What is an Ortholinear keyboard and should you switch to one?

  • Keycaps 101
  • Posted by: seo_khanhpv
  • Aug 18, 2022

A standard keyboard layout with a large spacebar and staggered keys has existed for years and been familiar to everyone whether a new typist or even experienced pros.

Very few people are aware of the special keyboard layouts out there. Yet, if you've been lurking around the corners of the internet hunting for some weird keyboards, you may have caught strange grid-like layouts: small rectangular keyboards with square buttons arranged in completely straight rows and columns.

That exactly describes an Ortholinear keyboard.

Still wondering if you should buy this weird stuff or not? So, let us help you with a comprehensive guide.

This guide covers everything about an Ortholinear keyboard and recommendations for the best ones you can buy from the market.

What is an Ortholinear Keyboard?

Ortholinear keyboard | reddit
Ortholinear keyboard | reddit

Ergonomic nerds refer to a special type of mechanical keyboard as "ortholinear" because it adopts a unique layout.

An Ortholinear keyboard is defined as one type of keyboard that has keys aligned with each other and has an Ortholinear layout (or totally straight layout).

Do you ever ponder the meaning behind this odd name? Here is a short explanation:

Ortholinear theoretically has no meaning. The word "Ortho" comes from Greek which means rigid or straight. This word is similar to the medical profession of orthodontics, which involves an orthodontist straightening teeth.

Once you combine the words "ortho" with "linear", you will get "ortholinear" with the meaning of something having many straight lines.

An Ortholinear keyboard organizes its buttons so that no button heavily used is more than one space away from the finger intended to push it. Thus, this prevents unnecessary jams from occurring.

The reasoning behind this is that since your fingers won't have to travel as far, they'll move more quickly and under less strain.

When compared to more extreme options like completely traditional QWERTY layouts and staggered horizontal rows, this weird keyboard may be a good way to improve ergonomics.

What else is different between the standard keyboard and this oddly designed one? Let’s discuss the staggered and Ortholinear keyboards in the next part below.

Staggered (Standard layout) vs Ortholinear Keyboards

Staggered vs ortholinear keyboards | reddit
Staggered vs ortholinear keyboards | reddit

In terms of how the columns of keycaps are aligned, there are two different keyboard styles: Staggered and Ortholinear.

The most common layout is staggered. You're likely accustomed to utilizing. Its keys are not straight, even though they are organized in rows and columns. The keys are diagonally aligned and slightly offset. This is done purposefully so that keys like backspace, shift, enter and other modifier keys can be larger than others.

The only reason we find them convenient to use is because the majority of us have been familiar with this coherence and rarely encountered them in any other layouts. 

Unlike staggered keyboards, the keys are vertically and horizontally aligned in the Ortholinear style. This was done by uniformly resizing the majority of the keys, excluding the spacebar (sometimes).

As a result, Ortholinear keyboards provide a more uniform appearance since all the keys are arranged in a grid-like pattern. With this Ortholinearstyle, the keycaps are often entirely uniform in design. This indicates that the distances between the keyboard's rows are all the same height.

Due to previous keyboard designs, staggered keyboards have become the norm nowadays. The layout has remained the same since its conception and stopped evolving over time.

Ortholinear keyboards are uncommon because most people find their unusual layout to be somewhat unfamiliar. That's why they aren't very often used. Even while the advantages are very great after you get over the first bump, having to relearn typing is a major challenge for many people.

Despite being not common, online keyboards may start to gain favor as more people suffer from carpal tunnel and other mobility problems caused by constant typing.

After all, Ortholinearkeyboards differ from standard keyboards in both appearance and functionality.

Should you switch to an Ortholinear Keyboard?

Here are 3 main advantages of using Ortholinear keyboards that you should know about if you're thinking about buying one:

Should you use an ortholinearkeyboard? | keebtalk
Should you use an ortholinearkeyboard? | keebtalk

Comfortable and Novel Typing Experience

There is no denying that using a different keyboard layout may be enjoyable for you.

This seems like the most obvious reason if you want to test out an Ortholinearkeyboard. It's possibly because the keyboard feels and appearance different, which may be a pleasant change of pace for those who want to try on new things.

Even if the typical layout functions, after a time it might get repetitive and tedious, particularly if you are a keyboard lover. Ortholinear keyboards demand learning and adaptation, not to mention their customization level.

Smaller Sizes: Better space efficiency and more flexibility

Smaller keyboards have several benefits.

Ortholinear keyboards are 40% smaller than standard keyboards and require 60% fewer switches and keycaps, not only helping you save money but also giving you more flexibility and efficiency.

The first obvious benefit is that they are more compact and portable. You can easily put them in your backpack and take them to wherever you want. This is really convenient for those who usually switch up workspace.

