I was reminded of the plastic keyboard overlays that I remember from the 1990s. They showed key combinations, hotkeys, and command keys for certain applications. The most common one was just an overlay that sat over the function keys and showed what they did. I remember some applications having a full keyboard overlay for other keys.

What is the generic term for these widgets?

I tried searching for "keyboard overlay" but got modern keycap stickers and not the widget I am thinking of.

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    Are you thinking of keyboard templates? computerhistory.org/collections/catalog/102734983
    – Jim Nelson
    May 20, 2021 at 15:19
  • It is keyboard overlay - with either words being rather common, so Google won't be much of a help. Similar for "Stencil", "Template" and "Key Chart". Equally important here, the Web does contain way more 'modern' data than older - and google prefers newer sources ofver older ones as well.
    – Raffzahn
    May 20, 2021 at 15:44
  • @JimNelson yes that is exactly what I'm thinking of. If you'd care to post an answer I can accept that as the solution.
    – Freiheit
    May 20, 2021 at 16:41
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    I vaguely recall my team in DEC had one made for using an IBM 3270 terminal emulator on a VT100. We referred to it as an "overlay". We also explored a sort of rubbery thing that covered the entire set of keys, popularly referred to as a "keyboard condom". May 21, 2021 at 1:19
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    The Acorn BBC Micro had a special plastic holder above the function keys which could contain function key strips: stardot.org.uk/mirrors/www.bbcdocs.com/joomla/… May 26, 2021 at 18:33

1 Answer 1


The plastic sheets or plates with cut-out(s) to be placed over a computer keyboard are sometimes called "templates," although as @Raffzahn points out in the comments, other terms include "overlay" and "key chart." Some were placed over a portion of the keyboard (often the function keys) while others were designed to lay over the entire keyboard.

The Computer History Museum has several exemplars. One from DocuMate surrounds the entire keyboard. They also have a few early IBM PC keyboards with Lotus 1-2-3 templates affixed to the function keys on the left-hand side of the keyboard (here and here).

Here is another example of a WordStar template on an Osborne 1: WordStar Keyboard Template on an old computer


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