A traditional computer keyboard has thick plastic keys situated close to one another within sections of a larger frame. The keys themselves are slanted along the sides, creating a wider base that top. A chiclet keyboard — also known as an island-style keyboard — uses thin, clean-cut keys that are slightly spread out from one another. A plastic overlay covers the gaps between the keys, creating a smooth, virtually seamless surface. The overall effect of a chiclet keyboard is flatter and more space-efficient than a traditional keyboard.
Technophiles often debate the merits of a chiclet keyboard, the name of which stems from Cadbury Adams' flat, square Chiclets® chewing gum. The pro-chiclet camp will argue that the spacing between the keys limits the potential for typos, as it is less likely that a user will hit a nearby key by mistake. Chiclet keyboards are also much easier to clean than traditional keyboards because, without the empty spaces between the keys, no dust or crumbs can get stuck underneath. Most chiclet keyboards are also spill-proof. While a displaced cup of coffee can mean the end of a traditional keyboard, a chiclet keyboard is highly resistant to such mishaps.
Fans of traditional keyboards say hygienic considerations and aesthetic value aren't enough to get them to make the switch. Some feel a chiclet keyboard causes fatigue more easily, because the user must reach a bit farther for each key. Others claim their overall typing speed is negatively affected, particularly for those who rely on touch-typing, though this may simply be the result of getting used to a new piece of equipment. Some are also of the opinion that chiclet keyboards are less responsive, because the keys have less of a kick-back than the more robust keys of a traditional keyboard.
Chiclet keyboards are becoming increasingly popular on notebooks, netbooks and laptop computers, as of 2011. It is much more likely that a new laptop will have a chiclet keyboard instead of a traditional keyboard. Laptop manufacturers, understanding some people's resistance to the chiclet keyboard, are working to make their chiclet keyboards stand out from the rest. The height and curve of the keys are often adjusted on a minuscule scale to give the keyboard the best tactile feel possible.
Laptops aren't the only place to find chiclet keyboards in use. The increasing popularity of chiclet keyboards has driven the creation of wireless chiclets, which can be used with desktop computers. These have not yet become as popular with desktop users as traditional keyboards, but the trend is growing toward flat, spacious keyboard design.