One confusing aspect of the option key on modern Macintoshes is that it isn't marked with the word "option", but rather with the cryptic option symbol, which might be represented in ASCII art thus:
This symbol is surmounted by the word "alt
", which means that it is sometimes easier to refer to this key as the alt key
. In any case, the key can be easily identified by its position between the control key
and the command key
Despite its unhelpful markings, the option key is a very useful key, as noted above. Key Caps is the best way of finding out what extra characters can be accessed using this key. Most of these are generated simply by typing a letter while holding down the option key, such as å (option + a), ß (option + s) or ƒ (option + f). However, some keys when pressed activate a "mode", which causes the next character typed to be modified in an appropriate way, e.g. pressing option + e will cause the next character typed to have an acute accent, provided the character set has an accented version of that character. I will list the modifier combinations available with the British keyboard layout below:
option + e: The next character typed will be surmounted with an acute accent (á é í ó ú).
option + u: The next character typed will be surmounted with an umlaut (ä ë ï ö ü).
option + i: The next character typed will be surmounted with a circumflex (â ê î ô û).
option + `: The next character typed will be surmounted with a grave/backwards accent (à è ì ò ù).
option + n: The next character typed will be surmounted with a tilde (ã ñ õ).