Alternate Key

Why Trust Techopedia

What Does Alternate Key Mean?

An alternate key (Alt key) is a key that is present on most computer keyboards and is considered a modifier key that can used similarly to the shift or control keys. In other words, the alternate key provides alternate input and operations when pressed in combination with other keys.

Advertisements

Techopedia Explains Alternate Key

Although the key is standard for all personal computers, not all computer keyboards have the alternate key. The equivalent of the Alt key on Macintoshes is the option key. On most keyboards the Alt key is located on either side of the space bar. However, on some keyboards there is only one Alt key. Any instruction to use the combination of the Alt key and any other keys means that one should hold the Alt key down while pressing and releasing the other keys.

The Alt key can be used for actions like printing special characters, application-specific actions or keyboard-specific functionalities. The function of the Alt key can vary from application to application. Some word processing programs do not recognize certain key combination provided by the Alt key.

Advertisements

Related Terms

Margaret Rouse
Senior Editor
Margaret Rouse
Senior Editor

Margaret is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical business audience. Over the past twenty years, her IT definitions have been published by Que in an encyclopedia of technology terms and cited in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine, and Discovery Magazine. She joined Techopedia in 2011. Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages.