Mac

Where is the Alt key on a Mac?

iMac on a wooden table
On key: the Alt key has gone missing on modern Macs

If you’ve come from the Windows world, you’re probably used to having an Alt key on the keyboard. Indeed, if you’re a long-term Mac owner, you might remember Alt keys from years gone by. Where is the Alt key on a Mac today? All is revealed below.

Where has the Alt key gone on Macs?

If you’ve got an old MacBook or Mac keyboard kicking around, you might well see Alt keys on either side of the Command keys.

On modern Macs, however, the Alt wording has been done away with and it’s now known as the Option key, complete with its own symbol, as shown below:

What does the Option key do?

On its own, not a lot. However, when used in combination with other keys, it can unlock shortcuts, features and functions.

We’ve written a guide to Mac keyboard shortcuts, which includes a printable sheet of keyboards that you can stick next to your computer. Many of those use the Option key.

Here are a few of the more useful things you can do with the Option key:

Option + volume up/down key: open Mac sound preferences

Option + screen brightness up/down key: open Mac display preferences

Hold down Option and click on Bluetooth icon in Mac Menu Bar: get a more detailed breakdown of devices connected via Bluetooth

Hold down Option key and click on Wi-Fi symbol in Mac Menu Bar: get a detailed look at your current Wi-Fi network

Hold down Option and click on date/time in Mac Menu Bar: toggle Do Not Disturb on or off

The Option key is also useful for typing symbols or accents. On a UK keyboard, if you hold down Option and type the following keys, you’ll get the symbol shown:

Option key +Symbol
2
G©
R®
Shift + 2
Shift + 8° (degrees symbol)
Shift + K (Apple symbol, will only show on Apple devices)
V

What if my keyboard doesn’t have an Option key?

This likely means you’re using a PC/Windows keyboard with your Mac. The Alt key should offer the same functions as Option.

MacBook on lap

Mac keyboard shortcuts

About the author

Barry Collins

Barry has scribbled about tech for almost 20 years for The Sunday Times, PC Pro, WebUser, Which? and many others. He was once Deputy Editor of Mail Online and remains in therapy to this day. Email Barry at barry@bigtechquestion.com.

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