Typewriters can be manual (entirely mechanical), electric (using electricity to power mechanical functions) or electronic (electric with computer functions such as memory). However, all typewriters share some common parts.

Keys and Typebars

You press keys to print characters on your page. Several keys, such as the space bar, margin release and shift keys, have special functions.

Typebars, typewheels and typeballs strike the ribbon when you press keys.


Generally, manual typewriters use inked cloth ribbons on spools, and electric typewriters use carbon cartridge ribbons. Surprisingly, both are still made.


Older typewriters use a moving carriage that consists of a cylindrical platen, paper table, paper bail and other parts. This is where you insert your paper. The carriage moves to the left as you type. Newer electric and electronic typewriters have a stationary carriage and moving typewheels or typeballs.


Every typewriter has various levers that perform specific functions: locking the carriage (to transport the machine), power (for electric models), releasing the paper, and changing or reversing the ribbon, for example. It is best to consult a typewriter manual specific to your model to understand the function of each lever.

Tabs and Margins

Typewriters feature various methods to set tabs and margins. Usually, buttons and levers are specifically labeled for these functions.