April 19, 2024

Do you see the Alt key on your Mac keyboard? No? Now, you are probably wondering where is the Alt key on Mac. You cannot find the Alt key because it isn’t written as ‘Alt’ on the keyboard. On some Mac models, this key is represented as “Option” or by the “⌥” symbol. Can you see it now?

The key is found on the bottom left and right. It is after three letters from the left and four letters from the right. Now, press the key. Do you see anything happen? No? That’s because the key by itself doesn’t perform any function or system command. But if it is used in conjunction with other keys on the keyboard, it can impact your workflow and productivity. 

Let’s look at the different functions of the Alt key when it is used with other keys. 

  • Functions on macOS
Keyboard shortcut Function 
Option +F10/F11/F12Adjust the sound settings 
Option + Bluetooth icon Displays information about Bluetooth and here, you can change the settings according to your preferences 
Option + Command + QLog out 
Option + Command + Eject key Hibernate 

Similarly, using the Option (Alt) key together with the battery icon displays additional information about the battery, the Time Machine icon checks and searches for backups, etc. 

  • Finder and other system shortcuts 
Keyboard shortcut Function 
Option + Command + DShow or hide the Dock 
Option + Command + L Open the Downloads folder 
Option + Command + SShow or hide the Sidebar in Finder windows 
Option + Command + VMove the files in the clipboard to another location 
Option + Shift + Command + Delete Quickly empty the Trash without waiting for the confirmation dialog box 
Option + Mission Control Open the Mission Control preferences and tinker with the settings 
Option + Command + YQuick Look slideshow of the chosen files 
  • Inserting special characters 

If you have recently joined the macOS environment from Windows, it is normal to feel a bit confused. On Windows keyboards, most of the special characters are displayed on the keyboard itself. They mostly appear engraved on top of the letter keys. But this is not the case with Mac computers. 

You have to use the Alt key to access these sub-functions. Here are some shortcuts to remember if you want to use special characters or accented letters in your documents or emails. 

Keyboard shortcut Function 
Option + C¸
Option + Tþ
Option + N˜
Option + R˳
Option + Qœ
Option + Y¥
Option + 1¡
Option + 3£
Option + 4
Option + 5§
Option + 7

Similarly, you can press other letter and number keys with the Alt or Option key to see what special characters are revealed. You may have to spend a few minutes experimenting to reveal them all. 

Benefits of Using the Alt Key on Your Mac

The Alt key is considered one of the most important keys on a Mac computer. This is not because when this key is used with other keys on the keyboard, it performs various functions. By using this key, you can benefit from the following functions:

  • You get to access special characters that are not displayed on the Mac keyboard. These characters are hidden, and you can reveal them by using the Alt key + a number or letter key. This can make your work easier, especially if you are creating a Word or PDF document. Knowing the shortcuts will save you from having to look for the symbols or characters online and copy-pasting them to your document. 
  • The key helps users launch various applications and functions without having to switch applications or windows. For instance, you can press the Alt key + Time Machine to look for backups. 
  • You can easily and quickly switch between your open applications and windows by pressing Alt + Tab. This makes navigation smoother and much more convenient. 
  • You can close apps and windows without having to use the mouse. Pressing Alt + F4 will close the application and ensure it is not running in the background and unnecessarily consuming system resources. 
  • In the Finder, you can use the Alt key for different functions. From accessing the File menu to creating a new folder, everything can be done by using shortcuts with the Alt key. This can speed up your workflow. 
  • The Alt key can even perform various customizations in different applications, such as changing text formatting, etc. You simply have to know the shortcuts. 

In summation, the Alt key is not something you can ignore. This key is used in conjunction with all the other keys on the Mac keyboard and reveals sub-functions that are typically hidden. So, if you were taking this key lightly for so long, it is time to rectify that mistake. Go to Apple’s Support Page or do a quick online search to get a full blow by blow of what this key can help you achieve.