Mac Keyboard Symbols Explained

What Do The Mac Keyboard Symbols Mean? How to Customize Shortcuts And Change Your Mac Keyboard Layout?

Macs are relatively easy to use and are quite intuitive. Still, as a new Mac user, looking at your Mac's keyboard, you're most likely confused about what most of the symbols mean. And you may wonder why some of them look the way they look.

By living a fast-paced lifestyle, you want to get everything done as fast and as efficiently as you can. That's why knowing the meaning of each symbol is essential as they give you the option to execute a command by using shortcuts. Shortcuts are a specific combination of keys on your keyboard. But before you start using all the fantastic shortcuts that Apple has provided you with, let's get to know the symbols first. You might be overwhelmed by the number of new symbols you have to remember now. But actually, they are not that hard to understand, and by using them every day, you will have them memorized in no time. To make it easier for you to navigate, all Apple keyboards made after 2012 have a key label next to the symbol.

What do the mac keyboard symbols mean

Apple has made many changes throughout the years to accommodate different languages and cultures. Keyboard symbols may look slightly different and be labeled differently depending on the layout, age, or region the Apple keyboard comes from. For example, the keyboard manufactured for the United Kingdom may differ from the keyboard manufactured for the United States. That's because different countries use different symbols. For instance, while the U.K. keyboard layout has symbols (§) and (±) under the escape key, the German keyboard layout has symbols (º) and (^). And some international keyboards can have alt written instead of the ⌘ symbol on the command key. So don't be confused if you're in a situation when you can't find a specific key on another keyboard.

The two most essential modifier keys are the Command (⌘) key and the Option (⌥) key.

You'll find the Command keys at the bottom of your keyboard, on both the left and right sides of the space bar. It's the main modifier key you hold down along another key to execute a shortcut. The main purpose of the key is to let you use your computer without a mouse. It can be labeled as "command" or "cmd" depending on the keyboard region. Before the symbol (⌘) was introduced, the command icon was the Apple logo. Steve Jobs decided that the Apple logo was overused as it was everywhere. Thus the new symbol was assigned to the command key. The pretzel-shaped design is a symbol used in Nordic countries to indicate a campground on a map.

The Option keys are located next to the Command keys. It's typically used for typing special and accented characters such as (©)=Option+G and (µ)=Option+M. The Option key can confuse users as different keyboards have different indications. Some regions have a symbol (⌥) next to the label, and others have Alt and Option written on them and don't have the symbol. If you have an older keyboard, it can only have the symbol on it without the label.

Bellow, you'll find all Mac keyboard symbols and their meanings.

Table of Contents:

The List of Mac's Keyboard Symbols

⌘ - command
 ⌥ - option
 ⌃ - control
 ⇧ - shift
 ⇪ - caps lock
 ◄ - left arrow
 ► - right arrow
 ▲ - up arrow
 ▼ - down arrow
 ⇥ - tab
⌫ - delete
↩︎ - return
 ␣ - space
⎋ - escape

The above list is the keys that are most commonly used and are essentially on all keyboards. The list below is an additional list of symbols mostly you see in menus.

 ⇤ - backtab
 ⌤ - enter
 ⌦ - forward delete
 ⇞ - page up
 ⇟ - page down
 ↖︎ - home
 ↘︎ - end
 ⌧ - clear
 ⏏ - eject

Function key symbols:

F1 - Screen brightness down
F2 - Screen brightness up
F3 - Launches mission control
F4 - Launches dashboard
F7 - Rewind
F8 - Play / Pause
F9 - Fast forward
F10 - Mute sound
F11 - Sound volume down
F12 - Sound volume up

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§ Symbol Meaning

Many users have expressed the frustration behind this symbol as they're having a problem identifying it. It is not specific to Apple, and you should not worry too much about it if you're not using it frequently.

§ is a section mark. It's usually used to indicate a section of a book.

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Rearrange Key Positions on Your Keyboard

If you want to rearrange the key positions on your keyboard, follow the steps below:

1. In the upper menu bar, click on the Apple logo.
2. Go to "System Preferences".

Go to System Preferences

3. Find and open "Keyboard" settings.
4. Go to the "Input Sources" tab.

Go to Input Sources

5. Click on the + icon at the bottom and select a language you want to add.

Add new language to Mac

You can change keyboard languages any time by clicking on the country flag in the upper bar right corner.

Change language on Mac

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Modifier Keys

If you just recently switched from a Windows computer to a Mac, you probably have difficulty adapting to the position of the command button. Fortunately, Mac lets you can change the position of all modifier keys.

1. In the upper menu bar, click on the Apple logo.
2. Go to "System Preferences".
3. Find and open "Keyboard" settings.
4. In the "Keyboard" tab, click on the "Modifier Keys" button.

Customize modifier keys

5. Switch modifiers places as you prefer.
6. Then click on "OK".

Switch modifier keys places as you prefer

For example, you want the Command key to be the Control key on your keyboard. Then you need to click on the drop-down menu next to the Control key and select Command.

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Customizing Shortcuts

Now that you know the meaning of your keyboard symbols and know how to change the keyboard layout, you can start using shortcuts. They are a great way to minimize your time executing a command.

You can use already existing shortcuts or customize them the way that's more convenient for you.

To change or add new shortcuts, follow the steps below:

1. In the upper menu bar, click on the Apple logo.
2. Go to "System Preferences".
3. Find and open "Keyboard" settings.
4. Go to the "Shortcuts" tab.
5. In the left sidebar, you can choose which menu shortcuts you can change. You can go through all of them one by one and change individual shortcuts.
6. When you have selected a menu, click on a specific shortcut.
7. When the shortcut is highlighted, click on the key combo.

Change shortcut combination

8. When the key combo is selected, hold down the modifier and the new key. The new key combo should appear instead of the old one.

Suppose you see an exclamation point in a yellow triangle next to the key combo. In that case, your change is conflicting with another shortcut that has the same key combination. It's best to use a sequence that's not already in use or change the conflicting shortcut.

Fix conflicting shortcuts

Universal shortcuts that are already built-in into the system can't be changed. Still, some of them you can change per application.

1. In "System Preferences", open "Keyboard" settings.
2. Go to the "Shortcuts" tab and select "App Shortcuts".
3. Click on the + icon at the bottom.

Add app shortcut

4. In the drop-down bar, choose an app for which you want to create a shortcut.
5. In the "Menu Title" bar, write the exact command.
6. In the "Keyboard Shortcut" bar, type the key combination you want to use for the shortcut.
7. Click on the "Add" button.

Customize specific app shortcut

Once you go to the app menu, you'll see the new shortcut.

Changed app shortcut

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Text Shortcuts

If you use a lot of word or sentence abbreviations, you should check the Text tab in your keyboard settings. This function will automatically change your abbreviations to full words or sentences.

Click on the + icon and in the "Replace" tab write your abbreviations, and in the "With" tab, write the full word or sentence.

Create text shortcuts

In the same tab, you can also turn off autocorrect.

Video On How to Customize Shortcuts And Change Your Mac Keyboard Layout

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About the author:

Tomas Meskauskas

I am passionate about computer security and technology. I have an experience of 10 years working in various companies related to computer technical issue solving and Internet security. I have been working as an editor for since 2010. Follow me on Twitter to stay informed about the latest tech news or online security threats. Contact Tomas Meskauskas.

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