Why is the Alt Key Called the "Option" Key?

Discussion in 'Mac Basics and Help' started by PeteB, Mar 28, 2009.

  1. PeteB macrumors 6502a

    PeteB

    Joined:
    Jan 14, 2008
    #1
    This is quite possibly way too much of a newbish question....

    Ok, so this is something that's confused me ever since I got a Mac.

    Everyone talks about Option-whatever key stroke and it took me a while (a long while!) to figure out they were referring to the "Alt" key.

    So. Why the difference in naming here?
     
  2. BlueRevolution macrumors 603

    BlueRevolution

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    Jul 26, 2004
    Location:
    Montreal, QC
    #2
    On Macs it's Option, on Windows it's Alt. As modifiers, they do different things. On Windows, is used in combos, but alone it mostly controls menus. On Macs, when not in a combo, it's used for special character input, among others.

    ˜˙†˙∫…∑µ∆˚≈∆

    The difference in names? About 25 years.
     
  3. d.aneaston666 macrumors newbie

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    Mar 28, 2009
    #3
    Nope. On my Apple MacBook Pro it definitely says 'Alt' on the Alt... sorry, Option key.
     
  4. d.aneaston666 macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Mar 28, 2009
    #4
    I also don't get the 'Apple key' thing. PCs definitely have a Windows key - it has a little windows logo on it.

    But the Apple key has 'cmd' (command) and a random picture. Nothing about Apples.
     
  5. Osarkon macrumors 68020

    Osarkon

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    #5
    Same goes for me. But I think with the newer keyboards, it's now changed to say Option?

    I have the old wired keyboard, and the first gen Macbook.
     
  6. DeusInvictus7 macrumors 68020

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    Kitchener, Ontario
    #6
    On the Unibodies, it has "alt" on the top left of the key in small font, and then "option" across the bottom in bigger font.
     
  7. BlueRevolution macrumors 603

    BlueRevolution

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    #7
    What you need is a bit of history. Meet my iBook G3:
     

    Attached Files:

  8. Osarkon macrumors 68020

    Osarkon

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    #8
    So even the old mac's have Option on their keyboards? How odd.

    I wonder what the difference is. Country perhaps?
     
  9. BlueRevolution macrumors 603

    BlueRevolution

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    #9
    The difference is that they're Macs. Macs use option, not alt.

    What you should be asking yourself is why a G3 machine would have "alt" on the key. It has never even seen Windows. Well, you've got me there.
     
  10. d.aneaston666 macrumors newbie

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    Mar 28, 2009
    #10
    I'll get right on to Apple and ask them to make sure they supply an iBook G3 with all new purchases.
     
  11. andrew upstairs macrumors 6502

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  12. Beerfloat macrumors regular

    Beerfloat

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  13. Beerfloat macrumors regular

    Beerfloat

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    Feb 21, 2009
    #13
    Well played sir :D
     
  14. BlueRevolution macrumors 603

    BlueRevolution

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    #14
    Please do. They're sweet little machines!

    I haven't heard anyone refer to it as the Apple key in years. Obvious reasons, perhaps?
     
  15. SkyBell macrumors 604

    SkyBell

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    Texas, unfortunately.
    #15
    I still call it the Apple key, and get a little confused for a moment when people call it the Option key. Of course that's because I'm still stuck in the PPC age. :p
     
  16. Tallest Skil macrumors P6

    Tallest Skil

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    #16
    Pshh... I still call it "Open Apple" and I'm trying to teach myself to call Option "Closed Apple".

    Hang on, now that's confusing. Command kept its Apple far longer than Option did. :p
     
  17. PeteB thread starter macrumors 6502a

    PeteB

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    Jan 14, 2008
    #17
    Weirdness... Talk about a lack of consistency..

    All I have on my key is "Alt" and a weird little symbol.

    I've pretty much got used to the cmd key, so by process of elimination, "Option" must be the only other key that I don't know what the heck is....
     
  18. BlueRevolution macrumors 603

    BlueRevolution

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    #18
    Okay, resetting that counter to 0 days now. :p

    Option = alt = ⌥
     
  19. jmann macrumors 604

    jmann

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    #19
    I call it Option but I've never owned a mac with an apple on it's key. :eek:
     
  20. SkyBell macrumors 604

    SkyBell

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    #20
    ...Well, that was a fail on my part. :eek:
     
  21. Jisuo macrumors 6502

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    Sweden
    #21
    Not mine, it has Alt top left and ⌥ at the bottom.
     
  22. Bacong macrumors 68000

    Bacong

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    Westland, Michigan
    #22
    :( me too

    My powerbook still has one :D
     
  23. SecondDealer macrumors regular

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    Feb 1, 2009
    #23
    I miss the apple button as well, my old school computer has one but I never use it anymore. The option key isn't called Alt or hadnt been at least because Apple computers are supposed to be "different"
     
  24. neonblue2 macrumors 6502a

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    Aug 25, 2006
    Location:
    Port Pirie, South Australia
    #24
    That odd symbol on the Alt/Option key is the Option symbol. It's meant to resemble a circuit where there are two "options".

    It's a pretty historical symbol. It, and the Clover/Apple/Command key, have been around since the first Mac.

    Search around Folklore.org for the exact history.
     
  25. andrew upstairs macrumors 6502

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    Feb 3, 2009
    Location:
    Downtown Los Angeles
    #25
    What odd symbol on the alt/option key? The only symbol that's ever been on that is the :apple:

    Are you talking about the command symbol? Then that is the Gorgon loop, the infinity matrix, Saint John's Arms, or Saint Hannes Cross.
     

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