What’s the ‘Option’ key on a Mac? I can’t see anything called that on my Mac keyboard. And where are the ‘Apple’ and ‘Command’ keys?
The Option key is labelled Alt on a Mac keyboard. And the ‘Apple key’ is what some of us call the Command or Cmd key on a Mac keyboard. That’s essentially what you need to know. Read on for more detail about little-known features of the Mac keyboard.
Where is the Option key on Mac?
Many Mac users – Brits especially – wonder where to find the Option key on a Mac. And it’s hardly surprising that many newcomers to Apple computers may be a little stumped. Scan the keyboard of any Apple Macintosh sold in the UK since 2006, and you’re unlikely to find a key labelled Option. So where is the Mac Option key?
The answer to the question of where is the Option key is simple. The Option key on a Mac, otherwise known as the Alternate key, is usually labelled with the letters Alt and the symbol below, especially on Apple Mac keyboards. It generally sits next to the Ctrl key on the left of the bottom row.
The Alt key will be more familiar to Windows PC users as the key immediately to the left of the Spacebar. So if you plug a Windows or IBM PC keyboard into a Mac, pressing the Alt key has the same effect as pressing the Option key.
Best we can see, Apple removed the Option naming convention on non-US Mac keyboards around the time of the processor migration from Motorola/IBM to Intel. In other words, after leaving the G3, G4 and G5 for the Intel Core 2 Duo and Core i3/i5/i7 series.
(If you would like to learn some really handy keyboard shortcuts, check out 30 essential Mac keyboard shortcuts.)
Bottom row, from left: Ctrl, Alt (or Option) and Apple (or Command) keys on a Mac keyboard
What does the Option key do?
The Option key has many essential uses on the Mac; notably to select boot partition when starting the computer, and for direct printing of diacritical marks such as å, ß, ∂ and µ from the keyboard.
We don’t know why Apple decided to remove the Option legend on some territories’ keyboards and instead use only the word ‘Alt’ and the relevant symbol.
If you know or would like to offer your suggestion why this took place, please do get in touch.
What is the ‘Apple key’ on a Mac? Is it different to the Command (or Cmd) key?
No, it’s the same. Some of us just got into the habit, a few years ago, of calling the Command key, labelled Cmd, the ‘Apple key’. You might hear this when old-school techies tell you a hotkey shortcut: “Shift-Apple-F4” and so on.
The Apple key, also known as the Command key, is labelled with Cmd and the quadruple loop symbol:
The Apple key is used with a single letter key for many of the Mac’s most common actions: Apple-S saves in most common applications, for instance, and Apple-P prints. Apple-T opens a new tab in your web browser.
And what about the Ctrl key?
The Control key (Ctrl) is enjoyed more regularly by PC users, for whom it acts similarly to the Apple key for Mac users; on a PC Ctrl-S saves, Ctrl-P prints, and so on. For Mac users perhaps the handiest use of Ctrl is for simulating a right-click when using a one-button mouse: Ctrl-left-click does the job.