ThinkPad keyboard

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ThinkPad is a line of IBM PC-compatible laptop computers, primarily for professional use. It was introduced by IBM in 1992. The division was bought by Lenovo in May 2005, and is still one of the most prominent. The brand is associated with laptops but the brand has also been used for keyboardless tablet PCs and for sub-laptop size computers ("Palmtops").

The laptop keyboards have been well regarded for their good key feel and for having the TrackPoint pointing device. All keyboard are often clumped together in discussions even though the actual keyboards have been manufactured by several OEMs, most notably NMB.

Several generations of the keyboard have also been offered in stand-alone USB variants - with TrackPoint but without trackpad.



2001: Browser Forward and Backward were added to the left and right of the Up-Arrow keys.

2005: Lenovo, previously an OEM for IBM, acquired IBM's ThinkPad division in May 2005 and released their first Lenovo-branded laptop in June of that year. Joint Lenovo–IBM branding was used on the T43 in 2006 (type 2669-6EG), and possibly other models, before the IBM branding was removed entirely. As a consequence of the rebranding, the "Access IBM" button changed name to "ThinkVantage".



The classic keyboards have had either scissor switches or buckling rubber sleeve switches. Manufacturers have included Lite-On, Alps, NMB, Acer, Lexmark, Key Tronic and possibly Chicony.


The Enter key is IBM-blue on most keyboards, although both grey and black variants also exist.

Unless a special compact variant, the keyboard has typically seven rows. The Escape key is above the F1 key on the function-key row or beside F1 being two keys high. There is a six-key nav cluster above the Backspace key, later keyboards with a 2u high Delete key. Above F9..F12 are PrtSc, ScrLk, Pause and on later keyboards also Insert.

There are usually media keys, a ThinkVantage button and a power button above the leftmost function keys.

Almost all keyboards have a Fn key in the lower left corner of the keyboard. The legend on the Fn key is often the same colour as the Fn-layer symbols on keys: blue or grey.

The function row's keys and the arrow keys are often slightly smaller than the others: three keys fitting inside 2.75u width. On some keyboards, the function and nav-keys are grey instead of black.

On winkeyless keyboards, the Alt and Ctrl keys are typically 1.5u wide. Some keyboards have green Alt keys. On keyboards with Windows keys, the Alt keys and the right Ctrl key are often smaller to make room for the Windows key and a Menu key. On some, the Windows key is shrunk to less than one unit in width.

With numeric keypad

Larger 17"+ ThinkPads with a numeric keyboard on the right side. The left side is no different.

Compact variants

The keys on the left edge, the right edge and modifiers on the bottom row have been reduced in width to make the keyboard smaller overall. These keyboards do otherwise have the same layout as every other classic ThinkPad.


The TrackWrite keyboard is found only in the "sub-notebooks" ThinkPad 701C and 701CS released in March of 1995.

To make the keyboard fit in the comparatively small width of these laptops, the keyboard is divided on the diagonal into two sections that are stored out of shift when the lid is closed. When the laptop's lid is folded open, the keyboard parts slide (on tracks?) to its full width protruding out the sides of the computer like wings. Because of this mechanism, it has been nicknamed the "Butterfly Keyboard". [1][2][3]

The key switches are buckling rubber sleeve over membrane, made by Key Tronic.


The first ThinkPad model with a chiclet keyboard design was the ThinkPad X1 (1st gen) in 2011. Lenovo claimed to have performed 350 hours of user testing with people in four countries before launch. It was introduced in the main lineup in 2012 and branded "AccuType". Backlighting is available on some models. Availability is indicated by an icon on the space bar.

Key feel

The surface of the chiclet keycaps is slightly wider than before. Wider keys are well-known to yield more typing errors, but Lenovo compensates somewhat for that by making the forward edge curved for larger "forgiveness zone" in front of the gap between keys.[4][5]

The chiclet keys are slightly dished, but the curvature is not deeper than that it is eaten up by the key's inherent wobbliness.

