the "˜Numeric Pad'. The wise keyboard operator uses those keys in preference to the row of keys along the top of the standard keyboard, as it is much easier and faster. The keys are designed to function as a small calculator. Look closely at the cluster to see how closely the cluster resembles a standard, hand-held calculator. The key on the top left hand of that cluster, the "˜Num Lock', when pressed, turns off the "˜Numeric Pad' and allows it to performs in much the same way as the "˜Special' keys. It is recommended that the "˜Numeric Pad' be kept turned "˜On' - especially if working with a spreadsheet.. The small light that lights up just to the top of the Numeric Pad indicates whether the pad is on or off.

© High Speed Ventures 2011