One of the primary input devices used with a computer, the keyboard looks very similar to those found on electric typewriters. but with some additional keys. Keyboards allow the user to input letters. numbers. and other symbols into a computer that often function as commands. For example, write an e-mail visit a Web page. The following image shows a Saitek keyboard with indicators pointing to each of the major key sections on it.

Overview of each section of the keyboard


The alphanumeric part is the primary portion of the keyboard that contains letters, numbers, punctuation and some of the symbol keys. Today most users utilize QWERTY style keyboards, as shown in the below graphic illustration.

Function keys

The Function keys or F1 through F12 keys are used in programs as shortcut keys to performed frequently performed tasks. For example, the F1 key is the key to open the online help for most programs.

Control Keys

The Control keys give the user additional control over text manipulation and cursor placement. They may also be used as shortcut keys in many programs. See our Control keys definition for additional information and examples.


Although not available on all computer keyboards, especially laptops; the keypad gives the user a quick access to numbers and math functions such as plus, divide, times, and subtract. See the keypad definition for further information, pictures, and related links.

Wrist pad

In the example of the Saitek keyboard above, the plastic wrist pad included with the keyboard is intended to help support the user's wrists and relieve stress from typing. Although many keyboards do not include a wrist pad, hundreds of different options can be purchased at computer retail stores or online .

Warning: Experts debate the need for wrist pads; many Ergonomic experts argue that using a wrist pad may be more stressful and may lead to carpal tunnel syndrome. You may want to do your own research before purchasing one.

Arrow keys

Finally, the arrow keys are four directional keys that allow the user to move their cursor or change the section displayed on a page. See our arrow keys definition for further information on this term and related links.

Special keys or media keys on a multimedia keyboard

Multimedia keyboards have additional buttons not found on a traditional keyboard. See our special keys page for further information.

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