A keyboard only has one key for every letter, function (except for the shift, ctrl/cmd, alt, and enter keys), and symbol. However, many keyboards today have two sets of numbers: one on the right and another on the number row. So, why do some keyboards have two sets of numbers?
- Why Do Keyboards Have Two Sets of Numbers?
- What’s the Point of a Numeric Keypad?
- Computer Tasks That Benefit From a Numeric Keypad
- Why Do Keyboards Still Have a Number Row?
Keyboards have two sets of numbers because it improves efficiency when typing. The numeric keypad (numpad) has all the numbers together to minimize typographical errors when working on large strings of numbers. The number row also makes it easy to input numbers when typing alphanumeric characters.
You can get many advantages from using a keyboard with two sets of numbers, and we’ll discuss them in this article.
Please keep reading to learn how to use them to improve your typing efficiency, productivity, and user experience.
Why Do Keyboards Have Two Sets of Numbers?
What’s the Point of a Numeric Keypad?
The numeric keypad or Numpad is an additional set of number keys on some keyboards, making it more versatile and usable for many people.
Although you can use a keyboard without the numpad, it will be challenging for some users, especially those who work on large strings of numbers and rely on special commands for better efficiency.
In the sections below, I’ll discuss some of the advantages you can get from a numeric keypad to help you better understand why it’s still on some keyboards:
1. Better Efficiency
When typing numbers without a numpad, you have to use both hands to reach all the numbers on the number row (which can be found at the top of the keyboard).
This can take longer than using the numpad with one hand. Aside from this, you’ll have to keep looking at the keys you’re pressing to ensure there won’t be errors with your input.
Someone who practiced using the numpad when typing numbers can quickly press the number keys even without looking at them because of their placement.
If you’re using four fingers for the numpad (thumb on the 0 key and one finger on each column), you can type much faster than someone who only uses the number row, regardless of their typing speed.
2. Improved Accuracy
Aside from better efficiency, the placement of the keys on the numpad also helps minimize errors when typing.
If you’ve been using the correct position for the numpad, you can type accurately without even looking at the keys you’re pressing.
When using the numpad with the correct finger placement, you’ll be able to minimize typographical errors.
Remember, it’s more difficult to detect these errors when typing numbers than letters, which makes a numpad very important for many users.
3. Prevents Repetitive Stress Injury
The position of the keys on a keyboard isn’t natural for our hands and can cause repetitive stress on our wrists or even our elbows.
This can be even worse when you only use the number row because you must reach further to press the keys.
So, aside from an increased chance of errors, using the number row instead of the numpad can also increase your chance of developing RSI.
The numpad was designed to replicate the normal position of our wrists. Your wrist comfortably rests on the table, while your fingers can easily reach all the keys on the numpad without even moving your hand.
This greatly benefits people who take advantage of the numpad whenever they use their keyboards to type numbers.
4. It Provides Dedicated Function Keys
Do you know where the plus, minus, multiply, and divide symbols are without looking at your keyboard? And can you press any of them without using two fingers (maybe even both hands)?
With a Numpad, you have dedicated keys for these mathematical symbols. You can easily reach for all of them without unnecessary steps, which makes it even more helpful for people who work on calculation tasks or spreadsheets.
Some programs also use these keys for dedicated functions, such as angle viewing and another set of arrow keys.
These make a numpad more useful for many people other than those working with large strings of numbers.
5. It Gives You Additional In-Game Keys
Some games need much more control than WASD. However, with your left hand busy controlling your game, it would only make sense for you to use the numpad with your right hand for additional controls. You can even use it to set specific commands to improve your user experience.
This is why some gamers with compact keyboards have a dedicated numpad that helps them play better and have more control.
Despite some claims that a compact keyboard (those without a numpad) is a gamer’s keyboard, some games still use these keys to improve gameplay.
Computer Tasks That Benefit From a Numeric Keypad
Now that I’ve explained the advantages of a numeric keypad, it’s time to talk about the computing tasks that benefit from this additional set of number keys.
This will help you determine the type of keyboard you might need for your tasks:
The most common use case for a numeric keypad is calculations. Accountants and bookkeepers already using a physical calculator for their tasks won’t have to go through a learning curve when using a numeric keypad.
That’s because a numpad replicates the placement of a physical calculator, making it easier for them to use it for their work.
A numeric keypad has all the essential mathematical symbols that a person might need for daily calculations, and they can do it even without using the rest of the keyboard.
You’ll also be able to minimize the errors you make when using the numpad for calculations, which can drastically improve your productivity.
When your task involves data entry, you work with large amounts of data and numbers. Using the number row for it can be confusing, especially when staring at another document containing a large string of numbers.
