I have heard from multiple sources that a standard QWERTY keyboard can produce 96 different characters, not counting the option key characters. Here is a picture of my keyboard:

I highlighted in red the alphabet keys, which can produce 52 characters–26 lowercase and 26 uppercase letters. In blue is the symbolic keys, which can produce 22 characters–11 buttons, two for each. In green are the numbers, which can produce 20 characters–10 numbers with 10 symbols. Orange keys can't produce any letters. And there's also the space bar, delete, and return. Only the space bar can produce a character, a space.

In total, that is 52+22+20+1=95 characters? What is the missing character? The best guess to me is enter/return, although that doesn't really make a character to me.

I have a Macbook Air.

  • 1
    Do you feel short-changed by this revelation? I'm just trying to figure out the actual purpose behind the need for the full, owed-to-me count of 96...
    – Tetsujin
    May 27, 2015 at 19:10
  • Consider helping us help you. Take a pass at editing this after you've read the help guide on how to be specific and show how your research didn't help you solve this dilemma. Specifically, can you document the 96 key standard or requirement so we don't end up like snopes.com
    – bmike
    May 27, 2015 at 19:37
  • 3
    Tab is a character. The new line character inserted by return/enter is either one or two characters. These two characters are called carriage-return (CR) and line-feed (LF). Classic MacOS used only CR. Unix and all Unix-like OSes (including OS X) use LF, and Windows uses both (CR/LF). May 28, 2015 at 0:23
  • "the alphabet keys, which can produce 52 characters" They can produce twice that via option and option+shift. Same for the number keys and symbolic keys.
    – spex
    Mar 25, 2022 at 17:48

4 Answers 4


There are two different kinds of "standard" keyboards, ANSI (like in your picture) and ISO. The former is sold in the US, the latter in Europe.

References you have seen to 96 characters are presumably for the ISO version. It has one key more than ANSI version, which is located to the left of the z. Your keyboard is ANSI and has 95.

To see the different kinds of keyboards made by Apple, go to


  • I see, this answered my question. All the websites I've been to say it has 96 and never mentioned they were talking about only ISO keyboards. Thanks!
    – user129582
    May 28, 2015 at 6:52

My UK keyboard's 2 key looks like this:

| @€|
| 2 |

That € is the extra character, for a total of 96.
You can still type the extra character on a US keyboard I believe, it's just not printed.

  • The question says "not counting option key characters". € is just one of dozens of option key characters which happens to be printed on your keyboard. It is NOT the 96th character. That is found next to the z on an ISO qwerty keyboard. May 27, 2015 at 22:22
  • @Tom There aren't any other option keys printed on my keyboard? I know the question said that, but € is the only other one printed on my keyboard…?
    – grg
    May 27, 2015 at 22:26
  • They print just that one on the keys because so many users want to know how to type the euro, but they don't care about all the other characters which can be typed by holding down the option key. Is your keyboard also the ANSI type with no letter key to the left of the z? May 27, 2015 at 23:23

I would argue that enter/return is a character, it’s just like space.

If you look at ASCII tables (since they are simple, but feel free to look up unicode), you'll see that enter/return is there with all of the other characters.

  • I think there is a big difference between space, required to separate words, and return, which is just a formatting control for line length, and would not count return as a character in the same sense as the others. May 28, 2015 at 4:38
  • Go back a few hundred years and space was simply a formatting control for separating words, and wasn't the norm!
    – forquare
    May 28, 2015 at 4:43
  • I think spaces have been the norm for European scripts for about a thousand years. On the other hand, Chinese, Japanese, Thai and some other asian scripts still don't use any word separator. May 28, 2015 at 14:44

The missing character is Tab.

You must log in to answer this question.