At this point, your compact keyboard can accompany you even on flights to other nations.

Besides, a compact keyboard with an Ortholinearlayout also gives you greater flexibility.

This benefits you when you don't need to stretch quite far with a mouse. Just put the mouse next to your keyboard, in the space normally occupied by the number pad.

Taking hold of the mouse and returning your hand to the keyboard is now more comfortable. This is ideal for cases where you must shift the mouse just a little before returning to typing or gaming.

High level of customizability

Ortholinear keyboards provide a high customization level that is totally unique that you almost can not find on other keyboards.

You can remap various layers using smart software to determine exactly what works well for you.

Ortholinear keyboards can be designed using a variety of open and customized programming languages. Some versions are compatible with keymapping programs like QMK, which enables users to design customized macros or select their favorite key layouts like QWERTY, Colemak, or Dvorak.

Additionally, a lot of ortholinear keyboards allow users to swap out the switches and keycaps, giving them the option to customize their keyboard with high-performance parts like Cherry MX switches, and RGB illumination.

While some ortholinear keyboards are already pre-made, others are available as kits that users must assemble themselves. While the latter allows for unique builds that fit certain user preferences, the former gives convenience.

Overall, with Ortholinear keyboards, you have a lot more power to modify practically anything on the layout.

Ortholinear Keyboards aren't the right choice for everyone

Ortholinear keyboards have a few downsides, which are as follows:

The downsides of ortholinearkeyboards | reddit
The downsides of ortholinearkeyboards | reddit

Ortholinear Keyboards Are Not Actually Ergonomic

The ergonomics of an Ortholinear keyboard should be your first priority. When you choose a keyboard that you will use all day, you must take ergonomics and comfort into consideration.

The keyboard sizes of 40% and 60% are unquestionably the best option since they offer significant flexibility in all the right positions.

Theoretically, typing requires less movement from your fingertips since the keys are perfectly aligned. The total decrease in finger travel should lessen discomfort or lower the risk of producing muscle pain.

This theory may be the case; however, there is no evidence to support the claim that Ortholinearkeyboards can improve ergonomics.

If pain reduction and improved ergonomics are your priorities, upgrading to an ergonomic split keyboard may achieve both.

Even while some people might find the Ortholineardesign more relaxing, you can't be sure unless you give it a try.

It Takes A Long Time To Adjust To Ortholinear Keyboards

Ortholinear keyboards are not suitable for everyone.

You will first find them quite unusual to type. The flatness is actually extremely unpleasant, the keys are all in the incorrect position, and they seem too close to one another.

Since Ortholinearkeyboards lack the "home row" seen on normal keyboards, they might be difficult to get used to.

Out of curiosity, you may find it interesting to use it, but are you sure you will use it often?  Comfort and efficiency during typing are especially crucial if you type hundreds or even thousands of words every day.

An Ortholinear keyboard is probably not for you if you want to type without staring at the keys or if you frequently press buttons on your keyboard to instantly open files and folders.

However, if you can invest the time to experiment with this weird keyboard, you could discover that your convenience and speed ultimately rise, but in the meanwhile, your productivity may suffer.

Ortholinear keyboards have fewer options to choose from

Ortholinear keyboards have a special place in the industry of computer peripherals, therefore there aren't almost many choices out there compared to standard full-size keyboards.

Moreover, they are also so expensive that several pre-built Ortholinearkeyboards can be priced up to $200. This may be due to the scarcity of Ortholinear keyboard kits.

Although this might not be seen as being pricey for a high-end keyboard, some people may find it to be a little overpriced if they are unsure of whether they will enjoy using an Ortholinear keyboard.

It's up to your preference

We've already listed all the advantages and disadvantages of an ortho keyboard, but in the end, it is up to your preference.

You should try the Ortholinear layout if you really like it or be accustomed to this odd design.

Although trying one out might be enjoyable, switching completely to an Ortholinear keyboard is normally not encouraged.

If you find this layout to be puzzling and confusing all the time, then sticking to the standard keyboard is always the safest option.

Take one for a quick test to see whether you like an Ortholinear keyboard. If you don't like it, you can always come back with a tried-and-true mechanical keyboard in its place.

Indeed, the normal keyboard layout is used for a reason. People have embraced it broadly and are at ease with it.

The advantages that Ortholinear keyboards offer are not always worthwhile, and there are many products that can be your better bet. In the end, you shouldn't spend hundreds of dollars on a keyboard that you don't truly enjoy.

Where Can You Get an Ortholinear Keyboard?

You're not the only one who is excited to test out an Ortholinearboard. However, you may not simply pick one off from any Amazon or Walmart store. In reality, a pre-built Ortholinear keyboard is really difficult to get.

