Why Do My Right & Left Arrows on My Keyboard Go the Other Way?

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The layout of the keyboard is controlled by the operating system.
The layout of the keyboard is controlled by the operating system.

You develop habits by performing the same action repeatedly; when using a keyboard, this repetition allows you to become a more competent typist. For the system to work, however, you rely on the keys performing their expected function every time you hit them. When something changes, such as the direction of the arrow keys, it can throw off your momentum and waste your time.

  1. Device Failure

    • The most obvious concern when a piece of equipment acts erratically is mechanical failure. With keyboard problems, however, device failure would probably have a widespread effect, rather than impeding just two keys or cause them to switch actions. Plugging in another keyboard will reveal if the original device is causing the problem.

    Keyboard Layout

    • The keyboard actually doesn't control the characters or actions that occur when you press a key, but instead sends data in a stream to your computer. From there, the operating system takes the data and interprets it with a map or layout. A reversal of just the arrow keys probably isn't due to a problem with the operating system or keyboard layout, as such a glitch would affect all the keys.

    Right-to-Left Switching

    • The most likely cause of arrow keys switching direction while you type is the right-to-left switching, or RTL, feature in your word-processing program. Not all languages print left to right, as English does; some languages, such as Hebrew or Arabic, are read from right to left. If you accidentally toggle the wrong switch, the arrow keys will work in different directions than you expect.

    Troubleshooting

    • How to turn off the RTL feature depends on the software package, but most programs have an icon in the toolbar that displays a paragraph mark with two vertical lines and a curled piece on top, and an arrow pointing to the right. Clicking on this button should revert the direction of the arrow keys back to their original left-to-right format. If you don't see such a button in the toolbar, searching for "right-to-left switching" in the software's help file should reveal the solution.

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  • Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images

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