Keyboard Page Key

By Xah Lee. Date: . Last updated: .
page up page down keys CODE 87 keyboard
Page Up Page Down keys on CODE 87 keyboard CODE Keyboard

Page Up/Down Key History

It seems, the Page Up Page Down keys are introduced in IΒM Model M keyboard in 1986. Since, it becomes the standard.

model M keyboard s386x162
IBM Model M, 1984

Looking at old terminals and keyboards, most don't have page keys.

DEC VT100 Terminal does not have the page key.

DEC VT100 terminal 2013 08 30 7ea01a58 s s265x236
DEC VT100, 1978

Space cadet, Lisp Machine Keyboards do not have the page key. But later Lisp machine keyboard do have a key labeled Page.

Space Cadet keyboard 2
Space-Cadet, 1980

[see Lisp Machine Keyboards]

interesting, that Steve Job's the NeXT Computer Keyboard does not have the page key.

NeXT Computer keyboard DSC4805 s306x204
NeXT, 1988

seems most Apple's early keyboards, and many others of 1980s keyboards, don't have the page key.

[see Control Key and Capslock Key Positions in Old Keyboards]

Do You Use Page Up/Down Keys?

Microsoft Ergonomic Keyboard 2019 qprv8
Microsoft Ergonomic Keyboard 2019

Page Up/Down key poll result

page up down key poll 2016-06-15

surprising result.

On Google Plus, it got 43 votes, with 67% yes.

So, overall, its a tie.

I think it reflects habit. In the 1990s, most keyboards have page up/down key. Back then, it's unthinkable to not have page up/down key.

There are few trends that caused the page keys to disappear.

Apple iMac Keyboard A1242-big
Apple keyboard (A1242), year 2009. Apple keyboard In this model, the left and right ⌘ command keys are symmetrically placed with respect to F and J keys. [image source ]

[see Apple Keyboards ⌨]

Chromebook pixel keyboard 2015 a202d288
Chromebook pixel keyboard (year 2013). Chromebook Pixel

[see Evolution of Laptop Keyboards, No More Page Up/Down Keys!]

So, people get used to without page keys.

Software also adopted user interface that does not require page keys. Also, the touch-pad becomes bigger and bigger, lead by Apple (since ~2009), and they started to feature 2-finger swipe to scroll screen up/down. (influenced by touch-screen on the phone.)

wnm keyboard home cluster2
Keyboard Home/End Keys Arrangement

Related is the arrangement of the Home/End key clusters. I recall, when i first used the 2 columns arrangement, i really hated it. But after 2 years , the traditional 2 rows by 3 columns becomes awkward.

so yeah, i think the whole thing is habit. In my obsessive keybinding experiment, every time i decided a new keybinding is logically more efficient, but habit strongly tells me to revert to old way. This happened over and over again. (i change emacs keybinding about every 2 weeks, for the past 5 years. (I do keybinding design).)

Is the Page Up/Down User Interface Good?

In the past few years, i've concluded, that page up/down key, and moving screen content by screenful, is not a good user interface. That is, i think if we start from scratch, keyboard should not have a page up/down key. But rather, a scroll wheel type of control. Because, moving by screenful in discrete steps is really unnatural and awkward.

Often, after you page up/down, you have to use arrow keys to adjust so that the interesting content is in the middle. This is particularly so today when page has lots images. (such as twitter) With page up/down, images often ends up cut-in-half.

Another problem with page up/down keys since ~2010 is that, frequently in browser, they don't work, because the focus is in the URL field or search box. It's annoying that you press Page Down nothing happens then you realized the focus in elsewhere that you have to reach for mouse and click on the main window then Page Down again.

I think the reason we have page up/down key, is because in the past technology isn't mature enough to have any other way to navigate screen. Mouse wheel isn't invented/popularized till Microsoft's IntelliMouse in 1996. Apple adopted a scroll wheel since Apple Mighty Mouse in 2005.

Keyboard Keys Topic

If you have a question, put $5 at patreon and message me.