Custom keyboard layouts are gaining more and more popularity with each passing day as there are plenty of unused keys on a standard keyboard that takes up space for no reason.
Going with a layout that does not have these keys increases typing efficiency, saves a lot of space, and makes the keyboard more aesthetically pleasing, depending on your preferences.
One such layout that gets a lot of love nowadays is WKL, which is a layout that you won’t see outside of keyboard enthusiast communities as most manufacturers do not have WKL variants of the keyboards they produce.
So, what really is a WKL keyboard, and what makes it a preference among many keyboard enthusiasts?
A WKL keyboard, also known as a Winkeyless keyboard, is a keyboard that does not have the Windows (between left CTRL and left ALT) and the application (between right CTRL and right ALT) key.
In a standard WKL layout, the places of these keys are left empty with no other key to replace them.
A WKL keyboard may sound pretty odd, especially if you are a heavy user of the Windows key, but allow us to go into greater detail about what a WKL keyboard is to explain the purpose behind it.
What is a WKL (Winkeyless) Keyboard?
WKL (Winkeyless) is a keyboard layout where the Windows and the application keys are entirely removed with no other key to replace them.
The Windows key is the key that resides between Left Ctrl and Left Alt, and the application key is the one that is between Right Alt and Right Ctrl.
As the WKL layout only affects the bottom row of the keyboard, it’s often named a “bottom row layout” and can be combined with a layout such as 60% to create a 60% WKL keyboard.
Similar to many other things that are a part of the keyboard enthusiast world now, the origin of WKL keyboards dates back to the era of keyboards that are considered vintage now, such as the legendary IBM Model M.
Unlike now, there was a very apparent reason for the absence of these keys back then. To put it very simply, Windows wasn’t even a thing when these keyboards came out, and without Windows, a Windows key (and an application key) obviously could not exist.
With that, let’s move on to solve the mystery behind some enthusiasts choosing to use WKL layouts as the original reason for the absence of these keys does not apply anymore.
Why Do People Use WKL Keyboards?
Considering that both of the removed keys have useful functions unless you are using an operating system without a GUI, it may be confusing that people prefer to remove them.
Truth be told, there are a few different reasons behind enthusiasts going with a WKL keyboard, which we have listed below.
- Aesthetics – While aesthetics are obviously subjective, it’s one of the main reasons that most enthusiasts prefer WKL keyboards over regular ones. We can’t deny that the vintage look that comes with a WKL keyboard is quite refreshing, considering that it’s impossible to find a WKL keyboard in retail. If you like the aesthetics of a WKL keyboard but need the Win key, you can always remap it to another key as well.
- No use for Windows key – While the Windows key is helpful for some, it’s unnecessary for others. Even though it’s possible to disable it with software, some enthusiasts prefer to remove it as they have no use for it anyway.
- Avoiding input errors – Hitting the Windows key by accident can be quite a nuisance for gamers as it causes the game to lose focus by bringing the start menu up. While disabling the key through software is once again an option here, completely removing it is also a completely valid way of avoiding input errors.
What is a WKL TKL (Winkeyless Tenkeyless) Keyboard?
While we have established that a WKL keyboard does not have the Windows and the application keys, you can also see WKL and TKL together on some keyboards, which can be confusing.
A WKL TKL keyboard, also known as a Winkeyless Tenkeyless keyboard, is a keyboard that combines the attributes of a Winkeyless and a Tenkeyless layout.
As a result, a WKL TKL keyboard does not have a Windows key, an application key, and any of the Numpad keys.
Since WKL is a bottom-row layout (a layout that only affects the bottom row of the keyboard), you can combine it with a layout such as TKL, 60%, and many more.
How Many Keys Does a WKL TKL Keyboard Have?
To find out how many keys a WKL TKL keyboard has, all we have to know is how many keys are removed from TKL keyboards, how many keys are removed from WKL keyboards, and combine the two.
Without further ado, let’s get right down to the math.
The WKL (Winkeyless) layout lacks the Windows and the application keys, meaning that a WKL keyboard is missing two keys in total.
With the TKL (Tenkeyless) layout, you may think that the secret is in the name if you aren’t familiar with TKL layouts and assume that ten keys are missing.
In reality, TKL means that the whole Numpad is removed, which adds up to 17 keys in most scenarios.
Combining the two, we can say that a TKL WKL keyboard lacks 19 keys in total, and as a standard keyboard has 105 keys, a TKL WKL keyboard would have 86 keys.
What is a WK Keyboard?
Similar to how WKL means Winkeyless, you can think of WK as Winkey(ed).
The term WK keyboard refers to a keyboard with the standard bottom-row layout that includes Windows and application keys.
That being said, you won’t hear the words WK keyboard outside of the enthusiast community as all keyboards that you can find in retail are WK keyboards, which makes the term WK redundant.
While this term isn’t too widely used in the enthusiast community either as a Winkeyed layout is standard, you may stumble upon it now and then when the context of the discussion is WKL keyboards.
A WKL keyboard is definitely an interesting concept in the modern world, considering that the Windows and the application keys can be pretty handy at times.
That being said, it’s impossible to overlook the benefits that come from it if you don’t have much of a use for the Windows key, with the vintage aesthetic it brings being the cherry on the top.
Just as with any other keyboard customization, remember that using a WKL keyboard entirely comes down to preference at the end of the day, so feel free to make the switch if you think that you will be happier with one!