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I always wondered why does Apple include a key for § in all their keyboards for my country of Portugal.

The same applies to the shift character ±.
It doesn't seem to have any use within macOS, although I use it to create special keyboard shortcuts, since no software seems to make use of it.

I understand not all hardware has this key layout, but it is prominent here, on the top left of the keyboard, before the key 1.
Like this:
enter image description here

I'm from Portugal and all keyboards here have this key. I don't work in the legal system but I have never seen a legal document with this symbol.

It seems to be used by other EU countries and probably added to the Portuguese keyboards by association.

Is there a reason Apple includes this key that’s related to a software feature?

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  • I don't have this key on any of the Apple (and non-Apple) keyboards here in the US. Where are you located on this small planet?
    – IconDaemon
    Apr 12 at 12:12
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    § is quite commonly used in Germany and other countries. ± is quite common if you do a bit of maths. And my two good friends Zoë and Chloë are quite happy that Apple isn't naïve and lets them type their names without problems.
    – gnasher729
    Apr 12 at 12:15
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    @IconDaemon US keyboards have § on option 6 and ± on option shift = Apr 12 at 12:34
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    For the use of § and where it can be found on various keyboards, see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Section_sign Apr 12 at 12:43
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    I’m voting to close this question because "why Apple does something" is generally unknown.
    – benwiggy
    Apr 13 at 8:00

1 Answer 1

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The silcrow § and pilcrow ¶ are important typographic elements for legal writing. Why they are included in computer layouts for certain countries are banal and likely totally unrelated to Apple decisions at all since key layouts are often common to many vendors of computer hardware and not just uniquely macOS and Apple keyboard decisions.

A little research in general drives an easy conclusion that the use of many keys on macOS is clearly to generate a symbol that some portion of the population uses regularly.

Another easy conclusion is that different regions prioritize different character sets and that within those regions, a standard layout is highly beneficial and traditional but not always achieved across all keys and keyboard visual and physical layouts.

For your specific region and this specific section character, it could easily be ranked more common for legal use and that subset of the population has enough representation and/or influence for those two punctuation being most important over other alternatives.

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  • There even might be legal requirements, or unions, demanding specific keyboard layouts (e.g. in Germany).
    – nohillside
    Apr 12 at 14:20
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    Who better than the legislature to write a law that makes their jobs easier, @nohillside
    – bmike
    Apr 12 at 15:18
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    The Portuguese keyboard standard has it at AltGr+4. Apple have indeed made a decision to ignore the standard and use a dedicated key for it.
    – OrangeDog
    Apr 12 at 22:34
  • Thanks @OrangeDog - AltGr + 4 appears to be the mapping for en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HCESAR keyboards as well.
    – bmike
    Apr 13 at 2:17
  • The whole point of this answer (it's because of regions and standards shared between vendors, not at all because of Apple) seems to be contradicted by the fact that Apple does not follow the standard or the layout of other vendors, but added a dedicated key for this. Even the point of the great importance in legal writing seems to be contradicted by the OP's observations about Portuguese legal documents.
    – Weirdo
    Apr 14 at 9:21

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