I was just curious about the command key, a little thing that seems to have been used for quite a long time.

Is there any particular reason that the founders of Apple decided to use the ⌘ symbol, not the Apple logo (like Windows does on their keyboards) as the Command Key? Just to clarify, I want the reasons why the designers chose it, and not personal opinion. Thanks!

closed as off-topic by bmike Mar 25 at 21:43

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  • Let's talk on Ask Different Meta if this is even on topic, please – bmike Mar 25 at 21:42
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it's not about using Apple hardware, software or products. I understand it's popular - please open a thread on Ask Different Meta if I'm missing some aspect of why this would be on topic here. – bmike Mar 25 at 21:43
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    @bmike I see what you mean, but it is about Apple hardware (specifically keyboards) The tour doesn’t say anything specifically about using Apple products as such, and from what I judged it seemed fine. You do have a point though. – Srevilo Mar 26 at 6:25
  • @bmike Is this the part you are referring to: "Please refrain from asking: Asking how/why Apple does <some thing XYZ>" – Srevilo Mar 27 at 4:18
  • There’s a thread on Ask Different Meta discussion this closure if anyone is interested or has comments / questions. apple.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/3215/… – bmike Mar 27 at 23:58
up vote 37 down vote accepted

From the Wikipedia entry on the Command Key:

The "⌘" symbol (the "looped square") was chosen by Susan Kare after Steve Jobs decided that the use of the Apple logo in the menu system (where the keyboard shortcuts are displayed) would be an over-use of the logo.

It is also interesting that the ⌘ is not something Apple came up with. It is actually an ancient symbol called looped square.

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    "It is also interesting that the ⌘ is not something Apple came up with. It is actually an ancient symbol." Why does that not surprise me? – Mihael Keehl Mar 25 at 11:42
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    As narrated by Andy Hertzfeld, it's difficult to come up with a small icon that means "command". The famed Apple bitmap artist Susan Kare had a comprehensive international symbol dictionary and she leafed through it, looking for an appropriate symbol that was distinctive, attractive and had at least something to do with the concept of a menu command. She came across a floral symbol that was used in Sweden to indicate an interesting feature or attraction in a campground.She rendered a 16 x 16 bitmap of the little symbol and showed it to the rest of the team, and everybody liked it. – Nimesh Neema Mar 25 at 13:58

The command key was initially called Apple key and it was used in combination with other key to create a menu command shortcut. The shortcut for menu command was displayed in the Menu bar alongside the menu item.

Reportedly, Steve Jobs didn't like the on-screen overuse of the Apple logo. In typical Jobsian fashion:

"There are too many Apples on the screen! It's ridiculous! We're taking the Apple logo in vain! We've got to stop doing that!"

An alternative logo was hunted for by the famed Apple designed Susan Kare, that according to her was distinctive, attractive and had at least something to do with the concept of a menu command.

You can read a first hand account by Andy Hertzfeld on Folklore.org, How we got the unusual symbol used for the menu command key.

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    I remember we would call it the "Open Apple" key. "hit open apple-c to copy". Maybe I am just showing my age. – BriOnH Mar 25 at 18:11
  • In Susan Kare’s own words: milanote.com/the-work/… – Nimesh Neema Jun 12 at 10:25

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