I’ve actually been using Apple computers since 2007.  Now that I’m teaching myself iOS development through reading books,  I have ran into issues understanding some symbols.  Not all keyboard symbols make sense! I’ve never really had a use for them till now.

Keyboard keys can be one of the first biggest stumbling block when switching to a Mac from a Windows PC. Especially on a MacBook keyboard where keys you expect to see, like backspace, delete, alt, and a dedicated home and end keys simply aren’t there.  In my Window XP days (Yes the last Windows computer I owned was running XP) I remember using CTRL+ALT+DEL or CTRL+C. But what does ⇪ , ⌥ , and ⌘ mean?  Well I hope to help you and myself understand these symbols.


  –  Command key. Sometimes the key has an Apple symbol on it as well.  If you’re coming from Windows, this acts like the control key does.  Copy and paste use the command key. This is one of the biggest adjustments coming from another platform. It’s also what trips you up when moving between operating systems.

⌥  –  Option key. Sometimes this key has the option symbol, sometimes it has the text ‘option’ and sometimes it has ‘alt’ on it, or both ‘option’ and ‘alt’.  If you’re coming from Windows it is like the alt key.

  –  Control key. This acts like a normal control key, but, if you’re coming from Windows, it loses its special meaning for copy and paste commands. This is actually useful in terminal windows since the Mac copy and paste doesn’t conflict with the terminal ctrl-c.

  –  The shift key.  Usually labeled shift.  For the longest time I thought it was the up arrow…

  –  The Caps Lock key. Usually labeled caps lock.

fn  –  Function key.  Most function keys on your keyboard serve as specific control keys, such as volume and brightness controls.  However, apps may also assign alternate functions to these same keys. For example, on some keyboards Exposé uses F9 and F10 to perform special actions. Some computers allow you to use the alternate function assigned to a function key by holding down the Function (Fn) key as you press the function key.

⏏  –  Media eject key.  Not all keyboards have it.  But it lets you eject your CDs or external devices.


These are just a few that can help you get on the right path of understanding these symbols.  You can always check out the Apple support page for more understanding.  Hopefully this helps and clarifies things as you read manuals or instructional books on using software on OSX.