What is a keyboard?
What is a keyboard?
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A keyboard is one of the main ways that you control a computer. In this activity, we're going to look at what a keyboard does and how you can use it to control your computer.
You'll learn about a basic keyboard layout, the Space bar, Shift key and Caps Lock key, was well as punctuation and symbol keys and the Enter key.Start activity
What a keyboard does
The main purpose of a keyboard is to type text. If you want to write a letter, search for a website, fill in a form or do anything that requires entering letters and numbers, the keyboard is how you do it.
A keyboard usually sits on the desk in front of the computer screen. Most keyboards connect to a desktop computer with a cable, and use the computer's power to work.
Some keyboards can connect to a desktop computer wirelessly, and are powered by batteries.
You can type on a keyboard with one finger from each hand, or all the fingers on both hands. It's up to you!
And don't worry if you type slowly. Typing letters and numbers accurately is more important than typing them quickly.
Basic keyboard layout
The letters on most keyboards are not in alphabetical order, as you might expect. Most keyboards show the most commonly used letters near the middle, while the less common letters are around the edges.
These are called QWERTY keyboards, after the first six letter keys on the keyboard. The next slide shows a diagram of a keyboard with QWERTY keys highlighted.
Basic keyboard layout
Number keys, number pad and Space bar
Above the letters are the number keys. On a full-size keyboard, there is usually another set of number keys, known as the number pad, located to the right of the letter keys. You can use either set of keys to type in numbers, depending on which you find more comfortable to use.
Below the letters is a long key, called the Space bar. You use this to place a space between words. The next slide shows a diagram of a keyboard with the number keys, number pad and space bar keys highlighted.
Number keys, number pad and space bar
Around the edges of the letters, you'll see a number of other keys as well. Some keys are used for adding punctuation.
There are special control keys, such as Shift, Caps Lock, Backspace and Enter. We'll talk about these keys as we go through this course. The next slide shows a diagram of a keyboard with the special keys highlighted.
Typing letters and numbers
To type letters and numbers, you just press the key that has the letter or number you want on it. The next slide shows a diagram of a keyboard with the letter and number keys highlighted.
The letters and numbers keys
To add a space between words, press the Space bar. It's the long key just below the letters. The next slide shows a diagram of a keyboard with the space bar highlighted.
The space bar
Delete a letter
To delete the last letter you typed, press the Backspace key. That's the key at the top right of the main section of the keyboard. The next slide shows a diagram of a keyboard with the backspace key highlighted.
The Backspace key
Typing capital letters
When you press a key, it will usually make a lower case letter. But what if you want a capital letter instead? There are two ways to make a capital letter.
To make a capital letter, hold down the Shift key with one finger as you press the letter key with another.
There are Shift keys on the bottom left and bottom right of the keyboard. Any letter you press while holding the Shift key will type as a capital. The next slide shows a diagram of a keyboard with the shift keys highlighted.
The Shift keys
Caps Lock key
You can use the Caps Lock key to make a capital letter too. You don't have to hold it down, just press it once. Any letters you type afterwards will be capitals.
To return to lower case letters, press the Caps Lock key again. The next slide shows a diagram of a keyboard with the Caps lock key highlighted.
The Caps lock key
Typing symbols and punctuation
Let's look at how you type punctuation and symbols, such as a full stop, exclamation mark or dollar sign.
Some keys show punctuation marks on the bottom half of the key. For example, the key to the right of the M key has a comma, and the key to the right of that has a full stop.
Press those keys to enter punctuation. The next slide shows a diagram of a keyboard with some punctuation and symbols keys highlighted.
The punctuation and symbols keys
More punctuation and symbols keys
Some number keys show punctuation marks and symbols on the top half of the key. For example, the 1 key has an exclamation mark (!) above it, and the 4 key has a $ sign.
To enter the mark or symbol on the top half of a key, hold down the Shift key while pressing the key.
For example, to type an exclamation mark, you should hold down Shift key while pressing 1. To type a dollar sign, you should hold down Shift while pressing 4. The next slide shows a diagram of a keyboard with the number keys highlighted.
The number keys
Starting a new line
When you have finished typing and want to start a new line, press the Enter key. The Enter key is on the right side of the keyboard. The next slide shows a diagram of a keyboard with the Enter key highlighted.
The Enter key
You've completed the What is a keyboard? activity.
The computer keyboard may seem complicated, but its design is actually based around typewriters that have been used for more than a hundred years.
Once you get some practise, you'll find that you have no trouble typing capitals, entering symbols or quickly tapping out letters and emails on a keyboard.
Next up, we look at the other way you can control a computer in the What is a mouse? activity.