Most Ortholinear keyboards on the market right now are entirely handmade, as this is a trend that originated in the mechanical keyboard community.

Users purchase a circuit board, a casing that fits it, and switches, then put everything together using a soldering iron. They must then edit or modify the keyboard's key layout to their preferences after plugging it in.

Yet, this craft seems to be very attractive if you are a true fan of handmade keyboards. Everything you need to do is simply search for an Ortholinear PCB with your own layout, a casing that works, and your own switches. Your options start to become extremely limited pretty fast if you decide against doing any of them.

After all, you'll need to locate the components and assemble the keyboard yourself. You will get a unique keyboard that possibly is larger or has more advanced features.

We recommend figuring out a means to test out an Ortholinear keyboard first because it's a bit of a hassle. You may either purchase one and resell it if you're not happy with it or borrow one from a buddy who enjoys keyboards.

Although Ortholinear keyboards are hard to find and almost handmade, we still find out 2 reliable places to buy pre-built versions for you. They are:

Coming to this website, you will come across the two best ortholinear keyboards including Planck EZ and ErgoDox EZ, which we will review more in the next parts.

These two keyboards are really reliable and unique, especially the split design put on one keyboard besides the simple one.

Besides, this website also offers keyboard components such as keycaps and key switches.

However, there is still a downside that you may initially consider before placing an order on this Ergodox: The money. Almost ortholinear keyboards of Ergodox are pretty pricey (typically over $200).

Despite the high price, ortholinear keyboards from Ergodox still get trust from keyboard fans.

Drop.com (formerly Massdrop) also has a large number of Ortholinear keyboards for sale at reasonable prices. However, their listings come and go quickly so you may need more time to find the items you want to buy.

Which is the best Ortholinear Keyboard?

Here is a list of the Ortholinearkey boards we recommend you should add to your shopping cart. The Ortholinear keyboards listed below are all simple to use and quick for you to become used to.

OLKB Planck – Original DIY

Olkb planck – original diy | lux store
Olkb planck – original diy | lux store

One of the most popular Ortholinear keyboards is the Drop OLKB Planck Ortholinear Mechanical Keyboard. This keyboard was designed by DROP, a reputable manufacturer of mechanical gaming keyboards.

OLKB Planck was specifically created by Jack Humbert (OLKB) with a 40% keyboard layout that is extremely pleasing to the eye. With the complete keyboard body composed of durable aluminum, OLKB Planck has exceptionally good design and build excellence.

Since OLKB Planck supports the hot-swappable feature, you can modify the switches whenever you want. As a result, this keyboard is excellent for customizing options. Besides, the QMK firmware is also ideal for reconfiguring the keyboard's buttons.

Moreover, OLKB Planck supports USB Type C connectivity and a PCB with an effective and powerful ARM STM32 CPU. The small size and accuracy-focused design make it ideal for quick and accurate typing.

For those of you looking for an Ortholinear keyboard that is creative, small, and excellent for typing, OLKB Planck can not be missed out.

As the most widely used Ortholinearkey available, the OLKB Planck has a tonne of support. You may get help from this community on Reddit, DROP, or Geekhack.

Now, just watch this short video to get some reviews on this keyboard before seeking help from other sites.

Planck EZ – Prebuilt

Planck ez – prebuilt | the sweet setup
Planck ez – prebuilt | the sweet setup

The Planck EZ is the solution for you if you're seeking a prebuilt Ortholinearkeyboard.

When you get a Planck EZ, you won't have to bother about selecting switches and keycaps and then putting everything together as they are already built.

The keycaps and floating switch structure give this keyboard a very sturdy appearance. Planck EZ supports a hot-swappable PCB, which allows you to swap out the switches whenever you choose.

In terms of size, Planck EZ is 234 mm long, 82 mm wide, and 28 mm tall. As you can see, this keyboard is extremely compact and great for more quickly, correctly, and effectively typing.

Similar to the OLKB Planck, QMK firmware support is available for software support, allowing you to modify the functionality and keys. The Planck EZ also comes with Oryx software, which is considerably easier to modify the firmware if you find QMK too complicated to work.

Plus points for the Planck EZ is that it has both an RGB as well as a non-RGB option. We can tell you that the RGB backlight of Planck EZ is super amazing.  In addition, PBT material, which is highly reliable and has outstanding durability, is used to make Planck's unique keycaps.

No further ado, let’s check out the video below to see how great Planch EZ is:

OLKB Preonic – Larger Size

Olkb preonic – larger size | the awesomer
Olkb preonic – larger size | the awesomer

One of the greatest options for the optimal keyboard size is the Preonic Mechanical Ortholinear Keyboard V3, which has a 60 percent size.

