Take the 2-minute tour ×
Ask Different is a question and answer site for power users of Apple hardware and software. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Is this key the same as shift?

If so, why don't people just call it shift? I spent a long time looking around for what this key means. Google returned no results. My MacBook Air keyboard does not have this symbol either.

share|improve this question
    
Shift is called shift, because historically it shifted parts of the type writer up or down to provide stamps of the uppercase or lowercase letters. –  Max Ried Mar 30 '12 at 16:08
    
Great question. I wondered this too for a while, and there are no clues on the keyboard, or the shape of the symbol. –  CoffeeRain Mar 30 '12 at 18:22
1  
Here is a list of all these symbols... support.apple.com/kb/PH3669 –  GEdgar Aug 26 '12 at 2:16
add comment

2 Answers 2

up vote 14 down vote accepted

That is the Option key (Alt on Windows). It's not the same as shift - it's generally used as a secondary modifier for keyboard shortcuts (Command being the primary modifier) and for shortcuts that don't perform an action (Option-8 is a bullet point and Option-Shift-8 is a degree symbol °).

share|improve this answer
    
Thank you, that makes sense! –  John Hoffman Mar 18 '12 at 4:05
1  
It is indeed interesting to note that that symbol isn't used on some keyboard layouts, like those of a MBA. Instead it has option written out in full. –  Gerry Mar 18 '12 at 11:01
2  
@Gerry (New) US keyboards don't use the symbols as much as new European ones or older keyboards. –  Lri Mar 18 '12 at 12:29
    
But even if you have a US keyboard, with "option" written out, you will see menu shortcuts with that funny symbol in them... Same for "shift" and "control". –  GEdgar Mar 30 '12 at 20:08
add comment

The first symbol is the option key, located between the command and control keys on a typical Mac keyboard.

enter image description here

share|improve this answer
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.