KMKB0080: What's the difference between a font, a layout, a keyboard, and an input language?

What is the difference between a font, a layout, a keyboard, and an input language? We'll define these terms in this article. Our goal is to clarify what many people find to be a confusing distinction.

Font

A font is the exact style of characters on a screen or page. The following are fonts:

  • 14pt Arial
  • 9pt Tahoma italic
  • 18pt Times New Roman bold

A font doesn't need to be related to a language, a layout, or a keyboard:

  • Some fonts cover thousands of languages, and some fonts cover only one.
  • Almost all fonts are designed to work with many layouts and keyboards, while only a very few are designed for a specific layout or keyboard.

Technically a font is different from a font family (which has to do with sizes) or a typeface (which has to do with bolding and italics), but in common use they mean the same thing.

For more information on fonts, see the Wikipedia article Font.

Layout

A layout is the arrangement of letters and symbols on a keyboard. Layouts are often named for the first six letters on the top letter row of the keyboard. The most common layout worldwide is called QWERTY. If you're an English speaker, you are almost certainly typing on a QWERTY layout. The following are other layouts:

  • QWERTZ for German
  • AZERTY for French
  • Dvorak

A layout doesn't need to be related to a language or a font:

  • Some layouts, like QWERTY, support thousands of languages, and some layouts support only a few.
  • Almost all layouts are designed to work with many fonts, but a very few are designed only for a specific font.

A layout is sometimes called a keyboard layout.

For more information on layouts, see the Wikipedia article Keyboard layout.

Keyboard

A keyboard can mean two things. Most often it means:

  • the physical hardware on your desk, connected to your computer, which allows you to type; or
  • a visual representation of that physical hardware, which you may be able to click with a mouse or touch with your fingers.

A keyboard is also the software that makes a layout work. For example, it is the keyboard that tells the computer to output a lowercase 'a' when you press the A key without Shift, and an uppercase 'A' when you press the A key with Shift. The keyboard handles all the processing behind a layout, like:

  • how to input accented characters (e.g. typing ` + a to output 'à'),
  • how to combine, separate, or transliterate characters in languages with complex scripts (e.g. Tamil or Chinese),
  • how to handle the backspace, enter, tab and other function keys, and
  • much else.

A keyboard doesn't need to be related to a language or a font:

  • Some keyboards support thousands of languages, and some support only a few.
  • Almost all keyboards are designed to work with many fonts, but a very few are designed only for a specific font.

For more information on keyboards and physical keyboards, see the Wikipedia articles:

Input Language

An input language is a tag used to communicate country and language information to the applications on your computer. On Windows, your currently installed input languages show up on the Windows Language Bar. The following are a few Windows languages:

  • EN English (Australia)
  • DE German (Germany)
  • BO Tibetan (PRC)

The input language tag helps applications offer appropriate features for the languages you use. These features may include:

  • Spell-checking
  • Grammar-checking
  • Information about writing-direction
  • And more

An input language doesn't need to be related to a font, a layout, or a keyboard:

  • Most input languages can be used with most of the fonts on your computer, while some input languages need speciality fonts in order to be displayed as intended.
  • Many input languages can be used with a variety of layouts and keyboards, while some require a specific layout or keyboard to be typed as intended.

For more on Windows languages, see the Microsoft article What can I do with regional formats and languages?.


Applies to:

  • Keyman 5.0
  • Keyman 6.0
  • Keyman 6.2 Home Use Edition
  • Keyman 6.2 Standard Edition
  • Keyman 6.2 Corporate Edition 10 seat pack 1 yr
  • Keyman Desktop Corporate 7.0
  • Keyman Desktop Light 7.0
  • Keyman Desktop Professional 7.0
  • Keyman Developer 5.0
  • Keyman Developer Professional 6.0
  • Keyman Developer Professional 6.2
  • Keyman Developer Standard 6.0
  • Keyman Developer Standard 6.2
  • Keyman Developer Branding Pack 7.0
  • Keyman Developer Professional 7.0

KB article KMKB0080 created on 30 Aug 2012, updated on 04 Sep 2012

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