This keyboard's whole body is composed of aluminum. Thus, Preonic is pretty hefty and has a sturdy and durable feel. Despite being a little heavy, Preonic is still considered one of the best partners for traveling.

What’s more? Given the variety of colors available, the Double Shot PBT keycaps on the Preonic keyboard are extremely stunning. The PBT keycaps can be customizable in whatever color you like.

In terms of choosing switches, Cherry MX and Matias or ALPS switch footprints are good examples. Additionally, Preonic V3 supports  USB-A to C cable connectivity, which is quite extensive.

Unfortunately, Preonic is not hot-swappable, so you might be a little let down if you were expecting it was. Because this keyboard cannot be hot-swapped, be careful to select your switch before purchasing.

Ultimately, the RGB Backlight feature is this keyboard's greatest feature, and they recommend ordering an acrylic cover so you can showcase the incredible RGB backlight that is integrated into the keyboard PCB.

Considering everything Planck has to give, the OLKB Preonic can be your better choice thanks to improvements like a larger size and fitted bottom-lit RGB LEDs.

Here’s a quick review of OLKB Preonic:


Moonlander | debugger
Moonlander | debugger

Moonlander Mark I is another Ortholinearoption in our list with a split keyboard layout. This is designed for a particularly ergonomic improvement using a special Ortholinearlayout.

With the Moonlanderkeyboard, you now can type comfortably in any position that suits you thanks to excellent flexibility with greater ergonomics. This way, y our fingertips can easily reach the key due to its optimum distance from you and its location.

Because of a split keyboard, you can rearrange the two sides of it in any way that best suits your requirements.  Furthermore, the Moonlander also comes with a smooth and cushioned palm rest that helps improve relaxation and ergonomics when using the keyboard.

Like other options, the QMK firmware for the Moonlander supports key reprogramming for all the keys on it. Along with excellent firmware support, you also receive a unique carrying case designed just for the Moonlander Mark I.

In terms of connectivity, this keyboard supports USB Type C.

For a quick review, please watch the following video:

ErgoDox EZ

Ergodox ez | ergodox
Ergodox ez | ergodox


If you believed the only split keyboard using an Ortholinearlayout was the Moonlander Mark I, you would be wrong.  ErgoDox EZ is ready to disprove your ideas.

There is an Ortholinear split mechanical keyboard with a lot of functions at a very low cost named ErgoDox EZ.

The ErgoDox EZ design split keyboard is a one-of-a-kind creation with exceptional build quality. This keyboard feels sturdy and robust thanks to its plastic case and aluminum frame.

In addition, ErgoDox EZ goes with a wrist rest to demonstrate that it is a pleasant and ergonomic keyboard since it is undoubtedly an Ortholinear keyboard that gives good ergonomics.

If you like sparkling RGB, the white version of the ErgoDox EZ integrated RGB backlight is a good way to go to have an attractive work corner.

Software to reprogramme button functions and RGB is also supported by ErgoDox EZ. Unlike the 4 keyboards in this list, this software is designed specifically for ErgoDox EZ by ErgoDox.

Moreover, switches like Cherry MX, Gateron, and Kailh Switches, as well as other switch types, are all available for ErgoDox EZ.  The double shot keycaps of the ErgoDox EZ keyboard have an exceptional level of durability, and they feel robust, sturdy, and nice to type on.

Related Articles

Now let’s go through the final review on this list today!

For more choices, don't forget to check out this list of Best Ortholinear Keyboards!

Final Thoughts

For anyone who enjoys the hobby of building bespoke mechanical keyboards, an Ortholinearlayout mechanical keyboard is the best way to go. This kind of keyboard is really rare and has unique features that other keyboards miss.

With the compact design and the attractive alignment, Ortholinearkeyboards might be a fantastic choice. Additionally, an Ortholinear keyboard is also ideal for those who enjoy the craft of creating custom mechanical keyboards.

In any case, whatever decision you make, we hope your keyboard work well with you!  Wishing you luck as you search for the ideal keyboard for you!


Are Ortholinear keyboards better than standard keyboards?

It all comes down to users’ preferences. Ortholinear keyboards might be better than standard keyboards in case you need more hand separation, a more portable size, or easier access to modifier keys.

Are Ortholinear keyboards good for gaming?

Maybe not. However, an Ortholinear keyboard might be rather good in terms of ergonomics if you still want to use it to play games. Compared to using a standard keyboard layout, your finger moves will seem more smooth.

Are Ortholinearkey boards for programming?

Yes. Ortholinear keyboards are highly reliable for programming. An Ortholinear keyboard layout has the benefit of being relatively flexible for quick and precise typing.

Do Ortholinear keyboards support hot-swappable features?

Not all Ortholinearkeyboards support hot-swappable features. For example, OLKB Preonic does not have this useful feature.

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