As mentioned, there’s no easy way to autocorrect numbers except manually double-checking them. It can take a lot of time, dramatically reducing your output, which is a vital variable that matters for data entry tasks.
If you have a similar task, you’d want to do everything you can to minimize the chances of making errors while typing.
Fortunately, using a numpad dramatically improves your efficiency and output, regardless of the amount of data you have to work with.
Aside from organizing data, you can also use spreadsheets to insert calculations and other documents where you need a table.
Using formulas for the cells can be confusing and time-consuming, especially if you’re using the number row instead of the numeric keypad.
It’s common for people who use spreadsheets to work on files with tens of thousands of numbers. It can be extremely challenging to monitor your input while using both hands and staring at another document simultaneously.
A numeric keypad can help you be more accurate and efficient if you work with a large spreadsheet file.
Aside from people working with large amounts of data and numbers, creative designers can also benefit from the numeric keypad. They can use it to insert precise measurements or coordinates for 3D or graphic designs.
There are even some 3D creation programs like Blender that use the numpad for different viewing angles.
Although you can also use the number row for this function, it will require you to go through a learning curve just to familiarize yourself with its functions.
Other design programs will even allow you to set specific keys for various functions, which can be very useful if you have a numeric keypad on your keyboard. That’s why people working on creatives also ensure they have a full-sized keyboard when choosing the peripherals they need for their system.
Gaming is perhaps the most surprising on this list because many competitive gamers want a smaller keyboard in exchange for more space they can use for their mouse.
You can get a one-handed gaming keyboard with the most common control keys to give you even more space for your mouse.
However, some games also allow you to set specific commands to control your game better.
You can use the numpad for this purpose because the numeric keypad can provide exceptional accuracy that won’t be possible with the other keys on your keyboard.
Why Do Keyboards Still Have a Number Row?
Now that we know all the advantages of a numpad on a keyboard, one could argue that the number row doesn’t have as much use as a numeric keypad.
However, despite all the advantages you can get from a numeric keypad, some people can still benefit from using the number row.
Typists and programmers usually spend a lot of time typing alphanumeric characters, which can be challenging if you use a numpad for the number inputs.
When typing, your hands are already close to the letters, and moving it up by a few rows to reach the number row whenever you need to input numbers is much easier.
If you only have a numpad, you’ll have to break the position of your hands, drastically affecting your typing efficiency.
Although typists and programmers don’t use large strings of numbers in their work, there are still times when they need it. You wouldn’t want to occasionally reach for the numpad to type 2 or 3 numbers, right?
A full-sized keyboard is designed to be versatile enough for everyone to use without needing another peripheral. This is why those trying to figure out the tasks they need to do on their computers typically always end up with a full-size keyboard. It’s much more useful and practical than other keyboards that offer a smaller size in exchange for fewer functions.
Other Keyboard Types
Aside from the full-sized keyboard that includes a numpad, there are other types of keyboards that you can use.
The best option for you will depend on the tasks you need and the keys you’re using when working.
Here are the other types of keyboards that you can choose from:
- Tenkeyless (TKL) keyboard: this is a full-sized keyboard without the Numpad. It’s a popular choice for typists and programmers who don’t need a Numpad because of its smaller size. This keyboard will give you more desk space without compromising the distance between the keys you always use.
- 80% and 75% keyboards: this is even smaller than TKL keyboards because the arrow keys and other function keys are closer to the center of the keyboard. You have much more desk space, but if you’re used to a full-sized keyboard, you may have to go through a learning curve to use them efficiently. The difference between an 80% and a 75% keyboard is the space between the number row and function keys (F1 to F12).
- 65% keyboard: this is the smallest keyboard recommended for people using text editors for their work. It doesn’t have all the function keys that can be useful for some users. However, it still has the cursor keys that make it useful for writers and programmers.
- 60% keyboard: this is the smallest fully-functioning keyboard available. However, it’s not the best option for many people, and some wouldn’t even consider getting one. It only has the most important keys you can use for typing alphanumeric characters, but navigating through a text editor may be difficult due to the absence of cursor keys.
- Dedicated numpad: this numeric keypad is separate from your keyboard. You’ll have even more versatility for all your tasks if you have a dedicated Numpad and a compact keyboard. You can get more desk space when you need it and still have a fully-functioning numeric keypad that you can use whenever you need one for your work.
Keyboards have two sets of numbers to make them more versatile and useful for different people with different tasks.
A numpad will benefit you if you’re working on large strings of numbers. The number row will be more beneficial for you if you’re a writer or programmer.
If you rarely use the numpad, consider using a compact keyboard to free up some space on your desk.
However, if your work involves one of the tasks we’ve discussed, a numpad is an essential part of your keyboard.