For example, see the screenshot below. The menu items have keyboard shortcuts associated with them, but where can I find a list of what keys the icons are referring to?

enter image description here

3 Answers 3


The quickest way to get the entire list is to use Finder's help and search for "Symbols used in shortcuts" and refer the to the canonical list of symbols. It's also in the user manual for your mac online and I believe is still shipped with all Macs in the box.

Finder contains six icons in its menu bar and safari has a couple more which visually represent a key on the standard keyboard from Apple (most of which do not share the same icon when made as a physical key cap).

  • Finder: ⌃ ⌥ ⇧ ⌘ ⎋ ↑
  • Safari: adds two more ↓ and ⇥

So the list of common symbols is pretty complete as follows:

  • Control: ⌃ (also ctrl or ctl)
  • Option: ⌥ (also alt or alternate)
  • Shift: ⇧
  • Command: ⌘ (historically the "Apple" key)
  • Esc: ⎋
  • Up Arrow: ↑
  • Down Arrow: ↓
  • Tab: ⇥

We also have some references on the "meta" side of the site where we talk about how to differentiate between what is printed on the keys and what software draws in the Menu bar (and other places).

  • There's also Page Up/Down, Home, Ende, Delete, Forward Delete, F-keys, Eject. Mar 5, 2012 at 16:32
  • Thanks! I'm a linux user, and our menus actually say "alt-3" to indicate keyboard shortcuts. Stuck using a mac at work, and all of a sudden there are icons that refer to keys, but don't display the symbols that are actually on the keys. Very confusing.
    – EmmyS
    Mar 5, 2012 at 18:14
  • @EmmyS Actually, they do, if you have a non-US (or maybe international) Apple keyboard. The one exception is ^ for Ctrl, but that's also widely used on Linux. Mar 5, 2012 at 19:00
  • It is very confusing - only years of familiarity with a Mac keyboard lets one be "blind" to how disorienting this can be. Check out the Keyboard System Preferences and turn on "Show Keyboard & Character Viewers" in the menu bar - then you can bring up a soft keyboard to check your mappings with what the Mac thinks is being pressed.
    – bmike
    Mar 5, 2012 at 19:07
  • Its also worth knowing that in years past I've seen the ⌘ (command) key colloquially referred to as splat or snowflake.
    – jaberg
    Mar 6, 2012 at 14:26

Since people will probably end up here searching for some particular key symbols, here's a more complete list of the commonly used ones.

  • : command
  • : option
  • : control
  • : shift
  • : caps lock
  • , , , : arrow keys
  • : tab
  • : backtab
  • : return
  • : enter
  • : delete
  • : clear
  • : forward delete
  • : page up
  • : page down
  • : home
  • : end
  • : space
  • : escape
  • : eject

Here is the Apple KB article on shortcuts


  • There are only a handful of icons shown, it's quite incomplete. Mar 5, 2012 at 17:55
  • I would suggest that in excess of 75 shortcuts is slightly more that a handful. There are also a number of links at the bottom of the article to shortcuts for common applications (iTunes etc)
    – user19125
    Mar 5, 2012 at 18:55
  • 1
    Well, yes, but that's not the question. See the last term in the topic title. It's about the icons used to display the shortcuts assigned to menu items. Mar 5, 2012 at 18:59

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