The stroke height has been lowered from 2.5mm to 2 mm, but the tactile feel has otherwise been designed to resemble the classic ThinkPad keyboard.[6]


The Page Up and Page Down keys are on the left and right of the Up-Arrow keys instead of Web-Forward and Web-Backward on previous models.

There is only one row of keys above the numeric keys, with Escape, function keys F1 to F12 followed by Home, End, Insert and finally Delete above the Backspace key. Media functions are now mostly overloaded on the function keys, either as combinations with the Fn key, or if Fn-lock is enabled: the reverse. Pause, Break and Scroll Lock are only available through key-combinations with Fn. The key between right Alt and Ctrl are PrtScr on some models and Menu on others.

Some models do still have buttons above the function-key row, but they are all styled as buttons even though physically are part of the keyboard.

There are variants for larger Thinkpads with a numeric keyboard on the right side.

ThinkPad X1 Carbon 2nd Gen

The 2014 ThinkPad X1 Carbon (2nd gen) got a somewhat revised layout. It was probably - like the AccuType keyboard on the 1st-generation X1 - introduced as an experiment to gather user input before being introduced in the mainstream line. The response was however much worse, the keyboard was much disliked and it seems that the X1 Carbon 2nd gen is the only model that got it. The third generation X1 Carbon model has the same type of chiclet keyboard as other ThinkPads.

The function keys were replaced with a "adaptive" touch strip with a back-and-white LCD touch screen. The Fn key was moved to the touch-strip and when not used as a modifier could also be used to cycle between different sets of keys.[7]

The Esc key was moved to the ~ key's position left of number 1. The ~ key replaced the Menu/Print Screen key on the bottom. The Backspace key was shrunk and a Delete key was inserted next to it. The Caps Lock was replaced by Home and End together.[8]

Special features

Some variant or other of the Thinkpad keyboards have had different keys that are not standard on regular keyboards.

A TrackPoint and its "mouse" buttons are usually built into the keyboard.

Power button

The Power button is usually located at the top of the keyboard, and circular, styled as a button that is not easily pressed by mistake.

Docking stations usually have an additional power button, obviating the need to open the lid and access the keyboard to turn the computer on.

ThinkPad key

The "ThinkPad key" has had various styles and labels throughout the years but with the same function. In Windows, it launches the bundled support application. During boot, the key makes the BIOS enter a special mode for disaster recovery.

Various styles:

  • "ThinkPad": Grey. Original.
  • "Access IBM": Blue.
  • "ThinkVantage": Blue. Renamed after Lenovo's takeover.
  • "Lenovo Care" in some models.

Easy Launch Keys

The "Easy Launch" keys were coloured application launch keys on certain models. They were introduced in 1998.[9]

There have been two variants:

  • Home (red), Search (Green), Mail (Blue)
  • Home (red), Search (Green), Office/Shipping (Blue), Mail (Yellow)

Web Navigation Keys

Circular Media keys/buttons in a column on the left of the main keyboard. These were found only on four models of the A series. The keys were Mail, Homepage, Search, Favourites, Reload and Abort, each with a printed symbol.[10]

See also


  1. Wikipedia — IBM ThinkPad Butterfly keyboard
  2. ThinkWiki — IBM TrackWrite
  3. Gizmodo — The Sad Demise of IBM’s Awesome Fold Out Keyboard
  4. Lenovo Blog — ThinkPad X1: Designing the Ultimate Keyboard. Dated 2011-05-17. Retrieved 2015-08-16
  5. Lenovo Blog — Change Is Hard: Why You Should Give In to the New ThinkPad Keyboard. Dated 2012-07-12. Retrieved on 2015-08-15.
  6. PC World — New Lenovo ThinkPad Laptops Will Ditch The Classic Keyboard Dated 2012-04-23. Retrieved 2015-08-16
  7. Computer Shopper — Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon (2014) Review and Ratings. Dated 2014-03-31. Retrieved 2016-10-27
  8. Ars Technica — Stop trying to innovate keyboards. You’re just making them worse. Dated 2014-01-17. Retrieved 2015-08-15.
  9. ThinkWiki — Easy Launch Buttons
  10. ThinkWiki — Web Navigation Keys

External links