The world of mechanical keyboards has its own unique terminology that can seem like a foreign language to newcomers. Terms like family, row, profile, and mount are tossed around frequently in keyboard communities, but what do they actually mean?
In this beginner's guide, we'll decrypt these keycap terms so you can understand the differences between keycaps and make informed decisions when purchasing your next set.
Family refers to the basic style of keycap on a keyboard. Some examples are shown in the picture on the left. Keycap families are defined by their ride height, typically low, medium or high; their side profile, defined as sculptured or non-sculptured; and the contour of the top surface which can be spherical, cylindrical or flat.
Want to learn more about the different keycap families? Click here to see examples and specs for each family.
Row refers to the location of keys on the keyboard and is most important when ordering a sculptured keycap family. On a standard QWERTY board, the "number" row is row 1; the "Q" row is row 2; the "A" row is row 3; the "Z" row and the space bar row are row 4; the upper "function key" row can be either row 5 style or row 1 style.
Sculptured or non-sculptured refers to the keyboard profile when viewed from the side. In a non-sculptured keyboard, the keys in each row are the same height giving the keyboard a flat look. In a sculptured keyboard, the keys are angled giving the keyboard a curved profile.
Keycaps come in various sizes depending on the family. Most keys, like the alpha / numeric keys, are referred to as single unit or one space keys. Larger keys are measured in 1/4 increments of a one space key. So an "Alt" key, for example, may be a 1.25 size and a "Tab" key a 1.5 size. Space bars can measure up to 10.5 units long.
The keycap mount is the molded detail on the underside of the keycap that allows the key to be attached to the keyboard switch. Keycaps larger than a single space size may have more than one mount. The exact location and spacing of these mounts is critical when ordering keycaps. CLICK HERE for an illustrated version of some of our mounts and a reference to the key switches they fit.